What do you do if you are twisted up in the woods?

Discussion in 'Outdoor Gear, Survival Equipment & More' started by 22-rimfire, Oct 18, 2019.

  1. 22-rimfire

    22-rimfire Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 20, 2005
    I have been a bit twisted up direction-wise in the woods, but never had to face an unplanned night out with the elements. What would you do if you find yourself hours away from getting out of the woods and you're a hour away from dark? You sort of know your way out, maybe not efficiently, but you don't have time and you don't want to be wandering around in unfamiliar woods with a flash light.

    I would stop, and settle down a bit as I would already be feeling a bit unzipped. Inventory the stuff I have with me, search for fire wood and assemble and prepare for a chilly night with mother nature.
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2019
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  2. kvaughn

    kvaughn Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 28, 2005
    I paraphrase I think Daniel Boone and several others - " I've never been lost but have been confused as to where I was for several days at a time."== My story-I got lost trying to get ahead of a flock of spring turkeys when I first moved to Ct. 30+ years ago. Got dark quick on top of a mountain I wasn't familiar with. I built a fire with some good big rock reflection under a good sized cedar and hunkered down with a space blanket and a pile of leaves for the night. I was dressed warm and had water. Actually slept a little. It was uncomfortable but not life threatening. That came later when I finally got home and my wife at the time wanted to know where I'd been all night.--:)--KV
  3. Brad "the butcher"

    Brad "the butcher"

    Dec 15, 2008
    Find a big tree with a good canopy, trim branches to sit on, dig a small pit and line with rocks as well as a ring 4 feet from tree, make a fire and make the best of it......had to do it 3 times in my life. Sleep for 30 minutes...tend the fire for 15 minutes....if you sleep too long there should still be coals in the rockpit
    CanadaKnifeGuy likes this.
  4. leghog


    Aug 10, 2013
    Firstly I'm never that far without map and compass. Secondly I'm not out that far without the ten essentials either so an unplanned night in the woods wouldn't be difficult.
    CanadaKnifeGuy likes this.
  5. 22-rimfire

    22-rimfire Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 20, 2005
    The further I hike from my vehicle, the more I take with me. So, I do prepare for the possibles. Map and compass.... usually, but not always. I use a compass the least, but even a small button compass can be comforting on an overcast day. I try to have a map with me and have always enjoyed following my ground progress on a map. I do the same thing driving with Gazetteers as I enjoy knowing river, stream, mountain names as I drive. (Been doing this since I was a kid.) But you still could get caught running out of daylight when you had no intention of spending the night in the woods.

    In mountainous areas, more than anything "getting out" is just a matter of some time although I might head down the wrong spur or ridge and be off a bit on just where I think I am. But this is not a life threatening situation, more of an inconvenience. If you are following a trail, that is usually your lifeline.

    "Unplanned" would not be difficult either, just uncomfortable especially if it rains and I am not prepared for that.
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2019
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  6. Holborn


    Jul 31, 2019
    In this stage of my life i for sure would enjoy the quiet a bit..:rolleyes:
  7. stabman

    stabman Gold Member Gold Member

    Sep 17, 2007
    Calm down, set up camp and enjoy the night.
  8. C_Claycomb


    Dec 11, 2000
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  9. 22-rimfire

    22-rimfire Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 20, 2005
    Good article. Maybe I need to take along some tea on my hikes that I have no intention of spending a night out in the woods. You never know and my "survival kit" is usually pretty limited on day hikes. I often don't have a cup with me either.
  10. JJ_Colt45

    JJ_Colt45 Gold Member Gold Member

    Sep 11, 2014
    I guess for me if I'm going into an unfamiliar area or a rough terrain area ... I take at least a small pack ... enough to get me through a night or two ...

    in that situation I always carry a headlamp ... a flashlight and spare batteries along with a compass and at least two ways to start fire ... a lifestraw and water tablets and a small pot to boil water ... and a few snacks of some sort ... and a tarp and a couple safety blankets and bank line for cordage ... some extra clothing ... so I can if I need spend a night out ...

    if the weather isn't too harsh to make it slippery or muddy ... and not extremely cold and I am not injured or exhausted ... I would probably gather myself get a decent view if possible and most likely navigate out ... slowly ...

    but that all changes if ... the weather and temps are extreme ... if I am in predator country ... if it's rugged terrain that brings the injury possibilty up ... and if I truly have no bearings on where I am ...

    then I find a spot to shelter ... gather wood get a fire and take a breath and get some sort of shelter and calories in me ... and see how things look in the morning ...

    I went through exactly that Elk hunting in Idaho years ago ... not lost but shot an Elk late and by the time I had him skinned and quartered it was too late to be heading out ... especially in that terrain with an Elk carcass weighing me down ... and lots of predators about ...

    I started a fire and got the meat up in a tree a ways from me but where I could make it out by my flashlight beam ... and spent the night ... it was a little chilly but fire and space blankets kept me warm enough ... the snacks and pan for water sure were a huge help to keep me warm and my spirits up ... it was just a bit restless but nice overnight ...

    next day the sun popped out and a short walk to high ground to make sure I was right about my position ... packed up and got back to base camp.
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  11. 22-rimfire

    22-rimfire Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 20, 2005
    I think I need to start carrying a small tarp, basic water purification equipment, stainless steel cup, and cordage (more often). Maybe even toss in a few tea bags! A whistle is one thing I added last year to my minimal "kit". I have been eyeing up a twig type "stove" and small stainless steel frying pan for my jaunts. After being caught out in the rain on a hike a while back where I was soaked to the bone, I got a small umbrella that I can include with my kit (good for walking or standing, but not real windy conditions or over night) when not carrying much stuff. I used to carry rain gear all the time and had stopped. I just don't like to wear a poncho for a very long period of time. But as the weather turns a bit colder, I pay more attention to staying dry and will include a disposable poncho as well. I need to go through my stuff and re-assemble the stuff for day hikes.

    The rain gear is as much for protecting my camera as it is me during warmer weather.
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2019
  12. schwep


    Jan 4, 2017
    This made me think. For any hike more than the after-lunch walk through the village fields and woods here, I take a small day pack with some essentials - shelter stuff, first aid, some munch food, water, steel cooking cup, esbit mini burner etc etc. Plus of course a good fixed blade. But what if you get separated from that pack or you were just 'out to get some air' in a place where you don't know all the trails and you got somewhat confused? It has happened to me once or twice, nothing serious but in hindsight, not smart.

    It's in the 'out for a little walk, let's go and see what's behind the next bend' sort of situation that one can get in trouble. The worst I ever saw was half a lifetime ago in Sweden, when I did a through-hike in the highlands and had settled in a small shelter cabin at the end of my first day. A couple of tourists showed up, on sandals, no gear, no water, no map, nothing but a camera - about 10 kilometers from the nearest road. They had stopped their car for a break, spotted a reindeer and followed it to take some photos... hours later they stumbled upon the shelter cabin. I advised them to stay the night and offered to share some food and a brew from my overloaded pack, but they refused and turned around to hike back, once I had explained roughly the direction they would have to go. Refusing to spend the night in that cabin was really stupid as it was pretty late and they did not have a lot of time to get back before dark, even if they had had a map and could go fast. Which was clearly not the case.

    I have recently assembled small kits that I keep in the sleeve pockets of my favorite smock-style jackets: emergency blanket, disposable poncho, some first-aid stuff, button compass, a BIC lighter, a few purification tablets, the whole in a couple of high-end 1-litre ziplock bags. Usually there will also be things in the regular pockets, like a neck tube/scarf, gloves and cap as needed depending on the season, spare reading glasses, cheap flashlight, something to write. Add my EDC things that I always have on my as soon as I have my pants on (folding knife, leatherman, keyring flashlight, whistle, lighter and some other small bits and pieces) and my phone - ruggedized model with very good GPS reception and offgrid topo maps - and I have at least some things to help me get out of trouble. What's lacking is a small steel container for boiling water and making a brew though - as that cup of tea/coffee/soup would make a world of difference. Indeed, survival is making a brew. :)
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  13. stabman

    stabman Gold Member Gold Member

    Sep 17, 2007
    Read it.
    I like it. :thumbsup:
  14. Currawong

    Currawong Platinum Member Platinum Member

    May 19, 2012
    In the situation you describe I would walk out. If I have a choice between a few hours walking in the dark and spending the night out, I'll walk. There's really no problem walking at night, as long as your navigation is good and you have light.

    I often go on exploratory off-trail hikes into wilderness areas, where I expect to be back at dark or even up to a few hours after. I always carry two headlamps (one to use and one as a spare) and a bright flashlight (area lighting and distance lighting is important for navigating at night) and spare batteries. I also go hunting now and then (e.g. chasing pigs on foot through the bush at night) and its the same kind of thing.

    A pic from a bushwhacking trip into a wilderness area a few months ago, just as it was getting dark...
  15. 22-rimfire

    22-rimfire Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 20, 2005
    @Currawong I know I would certainly prefer to walk out, if I could and that is generally my first choice. It is when you get off trail and I know from experience that unless you're following a trail of some sort or a natural feature (creek, ridge, and so forth) you can get twisted up with the flashlight, especially on relatively featureless terrain. As you mentioned, being able to see some distance is important. It is to give perspective rather than depending on the tunnel vision of watching just what is in front of you as you walk. If you know the woods, it is just a matter of time to walk out safely, dark or not. A flashlight is an important bit of gear to have with you even if you don't plan on camping or spending the night.

    Many people hunt feral hogs at night. Can't think of a better use for an AR. Don't think they are allowed in your neck of the woods which is a damn shame. Coon hunting with dogs used to be a very big sport at night too.

    I like the picture!.... It has a dark quality to it while being totally natural.
  16. Currawong

    Currawong Platinum Member Platinum Member

    May 19, 2012
    You can do 'prep' for getting lost though, or at least I always try to. Whenever I go into a wilderness area, and therefore know there will be no roads or trails to use for navigation, I try to memorize the rough lay of the landscape. I build a basic 3D map in my head through constant observation as I walk.

    Basically, "the river is over that way, the main ridge in the landscape is to the left, it runs up to the tallest peak to the right, there are a few small creeks going from the ridge down to the river," etc. That way I don't need to know exactly where I am, as I can always problem-solve the approximate direction I need to take back.

    E.g. "As long as I'm on this side of the river, if I head uphill following a creek, I know I will end up on top of the ridge to the left of the main peak." I don't know where on the ridge I will be, but I can find out with further problem-solving.... "Head along the ridge to the left until I go over a small hill, after which a creek will be descending to the right, then follow that". It takes a lot of observation of the landscape on the first half of the walk, to avoid becoming disoriented on the way back. E.g. "Note there is a fork in the creek here and I need to take the left one on the way back," so then I remember to be shining the flashlight around scanning for a fork at that point when returning. So I memorize each 'turning point' on the route to use as a trail marker on the way back.

    I also constantly look for landmarks along the way - recognizable piles of rocks, a funny-looking tree, etc. I use memory exorcises to remember each landmark - I'll stop for 5 seconds and describe each aspect of it in my head, like the number of big rocks, a flower of a particular color, or a hollow in a branch. As I go I regularly turn around and look backwards - to fix the view I'll be seeing as I return. On the way back, I'm constantly scanning for all these things. Sometimes I take photos with my phone to help.

    A topo map helps with this process, but isn't necessary (the map is in my head; I use the walk out to 'draw' it). I don't tend to worry too much about a compass. These days phones use satellites to give you GPS location so now this process is easy. I download offline maps and can navigate using my phone.

    Anyway, that's my process. I can't remember that last time I got lost so it seems to work.
    Hard Knocks likes this.
  17. 22-rimfire

    22-rimfire Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 20, 2005
    I was just looking at button compasses today.... I seldom use one, but for me a compass are handy to know absolutely your directions. I have a number of compasses, but no tiny ones. I have never tried to use my cell phone as a gps. I wouldn't even know how to do that.

    I keep looking at that picture. Are you a pro photographer?
  18. Currawong

    Currawong Platinum Member Platinum Member

    May 19, 2012
    I mean as you know if you load up Google Maps or any kind of mapping app on your phone, it shows your location. The maps themselves load from local cell towers, so if you're out of range the map won't load. BUT your position on the map loads from satellites, which are always available as long as you have a clear view of the sky. So if you get an offline mapping app (there are plenty), you can always see where you are and what direction you're pointing, even in the most remote area. They even do offline topgraphic maps. They show roads and trails, mountain peaks, etc. You'll never get lost again.
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  19. Currawong

    Currawong Platinum Member Platinum Member

    May 19, 2012
    I'm not a pro, I just use my camera phone :). The places around here are spectacular enough that it's hard to take a bad photo.

    Here's some more pics from that same trip...






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  20. 22-rimfire

    22-rimfire Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 20, 2005
    You certainly have a good eye for a picture. May have to look into mapping apps. I usually have a topo map available and never really concerned myself with tiny maps such as you might get on a handheld gps. But they would certainly give you major features, even if small.

    I don't get lost in the woods by the way if you are under the impression that I do. The last time I was twisted up was a three-four years ago in a heavily undergrown area in the rain and dark was approaching. It was a state park and I was off trail looking for wild orchids. I wasn't lost; I was just uncertain of my directions and the quickest way out of the woods to my vehicle. The area was very micro/macro relative to some map. The park had not updated their literature as far as trails go and I was finding stuff that was not shown on any park map. Spending the night never entered my mind by the way. All I had to do was either go up hill or down hill and I would eventually hit a road; but I was looking for the trail that was obscured by the vegetative growth to make my walk out "easy".

    The environment has changed in that park as far as orchids and they used to be very common, but the numbers are reduced significantly. I am always looking for hidden areas containing significant numbers of orchids. I'm not talking about two or three plants but rather 50 or 100 plants in a fairly small area. I know lots of places to find a few plants during the spring, but the big numbers spots are very difficult to find. It is something I do from a photography point of view. I like to find special places most people would never encounter.
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2019
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