How to survive in the woods

Getting lost in the woods is up there with tarmac delays on the list of travel nightmares. You’ll need to find your own food and water, a place to sleep and stay warm, and, eventually, your way out. Though we’ve never had the pleasure of being lost in the woods, hundreds of people have. And the folks at SmokyMountains.com culled through their stories to find out what those people did to survive.

Staying warm

If you’ve got canine companions, they’ll keep you warm too, as they did for Annette Poitras when she got lost on Eagle Mountain in British Columbia. Chloe, her pet collie, and Bubba, her pug mix, took turns laying on top of Poitras to keep her warm.

Finding shelter

Mary Owen did the same thing to help survive almost a week in Mt. Herrington suggests bringing a 55-gallon trash bag along to create a water-resistant shelter.

Drinking water

On average, you can survive about three days without water, but if you’re trying to find your way out of the wilderness, odds are you’ll need more. Many of the survivors in the study found lakes, streams, and other bodies of water to drink from. That was Gilbert Dewey Gaedke’s logic when he spent five days wandering a lava field on the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii. With no natural water sources, he began squeezing water from moss to survive. As did Ronald Hutter, who kept his arms and survived four days drinking urine in Mt. Ed Rosenthal did the same when he was lost in Joshua Tree, as well as foraging water from cacti. In the right environment, though, drinking urine won’t always be necessary. Nineteen-year-old Lukas Cavar was lost in Sullivan Cave, Indiana, and trapped moisture from the cave in empty candy bar wrappers.

Getting food

That said, starvation is never fun, so Harrington suggests packing lots of small, high-calorie foods like almond butter and coconut oil packs. If you’re planning a venture out into nature, do a little prep work and find a Mexican restaurant that serves chapulines. Even if you’re hungry, rationing your food is essential. This was how David Vetterlein survived 16 days in Siskiyou National Forest on 12 cornmeal muffins and salmon jerky. He even survived a bear attack, thanks in large part to his trusty dog.

Getting back to safety

Nearly two-thirds of those who were rescued kept moving when they realized they were lost. Since three-quarters of those lost were found by rescuers you’ll have better odds if you make it easier for them to find you.He suggests packing bright tarps and clothes, and bringing signaling mirrors so you can flash light at potential rescuers. That was ultimately how Gaedke escaped his Hawaiian lava field and how Lon McAdam ended his week lost in Superstition Wilderness, Arizona. If you didn’t tell anyone where you were going, , following water is usually a good path to safety. Eighteen-year-old Austin Bonahan discovered this when he lost his stepfather on a hike through Great Smoky Mountains National Park. He followed a stream down a mountain to a large creek, where he found a man and his daughter boating.

How to prepare for the worst-case scenario

That way if you don’t arrive where you’re supposed to be on time, people can start looking. In addition to carrying essentials like flashlights, compasses, and first-aid kits, bring water purification tablets and fire-making gear like Vaseline-soaked cotton balls and matches/lighters. Layer your clothes with a bright, outer Gore-tex shell, using stuff like Merino wool so it breathes and dries easily.




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