Get out of the wilderness and back to safety using nature.
You’re far from home and have gotten yourself lost in the woods. Your GPS smartwatch has just run out of battery. Now what? Can you get home without using tech?
Fear not — humans have navigated this globe without technologically advanced gadgets until fairly recently. If you ever get lost without functioning tech, navigate yourself back to safety using these 10 traditional methods:
1. Use a map.
Simply put, if you’re planning a trip into the wilderness, take a map with you. If you’re deep backwoods, an Ordnance Survey map is the best. It shows you the kind of terrain that surrounds you, too, as well as elevations.
2. Watch for natural landmarks.
Take note of particular points as you travel, such as a large moss-covered rock or a fallen tree. Use these markers to help you retrace your route back.
3. Find north using the sun.
In the northern hemisphere, the sun will always be in a southerly direction, and at midday, it will be directly south. If you have your watch, you can see when the sun reaches its peak in the sky to indicate south. Heading in the opposite direction will take you north, and it travels from east to west.
4. Follow water.
Rivers flow into the sea, and many towns and cities are built on rivers. If you find one, follow it downstream as far as you can in the hopes of finding a community.
Sometimes you might not be able to stay right beside the river. But if you need to take a different route, always keep it on your right-hand side and listen for the water.
5. Use the stars.
Constellations can be reliable and have helped thousands of mariners navigate for many years. The brightest star in the sky is Polaris.
If you’re lost at night and need to find north, simply look up. Locate the star that shines the brightest to find north.
Take note that Polaris can’t be seen from below the equator in the southern hemisphere.
6. Use a compass.
Compasses are the main navigational tools for explorers and travelers. A compass will give you an extremely accurate bearing on your location and is one of the most useful tools when trying to get home without using tech. The magnetized needle will point north.
7. Use a stick and shadow.
Get an east-west direction using a stick and a few stones. Put the stick in the ground and use a stone to mark where the shadow falls.
Wait 30 minutes and mark where the shadow falls using the second stone. Draw a line between the two stones to show east-west directionality — the first stone indicates west.
8. Listen and look.
If you’re in a nature reserve during high season, you may be able to hear other people or vehicles in the distance. Or reach the highest possible point to get a bird’s eye view of the situation. You might see people, buildings, or even a parking lot.
9. Signal for help.
It’s time to let people know once the sun starts setting. Without your phone or GPS smartwatch, you must attract attention in any way possible.
Light a small fire and throw green leaves on it to create a cloud of thick smoke. Or use your sunglasses or phone screen as a mirror reflector to attract attention.
10. Mossy trees.
Typically, moss grows on a tree’s north side in the forest. If you find trees with moss on one side, the bare side is likely pointing south. The sun will shine mainly on the tree’s bare side. From there, determine east and west as the sun travels.
These tips are great for keeping you safe and helping you get home without using tech. Also, remember to pack a USB power bank and cable in your rucksack to charge your devices. Doing so will help you stay connected if you’re away from home longer than intended.
Have you been lost in the wilderness? We’d love to hear your story, let us know in the comments
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Last Updated on February 17, 2022
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