Tell time in the wild without a watch and add one more skill to your set of outdoor survival skills you’ve learned here!
In this article:
- Using Your Fingers to Estimate the Sunset
- Track the Sun’s Position
- Using Shadows To Tell Time
- Using Your Body Clock
Outdoor Survival Skills: Natural Ways to Tell Time
1. Using Your Fingers to Estimate the Sunset
There are certain outdoor skills that become paramount when stuck in a wilderness survival situation. Being able to tell the time is one such skill.
If you’re able to find the approximate time when in the wild, you’ll find yourself better prepared for your hunting, gathering, and general survival skills training.
We can easily estimate the sunset time with the use of our hand. If you’re going for a trek or just simply want to know the remaining daylight, follow the instructions below:
- First, face the horizon.
- Extend your arm in front of you and align the top of the index finger to the bottom of the sun.
- The width of each finger between the sun and horizon is approximately equivalent to 15 minutes.
- Each hand represents one hour.
- As the sun drops a finger or a hand, you’ll be able to estimate the time before it goes dark.
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2. Track the Sun’s Position
Basically, the sun rises in the east, it sets in the west, and when it’s right above you, it means it’s about noon. You can use your compass to locate where the east and west (cardinal points) are.
Once you’ve confirmed the directions, follow the instructions below:
- Imagine an arc from east to west.
- Divide these into sections with one hour per slice, starting at 6:00 am in the east and ending at 6:00 pm in the west.
- If the sun is positioned in between sunrise (east position) and noon (sun right above you), then it’s approximately 9:00 am.
- You can continue to deduce time through this logic.
Watch this video from StrayaMan for full instructions on how to tell time using the sun’s position:
3. Using Shadows to Tell Time
You can also tell time just by looking at your own shadow. Your shadow is shortest when it’s noontime and longest during early morning and late in the evening.
Our shadows also change directions as the day progresses. Rely on the compass from your survival kit to locate true north.
Face the north side and from there, you can figure out where the east and west cardinal points are. Also, you can make a DIY sundial to tell the time just by looking at the position and length of its shadow.
Check out this video from Video Camper and find out how to make a camp sundial:
4. Using Your Body Clock
We have a 24-hour internal clock called circadian rhythm which runs your brain.
You might have noticed that you feel awake or sleepy around the same time each day. This means your circadian rhythm is at work.
Most adults have a decline in energy after lunchtime (around 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm) and in the middle of the night (around 2:00 am to 4:00 am). If you know your routine, you can almost purely rely on your gut-feel to tell the approximate time.
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When you’re exploring the wilderness, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the environment, it’s best to head back to your survival shelter before the sun goes down. It’s dangerous to tread an unfamiliar place when there’s no daylight.
However, now that you know how to tell the time naturally, you’ll never be caught unaware. You’ve also added a new skill to your set of outdoor survival skills.
Do you know other ways to tell time without a watch? Share your outdoor survival skills and knowledge in the comments section below!
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on August 7, 2017, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.