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Lost In The Woods 101: What To Do When Lost In The Woods



Feature | Man walking in the woods and hiking alone | Lost In The Woods 101: What To Do When Lost In The Woods

Getting lost in the woods is scary, but armed with these survival tips, you can stay focused and determined to get back home safely!

RELATED: Lost At Sea Survival Guide | 7 Tips And Tricks For Ocean Navigation

In this article:

  1. Preparation
    1. Notify Some People of Your Hike
    2. Bring a Basic Survival Kit
    3. Bring Your Cellphone
    4. Take a GPS Unit, Map, and Basic Know-How in Tracking
    5. Mark Your Trail
  2. If You Get Lost in the Woods
    1. Don’t Panic
    2. Practice S.T.O.P.
    3. Build a Shelter
    4. Start a Fire
    5. Find Water Immediately
    6. Create a Signal

Lost in the Woods Survival: How to Survive and Get Back to Safety

On Trails: An Exploration
579 Reviews
On Trails: An Exploration
  • Moor, Robert (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 352 Pages - 07/04/2017 (Publication Date) - Simon & Schuster (Publisher)


Man wearing blue shirt lost in the woods | Lost In The Woods 101: What To Do When Lost In The Woods

Getting lost in the wilderness while camping or hiking is one of the most common reasons people learn survival skills, even if they don’t think of themselves as survivalists. And if you like to camp, hike, or hunt, wilderness survival skills are essential indeed, even if the world as we know it doesn’t end.


Preparation is a must in any survival situation or before you find yourself caught in one including when out camping in the woods. So here are some lost in the woods tips for you to take note and have handy if you find yourself in this situation:

1. Notify Some People of Your Hike

Make sure you let at least three people know where you’re going, how long you plan to be away, and your expected time of return. Include a local authority or camp guide in the list of persons to notify and provide them with your contact details.

2. Bring a Basic Survival Kit

Emergency kit | Lost In The Woods 101: What To Do When Lost In The Woods

You can prepare or plan your survival kit depending on the situation and the weather, but here are some of the items in a basic survival kit:

  • Knife
  • Butane lighter
  • Metal matches
  • Compass
  • Flagging
  • Flashlight
  • Whistle
  • String or cordage
  • Plastic bag

You can also learn how to build your own survival kit here and stay prepared in situations like this.

3. Bring Your Cellphone

While some areas may have poor signal, you can always go to higher grounds to find a better reception. Your cellphone may even prove useful not just in communication.

Besides, you’ll want to take pictures along your hike. Don’t forget to bring a power bank and make sure they are both protected, too.

4. Take a GPS Unit, Map, and Basic Know-How in Tracking

If you can bring one, a GPS unit will be fantastic so your position will be easily identified. Yet, a GPS can also fail so make sure you have a backup — one you can use even without technology.

What is GPS? GPS stands for Global Positioning System. The United States government owns this 24-satellite radio navigation system that helps in finding the exact ground position of any object on Earth.

Our ancestors identified their location and destination by looking at the position of trees, mountains, rivers, the stars, and the sun. A map, on the other hand, will also help you identify your location.

5. Mark Your Trail

As soon as you start your journey, keep in mind anybody can get lost in the woods, so go on a survival and preparedness mood at the onset. With that in mind, be conscious of your surroundings and start marking your trail.

You can break some tree branches or tie flaggings in the branches so you can find your way back using these markings. You can also use a stick to draw a line along the way.

RELATED: 7 Ways To Find True North Without A Compass

If You Get Lost in the Woods

Even some of the best hikers may become too lenient and get lost in the woods, especially in unfamiliar areas. This is why whether you’re a frequent hiker or out on your first solo adventure, make sure you follow these survival tips before you get lost in the woods

1. Don’t Panic

Panicking when you’re lost in the woods makes you look like a chicken running around with its head chopped off. It should be the last thing you should get into given the situation. With that in mind, the next tip should be your perfect response.

2. Practice S.T.O.P.

When you’re in a panic, your brain stops working, too. Thus, fear sets in and you can’t help making bad actions and judgment.

Stop what you’re doing at the moment and on that note, the acronym STOP really works well.

  • Sit. Stop what you’re doing and have a drink because a refreshing drink will help calm you down.
  • Think. Evaluate your situation so you can determine if you’re really lost or only feeling lost.
  • Observe. Look around you and evaluate the treats in your surroundings.
  • Plan. After determining your situation, you can now plan your next move or action.

3. Build a Shelter

Old man inside the tent | Lost In The Woods 101: What To Do When Lost In The Woods

After probably determining it wasn’t wise for you to go on hiking because it’s getting late, you will need to work out your shelter. There are a number of ways to make a shelter when you’re lost in the woods but for us, the simpler the better.

If you have brought a tarp along with you, then you have all you need for a shelter, indeed.

4. Start a Fire

Next to your shelter is building a fire. It will help get you food and water and will keep you company in the dark, too. It will also help keep you safe from wild animals.

Your survival kit should have a fire-starting kit, but if you don’t there are a number of primitive ways to start a fire. It will be challenging, though, but then you can practice fire-starting as a survival skill.

5. Find Water Immediately

You can survive without water for three days but at the end of the second day, you’ll feel disoriented and unable to function and think properly. There are several ways to find water out in the woods than in the desert so, learn how to find water out there here.

6. Create a Signal

When all communication fails, there are still ways for you to do it the old way. Increase your odds of getting found or getting your escape by learning how to signal for help in the wilderness.


Follow the full details on how to survive and get back to safety if you get lost in the woods in this video with KennethKramm:

Getting lost in the woods isn’t fun, but you can at least enjoy it with these survival tips. They’re also a great way for you to practice your survival skills and put your survival initiative into action!

Have you ever been lost in the woods or found yourself alone in the wild? Share your experience with us in the comments section below!


Check out 7 Cost-Effective Uses For Shipping Containers Survivalists Should Know at

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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on September 26, 2018, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.

Last update on 2022-05-26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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  1. O.M. Knutson

    June 24, 2015 at 12:19 PM

    Well Done!!!

    The STOP Credo was developed years ago and remains absolutely true!

    Just about everything this gentleman is discussing and more is covered in detail in my recent book; SURVIVAL 101 – HOW TO BUG OUT AND SURVIVE THE FIRST 72 HOURS. Available through Power4Patriots or directly from me.

    Most people don’t realize that an estimated 150,000 Americans, (men women and children) end up lost overnight or longer EVERY YEAR!. Sadly, not all survive and those that do, are generally in rough shape when found, because they venture into remote wild places inadequately prepared and thinking, “It will never happen to me!”.

    But thank the Lord, we have the best professional and volunteer Search and Rescue Teams in the world and once you are reported missing, they usually track you down within 8-72 hours.

    May God bless and keep you all safe as you enjoy and adventure in the great outdoors. Yet, HE can only help you, if you control your emotions, learn basic survival skills and never go unprepared. You must also learn to appreciate and accept those unfamiliar gifts of life HE has provided all around you, through His creation and blessings of Mother Nature.

    The moment you think you are lost … YOU ARE … you just don’t know how bad. When you think you are lost, STOP!!! Sit … Think … Observe … Plan!

    God Same America,
    Orrin M. Knutson
    Retired Peace Officer & Search/Rescue Volunteer
    Survival Author

  2. Combat Veteran Seabee

    June 25, 2015 at 7:19 PM

    Actually, a fire alone is NOT a signal of being lost. Three fires in a straight, evenly spaced row, as seen from the air is the international signal for being lost in the wilderness, if I remember my lessons of yesteryear.

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  4. Sam W.

    February 5, 2018 at 11:33 AM

    I have been lost for about 15 minites. It was mostly overcast no compass so far into the woods we couldn’t see out. It was afternoon I found a clearing eventually got a weak shadow from a stick. My buddy didn’t believe me. He said the property was fenced so if I found a fence follow it back to the gate. I went one direction he went the opposite, he followed the fence back to the gate, I got to have a rest waiting for him.

  5. Robert

    February 5, 2018 at 2:42 PM

    A campus may not point north when serounded by iron rich rock or magnetic rock note time and position of the sun as a backup becous if your compose is pointing at a rock you could be walking in circles if you think this is happening but want to be shere going north according to the Needle will lead to what it’s pointing at once you pass it the needle will point behind you but if you pay attenchin to the time and position of the sun from the start you may not need to find the sorce to see the deavation!

  6. Sheldon Fingerman

    February 5, 2018 at 3:07 PM

    Fantastic video. Thanks for posting.

  7. Kevin Brown

    February 6, 2018 at 7:27 AM

    Nice refresher course. Thanks I needed that.

  8. Clifford Gant

    February 11, 2018 at 5:04 PM

    Good information for those who can’t get away from the “I Know it all” attitude, they usually don’t last long, and to Live we need to Listen, Learn and take note… Vietnam Vet,,,

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