Survival Strategies for Being Lost

It can happen to anyone, and it doesn’t matter how experienced of a bushman you are. You could be picking mushrooms, on the best foraging spree of your many seasons, only to look up and realize you have lost your way. You could be blood trailing an animal you just shot, using your advanced tracking skills to ensure that you will find your kill, then come to recognize that those deer trails turned you around. A few missteps can make a difference after a several miles of hiking. Even backtracking can lead to becoming lost.
As disorienting and uncomfortable as being lost is, there are things you can do and strategies that can be employed to help you in such a dire situation. Here are three.


While your first instinct may be to get unlost, this acronym exists for a reason. Sit, Think, Observe, Plan. The first thing you need to do is stop moving around. Stay put, so you can be found. This is arguably the most important portion of S.T.O.P. Think refers to attempting to retrace thoughts, remember nav points or landmarks. A rock cropping, a distinct mountain, anything that you can recall to help you better gain awareness of your location. Observe refers to your other senses. See if you can hear water, take note of the horizon and the weather. Finally, come up with a plan. The P in this acronym can also stand for proceed. The thing about S.T.O.P. is that the system is intended to work for a survivor who intends to stay put.

On the Way Out

Stay where you are. Seriously, stay where you are if you are lost. Unless perhaps you did not tell someone where you were headed out on your adventure that has rendered you lost. Then you may actually need to get out. If no one knows you are lost, no one is coming to find you. If you absolutely have to head out, leave many traces. Drag your boots, try to create arrows that point in the direction you are traveling. Scratch out notes using a charred stick on a smooth rock, or in wet mud. Tear small parts of a piece of clothing and leave it along the way, things like shemaghs or bandannas work well for this. When you do this, try to wipe your brow so as to get some of your scent on the material. This will help tracking dogs if they are used to find you.


Making sure that you have your priorities in order is absolutely vital when it comes to survival in a situation where you are lost. One of the best ways to properly order what you need to do is to remember the Rule of 3s. A severe injury such as a bleed out will kill you in 3 minutes. It takes 3 days for dehydration to kill you. 3 weeks without food will kill you. It is important to keep in mind that this is not a working order. Medical needs should always come first.

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