Imagine for a minute that you’re in the wilderness and have found yourself lost and stranded. It’s a scary situation, to be sure, but it’s also a potential reality for many people who step into the woods. What to do when this happens? You’ll certainly try to orient yourself, figure out where you are, and insure that you have an exit strategy. But, assuming you don’t know the way out, should you stay where you are or walk around and look for an exit route, signs of civilization, or a person to provide assistance?
These are difficult decisions to make. Sometimes, staying put may leave you stranded in a dangerous situation while help is only miles away. The movie Into the Wild provides a good case in point. Conversely, though, wandering around may make it harder for people to find you and easier to get yourself even more lost. So which approach is the best one to take?
Ultimately, of course, it depends in large part on factors unique to your situation. These factors include:
-Nature of the area. Are you in a vast wilderness area or in a comparatively smaller park that may not be more than a few miles from civilization? While being lost clearly means that you don’t know exactly where you are or exactly where to go, you still likely have a sense of your greater surroundings. The more manageable the surroundings, the more it is worthwhile to walk around and seek an exit.
-Food and supplies. Your ability to take a “sit-and-wait” approach depends in large part, of course, on the supplies you have at your disposal. Do you have the necessary foods for survival? Is your emergency food storage sufficient enough to last you a matter of weeks? These are crucial questions to consider. If supplies are low, you might have no chance but to try making your way out.
-Outside knowledge. One of the main reasons to stay put and wait for help is that someone else knows generally of your location and of your plans. When they realize that you have not returned, they will likely contact authorities and initiate a search. In this case you are more likely to be found by trying not to wander.
These are a few of the main factors to consider when deciding whether to stay or go when lost in the wilderness. Although it is often tempting to take the situation into your own hands and actively seek an exit route, there are situations where doing so may only put you in greater danger. As always, before taking any action, it’s important to think carefully and arrive at a plan.