In my previous blog post I went over things I keep in my pack to help me survive an unexpected extended stay in the woods. Following that post one would expect a post about food, water, shelter, or how to build a fire. But for me, I think it makes more sense to “just not get lost” so you never need to use your kit.
Typically we all have a planned trip with trails and maps, maybe even doing an easy roadside camping trip that may involve some fishing. However, day hikes are notorious for generating news stories of lost hikers. I have taken day hikes and ended up getting on a trail crossing the one I was suppose to be on. This resulted in backtracking and exiting the woods at sunset. Spending an extra night out could happen just that easy.
Here’s a link to a man who got lost while planning on a 15 minute foray into the woods to find crickets to fish with. http://sacramento.cbslocal.com/2014/08/12/west-sacramento-man-found-after-five-days-in-wilderness-of-alpine-county/
Some points of interest of his misfortune. He didn’t expect to go to far from camp. He took no gear with him. Apparently he was out by himself. He was looking for resources.
From my experience in the woods, the main contributing factor was, ”he was looking for resources”. Looking for resources results in putting your total focus on what ever you’re looking for. That could be firewood, most commonly. It is surprisingly easy to lose your sense of direction while having your head down twisting and turning in every direction. When you look up you may not even see a well marked trail just 10 yards away, especially if the forest floor is covered in ferns. The forest looks the same in every direction, and you didn’t take notice of any landmarks.
Since I hunt, I know the value of trail markers and have them on hand. Yes I have gotten turned around a time or 2 while searching for resources. Knowing how easy it is to get disoriented while looking for resources, I always leave a “trail marker”. For me that is usually in the form of a blaze orange bandana or hunting vest hung on the trail. Blaze orange is highly visible even in low light. I will periodically look back and make sure it’s always in sight, keeping my pack with me at all times.
One of the easiest, most practical, trail marker for anyone involved in the outdoors is flagging tape. (shown in picture labeled “D”) This can be picked up in about any sporting good section of any —Mart stores, as well as hardware stores. Flagging tape is small, fairly light weight, and can make numerous “flags”. It can help you get back to familiar ground, or help a search party follow your trail if you try to extract yourself and head further into the woods.
Pictured ( A, B, and C) are reflective and used at night. Of course this requires you have a light source such as a flashlight or head light. The “bread tie” type are not overly visible in daylight. Pictured is 2 configurations. “A” is how I mark my trails to my stand locations. This is visible from both directions and makes it virtually un-noticeable to other hunters during daylight. “B” gives visibility from both directions at night and daytime. Although one would have to be right on top of it due to its small size. With “C”, it clips on to a branch for easy temporary use. It is still rather small to be seen at a distance during daytime. These could be used to mark a trail to a latrine area as well as to your food bag that is suppose to be hung outside of camp to keep critters away from your camp. Due to low visibility during daytime with this type, you may have to double up with some flagging tape for daytime use. You can also hang a glow stick in camp and keep it in sight if nature calls at night. Inevitable it does.
In a pinch a bandana could be torn into strips and tied to branches. Did I mention they come in blaze orange? Amazon is probably the best source for them. Mylar blankets can also cut into strips and used as a trail marker. I am reluctant to sacrifice clothing because you will likely need that when night falls. Have someone else with you and stay in sight or hearing distance and everyone should have a whistle. It’s easier to blow a whistle than yell at the top of your lungs. Your party could be wearing a brightly colored hats all the same color, especially if you have kids with you. I will make another post on more primitive methods to mark trails.
Last but not least, let other people know where you are going, when you are going and when you are expected back. You may also want to consider leaving the same information inside of your vehicle, just in case.
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