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Lost in the Woods! Now What?


O.K. You’re lost. Now what?


If you don’t know where you are or which way to go, STAY PUT. People will start looking for you as soon as someone realizes you’re missing. Meanwhile, it’s time to use your No. 1 survival tool — your brain. Follow the S-T-O-P signs.

S. Stay calm: You can’t use your brain well if you’re in a panic. Breathe slowly and deeply. Drink some water, eat a little something.

T. Think: How did you get here? Get out your map and see what you can figure out.

O. Observe: Look for your footprints. What about landmarks? Find the clues and maybe you can solve the mystery of where you are.

P. Plan: If you’re pretty sure of the way back, move carefully. But what if you’re wrong? Mark your trail as you move — piles of stones, broken branches. That way you can always come back to where you were.



Help searchers find you. The universal distress call always comes in threes: Three shouts, three blasts on a whistle. Start calling. Make a smoky fire in the daytime (toss grass or green leaves on the flames) or a bright fire at night. Spread extra clothing or any bright gear in the open to catch the eye of a rescue pilot.

Make yourself comfortable. Pitch a tent if you have one, or make a shelter out of the wind. Use the gear you have to help you stay warm and dry. How long can you last? Without water, for several days. Without food, for several weeks.



On a clear day, the flash of a signal mirror can be seen up to 100 miles away. Any mirror will do. To aim it, hold the mirror with one hand and extend the other hand in front of you. Tilt the mirror until its reflected light fills your empty palm. Make a V with your illuminated fingers, then sight through the V toward an aircraft.

The lid of a tin can, a piece of foil or anything shiny can also work.

50 Comments on Lost in the Woods! Now What?

  1. rockysocks$$$$21 // July 22, 2020 at 9:54 am // Reply

    i tell my scouts to stay put and try remembering where you might have passed with your group before you got lost.

  2. I tell my scouts to stop and sit and think about the situation.

  3. Coolkid6774 // March 14, 2015 at 3:58 pm // Reply

    These are some great tips!

  4. these tips will help me if i got lost in the camping trip that i am going to this summer

  5. wow

  6. Earn Wilderness Survival for more info

  7. cool

  8. that is cool im glad i read that

  9. If you recognize you are lost early enough and it is just a short hike,chances are you are only several hours or miles away from help. Make a lot of noise and someone will find you.

  10. way cool

  11. My dad taught me this one:

    When in danger, when in doubt,
    Run in circles scream and shout.

    Or in this case, blow a whistle.

  12. I’ve learned a lot of survival skills and these are very simple

  13. kool

  14. outdoor guy // August 25, 2009 at 6:08 am // Reply

    i usally have a survival pack with me

  15. good tips! but If im lost i’ll use my $150 spot sattellite messanger witch send 9-11 calls to a 9-11 center and that also gives them the exact location of you. but if i dont have that i’ll use those tips.

  16. carry a small survival kit, they really do work!

  17. These are really good Tips.

  18. alexnator450 // August 1, 2008 at 7:45 am // Reply

    I like the S-T-O-P thing. I will bring it up at the next troop meeting.

  19. philmont 09 75 // June 16, 2008 at 9:24 pm // Reply

    Great tips try to find water and stay cool or warm depending on conditions avoid extra problems great info

  20. A scout parent // October 22, 2007 at 2:03 am // Reply

    Hug a tree and stay put. All children and adults should attend the hug a tree program. You will learn alot and it could save you’r life.

  21. wutang, do u have 1 of those stater thingies.For one thing there fun to play with and they just might save your life someday.therereally cheap(like 2 dollars i think) at your local scout shop.

  22. ‘ifs’ are never any good

  23. cool tips

  24. how do you make fire

  25. you might need to keep moving w/out doing the above so that you are able to be found if you are in a place where you are freaked out and know one could see you, like in a dense forest being chased by a panther?

  26. mitchellea4 // June 5, 2007 at 7:56 pm // Reply

    lol, today i went back to the place the branch fell, it was kinda scary. but the branch was bigger than i rememberd it…lol, i remember the exact place, the fence was marked, lol

  27. wow.

  28. wow

  29. old crappy fisherman // June 3, 2007 at 2:52 pm // Reply

    i got shot once i went to the hospitle

  30. stop}good one!!that was funny ha ha ha ha!!!

  31. AlbertaForestryFireFighterDad // May 29, 2007 at 5:34 pm // Reply

    Best thing to do at any age once you notice that you are

    1 Stay Put

    2 Build a Fire ( parent teach your Kids early ) being to Cold can Kill you

    3 stay in sight of your camp ( look for water )

    Above all else First Aid to any injurys

    4 And if you have to Move make an Arrow out of Rock to show which way u went

    Some One will find u

    And above all else Learn how to Survive

  32. STOP! good one. ! !


  33. once i got lost in the woods. it was freaky

  34. saras brother those are good tips

  35. saras brother // May 18, 2007 at 4:40 pm // Reply

    if you ever herd a partridg drum or havent, go in the forest with your dad or grandpa and sit on a log, but you HAVE to be early in the spring. but anyway sit there, you cant talk you have to be very quite or it wont drum, listen very closly and i will start eventuly, it is very deep and quite so listen and those are my tips.

  36. good tips

  37. some good tips

  38. Learned a neat trick recently with an acorn cap. If you are lost in the woods and don’t have a whistle, look for an oak tree. You can use an acorn cap to make a very loud whistle. You have to hold it a certain way (put the knuckles of your thumbs together to form a V and hold the acorn cap–hollow area toward thumbs–between thumbs and index fingers so only a small portion of the acorn is above the V formed by the thumbs. Then blow over the cap. Takes some practice but it makes a great, not to mention LOUD, whistle.

  39. ace # 4657893 // May 17, 2007 at 12:54 pm // Reply

    once i got lost in woods. we got lost hunting, and the only food was to shoot a partridge. Eventualy we found the trail again

  40. mitchellea4 // May 16, 2007 at 10:28 pm // Reply

    kk, ive gotten lost before, but i was only 7, i went biking when my parents told me to go no farther than the next 2 blocks, i didnt listen. i came to a dirt trail and folowed it for about 5 minuts leaving my bike at the begining of the trail. then i just wonderd off into the woods, pretty much just trying to find a new place, after about 8 min. i found out i had completely lost the trail and a big branch fell off a tree and i got really scarde but i was really small, so i ran as fast as i could to get away from the tree that the branch fell from, i had comletly no idea where i was. i ran farther and farther untill i was out of the woods, and i found myself in a place i had never been beforel. okay, so i was super scarde because i didnt know where i was, so i went into a convenyent store and i said i was lost, they let me use a phone and i turnd out i had ended up 3 miles from my house, my dad came and picked me up and sence then, ive been super carful about myself getting lost. and luckely i got my bike back : )

    but that was 6 years ago but i was super scarde, at least i new what to do.

    im a girl,


  41. Oh yeah, 3-Drakel, try being lost in the mall with a bunch of people, and you’re thinking that some people are you’re mom and dad.

  42. good tips

  43. 490 trooper // May 14, 2007 at 3:03 pm // Reply


  44. I`ve been lost in a desert before! It was freaky!

  45. to_be_chuck_chick // May 12, 2007 at 4:44 pm // Reply

    I pack a CD to signal. When flashing, just flash at the plane three times (the universal distress call). Also, tumbleweeds are great for smoke.

  46. Those are some good tips!

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