How To Signal for Help in the Wilderness

Getting lost in the wilderness is, unfortunately, much easier than you might think.  If you have gotten separated from your group, or have chosen to hike alone (which is generally not recommended) and wander off the trail, it is easy to get disoriented and lose your bearings.  In these instances, help is usually not too far away if you can stay calm and are prepared to help searchers find you.

  • Stay calm:  The most important rule in any crisis situation is to stay calm and think rationally.  Many people who have found themselves in disaster situations have survived merely because they have kept their wits about them.
  • Understand that the human voice does not carry well:  Yelling is only effective if people are close by.  More often than not, yelling only serves to increase panic and irritate the vocal cords, causing pain.  Yelling should only be employed as a last resort.
  • Always carry a whistle:  If you choose to hike alone, there are a few things you should never leave home without.  One of those things is a whistle.  A whistle blast can be heard from a mile or two away.  This is a much greater range than what the human voice has to offer and may mean the difference in being found quickly and spending a few nights in the wilderness.
  • Walk to a clearing and create a signal fire:  Another very important item to carry with you when you hike is a lighter.  A lighter can help you build signal fires, cook food, stay warm and sterilize water for drinking.  All of these things are essential in a survival situation.  When building a signal fire, use green, wet wood during the day to increase smoke output and dry wood at night to increase fire intensity for greater visibility.
  • Spread a brightly colored article of clothing or survival blanket:  A lightweight survival blanket is one more must-have in any hiker’s gear.  A neon orange survival blanket will allow you to stay warm at night while giving you the best chance at being seen from both the ground and the air.

When enjoying the wilderness, it is always best to employ the two golden rules of hiking: never hike alone and never leave the trail.  But if you find yourself in a situation where you have gotten lost in the woods, the tips above will ensure that you will have the best possible chance of being rescued as soon as possible.


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