Thursday, June 6, 2013

"Ima Lost" The Art of Staying Found

"Ima Lost" The Art of Staying Found

Ever been lost? Your pulse races, you vision tunnels. The best thing you can do when you get lost is to STOP! My father used this in a lot of his classes “Stop Think Observe Plan.” Take an inventory of the items you have with you. See each item as an asset. Don’t mourn the forgotten or lost items. Once you’ve calmed down and taken inventory, determine where you think you are. Have you crossed any major highway? Have you crossed any major waterways? Can you determine the directions. Can you see the sun? Do you know how long you have been walking? All these things will help determine where you are.

Can you see me?
I spent many years in Search and Rescue, now I teach Primitive and Survival Skills and I noticed something. There are classes for just about every primitive and bush craft skill, but very little about what you do if you are lost. If you watch Survival style TV shows or the movies about the people lost in the wilderness, you will see a lot of “don’ts” when it comes to the Search and Rescue (S&R) aspects of being lost. Trail running is one “don’t” often seen and is common among young kids when lost and frightened. 

From a S&R standpoint it’s nice if the victim stays put. I once was on a search where a lady was constantly on the move. This extended the amount of time it took to find her. So staying put is always nice, if you know they're looking for you. Another thing that’s helpful is if the victim is easy to spot. So while requiring everyone who may get lost to wear fluorescent is a Search and Rescue (S&R) persons deam, there are things you can do to help.

Can you See me now?
Lets face it Most experienced primitive skills people and experience bushcrafters won’t normally get lost. Lets look at who does. 

Very young children general up to the age 3 are unaware of the concept of being lost. They tend to wander from one focal point to the next without a care, if they get tired they tend to lay down wherever  convenient. Ever see the cute pics of the kid asleep in some strange place. These children “tend” not to travel as far. Although my little one can make it across the ridge tops pretty fast.


 Children up to about age 6 get lost for the same reasons they tend to follow animals and trails. Once they realize they are lost they try to return to some place they know. This group will likely try to find shelter in bad weather or at night as opposed to the younger ones who will lay down where ever when tired.


Children up to about 11 often become more upset when they realize they are lost. These kids are the take a “shortcut” or I think its this way and end up getting lost. This age group also begins your trail runners. They will find a trail of any sort and take off running to get back to people fast.


Teens often will become lost as a group following a leader whom has gone too far trying to impress their friends. This group will revise plans for finding their way back or finding know landmark. They also will try to seek shelter in bad weather or darkness.   


Adults, Depending on what the adults are doing when they get lost has a great deal of bearing on getting found. Most of the time when an experienced outdoors man gets lost they have simply overestimated their ability. Ranging from having enough daylight or gas to get back ,to having problems with gps or compass. Even the greatest of navigators get misplaced from time to time “I have never been lost, but I will admit to being confused for several weeks” (Daniel Boone) . Sometimes people get injured and are unable to make it back on their own.


So what can you do to Help? Follow the tips below and if you're an Instructor add these tips to you classes.


 Tips on staying Found. 
  • Always tell someone where you're going and how long you plan on being gone.
  • Pack A whistle
  • Always take some form of brightly colored material (use bandanas so they can be placed in pack for when you don’t want to be found)
  • If you are lost stay put, while its ok to get into a clearing for better visibility, and if you have to move leave markers; place arrows of the ground in direction of travel, break limbs in directing of travel, drag feet in leaves, dirt or mud.
  • Use commonly known Signals: signal mirror, lights, smoke, flagging, arrows placed on the ground.
  • Pack a map and compass


Take classes in navigation, Pre Plan your trips using up to date topographical maps. Know the limits of your equipment and your own limits. If you're going to test either do it in a controlled situation with back up. Knowledge will help  you overcome fear. If you become lost “STOP”. Do an inventory of the items you have. Items that can be used to help you.  Putting your skills to use to keep you safe.



Information about lost people came from various lost person behavior reports as well as my own observations from years of S&R.


Tim Clifton 

SLC-360© 2013

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