Survival navigation: How to find your way back to civilization if you get lost in the wild
05/07/2024 // Zoey Sky // Views

Getting lost in the wilderness can be a terrifying experience. So many things can go wrong, especially if you're alone.

You could get hurt and it might take a long time for someone to find you when you're lost.

But if you do get lost, staying in one spot is one of the best ways to ensure your safety. This can also improve your chance of being rescued. (h/t to

Always inform someone before you go outdoors

If you get lost in the woods while on a hike, don't wander aimlessly. This can make you tired, which will reduce your chance of finding your way back to civilization.

You don't have to be a prepping and survival expert to enjoy communing with Mother Nature, but you can learn important skills to improve your chances of surviving if you do get lost.

Get basic navigational tools and learn how to use them properly.

The following tools can help you find your way if you get lost:

  • Detailed topographic maps
  • Compass
  • Phone apps that can show topographic maps
  • A handheld GPS unit

After learning how to read your maps, don't forget to inform others about your destination and how long you will be gone.

This ensures that if something goes wrong, they can quickly raise the alarm if you are gone beyond your expected return time or date. (Related: Survival navigation: Using trees, insects and birds to navigate.)

Look for signs of human activity

Signs of civilization include any indicators that one person or a group of people have inhabited, worked or passed through an area.

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These signs include:

  • Bridges
  • Roads (even poorly maintained ones)
  • Tire tracks
  • Buildings
  • Domesticated animals/livestock
  • Vegetation destruction from chopping
  • Camping sites
  • Abandoned fire pits

You may also encounter dumping grounds in certain areas where people dispose of their trash.

If you find any signs of human activity, there's a chance that you can also find someone who can help you get to safety or alert the authorities for your rescue, depending on your condition.

And even if the area seems deserted at first, you must look closely for signs of human activity. Even if there's no one there, humans may visit the area in the near future.

Search for bodies of moving water

Human settlements usually gravitate toward bodies of water for survival. Choosing to establish homes near water sources was a strategic decision for conserving precious resources while also optimizing time and energy expenditure.

People usually gravitate toward traveling downhill, as it offers a path of least resistance and conserves energy.

Following a body of water also offers crucial survival advantages. Aside from being a source of water for hydration, bodies of water also give you a chance to fish for food.

Look for a clearing, then make a rescue signal

If you plan to spend time outdoors, you need to learn how to make a rescue signal for emergencies.

Clearings offer a vantage point for gaining a better understanding of your surroundings, allowing you to assess your next course of action more accurately.

Clearings may also include signs of human activity, offering potential resources and opportunities for rescue. You may see domesticated animals or evidence of human presence, whether for professional endeavors like logging or recreational activities such as camping.

Some clearings can also be used as makeshift landing zones for low-flying aircraft.

When signaling for help, creating a fire is one of the most effective methods. Adding green vegetation to a fire generates thick smoke, which serves as an easy-to-spot emergency signal.

You can also enhance visibility through reflective surfaces, such as mirrors or bright-colored clothing.

Look for high vantage points in unfamiliar terrain

Gaining a high vantage point can give you a better understanding of your surroundings, particularly when you are navigating unfamiliar terrain.

From elevated positions, such as hilltops or tree canopies, you get an extended field of view, making it easier to identify potential paths or signs of human activity that may be concealed from ground level.

Note that heading to a high vantage point also carries inherent risks, so it is important to follow proper safety measures. Don't climb a tree if you are unsure that you can get down on your own safely.

Don't risk an injury if there are other ways to confirm your current location.

If possible, use effective security measures to mitigate risks before climbing a higher vantage point. Improvise safety harnesses using paracord.

Be careful and avoid injury, which can make your situation worse.

Go down when traveling

Once you've found a higher vantage point, it's time to travel downwards.

If possible, head to a location with a body of water. Even if a water source isn't immediately visible, the natural gravitational flow ensures that watercourses are often found downhill.

Descending downhill offers several advantages, such as expedited travel toward civilization and energy conservation. The terrain usually becomes less steep as you descend, making travel easier and minimizing physical exertion, which can help if you're weaker due to a lack of food or water.

Following a body of water can also help guide you to other signs of civilization.

Before you head to the wilderness, arm yourself with essential prepping and survival skills like navigation and emergency signals so you can safely enjoy your time in nature.

If you know how to navigate and look for signs of civilization, you can improve your chances of being found if you do get lost.

Visit for more articles about other important prepping and survival skills. You can also go to Health Ranger Store and Brighteon Store to browse essential gear for your various prepping needs.

Watch the video below to learn about 10 items you need for your wilderness survival kit.

This video is from the Daily Videos channel on

More related stories:

Survival skill: How to predict the weather without any instruments.

Survival tools for your go bag: WHAT you should have and WHY.

Prepper fitness: Why is physical health important for survival?

Basic survival and prepping skills that your kids should learn ASAP.

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