Guide To Surviving When Stranded In The Woods

No one goes into the woods planning to get stranded, and this can be a terrifying experience for most, if not everyone. You will need to figure out how to be rescued and keep yourself alive as you wait for help.

How to prepare

In the event you get stranded, the best way to prepare for it is to prepare for all contingencies. To do this

  • Pack survival supplies. Before you go for an excursion, you should always carry some essentials. Your list will change depending on how long your planned excursion will be. You should have
    • Food
    • Water
    • A compass to use if your smartphone dies.
    • A flashlight
    • Matches or a lighter
    • First aid kit
    • A map
    • A blanket
    • An emergency blanket
    • A change of clothes. You do not have to carry a full change of clothes but an extra shirt, gloves, and socks will go a long way.
    • A whistle

You can find a complete list of survival gear on the Survival Tactics site.

  • Check in with at least one person. Before leaving, you should give at least one person the full details of where you will be going. Preferably, you should text them the details just in case they forget the names you mentioned.
  • Study the map. Ensure you know where you are and where you are going.

As you Wait for Help

The US Forest Service Department suggests using the S.T.O.P. method as soon as you realize you are stranded.

  • S When you realize you are lost, stop first and calm yourself.
  • T Try and remember how you got where you are, including any trails or distinguishing landmarks or signs you passed along the way and what supplies you have. Do not move unless you know where you are going.
  • O Use your compass to get a sense of direction. Stay on the trail you are currently on. You can also follow the water or drainage downhill. This path can lead you to a trail or a road.
  • P Come up with a possible plan. You can either choose to stay put, go back or continue with the trail you are on.

If you are stranded for longer than you hoped and are unable to find help, signal for help.

You can use your whistle or make noise to alert anyone who may be around. You can also hang bright clothes or use an emergency blanket to let people know where you are.

man in woods

Find Food

As mentioned above, you should always plan ahead and carry several high-calorie foods and protein bars. This way, you will have something to eat if stranded for a while. You should also ration your foods to make them last longer.

You may need to look for food if you run out of food supplies. If there is water, you can fish for food. This is the safest way to get food, especially if you are unsure of what is edible.

Drink Water

You can survive longer without food than you can without water. It is important to find a source of water if you have depleted your supply. Though some have had to drink urine in extreme circumstances, the right environment will have a stream or other source of water available.

Keep Warm

Whenever you are outdoors, you automatically expose yourself to the elements of weather. If you are in the company of others or a pet, you can keep each other warm by huddling together. If you are alone, you should

  • Dress in layers. Wearing many layers will help keep you warmer for longer. This is because heat is trapped within the different layers giving you more warmth. Layers are also better because you can shed some if the weather changes.
  • Stay active. Staying in one position can make you feel colder. You should keep yourself warm by walking around or doing other exercises, such as jumping jacks to generate heat.
  • Keep dry. When you are wet, your body feels colder. Ensure that you have a waterproof outer layer. An emergency blanket will do the same job if you do not have one. Remember the pair of socks we mentioned? Here is where they will come in handy.
  • Stay away from the wind. Wind chill can affect how warm you are. This is why you should stay away from the wind if you can. Your body emits heat creating warmth around you. When the wind blows, you lose all the warmth around you and end up feeling colder. To combat the cold, your body will have to work to produce the heat lost, causing you to shiver.

If the weather is hotter, you will need to keep yourself relaxed by:

  • Hydrating. Drink water to ensure you do not become dehydrated.
  • Covering yourself. This may seem counterintuitive, but covering yourself will protect you from the sun and keep you cooler. Wear a hat if you have one.
  • Looking for shade. The upside of getting stranded in the woods is the availability of shade.
  • Soaking a piece of bandana or cloth in water and tieing it around your neck.

Make Shelter

You can easily find shelter in the woods. However, you may need to build one using wood and a tarp.


Always stop and rest. Do not over-exert yourself. Rest in the shade for at least 30 minutes after eating.

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