It’s dusk, and you are out in the woods. Suddenly you realize that you can’t find the trail. Soon, you realize that this might need to be home – at least overnight. What should you do?
Prepare before you go. When you head off on a run, a hike, or even just a casual walk in the woods, make sure that you and your kids have good clothing on. You don’t plan to get lost, but if you do get off the trail, even if it’s just for a short while, then it’s good to be tolerably warm. I’ve seen plenty of children and adults head out into the forest in totally inappropriate footwear and in a thin hooded fleece. What keeps you warm when you’re hiking up a trail won’t necessarily keep you warm in the forest overnight. You can always remove layers during your walk.
Bring along something to keep you warm. A safety blanket is our choice. It folds into a tiny package in a fanny pack, backpack, or even in your jacket pocket. No, it’s not nice to sleep in, but it could keep you from freezing. A bright orange plastic garbage bag also works well – it helps you stay warm, and it’s quite obviously human and visible to rescuers. If you have children, show them how to poke a hole in the top and two holes in the sides for their head and arms.
Bring a whistle, and teach your kids to use it. When you’re lost, your voice can give out from calling for help. A whistle saves your voice. Teach your children that if they are lost, anyone might come looking for them. This is a time when it’s good to talk to strangers. Children who have been told not to talk to strangers, especially strange men, can be afraid when a search crew comes to find them in the woods.
Where to Stay
Find a tree or another object and stay close to it. This will prevent you from moving even further away from a trail. While it’s tempting to find a cozy hollow under a tree far in the woods, you’ll want to stay near a place where you could be seen or heard and where you can hear the voices of people calling to you. If you do need to sit a little bit away from the trail, place something bright or obviously human-made near the trail. This will help people find you even if you are asleep.
If you’re lost, and particularly if your children are lost, they need to know to stay away from moving and deep water. Chances are that you’ll be rescued quickly, and especially if you’re disoriented or very young, moving or deep water is much more of a hazard than being thirsty for a few hours. If you are thirsty, drink from leaves or set up a piece of clothing to collect the damp for the next day.
Continues reading on page 2 about Staying Warm and What to Do When it Gets Dark