Guys. What are you going to do with them? You want them to be safe, but maybe they aren't quite prepared for the worst. The women of Outdoor Book Club want to make sure our favorite fellas are safe when they're out wandering around the great outdoors. Here's a list of tips you can give your boyfriend/husband/life partner/favorite dude in case he gets lost in the woods, and can't find his way home:
Before he leaves
Make sure he tells someone where he'll be
I get it — your guy doesn't want to look incompetent, and so rather than bother someone with a text or phone call, he'll just head out and not annoy anyone with his personal safety. But if he doesn't do this one very important thing, your boyfriend's chances of being safely rescued in an emergency are significantly diminished.
Not to mention that he'll have to deal with your annoyance and I-told-you-so looks after the search and rescue team drops him back off at your house.
Have him do his research
Your guy needs to know beforehand exactly where he's going, how long he'll be there and what potential hazards exist. Besides studying the area and his routes before he leaves, he MUST bring a hard copy map with him as well. Having a phone with GPS is handy, but phones run out of battery, especially when he's taking selfies out in the woods (all the while his phone is constantly searching for a signal that's not there). A paper map could be the difference between him spending a little extra time on the trail than he had planned, and you calling out a full search and rescue team to go find him.
Food: before & during
Have him eat a healthy, filling meal before he goes out into the wilderness, and have him pack emergency energy bars or trail mix in his fanny pack (he's got a fanny pack, right?). No "light" rice crackers or other low-calorie meals to help him keep his waist trim; this is the wilderness, he'll need as much fuel as possible if he gets lost!
Assemble an emergency pack for him
Speaking of emergency pack, there are a few other things he'll need if he gets lost. Now he may find a fire steel, space blanket, water purifying tablets, signaling mirrors, a first kit and a whistle intimidating, but teach him what these things are and how to use them. Even if he just plans to go out for a couple of hours, he should always bring an emergency survival kit.
Surviving in the woods
If he either ignored your advice or perhaps circumstances beyond his control caused him to really get lost in the woods, there are a few things he can do to 1) help get found and 2) stay relatively comfortable until he does get found.
Assess the situation
Once he figures out he's seriously lost, teach your man to stay put. That will not only increase his chances of being found, but it will conserve his precious energy. If he's with one of his guy friends, THEY SHOULD NOT SPLIT UP. It's likely that someone will come looking for them both, and it's better to find them both at once instead of taking on exponentially more risk by having to search for two lost guys.
Wherever he's decided to hunker down, that will be his "point zero," which he should mark with some clothing, a pile of rocks or anything else easily seen from a distance. He should also figure out the directions: the sun sets in the west, rises in the east, etc. If you can teach him how to spot the North Star in the backyard before he gets lost, that would prove invaluable in a lost-in-the-wilderness situation.
Find a good source of water
Your man can survive up to three days without water, but by the end of day two he'll be seriously hurting. Springs are the best sources of water, but those are hard to come by. He should've brought plenty of water with him for the hike, but if not, he should ration it as much as possible. If he runs out, a running stream is his best bet for reducing sediment and harmful bacteria. Other options include having him pack a small bottle of household bleach (empty eye drop bottles work well for this) in his emergency kit and add a few drops to his water bottle, or even filtering the water through a bandana (this won't do anything about bacteria).
But in a life-or-death situation with no water, he may just have to risk the giardia-induced diarhea that will show up a few weeks after he's rescued and drink whatever water is available.
Unless he knows what he's doing (and let's face it, if you're having this talk with him he probably doesn't), it's probably best that your man not eat anything that he doesn't know is safe. He can survive up to three weeks without food, so starvation is less of an issue than dehydration. He may be totally grossed out by the idea, but grasshoppers and grubs can provide protein in dire situations — but he should cook them, because sometimes insects can harbor harmful parasites.
Build a fire
Building a fire is both a skill and an art, and I think it's something that everyone should learn how to do (like swimming). He should gather plenty of firewood, and start the fire before he needs it — like before he panics as the sun sets. This will not only make him feel safe, it will also possibly act as a signal to rescuers. That being said, he should keep it small (big fires take more firewood & are harder to manage), and only build a fire in a place where it's safe to do so.
Find or build a shelter
It's going to likely get cold at night. Hopefully your man brought a sweatshirt, but if not, the woods has lots of options to make shelters. He can find a fallen or leaning tree, and create an A-frame shelter by stacking branches along the side (and insulating with leaves). If it's winter, a snow cave can actually be quite cozy, provided you don't use too much energy building it and exhaust yourself.
With just a little education and a well-stocked emergency bag, your man will do just fine lost in the wilderness. Good thing he's got such an awesome girlfriend/wife/life partner to give him the knowledge he needs to survive!
What skills or tips have you given your man if he gets lost in the woods? Share them in the comments below.
Jill Hinton Wolfe