How to Survive the First Three Days of Being Lost in the Woods

Guest Post by Angela from

Honing essential survival skills is necessary if you are an adventurous person who loves to camp out in the woods and enjoy the beauty of the wilderness. Note that you will never have an idea of what might happen in the future. No matter how often you have already been in the woods and came back safe and sound, there is still a chance for you to get lost or injured if you are not careful.

If that happens, your wilderness survival skills will be the only things that can save you. In case you are still brushing up on your survival skills, here are some of the things that can help you survive the first three days of being lost in the wilderness.

Stop and think

Instead of panicking right away because you are no longer sure where you should go while in the woods, it helps to calm yourself down. Stop and rest for a bit. Avoid panicking and stay where you are. Use this time to think about your situation. Think about the things that you already know about your current location.

Also, avoid moving unless you have already created a plan and finally calmed down. It also helps to observe your surroundings. Gather details that might help you identify your exact location. If you have a compass and a map then use it to know exactly where you are. Observe whether there are signs that label trail intersections, too. With such details, it is easy for you to create possible courses of action.

Examine your inventory

This means checking your survival kit, so you will know if it is enough to sustain your needs for the next couple of days or so. Also, before going out on your next trip to the wilderness, make sure that you fully understand your survival kit needs versus wants. This is important in ensuring that your kit contains only the things that you need, instead of the unnecessary and useless ones.

Spend time checking out the content of your survival kit. Maybe there is something in there that can help you increase your chances of survival, such as a whistle, compass, cellphone, or a sharp tool. Check the amount of water you have, too. If you only have a limited supply of water, try sipping in small amounts only when you are thirsty.

Assess your food supply, too, but avoid panicking if you notice that you only have a small amount left. Keep in mind that it is more important to have a good supply of water than food when you are lost in the woods since you can expect your body to survive up to 3 weeks without food. This is not the same with water as you can only survive without it for 2-3 days and even less if the heat is scorching.

Examining your inventory or the contents of your survival kit can help you plan your next moves carefully. Based on what you have on hand that can help you survive, it will be much easier to craft a plan designed to guide you while finding your way back or waiting for rescue.

Learn more about the area but monitor your “point zero”

Note that it is important to stay in one place when you get lost in the woods since this can increase your possibility of getting found as soon as possible. However, you also need to move around so you can familiarize yourself with the area and determine how you can survive even further.

What you should do, instead, is to have a point zero. This should be a marked spot, which you can use as a guide whenever you need to move around. Go back to this spot from time to time. You can mark it by stacking tree branches or putting together a bunch of rocks.

Once marked, you can begin to scout the area. Do not forget to go back to your initial spot (point zero) within a certain period so you will know if rescue is coming.

Search for a source of water

Make sure that you also start searching for a source of water that you can purify as soon as possible. This is essential especially if you only have a limited supply of water. As mentioned earlier, you can only survive a max of three days without water so you have to find a source of it right away. A dependable source would be a spring but you may have a difficult time finding one.

You may also get water from the morning dew of plants or a running river but you have to purify it first as this might contain contaminants that trigger illness. To purify the water you collected, heat it. It should take at least three minutes of boiling heavily to get rid of all bacteria in water.

As an alternative water purification method, you can pour the water in a bottle made of plastic then store it in a sunny or hot environment for around six hours. Note, however, that this tip is only effective if the water used is not full of sediments.


Start a fire

If you feel like you will be spending a couple of days in the woods then building or starting a fire is something that you should do. Gather everything that you might need to start a fire. You need it to heat drinks and foods and keep your clothes dry. Another benefit of starting a fire is that it can send a signal regarding your location. It can tell rescuers where you are. To take full advantage of the fire, make sure to light it before the darkness sets in.

Among the things that you can use are dry paper, cardboard, twigs, or any other item capable of catching fire easily. Combine such items using large logs made of wood. Clear a circular spot first, then have it surrounded by rocks for proper insulation. Once done, you should add the tinder, kindling, and remaining woods in a gradual manner.

Look for a source of food

Make sure that you also have a few caloric foods with you each time you decide to hike. If you are still lost, look for food in the woods or forest but make sure that those are safe. Generally, cooked small animals and insects are safe to eat. In case there is a source of water close to you, you may consider catching fish for food.

Also, know exactly how to deal with hunger. Note that you need food for energy but you have to learn how you can effectively stretch out your current supply for a certain period. To reduce your need for food, it helps to reserve your energy for vital tasks only. If you reserve more energy, then it is also natural for your body to reduce its need for food, allowing you to survive even if you just eat a little. Just do not forget to hydrate, instead.

Send a signal

You need to signal potential rescuers so they will know where you are. You can send a signal through various means – among which are blowing a whistle, spelling help in an open area, and flashing a shiny metallic object or mirror. Figure out which among these means can attract attention and let other people know that you need to be rescued.


Trying to survive the first three days of being lost in the wilderness or woods can be a traumatic and terrifying experience. This is why you have to prepare before your next trip to the woods. Avoid getting lost by setting in place certain preventive measures, like letting your loved ones know exactly where you will be going and traveling in famous tourist destinations or open areas only.

By having preventive measures in place, you can go on an expedition with peace of mind, knowing that you are fully prepared for any untoward circumstances, such as getting lost all of a sudden.

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