Wilderness Medicine, First Aid, and Outdoor Skills
Getting Lost and Getting Found

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Getting Lost and Getting Found
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US Army First Aid Manual
Fundamental Criteria for First Aid
Basic Measures for First Aid
First Aid for Special Wounds
First Aid for Fractures
First Aid for Climatic Injuries
First Aid for Bites and Stings
First Aid in Toxic Environments
First Aid for Psychological Reactions
Appendix A: First Aid Case and Kits, Dressings, and Bandages
Appendix B: Rescue and Transportation Procedures
Appendix C: Common Problems/Conditions
Appendix D: Digital Pressure
Appendix E: Decontamination Procedures
Appendix F: Glossary

Getting lost and getting found. Protect your children and yourself.
No one plans to get lost. However this occurs more frequently than one would imagine when camping, cross-country skiing, or when engaging in any outdoor activity. There are many different definitions of getting lost. It always amazes me when people who believe themselves to be very knowledgeable about the outdoors cannot admit to getting lost, but instead use the phrase, "I just got turned around." Later when they do find their way back to their entrance point, they still maintain that they "just got turned around." Of course it is much different where children are concerned, where the same scenario can quickly become a dangerous situation. The season definitely plays a role, whether it is winter or summer; however the equipment remains the same. When a child or adult recognizes that they are lost, or have strayed away from their party and are not sure of their way back, the first thing that is experienced is fear and anxiety about their situation. Please refer to psychological aspects of being lost on our home page to review some of the underpinnings of fears and phobias.

  1. Hug a tree. This originated from the Hug a Tree foundation in California. It has worked very well over the years among children, as well as adults. This refers to staying put, not straying from where you are. It is not uncommon for individuals to start running and most commonly, walking in the opposite direction of their base camp or entrance point, becoming farther and farther away from help. If search parties do try to seek you out, they frequently will grid off an area, and you may be walking out of the first grid that is searched, possibly turning and walking back into that grid, but searchers may not return to that original area for 2-3 days. Subsequently you are prolonging being lost. So, first and foremost, it is very important to stay put. Don't stray from your location.
  2. WhistleChildren and adults should carry a whistle. Whistles are inexpensive. It should be a bright color so if dropped, it is easily found on the forest floor or possibly a snow covered woods floor. When one is in a deep ravine, an individual could be as close as 100-150 yards away, yet due to wind conditions and variances in terrain, one can scream and holler without being heard. A whistle can be blown for a longer period of time than using one's voice, and the sound carries much farther. When giving your child a whistle, it is important for you as a parent to remind your child of the old fable, The Little Boy Who Cried Wolf: A whistle should never be blown unless one is truly lost or in danger.
  3. FlashlightA flashlight is important to have in your fanny pack. The Mag lights are efficient and have been around for quite a while. However Survive Outdoors has recently located a higher quality flashlight, which is the LED. It is rather small. The benefits are that once you leave this flashlight on, it will burn continuously for 14 days without the bulb burning out. In fact, the bulbs have a lifetime warranty, and it is also waterproof up to 2 feet deep. Subsequently, if a child is afraid out of the dark, if you are out camping, or perhaps is lost, you can easily hang this in a tree and leave this on, and it will burn continuously for many nights. This will definitely help with anxiety and fear, and is a must have. It is also important to note that if you are carrying it with you, to invert one of the batteries. This will save your battery life, and all you have to do is invert it in the proper way, and you will have a flashlight that is ready to go in a survival situation.
  4. The next item a child or adult should carry on themselves is a large, thick plastic bag. This can be folded and placed in a fanny pack. It is recommended for durability that the plastic bag be 4 mm. thick; however finding a plastic bag that thick is difficult. These also should be a bright color. You can improvise by getting a 4 mm. to 6 mm. yellowish or orange tarp, which is approximately 6' x 10' and with very little effort, you can sew this together to form a bag. This can then be folded up and placed in a fanny pack or backpack. This will be used to keep oneself dry and away from the elements by crawling in it and having a hole cut out for your face. Your body heat will warm the enclosure and this will make you much more comfortable, especially in case of rain. It is also important to note that there are many uses for this bag/tarp that you are going to be putting over yourself. You can use this to build a shelter. You can use it to lie on. You can use it to keep yourself dry. You can even tie one end tight and pull it quickly into the air and tie it to the other end for a flotation device. There are many uses for this sized tarp that can be carried and folded into your fanny pack.
  5. CDThe next item that one should carry would be a signal mirror, or something close to that. As you can see in the photos, a Compact Disc can be carried and easily used. Even though Compact Disc reflections have been reported to travel 1-2 miles and would make them beneficial to carry, a signal mirror can be purchased for $2-$5, and has been known travel 25-30 miles in ideal conditions.
  6. A metal match is important to carry in order to start fires. However clearly there is a maturity level involved in terms of when a child is ready to carry one, and they need to learn how to use it to start fires efficiently. This age range varies. I have seen 12 and 13 year olds who were mature enough to be able to start a fire, as well as monitor it, and not let the fire get away from them. Then again, I have seen adults who were irresponsible. This is a judgment call based on parenting, and knowledge of the child. However, I highly recommend that adults carry a fire starter of this type, as well as waterproof matches in their fanny packs.

All of this equipment would fit in a small pouch of a fanny pack, approximately 4" x 6". Whenever I am in the outdoors, I carry this fanny pack with me, whether it be camping, hunting or fishing. I am sure you will see other survival and safety sites that recommend a multitude of other items such as wire saws, snares, knives and compasses. All of these have their uses. However Survive Outdoors strives to keep equipment down to a minimum, as small and simple as possible with the goal being to be found in less than 72 hours. Compasses are great to carry with you. However they are totally worthless if an individual does not known how to use a compass.

It is also important to note for parents and children alike that in a situation where an individual is without water, hydration is extremely important. Many children and adults are taught not to drink the water due to the risk of getting sick or dying because of some illness. This could not be farther from the truth in a survival situation. An individual can go 4 days without any fluid in an ideal situation. If after 48 hours you are not found and you need to drink water out of a stream or a lake, and you have no means of filtering or purifying this water by boiling, then it is strongly advisable to go ahead and drink the water. The most common organism found in water in the U.S. is Girardia Lambia and symptoms from that ingestion will occur in approximately 3 weeks. Subsequently, it is important to go ahead and drink the water. You will be found, you will live, and when you become symptomatic and sick, you will be able to be treated at that time, as opposed to dying of dehydration.

In closing, it is important to note that NO ONE believes that they will be lost or injured. However I can't tell you how many times individuals have gone into the woods, have been turned around, panicked, discovered they were lost, with approaching nightfall they perhaps began to walk quickly or run, and having no flashlight, become injured by spraining or breaking an ankle, or perhaps lacerating themselves. Of course the ability to find the lost individual becomes much more difficult because they did not stay put.


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