October 9, 2015

Survival 101: What to do when you get lost in the bush

What do you do when things go wrong and you get lost while out in the bush? In a nutshell: Stop, stay calm and plan. Keep warm. Drink plenty of water and ration your food. Conserve your energy. 
Be determined to survive. Get help.

Actually there are a number of things, so let’s tackle this systematically.

The first and most important thing to do is to remain calm and THINK. Then make tea, tea and not coffee. Making tea requires a certain ceremony and if you can take your time and make tea, then you are in charge of the situation. Then take stock of your situation.  

The first option is to turn around and track yourself out of there. Your shoes have left marks on the trail; the tires of the vehicle have left two long lines behind the vehicle. The vehicle will not leave tracks on a tar road but if you are on a tar road then you are probably not lost.

If this still does not work then settle down and make a camp. Take out you little survival pack. What, don’t you have one? You should have packed it before the rest of your kit. Inside should be the following: a small bag or pouch with a lighter, some strong string, a knife and/or a machete; a small pot for cooking and boiling water; soap and a lightweight towel; water sterilizing tablets and coffee filters, to filter water not coffee; insect repellent; a proper first aid kit, not just a packet with first aid written on it.

The weather conditions will determine what type of protection you will need. Do a good job of keeping yourself warm and dry. Find and purify water or ration the water you have. Find fire-wood before it gets dark but use it sparingly. Have a pile of small sticks that you can throw on if there is a threat from animals. Feed the fire slowly, do not heap it up and then let it die down to almost nothing.

Stay near the vehicle if you are using one. The vehicle is easier to see than people on foot. You should have left a rout plan and return date with someone. Stick to the plan. Do not ever deviate from your plan. If you do not return by the set day then they will send people out to find you. You should know your equipment; know how to use it when it works properly as well as when it is not functioning properly. The boy scouts motto of “be prepared” says it all.

Look around you as you travel, look back at any junctions that you pass, see them from the return journey’s perspective. Learn to use your equipment properly and then practice regularly. Learn some skills and practice them regularly; learned skills are lighter to carry than a book. And very importantly – NEVER over-estimate your capabilities but be positive about what you can do.

Courtesy of EcoTraining instructor Mark Gunn - article written by Liryn de Jager
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