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​​​​​​If you find yourself in a situation where you are lost or stranded, sit down and try to stay calm. Think over past events to see if you can retrace your footsteps or travel pattern. Think before dark. If you realize you will be unable to return to your camp destination, or are uncertain as to your location, commit yourself to spending the night where you are. Immediately begin preparations for the night. Pick the best campsite in the immediate area and build a small fire. Consider these factors when selecting a campsite: 

  • Readily available firewood

  • Materials for shelter construction

  • No natural hazards

  • Available drinking water 

The most important next steps are:

  • ​Gather enough firewood to last the night. A roaring fire is not a necessity unless being used as a signal for help. 

  • Keep clothing as dry and as clean as possible. 

  • Take care of equip​​ment. 

  • Don’t lose or waste anything. 

  • Build or set up your shelter. If you do not have materials for constructing or setting up shelter in your gear, construct a lean-to or fashion a shelter from available materials. As you decide where to build your shelter, consider wind direction. Heat should be radiated  into a shelter, not blown into it. Heat reflectors on the back side of a fire may be constructed from logs, rocks, boulders, green boughs or a space rescue blanket. Use caution as the space rescue blanket may catch fire.

  • ​Time permitting, improve your shelter. The importance of doing the job well while you are able to do it cannot be overemphasized. A bough bed at least eight inches thick will insulate you from the ground. Boughs should be placed in rows with the broken ends toward the ground. Use of boughs is not recommended for ordinary camping because of the unnecessary destruction of foliage.

Take Care of Yourself 

Your best survival tool is your head – use it! When faced with a survival situation, it is particularly important to check yourself for injuries. If you become frightened and panic, you increase the chance of injuring yourself or inducing hypothermia. Do only what is necessary, very carefully and after thinking it out. If you are already injured, take time to care for yourself, as pain or loss of blood can reduce your efficiency. You should have first aid equipment as part of your survival kit.

In cold, damp or snowy weather your first problem may be frostbite. To prevent frostbite keep your hands, feet and exposed areas warm, dry and protected from wind. Check frequently for numbness or a change in skin color to gray or to yellow-white spots. Warm affected areas by placing next to your abdominal region or other warmer areas of the body. If you get wet (due to perspiration or immersion), find a way to dry yourself and your clothes immediately. Protect your eyes from overexposure by taking along sunglasses or goggles.

In a desert or hot area, take precautions against overexposure to the sun. You may be affected by sunburn, heat cramps, heat exhaustion or heat stroke. All may be prevented by staying out of the sun and avoiding overexertion since sweating uses body fluids rapidly.

Illustration of how to find 'north' using a watch.

Tip: Forgot Your Compass?

How to Find North Using a Watch

Hold the watch level to the surface of the Earth.​ Point the hour hand directly at the sun. The point halfway between the hour hand and 12 o'clock will be south.

The stick is to give you a line-up shadow for the hour hand if you think you need it.