O.K. You’re lost. Now what?
If you don’t know where you are or which way to go, STAY PUT. People will start looking for you as soon as someone realizes you’re missing. Meanwhile, it’s time to use your No. 1 survival tool — your brain. Follow the S-T-O-P signs.
S. Stay calm: You can’t use your brain well if you’re in a panic. Breathe slowly and deeply. Drink some water, eat a little something.
T. Think: How did you get here? Get out your map and see what you can figure out.
O. Observe: Look for your footprints. What about landmarks? Find the clues and maybe you can solve the mystery of where you are.
P. Plan: If you’re pretty sure of the way back, move carefully. But what if you’re wrong? Mark your trail as you move — piles of stones, broken branches. That way you can always come back to where you were.
Help searchers find you. The universal distress call always comes in threes: Three shouts, three blasts on a whistle. Start calling. Make a smoky fire in the daytime (toss grass or green leaves on the flames) or a bright fire at night. Spread extra clothing or any bright gear in the open to catch the eye of a rescue pilot.
Make yourself comfortable. Pitch a tent if you have one, or make a shelter out of the wind. Use the gear you have to help you stay warm and dry. How long can you last? Without water, for several days. Without food, for several weeks.
On a clear day, the flash of a signal mirror can be seen up to 100 miles away. Any mirror will do. To aim it, hold the mirror with one hand and extend the other hand in front of you. Tilt the mirror until its reflected light fills your empty palm. Make a V with your illuminated fingers, then sight through the V toward an aircraft.
The lid of a tin can, a piece of foil or anything shiny can also work.