The happy ending to the story of the Boy Scouts lost in Arkansas last week serves as a reminder of a crucial element to wilderness survival: Lost-proofing onself.

Getting lost is one of the foremost ways people wind up in survival situations in the outdoors. It happens all the time, and it’s probably happened to most of us, whether we are willing to admit it or not. I’ve been a little lost before. It’s terrible, and the worst part is how stupid you feel.

But here’s the good news: Getting lost is usually easily preventable. How do you avoid getting lost?

• Get a map of the area that you are traveling to and study it prior to your trip.
• Use the map and a compass (or GPS) while you are there, and constantly be aware of your position on that map.
• Imagine what the terrain would look like from a bird’s-eye view and visualize your place in that terrain. Think of that little “You Are Here” arrow on the big map at the trailhead, and keep it updated in your mind.
• Look behind you frequently, especially if you will be returning in that direction.
• Look for big, unusual landmarks and keep the landmarks in view as much as possible.
• When traveling off the trails, use prominent, distant landmarks and/or a compass to travel in straight lines.
Finally, always make sure somebody responsible knows where you are going, and when you are supposed to becoming back.

photo by: bios