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Lost In The Woods Without A Gps....


Alan2
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I’ve never had my GPS quit on me geocaching, and I've never gotten lost anyway, so I have no geocaching stories.

 

But, when I was a kid we hunted and roamed the Big Thicket long before it became a National Preserve. In the article I linked to above it says, “[in] this 83,000-acre swath of East Texas's Piney Woods, truth may just be stranger than fiction: Dank, dark, and overgrown, the Big Thicket is a maze of . . . impenetrably dense forests.” And indeed, in many places it is almost impenetrable dense. It’s fairly easy to get lost even when you’ve been in a given part many times. There were many stories of people who got lost and died, unable to find thier way out. Kids don’t think of carrying a compass. Sometimes, when we got lost we in fact used the legendary moss on the north side of the trees, but the sure fire way out is to follow a stream (we called them creeks). Creeks have come out somewhere. Occasionally it will take you a long time to come out, but you always do.

Edited by Thot
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Back in my very early hiking days, I was with a group of friends and we decided to bushwack directly to our cars to save time, rather than follow the trail. We didn't have a map or compass and pretty soon we were lost.

 

We passed the same rock formation 3 times (you really do walk in circles when lost) and I started getting this panicky feeling and had the urge to start running. I don't know how that would have helped. Instead I found a tall evergreen tree and was able to climb nearly to the top. I spotted the road a few hundred yards away and directed my friends to it, then followed their voices there. We probably walked within a couple hundred feet of the road while wandering.

 

It was then that I decided that it was time to learn to use a map and compass.

 

BTW, what does this have to do with 'Getting started?"

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Said "DANG, I thought I had those batteries in my pocket"!

I usually carry a magentic compass, and try to make a mental note of the way im going. (ok im going ENE, across a creek, past a rusted out car....). Of course this compass is tired off to the lanyard on the gps, so if one gets lost the other would be too.

 

If I were totally lost I'd follow a river, fence, or powerline. That last one be the better choice I think, but if thats not around then move down the list (follow river > to fence > to powerline). Eventually, you should find people.

At least that what I think I would do.

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BTW, what does this have to do with 'Getting started?"

Good question. Maybe this should be moved.

I don't know...seems like some good basic advice for beginners.

 

The standard response I've always heard is to go downhill, because you'll usually find a stream. Then follow the stream because sooner or later you'll find a road.

 

And ALWAYS carry a real compass with you.

 

Bret

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Carrying a real compass is a must, but you have to have an idea of where you started before you can return. If you don't know the direction you were going from your starting point then you won't know the direction to get back. So, always carry a compass AND always note which direction you're going as you head into the woods.

Been there, done that.....

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Some common sense tips will go a long way.

 

1. Mark your car as a waypoint.

 

2. always carry spare GPS batteries

 

3. Tell someone where your headed so if you turn up missing, they know where to look.

 

4. Grab a trail map on the way in if there available

 

5. Bring a compass and note which direction you are heading when you enter the woods.

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When ever I start out I walk for a little way and then look around me and plan a bail out route incase things get bad. When backcountry skiing this is usually where is the closest road and how do I get to it. This is true for hiking just a rough compass bearing is all you need. For longer trips the your need some map skills and the ability to read terrain for must the map. Also lear to traingulate from a map with a compass, to figure out where you at. But the best insurance is to know where your at all the time.

cheers

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About the only time I ever used the electronic compass on my 76S was when I lost GPS satillite coverage in a local forest here in the PNW. Trails go ever which way and many double back. I knew the general direction I needed to go and would pick a trail going that direction but soon I would be headed in the wrong direction. Finally gave up and bushwacked my way to where I thought there would be a road and sure enough I found it. I then bought a wristwatch with a electronic compass so I would always have it. I have a good pocket compass but it is usually in the other jacket. The wristwatch has since quit working but I am more careful to have my pocket compass with me. If the sun is out I can usually keep track of where I am going. Dick, W7WT

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While I've been "confused" once or twice :o I've never been completely lost. Here in FL, it's very easy to lose your way. It's flat and relatively featureless. Out west you can always climb higher and locate your position by shooting bearings to peaks, water features, towers, etc. Down here you couldn't see a tower unless you're almost on top of it. I do, however, have a plan of action in case I do become "permanently" lost.

 

Here's what I do when hiking in wilderness areas to avoid having to call for help:

 

- Carry a manual compass in addition to the GPS. Learn to use it! Electronic devices should NEVER be your one and only navigation device.

 

- Always have a topo map of the area I'm hiking. A topo map covers an area of roughly 7 x 8 miles. If you're hiking near the edges of the map, consider getting the topo that covers the area beyond that edge. Adjoining topo map names are marked at the bottom of all topo maps. If you don't want to go to the trouble or expense of buying topos, at least put together a map of the area using Topozone, or one of the topo map computer programs, such as Topo USA, or National Geographic's TOPO! series.

 

If the map does not have UTM gridlines, take a few moments to make them yourself. You can easily do this by connecting the blue UTM tick marks located on the map borders with a straight edge. Even if you don't use UTM, this will break the map up into small, 1 kilometer (about .62 of a mile) chunks that are easier to "read" and visualize. Also, by counting the squares, you'll know more or less how far you are (as the crow flies) from a given point. While you're at it, learn the UTM system. It's much, much, much faster and easier than using lat/long for finding your position and/or the location of features when using a GPS. Trust me on this one :(

 

- The most important point is to keep the big picture in mind. For example, which area of the map are you going to hike? If it's an area that's unfamiliar to you, consider circling or marking in some way the general area you'll be in. The moment you have the slightest hint that you may be lost, your mind tends to slip into panic mode, and all memory goes out the window. Do NOT rely on memory. Mark everything down.

 

- Look over the map before you go in, and make note of any handrails near the area you're hiking. These are long, linear features such as rivers, roads, power lines, fences, etc., that don't require pin-point accuracy to find. For example, if you get lost but you know there is a road that runs East/West to the south of you, just head south. It may not be the shortest route, but it will get you "out of the woods". I have yet to see a topo map that doesn't contain a handrail, be it man-made or natural.

 

- As someone has mentioned, learn to shoot bearings and triangulate your position using a compass. It really isn't that hard. Practice these skills every once in a while. If you don't use them regularly, you aren't going to remember them in a stressful situation.

 

- The most important point is to ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS have a general idea of where you are located. Stop occasionally and locate your position on the map using your GPS. This way, should your GPS break, get lost, run out of batteries, etc., you'll always know your approximate location. Once you know that, getting out is easy.

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Many years ago, I was early teens and hunting with my father and uncles in Northcentral PA (about three hours from home). I misunderstood my father's directions and got separated from the group. I did what I was taught. When I finally realized I was really out of place, I sat down and shot three rounds. Waited a half hour and shot three more rounds. No response. After a couple hours, I walked down to the creek below. Followed it to the river and followed that to the main road. Then I started walking back to the access road. About a mile up the road, I ran into two of my uncles heading down the road in a truck looking for me. I was not too worried, though. I have food, water, plenty of clothing and knew how to build a shelter. I think most of my kids' friends would start crying and lose it if they couldn't IM someone! :o

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Many years ago, I was early teens and hunting with my father and uncles in Northcentral PA (about three hours from home). I misunderstood my father's directions and got separated from the group. I did what I was taught. When I finally realized I was really out of place, I sat down and shot three rounds. Waited a half hour and shot three more rounds. No response. After a couple hours, I walked down to the creek below. Followed it to the river and followed that to the main road. Then I started walking back to the access road. About a mile up the road, I ran into two of my uncles heading down the road in a truck looking for me. I was not too worried, though. I have food, water, plenty of clothing and knew how to build a shelter. I think most of my kids' friends would start crying and lose it if they couldn't IM someone! :o

I think most of my kids' friends would start crying and lose it if they couldn't IM someone! :(

 

Yes I thank you are right.

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About ten years ago my wife and son were out mountain biking across the street from our house in about 200 acres of loggers trails and thicket woods. They usually tired out in a couple of hours but didn't return. We went out and looked for them but to no avail. Night fell as did the temperature and still no sign so I called 911. Within thirty minutes a couple of sheriff's cars showed up and started the ball rolling. Within another half hour they had dogs and search parties out then not long later 2 helicopters with fancy search equipment. The temperature fell to 30 degrees and they were in their biking attire (shorts and shirt). All night this went on and no wife and son. I was frantic and being questioned for doing something to them. Relatives and friends came from far and wide. Finally we got a call from the sheriff's office that they had wandered out of the woods a couple of miles away, hungry, all scratched up and tired. They had abandoned the bikes and huddled together for the night after they just couldn't find their way out. We were sure glad for that to end. A GPS would have beena huge help for sure.

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I seem to have a natural GPS/compass built into the ole thick skull. I am in the woods alot hunting. I've never carried a GPS or compass. I have a natural way of knowing how to get back to the van...and it has never failed me. I have felt turned around a couple of times here in Washington because of how the hills and valleys twist and turn. But I always pushed the panic aside and followed my instinct. I do not, in any way, suggest this to anyone else. I do carry my GPS and compass now. You have to make sure you mark the location of your vehicle BEFORE setting off so you have a waypoint to "GOTO".

 

Example of my built in GPS. I was hiking with a friend and some kids a few years ago. His GPS was an older model that only locked on to three birds. We had walked west of the camp, then south and back east. Our plans were to turn north and hit the camp but we couldn't get a good "lock" because of all the trees. I told Dave to turn off the GPS and "trust" me. I asked him how close he wanted me to get him to our starting point. He replied..."three feet". I said okay and started leading the way. We popped out of the woods exactly at the spot we had started. We had traveled probably half a mile on the last leg of our journey. Again...I don't recommend hiking through the woods like this. :o

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GPS batteries dead, GPS lost, or whatever. There you are, into the woods without your trusty GPS. What did you do?

 

This is for real experiences not suggestions of what to do. :o

We've always relied on map and compass and would never venture into unknown territory w/o them, GPS or not.

 

GeoBC

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I seem to have a natural GPS/compass built into the ole thick skull. I am in the woods alot hunting. I've never carried a GPS or compass. I have a natural way of knowing how to get back to the van...and it has never failed me. I have felt turned around a couple of times here in Washington because of how the hills and valleys twist and turn. But I always pushed the panic aside and followed my instinct. I do not, in any way, suggest this to anyone else. I do carry my GPS and compass now. You have to make sure you mark the location of your vehicle BEFORE setting off so you have a waypoint to "GOTO".

 

Example of my built in GPS. I was hiking with a friend and some kids a few years ago. His GPS was an older model that only locked on to three birds. We had walked west of the camp, then south and back east. Our plans were to turn north and hit the camp but we couldn't get a good "lock" because of all the trees. I told Dave to turn off the GPS and "trust" me. I asked him how close he wanted me to get him to our starting point. He replied..."three feet". I said okay and started leading the way. We popped out of the woods exactly at the spot we had started. We had traveled probably half a mile on the last leg of our journey. Again...I don't recommend hiking through the woods like this. :o

That's great. Your instinct would be helpful to one like myself that is classified as directionally impaired (my wife's term). The GPS has been a huge help to me.

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No one mentioned the obvious one... have a cell phone with you ! ! ! Of course trying to tell the 911 folks where you are would be intersting with a dead or lost GPSr.

 

I always take a cell phone with me 'just in case'. Could be a huge help if you step in a hidden stump hole and break or sprain something. I suspect most cacher's stand a better chance of injuring themselves than they do of getting lost. And if you are hurt, with the GPSr you can tell them *exactly* where you are.

 

Not that they work everywhere, but a lot of places will have service and coverage. On the other hand if you don't have any cell service, you really are deep in the woods and will probably have to walk a long way to find civilization again anyway.

 

Plus a lot of the newer cell phones have the GPSr chips in them and will show you the coordinates. Not much good for navigating unless you have a map and compass also, but at least you could tell the 911 operator where you were if you have this type phone (and some of them pass it to the enhanced 911 console without you even having to do anything - eventually they all will).

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this last hunting season, myself, my dad, 3 of my uncles and a friend went hunting, we all have GPS, and we ALL RELY on them too much, because since we have GPS's we just wander across the woods without realy looking at what is around us. since the GPS will get us back home anyway. So on one of those days,..my uncle's little yellow just decided to die on him..so there he was lost in the woods.....what saved him that time is that we all carried 2 ways radios and we were still able to have contact with him. and we knew in what area of the wood he was in and knew that if he walked south he would make it back to the road.( the road goes from east to west for like 50 miles) so we went to the road and told him where to put the sun while walking to get to the road.

 

that's it for my lil story

 

and now I always cary 2 GPS's when i go in the woods (one just for backup with the campsite coordinate entered on it)

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I have been on many a trail, plotting my progress for fun using my GPS, when the batteries died. Not once has this developed into a crisis; nor should it. Here are some very important things to remember:

=> Never hike alone. You and your hiking buddy should have both GPSes and maps-and-compass. You should always stay together.

=> Always carry several fresh sets of batteries for your GPS.

=> Always have a current topographic map (on waterproof paper) for the area you will be in. You can now print these easily, so carry two apiece.

=> Carefully mark your starting (car...) position both with a GPS waypoint and on your map. Every half-hour or hour, using your watch, observe your position. Mark it on the map, including the time-of-day, and write it on the reverse side of the printed map.

=> Practice with your compass to familiarize yourself with your surroundings at each stop, and to confirm the coordinates obtained by your GPS. Note the magnetic declination in your area! (In fact it's a good idea to determine your position "the old fashioned way" first, then check against the GPS.) And by the way, it's a fun thing to do during a rest-break.

=> Turn your GPS off in-between checks. Do not carry it in your hand. And, umm, be sure you don't accidentally leave anything behind!

=> Carry spare pens and pencils and writing paper.

=> A methodical, careful, habitual technique is wise. It also encourages you to take restful breaks.

 

Now, if the unthinkable happens ... you and your hiking buddy are both without GPS information ... you have a complete breadcrumb record of where you have been. You have stopped and looked at your surroundings at each point. You are familiar with them. The situation is well under control. You are not lost.

 

If you now find yourself having to navigate back out without your GPS as a reference, follow the same procedure of establishing your course, stopping every half-hour and checking your position, and writing that information down. (You and your hiking-buddy should do this separately, and check your answers.) You can easily find your way back to your car using these techniques and the other tricks that can be found in any book on using basic map-and-compass techniques in the woods.

 

It is a very serious mistake to go out into the woods, even "familiar" ones, without a solid backup navigational technique and the practiced knowledge of how to use them.

Edited by HIPS-meister
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Thanks for the great stories. Yeah I know I put it in Getting Started. The thought about the topic hit me when I was here in this section. I was going to ask the Admin to move it but then thought it's really not such a bad topic for newbies.

 

My own experiences of "getting lost" are really not from the GPS failing. Just that I couldn't find my way back to the trail and having to bushwack. That's happened a few times and I usually got that empty, sinking feeling in my stomach! Don't know if it is fear or embarrassment or both :rolleyes:

 

I think its interesting that except for one or two stories, even though I asked, everyone seems to report what to do if lost or methods to take to avoid it, but didn't really ever got lost because their GPS failed. This topic was suppose to be about real stories not cautionary recommendations. All good ideas and certainly doesn't suggest you not carry backup. You'd think there would be more tales of getting lost because GPS failed, batteries died, etc. But it seems to say a lot for the reliability of the GPS equipment and preparation of us cachers.

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Don't think GPS's rarely fail. Most folks don't go deep into the woods very often. The "rare" failures usually happen in an urban setting because that's where most people cache. Needless to say, those folks don't get "Lost".

 

Once, while out caching, my then year-old Venture locked up on me. I had the infamous lines all over the screen that some Garmin users are familiar with :rolleyes: The click stick didn't work, neither did any of the buttons. Giving it the "Garmin whack" didn't work either. Luckily, I was caching in a local sports complex/park about 50 feet from my car. Had I been on a long hike in the wilderness, it would have been a major concern to say the least. That's when I decided to never put complete trust in any electronic navigation system and added maps and a manual compass to my pack. And learned to use them. I also got rid of the Venture and replaced it with a Garmin 60c :lol:

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Many years ago, I was early teens and hunting with my father and uncles in Northcentral PA (about three hours from home).  I misunderstood my father's directions and got separated from the group.  I did what I was taught.  When I finally realized I was really out of place, I sat down and shot three rounds.  Waited a half hour and shot three more rounds.  No response.  After a couple hours, I walked down to the creek below.  Followed it to the river and followed that to the main road.  Then I started walking back to the access road.  About a mile up the road, I ran into two of my uncles heading down the road in a truck looking for me.  I was not too worried, though.  I have food, water, plenty of clothing and knew how to build a shelter.  I think most of my kids' friends would start crying and lose it if they couldn't IM someone!  :P

"I think most of my kids' friends would start crying and lose it if they couldn't IM someone!"

 

Ain't that the truth! ;)

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Much to my embarassment, I got lost with two buddies, a compass, and a topo map. While in hiking class in college. Yeah. We thought we were following the trail, and somehow got very confused and turned around. After a half hour of wandering around, I took the compass from my friend, looked at the map, said "Forget the trail, let's just bushwhack out of here - if we keep heading north, we'll hit the edge of the woods." We did, and ended up on the road about a half mile from where the rest of our hiking class was waiting for us. Despite this (or maybe because of it!), I got an A in that class...maybe the prof was impressed with my thinking. Or maybe she just gave everyone an A? ;)

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My one and only experiance with getting lost was about 8 or 9 years ago. although it didn't involve a dead GPS. My youngest step brother and I got lost in the Kiniksu wilderness in Northern Idaho whilst out hunting. The origional plan was to follow a creekbed between 2 clearcuts in the forest about 2 miles apart. started out as a morning hunt. got rained on all day. the creekbed we followed took a lazy turn we were unaware of and we walked right by our exit point. A search and rescue party found us the following afternoon cold, tired, and scared out of our minds. As for following a streen or creek, we tried that and it only got us further into the wilderness. It was guestimated we almost walked into Montana before we turned around and tried backtracking. There must be a bazillion creeks in them mountians. We spent the night getting snowed on in a makeshift shelter. At first light we decided to head west, (sun rises in the east and sets in the west) we knew there was a road west of us. the plan was to walk to the road, find a phone and let someone know we were OK. Turns out the road would have been a day and a half to 2 day hike thru the very rugged and almost vertical terrain. Since then I don't head out into the mountians without a compass, cell phone, and GPS w/extra batteries. Probably the worst night of my life.

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