Why People Get Lost In The Woods

Every year, thousands of Search and Rescue operations are conducted to rescue or recover those who have become injured, isolated, or lost. After researching hundreds of documented cases, I have found that there are multiple contributing factors that tether these cases together for why people get lost in the woods.

The first common denominator for why people get lost in the woods is we don’t a plan for where we are going in the first place. While this may not contribute to becoming lost, it does make SAR missions much more difficult to conduct. Not leaving a plan with a friend or family member is the number one reason why rescue operations turn to recovery.

The second factor is not knowing an area prior to venturing out. Many people visit parks or forest areas to site see, camp, hike, or hunt but go into these wilderness areas with no understanding or appreciation for the terrain and weather. A lack of awareness for these two elements decreases your ability to survive in the event you become isolated and serves as a contributing factor for becoming lost or disoriented.

I have noticed on so many trips, that people don’t pack any gear whatsoever. No pack, rain gear, water source, signaling device, food, or anything but their cell phone (which often has no service in wilderness areas). Not having any kit at all is detrimental in the event you need to stay in place overnight. Exposure to the elements is the number one reason why people die in the woods.

Another factor is people moving off trail. Maybe they want to go take a picture, more often than not a selfie. Maybe they turn down a game trail, or they didn’t have a map and compass and turn the wrong direction. And because they don’t know the area, they lack the knowledge and experience to course correct so they attempt to take a short cut that further exasperates their isolation leading to the final contributing factor of taking risks they cannot afford to make – for example, they may try to cross a river or decide to climb a tree or accept risk that results in being injured.

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One thought on “Why People Get Lost In The Woods

  1. Sound advice,also folks are not physically up to the mission they undertake and are not honest with themselves

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