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santaman2000

M.A.B (Mad About Bushcraft)
Jan 15, 2011
16,708
988
64
Florida
You could make yourself a primitive map as you go. You know where you started. You walked in a straight(ish) line for 10 minutes, past the big fallen oak. Then veered left about 30 degrees and went on for 25 minutes, crossed the stream, through the clearing and up the short steep slope. You could see a fire lookout tower about 5km away at 90 degrees to your direction of travel. Etc. etc. If you plot all this at a suitable scale on a piece of paper you can get a general idea of where you are in relation to where you set off. Using blazes as mentioned above, and markers of various sorts, and aligning features, both ahead of you and behind you, so that you know you are travelling in straight(ish) legs will help enormously.
You don't need a compass as each leg is relative to the last. And scale is minutes / hours on each leg.
You can follow these principles even in forest with numerous trails. Just record the trail branches off the one(s) you are on, along with the time at each.
A search for the terms 'surveying traverse' or 'compass traverse' will give you some more detail. (Adapted suitably for the absence of a compass, of course!)
Well. Sorta. Time traveled in one direction doesn’t necessarily equal time traveled on the return. It takes longer to go uphill than it does to go downhill. But then, the very terrain itself can be your clues.
 

Erbswurst

Native
Mar 5, 2018
1,706
637
Berlin
We in this forum all develop theories how to behave if you are beamed from your town into such a forest with your usual content of pockets in daily town life.

But that's pretty unrealistic.

If one knows, that he could get lost in a forest like on this photo, one carries a compass, a lighter, a pocket knife a head torch. Nowadays the weights of this together are round about 150g if one chooses the lightest high quality stuff and the volume equals to 3 or 4 walnuts.

Extremely light flat collapsible bottles exist on the market in good quality, you just can roll them up and put it in the pocket, the size is like a package of paper handkerchiefs, water purification tabs are smaller than Aspirin, military ponchos usefull as well as shelter or rain proof sleeping bag cover weight 350g if you want, packing size like a Coke can 0,33 ltrs, and a good quality sleeping bag for 0*C fits nowadays in a lady's hand bag.

I can't see any reason why a person that lives in an empty area shouldn't have such a survival equipment in his vehicle.

I personally carry it always and everywhere outside towns, even in crowded parts of central Europe.

And my equipment is even better and far more comfortable, weights only 6 kg and its volume is 30 litres. (The usual city rucksack kids and students carry around has 25 litres.)

I don't really need that stuff to get out of the woods, I need it to get into the woods to sleep there if I suddenly find the free time to do it. But it's of course the perfect survival equipment.

I think people who live in lonely areas usually have such stuff in the car if they don't trust their mobile phones, even if they have every reason to expect to get picked up by the next driver who comes along if the car should be broken.
And such people usually just know their way home. Everywhere is a road, and most people stay on them.
 
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SaraR

Full Member
Mar 25, 2017
563
333
Ceredigion
I can give you an example of a typical finnish boreal forest. I dare you to try and navigate here without compass.

Yeah I was thinking of days spent in Swedish old growth spruce forests, where you *think* you can see and follow a straight line from tree to tree, but the reality is very different, but also of going bushwacking on Vancouver Island where you the red jacket of the person in front of you would be invisible within 2 metres. That's why I suggested the OP would go try it for themselves- you don't really realise it until you've felt/experienced it yourself.
 

SaraR

Full Member
Mar 25, 2017
563
333
Ceredigion
The OP said the character would travel for about a month cross-country, which to me means he's less likely to go back unless forced by lack of water etc and unless very lucky with the direction of the stream would need to move away from it quite soon and find another one heading in the right direction.

If it was a matter of jus getting out, it would be better to follow stream downstream until you hit a road or the coast. (generalising here of course, depending on the location there might be good reason to head upstream)
 

Erbswurst

Native
Mar 5, 2018
1,706
637
Berlin
We were hiking in southern Finland trough such a forest. I didn't see my 5 friends any more after 2 minutes...

;)

Upstream???

I doubt that anyone would do that unless he knows very well that there is a village or farm. But of course, if you do that your chances to run around a full month in the woods before you find somebody become pretty high.
 
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Broch

Full Member
Jan 18, 2009
3,771
2,942
Mid Wales
Actually the OP hasn't said what kind of forest we're talking about - natural large boreal pine forest tends to have quite open canopies and the position of the sun and stars can often be worked out (in the ones I've travelled in anyway); plantations, on the other hand, tend to be so dense you can't walk through them anyway.

Big broadleaf tree forests and jungle environments can have 100% canopy cover over vast areas and be very dark with no visibility of the sky.
 

TLM

Native
Nov 16, 2019
1,050
412
Vantaa, Finland
There are grades of being lost. Like: I don't know where I am (exactly); happens fairly often to me (if not cheating with GPS), not really worrying if I know how to get to a known place or I know I am walking to the right direction. What is dangerous is not knowing where you are and not knowing how to get away from there. I have tried that a few times and it gets a bit scary in the dark and winter if not quite properly equipped.

Army navigation is a whole different game. :eek:
 

santaman2000

M.A.B (Mad About Bushcraft)
Jan 15, 2011
16,708
988
64
Florida
Regarding military navigating there are two schools of thought. One for the ground pounders and another for the flyers:

1) For the ground pounders, if a second lieutenant with a compass knocks at your door, he’s lost. Give him milk and cookies and watch over him until an NCO arives to take him safely back to the post.

2) For the flyboys: You ain’t never been lost until you’ve been lost at Mach 2
 
Constant checking as you go is always a good idea. I once took a photo of the trails map at a trailhead in British Columbia and set off in the snow, using the photo on my camera as my map. After an hour or two things on the ground just didn't tally with the map. (The trails on the ground were not visible in the recent snow so I wasn't following a visible trail.) I double checked everything: not swapped N and S on the compass by mistake, etc., etc. I started perusing the map on my camera in some detail and finally discovered that the map at the trailhead was not oriented N up, which I had assumed. Duh! Relief. Problem solved.
 

SaraR

Full Member
Mar 25, 2017
563
333
Ceredigion
Constant checking as you go is always a good idea. I once took a photo of the trails map at a trailhead in British Columbia and set off in the snow, using the photo on my camera as my map. After an hour or two things on the ground just didn't tally with the map. (The trails on the ground were not visible in the recent snow so I wasn't following a visible trail.) I double checked everything: not swapped N and S on the compass by mistake, etc., etc. I started perusing the map on my camera in some detail and finally discovered that the map at the trailhead was not oriented N up, which I had assumed. Duh! Relief. Problem solved.
First time that happened to me, it took me ages to figure out that the maps on boards didn't have N up, no obvious North arrow either. Apparently that was a common point of confusion among visitors!