Survival Guru

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Q: What should I do if I'm lost in the Boundary Waters?

What would be the smartest thing to do if you are lost in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota? Ryan Lucas Overland Park, Kansas

By: Question from: ,

Free Newsletters

Dispatch This week's featured articles, reviews, and videos. Sent twice weekly.
News From the Field The most important breaking news from around the Web. Sent daily.
Outside GOOur hottest adventure-travel tips and trips. Sent occasionally.
Outside Partners Outside-approved deals and special offers from select partners. Sent occasionally.

Subscribe
to Outside
Save Over
70%

Magazine Cover

iPad Outside+ App Access Now Included!

Advertisement

Four-Star Camp Food

$ad.smallDesc

$ad.smallDesc

$ad.smallDesc

A:

I grew up in the Great Lakes and remember how chilly it can be there, even on summer nights. In the Boundary Waters, hypothermia is going to be your number one concern, no matter the season.

Planning and preparation are paramount. Dress properly, as clothes are your primary shelter system. Avoid wearing anything that is 100 percent cotton—like jeans—and consider wearing wool or poly/cotton blends.

If you're stranded, I'm going to assume that you filed a travel plan when you obtained your permit. Stay put and wait for help. Hopefully, you can flag another canoe party. If not, then you could have a long wait ahead before searchers realize you are overdue. Hunker down and focus on your immediate survival priorities.

In that region, this means constructing a makeshift shelter like a lean-to that will keep out the rain and wind. Then make a fire (assuming it is a safe time of year to do so). It is absolutely critical that you carry some survival items in your pockets at all times. That fancy survival kit in you canoe or backpack won’t do you much good if you become separated from it.

When I head out on canoe trips, I always carry three firestarters in my pockets, signal mirror, pocketknife, Iodine tablets, and a Heat-Sheet Blanket. These weigh ounces, but are life insurance should you become lost.

Finding water shouldn't be much of a problem, eh. Boil it for one minute to purify, or use the Iodine from your survival kit. Most hypothermia and frostbite victims suffer from dehydration so tank up on water.

Lastly, when traveling in such a rugged landscape, I highly recommend investing in a Personal Location Beacon (PLB). This device can direct Search & Rescue personnel right to you.

More at Outside

Next in Adventure (93 of 101)

What's the best way to make a fire with only primitive tools?

Read More »
Current Issue Outside Magazine

Subscribe and get a great deal! Two free Buyer's Guides plus a free GoLite Sport Bottle. Monthly delivery of Outside—your ultimate resource for today's active lifestyle. All that and big savings!

Free Newsletters

Dispatch This week's featured articles, reviews, and videos. Sent twice weekly.
News From the Field The most important breaking news from around the Web. Sent daily.
Gear of the Day The latest products, reviews, and editors' picks. Coming soon.
Outside Partners Outside-approved deals and special offers from select partners. Sent occasionally.

Ask a Question

Our gear experts await your outdoor-gear-related questions. Go ahead, ask them anything.

* We might edit your question for length or clarity. If it's not about gear, we'll just ignore it.