Could you survive being lost in the woods?

woman lost in the woods
My Good Images/Shutterstock

You've decided to head out for a hike in a beautiful forest. You're enjoying the walk until you notice the trail has disappeared — and you're thoroughly lost. Do you know what to do next? Take this quiz and see if you would make it in a survival situation.

Question 1 of 14

Score: 0

hiking shoes backpack and coffee mug
Photo: Sergey Mironov/Shutterstock
The 3 most important things to pack for any length hike in the woods are:

It's smart to have all of these items with you when you go on a hike; however, if you think you’re only headed out for a stroll, at the very least pack some high-calorie food like nuts or granola, more water than you think you'll need, and a way to start a fire. Food and water will keep you healthy and thinking clearly, and a fire acts as warmth, a signal, a way to purify water or cook foraged food, and a source of calming comfort.

Question 2 of 14

Score: 0

hiker at top of mountain
When you’re lost, the most important thing to do is S.T.O.P. This acronym stands for:

After you realize you're lost but before you make any decisions, STOP where you are, stay calm and sit down. The farther you walk, the harder it will be for rescuers to find you. Take a few deep breaths to settle your panic. THINK about how you got to where you are, what landmarks you recognize and what direction you were traveling in. OBSERVE where you are, including orienting yourself with your compass, and studying maps (if available) to determine your current location. Notice how many hours of daylight are left, if the weather is changing, and how much food and water you have. PLAN: is it possible to find the trail based on your observations, your confidence, and available daylight, or is it better to build a fire, a shelter, and hunker down for the night?

Question 3 of 14

Score: 0

hiker with backpack set on the ground
When exploring to figure out what resources are available, it's smart to:

The last thing you want to do when you're lost is get more lost. Make it easier for rescue teams to find you by staying in one location, and that means creating a "point zero" to which you return at regular intervals while searching for food, water, firewood and shelter materials. Set up a pile of rocks, hang a piece of bright clothing on a tree branch, or otherwise mark the spot to keep as a reference point. Don't stray too far from your point zero.

Question 4 of 14

Score: 0

The universal signal for distress is:

In the wilderness, three of anything is a signal for distress. This can be three notes on an emergency whistle at regular intervals, three flashes of a mirror reflecting the sun at regular intervals, three blinks of a flashlight, three small fires in a straight line or at the points of a triangle, even three oddly shaped piles of rocks at each point of a triangle. Just remember Three = Rescue Me.

Question 5 of 14

Score: 0

boiling water over campfire
Valery Shanin/Shutterstock
You can purify water by boiling it for:

Just because water looks clear doesn't mean it's free from organisms that can make you sick. Before drinking any water, take the time to purify it by heating it to a rolling boil for at least 3 minutes. If you don't have a container that you can heat, you can put sediment-free water in a clear plastic bottle in direct sun for 6 hours to kill most organisms. Just make sure it's clear water, since any sediment will block the sun from killing harmful bacteria. It's better to wait a while before drinking water than risk getting ill from it.

Question 6 of 14

Score: 0

man sitting near a small waterfall
A person can last as long as three weeks without food, but only __ days without water:

The human body is more than 60 percent water, and water is needed for every vital function, including thinking clearly. Under the absolute best of circumstances, a person might be able to survive up to a week without water, but that's fairly unlikely. About 3 days is typical. So make finding, collecting and purifying water a priority.

Question 7 of 14

Score: 0

camp fire
A fire is important for survival and for being found. After creating a fire pit with a ring of stones well away from brush, it’s time to gather wood, but how much?

People often underestimate how much wood they'll need to keep a fire going through the night. Collect how much you think you'll need, and then three more piles of the same size. That should be enough to get you through a night. A smaller fire is easier to manage than a large fire. Don't waste energy trying to cut down any trees. The wood will be green and won't burn well and you'll expend too much energy. Focus on gathering dry branches from the forest understory. When your fire is hot enough, you can add a little green wood or brush to make it smoke and act as a signal.

Question 8 of 14

Score: 0

tree house joke
Carlos Amarillo/Shutterstock
To protect yourself from the elements, finding shelter is a must. The best shelter is:

Caves can have other residents that you don't want to mess with, and trees can be uncomfortable and you risk falling. The sturdiest shelter is a lean-to. Look for an area of flat ground with a sturdy tree or tall rock against which to build a lean-to. Gather large branches to use as the struts and nestle them at an angle against the tree or rock. Cover these with leafy branches to block wind and rain, and to trap heat. Try to close in the structure on as many sides as possible, but leave a "door" for ventilation.

Question 9 of 14

Score: 0

grasshopper on rocks
When gathering food, you can catch and eat insects and grubs raw.

Cook your bugs! Insects and grubs can be a source of protein but they can harbor deadly parasites. Make sure you remove the legs, head and wings of insects, and cook them first. In fact, you should cook any insects or animals you gather to avoid contracting parasites. Also, avoid caterpillars, brightly colored bugs and bugs with stingers as these can be poisonous.

Question 10 of 14

Score: 0

compass on mossy log
If you don’t have a compass, you can find north, south, east and west by using:

There are many ways to figure out which direction you're walking in using the sun and stars. You can align your watch's hour hand with the sun and watch the movement of the minute hand; put a stick in the ground and watch the movement of its shadow while marking the path with a second stick; align two sticks of different heights with the North Star, and more. What you shouldn't count on, however, are indistinct rules like moss growing more thickly on the north side of trees, which is a myth. Rely on the celestial bodies to point you in the right direction.

Question 11 of 14

Score: 0

berry bush in the woods
It is safe to eat berries as long as they are:

Unless you are absolutely certain about the species of berries you’re looking at, then it is never safe to eat berries. Many berries found in the wild are poisonous or will make you ill, and it can be difficult to tell the difference between them. It's better to be lost and hungry than lost and sick, so avoid eating anything you can't confidently identify.

Question 12 of 14

Score: 0

hiker walking through the woods
My Good Images /Shutterstock
It's important to keep a positive attitude when lost in the woods. However, it's smart to think the worst about:

Stay upbeat about finding food and water, and keep careful track of how far you walk from your point zero as you gather resources. But always figure the worst about the weather. If it looks like it might sprinkle on you, expect that it’s going to pour rain. If it looks like it might get chilly, expect that the temperatures will plummet. When it comes to weather, it’s a survival strategy to always be prepared for the worst and hope for the best.

Question 13 of 14

Score: 0

hiker walking along the mountains
Blazej Lyjak/Shutterstock
When exerting effort to build a shelter or find food, it's important to minimize:

It's a great idea to remain aware of how far you go from your point zero, and to try to stay upbeat about your tasks, such as building a shelter or gathering food and water. But it's most important to minimize how much you sweat. Not only are you getting more dehydrated, but you’re getting your clothes wet. When you stop activity and your body cools, those wet clothes will sap more heat and push you closer to hypothermia. If your clothes get wet, dry them as quickly as possible.

Question 14 of 14

Score: 0

woman reading a map in the woods
Catalin Petolea/Shutterstock
The best way to avoid getting lost in the woods for any period of time is to:

Maps and compasses are subject to user error, and having a hiking companion is not guarantee that you'll find the trail again in a short amount of time. And of course, a fear of getting lost should never keep you from enjoying a walk in the woods. The best way to make sure that you minimize the amount of time you spend lost in a forest is to tell someone where you're going, your planned route, and when you'll be back. That way if you are late to return, they'll know to send out a rescue team to find you.