It can happen to anyone really. One minute you are following your markers back to a location, the sun is setting or clouds move in and all of a sudden the terrain looks different. The trail you were sure could only head South has suddenly put you on a Easterly trajectory. What should have taken one hour has rapidly become two and BAM there you are Lost.
Hopefully you have your map & compass and have adequate map reading skills to figure out where you are and where you need to go to get back on track but if you were in an area you swore you knew like the back of your hand you probably went without such things.
Sunday a buddy of mine went out hunting for the day and this very thing happened to him. He spent the night shivering, he kept his backpack on because it had a padded back and provided him some warmth. Lucky for him he did not have a successful hunt because his game bags were empty and he was able to stuff them into his shirt to add a little bit of a layer to keep him warm. About every hour or so he was shaking so badly he had to get up and jog in place to get a little blood circulating. At first light he got up and hiked till he found a hunting cabin. There was a pickup truck and a cooler outside so he figured someone would return. In the sun he curled up and took a nap till the owners of the shack came back. Eventually they came back and gave him some food and then gave him a lift back to his pickup truck. He was 20 miles away from his truck.
After all of us gave him some serious shit for not having a map and a compass I began to review some of the things in my mind I think are skills which may of helped him. The first of course is that he should have had a map and compass. Those two are the most important pieces of gear but I too have been guilty of going on a long run and not bringing a map so lets say he indeed knew the area really well. Another would have been a SOL emergency bivy or blanket. They weigh almost nothing and are pretty small.
When I asked him if he had fire making tools he said yes but he didn’t want to build a fire because it was a “no open fire” area. I respect him for not wanting to break the rules but in this situation there’s one type of fire which could be built and is a little bit safer than an open fire and provides a great deal of warmth. A Dakota Fire pit is the perfect type of fire for this job. The beauty of the Dakota Fire pit is that is produces a great deal of heat, uses less fuel, and because it is below the surface of the earth it produces less smoke and sparks than a conventional fire.
Building it can be a little tricky if you don’t have a shovel but a good strong stick can get the job done in the right soil. The method is simple. Dig two parallel holes about 1′ deep with about 6″ in-between them. The pit can be sized up or down depending on your needs so the measurements depend on what you’re able to do. After digging the holes connect the two at the bottom so you create a U. Try to orient the two holes so they are in the most likely direction of the wind. When digging the tunnel from hole one to hole two try to dig in the direction the wind will travel. Reason? When digging the tunnel inevitably you will dig it on a downward slope just because of the mechanics of how you will have to reach into the hole. This is exactly what you want because you want the wind to travel down the hole and flow into what will become the combustion chamber. Here’s a good graphic from graywolfsurvival.com
In the end it all turned out okay other than missing a days work the only thing which was bruised was his ego but it just hammers home the fact that you have to bring the ten essentials into the wilderness when ever you go out because you never know what could happen. I know he wanted to keep his load as light as possible because if his hunt were successful he would have had to hump back the venison and what he carried in, but those essentials can and will save your life.