Basic skills to survive when lost in the forest

The fundamental skills can help you survive when lost in most of the forests, especially in the tropical jungles, such as in Nam Cat Tien, Phong Nha – Ke Bang, or Cuc Phuong Park in Vietnam.

Tropical Jungle
The Tropical Jungle | ©Quangpraha/pixabay

Before traveling into the forest, you should prepare food more than you need, and water as much as possible. However, the more food and water you carry, the heavier your luggage is. And you should bring a knife, lighter, watch, whistle and flashlight.

Special notes to remember STOP word:

  • S – Sit down
  • T – Think
  • O – Observe your surroundings
  • P – Prepare for survival by gathering materials

And, remember 3 s of STOP rule (which I collect from US forest service ): As soon as you realize you may be lost: stop, stay calm, and stay put. Panic is your greatest enemy.

1. Telling someone where you will go

You should tell someone who can trust before you go to any places. In case they can get quick information about you in case you lost.

When you travel out of the hotels, homestay, and resorts, you should keep the address and phone number with you. Notably, many areas of the forest do not have mobile services, so you should find some areas, often space, not covered by trees, to see your phone can work.

2. Calm down

Panic psychology or depression will come to anyone after being lost. However, keep calm; this is the first important factor to help you survive. Because if you panic, you will be disoriented and will get further lost. After calming down, you find a way to get out of the danger zone as quickly as possible.

3. Try to locate

Pay attention to the villages, houses, camps, or any signs of human activity. You will find ways to move there.

To find that, you have to climb to the highest point that can reach the top of the tree, the top of the hill to observe, find features such as houses, fields, smoke if at night you can find the fire or electric light. You also should pay attention to loud noises like ships, cars, trains, and engines from somewhere.

If no sound could be heard, it would be best to locate a river and stream from above. Then go in the direction of the flow of water, the rate of exit from the dangerous area will be very high.

4. Highlight the path

You should mark the route on the trees or cliffs following the sun, mountain, or wind direction is to help you avoid returning at the original place lost.

5. Leave a message where you got lost

If you get lost from a group of people, the first thing is to calm down and identify the surrounding terrain. Then, you research the source of water and food and stay there to wait for the rescue. Avoid moving much because it will reduce your energy, and be able to be attacked by wild animals.

If you want to look or move elsewhere, in a place where you get lost, you should leave a message or a sign so that if your friends come back to find you, they can determine your next direction or location.

Always pay attention to the distance between 2 people when traveling with a group to avoid getting lost in the forest.

6. Find water, food and create signs for other people to find easily

Find a source of water (a stream or river) is very important to rescue yourselves when lost in the forest. Then, you find the food to eat. Without food for a few days, you can still live, but water is needed most of the time.

You should only eat forest trees or leaves that you know are not poisonous; otherwise, it’s best to rescue you with only water. Remember to avoid colorful mushrooms in the forest because they are often poisonous mushrooms.

You must find a way to make the sign, for example, burning fire to create smoke (be careful with the light to avoid burning all the forest), make flag sign with color clothes, or create sounds.

While doing that, you should also listen to the sound in the woods. If you hear a gunshot or a call, you should navigate and move nearby.

7. Find a sleeping place

If it is dark and there is no sign of finding out, you must find a way to choose the shelter safely. You should burn a big fire, which will help you avoid the cold of the night, keep the heat, and scare animals. Then, find a way to get a hammock on a tree or sleep on the stones. You can also take leaves to shelter yourself.


These rules are primary and just for reference, but they can be necessary in some cases. If you can join a class to learn about these survive-in-forest skills, that is great for you.

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About the author

The editorial staff of Vietnamdrive is a team of travel experts managed by Mr. Thom who has worked in tourism for 14 years. Trusted by thousands of tourists from all over the world.