1. If you’re lost, you’re seldom in bad trouble. You get into bad trouble when you start making dumb mistakes because you’re lost. A friend of mine calls this “the cascade of errors.”
2. If you’re lost in the woods in the late fall or winter and 3 p.m. comes around, wherever you are, stop and build a fire. You’re done traveling for the day.
3. Carry three means of starting a fire. Practice building fires before you get lost. It’s one thing to read about it in a manual, and quite another to actually perform the task.
4. Don’t count on rifle shots to signal your presence. I’ve seen them fail twice, once in Montana, once on Anticosti Island. In both cases, searchers were a half-mile away and couldn’t hear.
5. If you have an axe or a hatchet, it’s best not to use them. Lost is one thing; lost with a finger lopped off is another. I know an Alaska guide who does drop camps and will not drop you off if you have an axe. A saw, yes.
6. Don’t let terror cause you to lose control of your bodily functions. I know of someone this happened to in the U.P., and he had to peel his longjohns in -10 degrees.
7. If you try to travel in the dark, flashlight or no, you’re asking for it.
8. Don’t worry about dying. Worry about how you’re going to pay for the rescue when they find your foolish self.
9. Barring hypothermia, you can endure far more than you think you can. A man in good shape can go two weeks without food. Ask any high school wrestler.
10. If you really are going to die, do it with dignity.