Getting Lost in the Forest
Wandering off the beaten path
We talk a lot about packing up a tent and a backpack and heading out to relatively unchartered territory, get lost from the crowds and finding some solitude to relax and be one with nature. But what if you veer from the beaten path and find yourself actually lost in the woods?
Walking in Circles
First we would recommend never walking away from the path by yourself without the proper equipment to guide you. But sometimes you feel sure that you know exactly where you are, only to look back and realize that you have absolutely no idea where the path is that you left just a short while ago. You try to back track, but have a sneaking suspicion that all you are doing is walking around in circles. The good news is, you are right; you most likely are walking in circles. The bad news is, you’ve been walking in circles and you are probably really disoriented and frustrated, two things that will work against you when you are lost.
Why do we walk in circles?
A couple of German psychologists decided to do an experiment to find out if it was really true that we walk in circles when we are lost. They got together a group of nine people together and instructed them all to walk in a straight line. Some were in the forest, some were desert terrain. All had different times of day and weather conditions and all had GPS trackers so that their movements could be properly documented and studied by the psychologists.
Amazingly, no matter how hard they tried to focus on walking in a straight line were seen to walk in circles, never realizing when they were crossing their own path again.
The walkers who travelled in the most circular fashion were the ones who were walking either at night after the moon had set or during overcast weather conditions. That led to the following conclusion: those walkers who did not have a visual marker like the moon or the sun, would automatically start walking in a circle. Those who could see the sun would either consciously or unconsciously use those visual markers to keep walking in a fairly straight line.
Guided by the Sun and the Moon
Just to make sure, they did another experiment, this time with 15 blindfolded people walking in a straight line. Just like the past conclusions would suggest, all 15 blindfolded walkers immediately started walking in circles around the area, and in fairly small circles at that.
The brain is a mysterious organ, and one that we are still struggling to figure out. Why we automatically walk in circles when we don’t have the moon or the sun to guide us is still a mystery, but knowing that your brain may make your body do the opposite of what your intention is can help you the next time you are lost in the woods (or in the city for that matter). If you can’t see the sun (or the moon) the best thing to do is to simply stay put and let others find you. Your adventurous instinct will urge you to push forward and explore, but be smart about your off road hiking adventures. Bring the proper equipment to guide you.
If you plan on getting off the road most travelled on your next camping trip, make sure you bring a map and a compass. For the perfect basecamp, Denver Tent Company has the best canvas wall tents, range tents or herder tents and tipis to make your next camping trip a great success. Come check out our inventory of sportsmen tents and accessories and get outfitted for your next adventure.