Path to Adventure
Survival Basics

Outdoor Tips
Expedition Tips
How to Signal for Help

If you brought a cell phone, pray that it works. Otherwise, you need to make yourself as visible and audible as possible. When it comes to being heard, shouting is a last resort: It wastes energy, and the human voice doesn't travel far. Ideally, you brought your whistle—quite possibly the most vital piece of survival equipment you (or your children) can carry. The international distress signal is three blasts.

For visibility, start with a signal fire: Choose an open area, get a large, hot blaze going, and when an aircraft comes in sight, throw on green pine boughs or other newly cut plant materials to make a dramatic smoke signal. Also, spread out reflective blankets or brightly colored clothing to help searchers spot you from the air.

For long-distance visibility, nothing beats a signal mirror. The ready-made variety has a sighting hole to help you aim the reflection at a rescue helicopter or a search plane. But a basic compact mirror works almost as well, and even a knife blade, a credit card, or a chewing gum wrapper will do in a pinch. Start by reflecting the sunlight onto your hand and then position your hand so that it covers the target in your field of vision. Remove your hand and wobble the mirror back and forth.

Learn More:

Established in 1968, the Boulder Outdoor Survival School (800 335 7404 [U.S. and Canada only]; is the oldest school of its type in the United States. Weeklong courses cost U.S. $895.

—Laurence Gonzales

Next Tip: How to Pack a Survival Bag >>

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Illustration by Gregory Nemec

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