How can I determine my location in thick fog?
Thick fog means we are losing our extended visibility. So, unless you were using far away landmarks as your guide, it shouldn’t throw you off course too much, right away. The first thing you need to do when finding your way through fog is not panic, at worst we can make camp and wait it out. Check out this article on camping without a tent for ideas. Or we can use some of the techniques below to stay on track.
How can I find my way through fog without a compass?
First, we need to relax. When thick fog sets in and takes over our visibility it can be daunting and lead some to panic and make mistakes. Remember, you’re still in the same place you were a moment ago when it was clear.
Take time to stop and think, gather your thoughts and make a plan. You may not have a compass but if you weren’t lost before the fog set in then you’re not lost now. If you are unsure where you are, but determined to keep moving then you need to gather information about your surroundings.
Have you been using well-trodden paths at all, could you make your way back to them. Is there any flowing water, which direction is it heading? Are you on high ground, can you make sense of the slopes and determine the way down? This is all well and good in an ideal world but chances are there are no landmarks where you are right now.
Begin to move 50 meters or so, making the decision of direction based on your previous findings, then start again. Build up further information from your findings. What landmarks were you expecting to see? Have you moved higher or lower in the terrain? What can you hear?
Keep repeating, if necessary, but all the while keeping safety in mind. Attempt to stay away from cliff edges and steep drops. Be aware of water and trip hazards. Take your time and above all, stay safe.
If you really are struggling to find a bearing then this is the time that you need to seriously consider making camp. The fog can’t last forever but it may mean you are in for the night. Find shelter, make a fire and stay hydrated. It is always better to maintain your body temperature, level of hydration and dry clothing than try to get warm and dry once you are cold and wet. Check out this article for everything you need to know about staying hydrated on a hike.
How can I find my way through fog with a compass?
If you’re not alone and were following a compass bearing then a great way to keep moving is by sending your companion out in front. By sending them out along the correct bearing you can be sure to maintain the right direction.
Send them as far as you can whilst keeping a visual. But be careful, if the fog is getting thicker, you could lose them so stay vigilant. This is a much more accurate way than holding the compass out in front of you.
This works even better with three people. With one way out in front, another in the middle and the person controlling the compass at the back, you can keep moving together. Using the middle person as a pivot and the front person as the target, the person using the compass instructs the others of their course and makes sure they all stay true.
If you are alone then fear not. Grab something you can throw, like a rock or a stick, where you can create some distance and it is big enough to see. Using the same principle, send the projectile along the bearing then catch it up and go again. Remember to make up for your bad aim as you go.
Can I use natural markers to find my way through fog?
It has been said that it is possible to get one’s bearings by tracking moss growth on rocks and trees. This is thought to be because in northern latitudes the sun generates greater heat on the south side. This means that the south side of trees and rocks becomes warmer than on the north side.
In turn, the northern side of trees and rocks remains cool, damp and often in shade. This is perfect conditions for moss to grow. This means that, in theory, you can find north dependent on the side of rocks and trees moss is growing. It would grow at the opposite side in southern latitudes.
This isn’t as clear-cut as it first sounds, however. There is more chance of moss growing at the upper side of trees on a hill for instance. Or on the tops of branches rather than an undergrowth. This is because these areas are damp in general. Also, If a tree was in a cool moist area with little light then the whole of the trunk may be covered in moss, for example.
This is a hit and miss technique when it comes to navigation. We wouldn’t want to make plans to rely on this technique but would resort to it in a tight squeeze. It’s not always usually true, but can be sometimes.