Signaling For Help: The Top 10 Ways

Signaling for help

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If you have ever been lost in the woods, you often panic and can not think clearly. However, it is crucial that you remain calm and signal for help. Many assume the number one thing for them to do is look for food and shelter.

While you do want both of these if you are going to be in the woods for long term, you need to first think about signaling for help. Here we will discuss the top 10 ways that you can signal for help so you and your party can get back to your normal life safely.


Mobile Phones and Satellite Phones

Most individuals have phones these days that they take everywhere with them. It is more common for someone to have a phone than not. Even if you are looking forward to a relaxing day or weekend in the wild without any technology, take your phone anyways. You never know when you will need it. There are things that you can do to signal for help even if you can not make a call out.

Apple has an SOS emergency system that can be used for individuals that are in this predicament. Other things you can do with your phone is to use your flashlight at night to signal flashes that are not in a pattern. You may also use the glass screen as a reflector facing it towards a search plane.

Another option is a satellite phone. These are very expensive, and then they have the monthly minutes you have to purchase. However, they are super reliable, and can be used all over the world. Your connection will always be clear and concise. It is a wise investment if you hike or spend a lot of time in the woods or the wild.



Flares are an excellent way to signal for help when lost. Bright colored smoke can be seen in the air when daytime flares are used and nighttime flares have a bright light produced that can be seen for great distances.

You can also duct tape the flare to a long stick to wave up in the air. This can help draw more attention to you and your party. Only the end of the flare should be duct taped. These flares burn about 5 minutes. They are also great to use for a back-up fire starter.

A flare gun is a great way to get the attention of others that are nearby. These should only be used in areas that are wet or on the open water as they can start fires pretty quickly if the ground is extremely dry.



Annoying as they can be sometimes, whistles can really help when you are lost in the wild. If you are in distress, you should give three blasts on the whistle. I wear a whistle around my neck to ensure that it is always with me. You can also put it on your key chain if you desire. Look for pea-less whistles, as they do not have any moving parts. If there are moving parts, and they freeze, your whistle may be useless. Whistles can also scare off bears and other animals that could potentially attack you.



Flags are an excellent way to signal for help. They do not take up a lot of room in a backpack, and even if you forget one, you can easily design your own. A piece of brightly colored fabric tied to stick can quickly become a flag. The flag should be large and should not blend into the surroundings. You can also just lay a flag on the ground to signal if desired.


Signal Mirrors

If you really want to draw attention to where you are at, I suggest using a signal mirror. They have been seen up to100 miles away. The flashes of light these signal mirrors set off can catch the attention of many, such as other people in the area. Any vehicles that are going by could catch sight of the light, as could aircraft or watercraft.


Ham Radio

A Ham radio can work wherever you are at. Just use a few AA batteries to power them, and you have a piece of equipment that can help you out greatly in this time of need. Make sure you know how to use it prior to being out in the wild.


Improvised Audible and Visual Signals

There are many things you can do in terms of audible and visual signals. First, you want to think of ways that you can make lots of noise to draw attention to your area. If you know how to whistle, you can do this. Or if you are good at carving, make a homemade wooden whistle. Find some hollow logs and beat them with sticks. Scream and yell. Make as much noise as you can as there may be others in the area that can find you.

Visual signs can include anything that is brightly colored that can be seen from above. If anyone has a bright or neon jacket or vest, make sure they are wearing it. You can also use tinfoil, metals, or anything that will catch the sun’s rays.



Fires are a great way to get noticed. And if you do not have any matches or a lighter, a fire can still be started. Look for an open area to start your fire. If you are signaling during the daytime, smoke will be your best option to draw attention to yourself. And if you start the fire at night, you want lots of fire to draw attention to you in order to be seen. If it is foggy out, consider tossing a few ounces of motor oil onto the fire so black smoke is produced. You can also use brake fluid or pieces of plastic.

You do not want the fire to get so large that you are unable to put it out. And it is best to not start a fire where it is breezy and will grow.


Emergency Blanket

You may wonder why an emergency blanket would come in handy when signaling for help. However, when you are on the ground using this blanket to keep warm, it can catch the attention of others that are flying over. You could even tape a piece of brighter material in the center of the blanket that would reflect the sun more, such as a neon yellow star.


Survey Tape

Survey tape makes an excellent piece of survival equipment when signaling for help. It is lightweight and small, so it will not take up a lot of room in your backpack. Plus, it is brightly colored, so it will get the attention of others that see it. It is also easy to tear. Mark existing trails or create new ones with this tape. You can even write on it with a marker to let others know that you are lost.

Being in the wild can be an exhilarating time. But when you find yourself lost, it can quickly become an exasperating time. Should you find that you are lost, do not panic. Use the top 10 ways listed above in order to get the help you need to get to safety.

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