When will the Sun go down?

posted in: Shelter | 1

It is quite easy to get disoriented and subsequently lost out in the wilderness.

You are out for a short hike, chasing a butterfly, drinking at the stream, picking up some wildflowers, gazing at the clouds playing and then finally deciding to head back to camp. You turn around for the hike back, which according to you should be about 15 minutes or so. Nonchalantly you start walking down a trail that soon disappears into the bushes. "Ah, I must have taken a wrong turn," you tell yourself and retrace your steps. But something is wrong, your subconscious tells you. You walk on hoping to come across something familiar on the trail. Nothing. Suddenly you realise to your dread that you are lost. You look over at the horizon and see the Sun streaming its way down ushering in darkness. And you know you have to probably spend the night out under the stars. You are alone on this adventure and no one is going to be looking out for you.

Hmmm, trouble. You realise you need to construct a shelter pretty quickly. You ask yourself, when will the Sun go down? How much time do I have?
Whenever possible you should attempt to make shelter in the day ... even if you are not lost. There is a trick you can use to tell how many minutes are there before the Sun sets.

What you need are a couple of fists.

Each adult male fist equals roughly 15°. And 24 such fists, laid on top of each other total 360°, or a full circle. And the Sun has to travel a full circle (or 360°) around the Earth to return to the same point once again the next day.

So, each fist of 15° width is equal to one hour and with this knowledge you can tell, almost to the minute, how long before the Sun sets. Extend your arm, make a fist and align the base of the fist against the horizon. Lay a second fist on top of the first one and so on and so forth. If it takes three fists to reach the base of the disc of the Sun, you have roughly three hours of sunlight left.

And there are four knuckles on each fist, each equivalent to 15 minutes. Using your fist you can tell, almost to the minute, when the Sun is expected to set in the distant horizon, or go behind the hill, ushering in darkness.

Not all fists are equal to 15° or one hour. Your hands may be longer or shorter, your fists may be bigger or smaller. Do your own calculations, using your own fist. Start from the horizon and continue till your hands are straight up in the air, above your head. Six of my fists equal 90°, so I know that each of my fists corresponds to an hour. If it is more or less for your fists, make your own calculations as to how many degrees of the arc your fist is.

Click on the thumbnail below to watch a video of this, maybe it will become a little clearer.

  1. Jarrett

    Who ever came up with the theory that a bug out will only last three days? Loose the glow skctis and get a head lamp, use a lighter alternative to the heavy shovel, your water sys is way too bulky, denatured alcohol for a stove did you say, loose that and get a esbit stove, the 9mm is only good for self defense and small game. Maps, where are your maps and compass you can lay on the map and that had a mirror, you can get a hatchet that is just as effective but lighter than that one.

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