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Survival Skills: Know How to To Predict the Sunset

When you’re in the woods, it’s essential to know when the sun will set. Whether you are lost, not to your campsite yet, or just not finished with your hike, it is dangerous to be caught in the woods without a shelter after darkness falls. Why? Bears and other potentially dangerous animals become more active at night, temperatures can drop quickly at night in the woods, and the chance of becoming lost while hiking skyrockets in the dark. If you have a watch, it’s easy to know when the sun will set; just check before you head into the woods and keep a close eye on your watch! However, if you don’t have a watch with you, this survival trick will make sure you always know how many hours of daylight are left.

Find the location of the sun
Find the sun in the sky, but do not look directly at it, of course. You will want a clear view of the horizon line, so try to face a direction free of mountains. If that isn’t possible, do you best to judge where the horizon is.

Raise your arm
Hold your arm out from your body. It should be parallel to the ground. Position your hand so that the fingers are at a right angle from your arm and you can see each of them. It should look as though you are beckoning someone towards you.

Start with one finger beneath the sun
Fold in all but your pointer finger. Hold it directly below the sun and still parallel to the ground. This represents 15 minutes.

Unfold fingers
Keep your pointer finger where it is and unfold fingers until your bottom finger is even with the horizon line. Use your other hand, if necessary.

Add up the fingers
Because each finger represents 15 minutes until the sunsets, adding up the amount of fingers you used gives you a very good guestimate of the time until sunset. For instance, in these pictures, five fingers were used to fill the space between the sun and the horizon line. Therefore, there is about one hour and 15 minutes until the sun sets!

A good rule of thumb is to plan to be at a campsite with shelter set up and food cooking at least 2 hours before sunset.


  1. good to know!!:-)

  2. A very interesting tip… I will have to check it out… I live in Australia, so no bears here (thank goodness… I would rather deal with our poisonous snakes 🙂 ) Still, it is a very handy thing to be able to estimate how long until sun set… Not much fun setting up camp in the dark, even if the ‘wild animals’ are not a big issue…

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