Using a Mirror to Signal for Help


At only 0.3 ounces, this ultralight mirror is worth the extra weight.


For the sake of this post, let’s make a few assumptions to create a possible and likely scenario.  Let’s pretend that you are lost in the wilderness.  You don’t have a map or compass, and your cellphone is dead.  Also, you didn’t tell anyone where you were going or when to expect you back.  We are going to assume for the sake of this post that you have plenty of food and water for a few days in your pack.  You also have a tent, so shelter is not a problem.  Somehow you got off the trail and have not been able to find it again.  Your main problem right now is you have no idea where you are.  You made it to the top of a hill, but you don’t recognize any landmarks.  At night, you don’t see any lights in the distance either.  You realize that you need to figure out a way to let someone know where you are so you can be found. In most survival situations, you will need to use several signals to attract attention.  In this post, we will discuss using a mirror to signal for help.


Some signal mirrors have a hole in the center to help you aim at the sun and your target.


If the sun is shining or if the sky is only just slightly cloudy, a mirror can be used to send a signal that may be seen from miles away.  Aim the mirror toward the sun, then angle it so that the light points in the direction that you desire.  Practice aiming by holding the mirror in front of your face, pointing toward the sun.  Now hold one of your hands out in front of you and make a “V” with your two of your fingers.  You should be able to see your target through the “V”.  Now, angle the mirror so that the light shines through the “V”.  Once the light has found its target, you can remove your hand.  Keep putting it up every so often to make sure you are still hitting your target.  Also, move the mirror slightly back and forth so the potential rescuer will see the movement and know it’s a person, and not some random piece of metal on the ground.  If you don’t have a mirror handy, your cell phone can be used as well.  If it has a protective layer of plastic over the screen, remove it.  The naked screen will be more reflective.


Make a V with your fingers to aim the light beam at your target.


If the sun is shining in front of you and the aircraft or people you are trying to signal are behind you, then you will need to use two mirrors.  Face one mirror toward the sun and the other mirror facing in the other direction.  With the mirror facing the sun, direct the reflected light to the other mirror.  Aim the reflected light from the second mirror to a tree or other object to identify where it is.  Then, direct the light beam to your target.


Use two mirrors to aim at a target behind you.


Use two mirrors to aim at a target behind you.


Check Out these Signal Mirrors:

Best Glide ASE Compact Emergency Signal Mirror (2 pack)

Ultimate Survival Technologies Star Flash Micro Mirror

Apex72 Unbreakable Camping Mirror



At night, a flashlight can be seen for long distances, even through the trees.  If a search is under way, you may be able to see the rescuers’ lights and they may be able to see yours.  Use bursts of three flashes at a time.  First, you want to zoom in as much as your flashlight can so that the beam is small and not spread out.  Now, just hold your hand over the end of your flashlight, then remove your hand.  Do this three times and repeat every minute or so.  This is much easier than turning your flash light on and off three times.  If your batteries are dead and you don’t have a mirror for daytime signaling, most flashlights have a mirror in the end where the bulb is.  If you can remove it, you may be able to use it to signal when the sun comes up.


The mirror inside many flashlights can be used if you don’t have another mirror.


Mirror found inside a flashlight around bulb.


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