Hiding and Tracking – Part 2, by J.M.D.

(Continued from Part 1.)

A somewhat more obscure but still possible method of tracking is by following an electronic signal. If you’re using any type of transmitting device such as a radio or cell phone, a tracker could potentially locate you by detecting that signal. There have been a number of good articles on SurvivalBlog.com on radio frequency direction finding and locating, so I’m not going to go into detail here. Someone could also plant a dedicated tracking device on you or your vehicle and use that to track your location, but the tracker would obviously need the right equipment to locate and track signals.

Factors that Impact Tracking

How you leverage the various methods of tracking and how well they work will depend on a lot of different factors, and it’s critical to understand how these factors can impact both the tracker and the target. These factors include:

  • Goals
  • Personnel
  • Terrain
  • Weather
  • Distance/Schedule
  • Schedule
  • Repetition
  • Transport
  • Support animals
  • Kit

I’m going to cover these in more detail in the following paragraphs.


The first factor that will impact tracking and being tracked is the goals of each individual or group – what are they trying to accomplish and why? For the tracker(s) this will determine things like how fast and aggressive they want to be in their tracking and how much time and resources they’re willing to invest. For example, if you’re tracking someone that’s been stealing your livestock you’ll be highly motivated to find and stop them, since that can impact your family’s health and safety, so you’ll want to be aggressive in your tracking so you can increase the chances of locating and confronting them quickly. You’ll also need to balance that with some stealth, since they may be armed and desperate enough to ambush you. Conversely, if you just want to follow some human tracks you came across to make sure they aren’t heading towards your house, you’ll probably just follow them until you’re sure they’re heading in another direction.

If you’re being tracked, you may or may not care. Say you’re heading to the local town market that’s been set up, so you aren’t really concerned about being tracked, since everyone knows about the market. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be concerned about being back-tracked and having someone follow your trail back to it’s origin and locating your hidden cabin, or waiting somewhere along your trail to follow you on your return trip. On the other hand, if you’re heading to your super-secret hidden cache you’ll probably want to make sure someone can’t follow you and raid your cache after you’ve left, so you’ll need to be a lot more careful to minimize your sign and make sure no one’s following you. If you’re out by yourself, unarmed and trying to avoid a large group of hostiles, your primary goals are probably going to be to get as far away as quickly as possible and avoid being found.

In some scenarios you may actually want to be tracked to mislead the trackers. For example, you may want to initially head out at a right angle from the path your homestead for a couple of miles after leaving a market until you can cleanly break your track in order to confuse anyone trying to follow you. If you have kids or less capable adults you need to protect with you, you could hide them and then create an obvious trail to lead the trackers away from them.

Both trackers and potential trackees (yes, that’s a real word) need to clearly understand their goals to ensure the actions they take will help them meet those goals.


As with any human endeavor, the people involved are going to be the single largest contributing factor in its success or failure, and tracking is no different. There are a number of personnel factors that come into play for both the tracker and the trackee in a tracking scenario:

  • Numbers:
    • Tracker(s) – A group of people tracking has advantages – the tracker can focus on the trackee’s sign while the rest of the team maintains situational awareness, checks maps, takes notes, etc. More observers also increase the chance of the trackee(s) or their sign being detected, but a larger group will also tend to make it easier for the trackee to realize they’re being followed. A single tracker will be hard-pressed to both track someone and maintain security and situational awareness at the same time, and will inevitably end up going slower. They are also less likely to come out on top if there’s a confrontation with a group of trackees.
    • Trackee(s) – A larger group is more likely to be spotted, heard, smelled, leave sign, etc. than a single individual, but is more likely to offer better security if there’s a confrontation with the trackers. A group is only as fast and capable as the weakest individual (assuming they want to stay together), so a single person can maintain their best pace and potentially extend their lead over trackers, increasing the chances of losing them.
  • Physical condition:
    • Tracker(s) – Being in good physical condition can allow trackers to pursue their targets at a faster pace and for a longer period of time, and possibly take advantage of more difficult terrain to catch up to or get ahead of the trackees.
    • Trackee(s) – Being in good physical condition can allow trackees to stay ahead of trackers and even gain a significant lead, increasing the chances of breaking their track and evading the trackers entirely.
  • Patience:
    • Tracker(s) – Having patience is critical to tracking someone. If you lose their trail in poor terrain you may have to walk a spiral pattern for a while to locate additional signs of their passage or detect them directly. This ties into the goals discussed earlier – if it’s critical to track the target, you may need to exhibit more patience over a longer period of time.
    • Trackee(s) – Losing a tracker can take some time and effort, and may require you to choose a less direct route to your destination in order to take advantage of terrain features to break your track. If you’re heading home your journey can end up taking twice as long as a more direct route.
  • Strength:
    • Tracker(s) – If the tracker(s) are better-armed and more capable than the trackees, they’re less likely to be concerned about being stealthy and remaining undetected in order to avoid a confrontation. Conversely, if a single person or small group is tracking a larger well-armed and capable group they’re more likely to try to remain stealthy.
    • Trackee(s) – If you’re a well-armed group that’s being tracked, you’re a lot more likely to confront any trackers.
  • Skills/Knowledge:
    • Tracker(s) – Having well-developed powers of observation, knowledge of the local terrain, tracking skills and knowledge of your target(s) can significantly improve your ability to track someone.
    • Trackee(s) – Having well-developed powers of observation, knowledge of the local terrain, the ability to move through your environment with minimal impact and knowledge of your trackers(s) can significantly improve your ability to avoid trackers.

The type of terrain is another key factor in both tracking and being tracked. For example, terrain features such as water obstacles, ravines, cliffs, swamps, etc. can dictate the path you’re most likely to follow, reducing the number of places a tracker will need to check for signs. Wide open plains can make it easy for a tracker to maintain visual contact with you from a distance, while moving through a densely forested area will require them to rely much more on following sign or sound. Traveling through a wilderness area also significantly increases the odds of a trackee leaving behind a trail of overturned leaves, broken branches and footprints.

Water features can provide useful opportunities to help you evade trackers, since you don’t leave much sign when you’re in the water, and the signs you do leave such as footprints in the bottom of the shallows tend to disappear pretty quickly in moving water. Swimming across a lake or pond can force the trackers to circle around and try to pick up your tracks, and floating a mile or two down a river can really mess with their tracking efforts.

As a trackee, the ability to choose the terrain you’re moving through can be one of your biggest advantages. Areas with a lot of concealment can significantly reduce the chance of trackers locating you visually, and stretches of rocky or hard-packed ground can minimize or eliminate any footprints.

(To be continued tomorrow, in Part 3.)