Is it time to stop and scrounge for shelter or is it better to keep trekking? Use this simple trick to measure the remaining daylight. Remember to allow yourself at least two hours to set up camp before the sun goes down.
There are circumstances when knowing how much natural light you have left in the day can go from a convenience to a matter of life or death.
Knowing when it will get dark, or how many hours of sunlight you have remaining, will not only amaze your friends, but it will give you time to find (or make) shelter, time remaining to travel without the aid of artificial lighting, or give you the time to accomplish the tasks you need to before the sun sets (collecting firewood, starting a fire, making dinner, etc.).
For American latitudes, this method can be used to accurately asses when you should stop walking and focus your attention on finding and creating a safe base camp for the evening before it gets dark.
This method is used for an average adult with an outstretched hand. Each finger equals fifteen minutes worth of daylight or time, so four fingers equals one hour.
1. Stretch your arm out in front of you toward the sun. Bend your wrist so that your palm is facing you and your hand is horizontal with your thumb on top. The bottom of the sun should rest on the top of your index (pointer) finger.
2. Put your other outstretched hand below the first.
3. Now move your upper hand under the second and continue “walking” your hands down toward an imaginary horizon line, counting the hands as your go.
The accompanying illustration shows four hours (sixteen fingers) worth of daylight left. Be sure to keep your arms straight as you slowly walk both hands down toward the horizon. It’s easy to get sloppy with this method by using only one hand or by putting your hand too close to your face because your elbows are bent.
Count the finger widths between the sun and the horizon. Each finger is equivalent to fifteen minutes, with each hand totaling an hour. When the sun dips low enough that only two hands fit. It’s time to search for a suitable campsite and assemble a shelter: (A caveat: if you’re near the poles, the sun will hover over the horizon for a longer period of time, giving you an innaccurate reading.