I have led hundreds of hikes through wilderness and urban forests. I usually stop mid-hike and ask people to point in the direction from where they came. In other words, I ask them in what direction do we walk to return to their cars.
It's funny when fingers start pointing in every direction and people suddenly realize that they have no clue as to where they are.
Observation is the key to knowing your whereabouts out here. The average person will begin to veer off course within a half a kilometer, this is simply due to the fact of being left handed or right handed. If you are right handed, your right leg is usually stronger; therefore it will support your weight longer than your left leg giving you a longer stride on your left side. Confusing? Simply put, you will begin to circle right or left dependent upon your dominant side.
In this video I show how to use the arc of the Sun to determine the North, South, East and West quadrants.
The process is easy and will allow you to discern where you are in relation to where you have been.
If you have ever been turned around while hiking, you know it is a scary feeling. Many emotions rise up slowly and begin to engulf you in a wave of panic. Simple tricks like this will allow you peace of mind while you traverse the wonder that is the wilderness.