Being able to tell the time without a watch is a valuable skill to have in our opinion. When we head out on an extended trip it is easy to pull our phone out when we need to know the time but what if we lose or break our phone? Luckily for us, there are methods that we can use to tell the time and we are going to be looking at three of those methods here.
None of these methods are going to be 100 percent accurate but they can give you a close estimate which could be very important during a survival situation.
3 Ways to Tell the Time Without a Watch
1. Using Your Fingers and the Sun
By using the height and position of the sun, we are able to get an approximate idea of how many hours of daylight you have left. This is a very important skill during a survival situation so that you can set your priorities such as making shelter and fire.
Start off by standing so that your feet are pointing directly towards the sun. From your shoulder, extend one of your arms out in front of you fully and rotate your wrist so that your palm is facing you horizontally. Close your fingers together and align your pinky with the horizon.
Next, count how many finger widths there are between the horizon and the bottom of the sun. Each finger represents 15 minutes of remaining daylight. Depending on the time of day and the season, you may need to keep stacking one hand over the other to keep count.
Add your findings together to get an estimate of how much time you have left before sunset. As an example, if you find that there are four finger widths between the horizon and the bottom of the sun, you have roughly one hour of sunlight left.
2. Tracking the Position of the Sun
Everybody knows, or should know, that the sun rises in the east and it sets in the west. There are around twelve hours between sunset and sunrise so if the sun is sitting in the centre of the sky, it would be roughly noon.
In order to get a more accurate reading you must first have a rough idea of how many hours of daylight there are in your particular location for the season. As an example, here in the UK, in London today there will be around 15 hours of daylight whereas on this day in December there will be just under 8 hours of daylight.
Once you are armed with this information, you can divide the sky into an imaginary arc from the east to the west consisting of equal segments to represent the approximate time. If we were to take the example above of 15 hours, our imaginary arc would be made up of 15 segments. In this particular case, the sunrise would be due east at about 05.00. and sunset would be due west towards 20:00.
Once you have become skilled in using this method you will be able to extend it further by telling the time to the nearest half hour or even quarter of an hour.
3. Using Your Shadow
As the day progresses, your body casts a different shadow in that it will change in size from short to long. This is down to the position of the sun and we can use this to estimate the time. If the sun is above us (noon) our shadow is shorter, if it’s early in the morning or late in the evening our shadow would be longer.
If you understand how to find north then you can use your shadow or that of a straight stick to make a makeshift sundial, reading the direction and length of your shadow to get a rough estimate of the time of day.
You can find north by doing the following:
- Find a stick that is about 3 feet long and a couple of small rocks
- Stab your stick in to the ground so that it stands up straight
- Place one rock at the tip of the sticks shadow
- Wait around for about 15 minutes and place another rock at the tip of the new shadow
- Stand with your back to the stick with your left toe touching the first placed rock and your right toe touching the second rock.
- You are facing north
Once you have read and understood the methods described above, the only thing left to do is to get outside and practice them. Don’t wait until a real survival situation arises. These are easy enough that you don’t even have to go far and can practice them in the backyard.