A few years ago daveseeker was lost for a night in 20 degree weather at a local state park. He was not found that night and made his own way out the next morning. He did some smart things with the few resources available to him, including covering his head with a spare t-shirt.
I guess this story hits home for us because he was very lucky that nothing worse happened than being very cold for several hours.
I particularly like this response:
As a former Air Force Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) Instructor, I thought I would add a little spin on the rule of three's.
3 weeks without food
3 days without water
3 hours without shelter
3 minutes without air
But not three seconds without hope.
I agree you cannot ultimately know what he was thinking or second guess his decision to leave the vehicle. He made a lot of good decisions. The "hug a tree" approach to survival is only as good as the response from search and rescue assets to beginning a search. He couldn't have known when or where those assets might have been looking.
These people waited (and some died) for seventy-two days before two of them climbed over a ridge and found help on the other side in a day or three: Uruguayan_Air_ForceFlight 571
Mike Couillard and his 10-year old son waited eight days before Mike climbed to the top of a plateau and saw some cabins.