It is vital in many circumstances to know the time of day. Sunset brings with it things we might prefer to avoid if we find ourselves out too late, such as nocturnal predators. These predators can be both of the animal and human variety but what matters is that you probably do not want to encounter something which might want to eat you. This is why losing track of time can amount to a real problem if you find yourself not making it back to camp at the time you should.
You can always take a look at your watch or cell phone to check the time and ensure you are not out in darkness, right? Yeah, right. When the societal grid collapses, that cell phone will be no better than a paper weight, provided you actually have paper to weigh down. Your watch may work for a while, but if that battery dies, you will not be going to the mall to replace it anytime soon. It is because of the potential failure of modern technology that you will need a backup plan.
An easy method of telling time and predicting sunset is a sundial, but you need to be sure to get busy creating one in the early stages of TEOTWAWKI while you still have a watch. Collect a straight stick (you can also use a straw, pen, etc) and a dozen stones or other objects to use as markers. Take these items to a flat, sunny area along with your watch. Place your stick/straw/other straight upright item in the center of your designated sundial area. Starting at the whole hour nearest to sunrise, place a rock or other designated item in the area where the stick\'s shadow falls. You will need to check the time every hour on the hour until sunset and place a rock in the location of the stick\'s shadow to signify that time of day. You can write the hour on your rocks if possible or you can scratch it in the dirt, although you will probably need to refresh this periodically, especially after a rain. A sundial will not assist you during the night, of course, being that there is no sun, but during daylight hours it can help you tell time quite reliably.
Another way to keep track of sunset is by simply using your hands. This typically works best after high noon has passed to calculate the remaining daylight. Look at the sun in comparison to the horizon and place your hand in the air, with your fingers straight out and parallel to one another. Align your top finger with the bottom of the sun. Take your second hand and place it below your first so that they touch. The idea is to \'walk\' your hands one set of fingers below the last until you have \'walked\' from the sun to the horizon. One hand, or four fingers, is the equivalent of one hour of daylight, with each finger acting as fifteen minutes. Four full sets of hands would be equal to four hours. Two hands and two fingers would be two and a half hours. Utilizing this technique before high noon can confuse as the sun will be lower to the eastern horizon and this method requires a count to the western horizon. If you did attempt this in the morning hours, you would have to realize it to be morning and know to count all the way across the sky to get an accurate time measurement.
Either method will help you know when the day is ending in the event of timepiece failure. Utilizing these methods will ensure you return from foraging before darkness falls. While it may seem obvious that the sun is setting soon simply by looking at the sky, you need to know how soon. If you plan to trek two miles into the woods and make it back out before sunset, plan ahead to ensure you will have enough time to make it to your destination and back. It is easy enough to lose track of time with a watch on your arm, but when that watch fails, take these steps to make sure you do not fail as well.