I lost my AirTag in a forest… but after two months I’ve been reunited with it

An AirTag lying in grass with the metal side facing upwards
(Image credit: TechRadar)

Misplacing items. One of life’s big frustrations. From the TV remote to your wallet or even your car keys - in most people’s hectic lifestyles, they don’t have time to start searching for it. 

According to research by Pixie, a locator app for iPhones, 28% of Americans misplace their car and house keys every week - although, for me, it’s far more frequent than that. I’m a serial loser - which is why I view location trackers, such as Apple’s AirTag and Tile, as one of the best tech inventions of the 21st century. 

They can be attached to your possessions, so if you can’t remember where you left the item you can use an app on your smartphone to make the tracker emit a noise to help you nose it down, as well as using an iPhone to guide you to the location (in the case of an AirTag).  

Late last year I lost my AirTag at Bedgebury National Pinetum and Forest in the south east of England when it slipped out of the third-party holder I’d purchased. 

Maddeningly, its location was constantly being updated as hordes of visitors with iPhones passed within close reach of the AirTag while taking part in a festive light trail. 

However, even though I’d put the AirTag in lost mode - which means a message and phone number can be displayed if the AirTag is tapped on an NFC-enabled smartphone, which is most modern handsets - clearly the AirTag wasn’t visible as no-one rang me to say they’d found it. 

Of course, I could have headed back to the forest and used the precision-finding feature, which uses Ultra Wideband radio technology to identify the distance and direction the iPhone is from the AirTag and displays a counter on screen to help you track it down. 

However, the fact the forest is an hour’s drive away, coupled with the fact the AirTag was clearly buried deep in the undergrowth, meant I didn’t think it was worth the time and effort. 

So I resigned myself to the fact that it was gone for good. However, more than two months later, it’s back in my possession and it's all thanks to Lost Mode and an extremely helpful member of staff. 

an Apple AirTag in a brown leather key fob holder, attached to some keys on a wooden surface

(Image credit: TechRadar)

So, how did I get my AirTag back? 

Last Sunday morning, I received a phone call, and being an unknown number I let the call go straight to voicemail - the last thing I wanted was to deal with cold callers on what was supposed to be a restful day. However, I soon got a voicemail notification - meaning it must be more than an unsolicited sales call.

The caller was Carl from Forestry England at Bedgebury National Pinetum and Forest visitor center, enquiring if I had lost anything, so I immediately rang back and explained I had indeed misplaced my AirTag there back in November.

Carl told TechRadar it has been handed in by another member of the public visiting the forest, although they didn’t provide any details about where they had found it. 

I can only assume the finder either didn’t know what the AirTag was - but perhaps saw the Apple logo and assumed it was a gadget someone was missing - or they knew it was an AirTag but their phone didn’t support NFC. 

“I didn’t know it had any value at first, but I realized it was something Apple-ish,” Carl told TechRadar.

He started searching the web and soon discovered the white disc was in fact an AirTag, and then was able to find instructions on how to interrogate it and discover any contact details associated with it.

Carl said he used the Tracker Detect app for his Google Pixel 4a initially but that didn’t provide much information.

“The app confirmed there was an AirTag nearby, but didn’t offer up any contact details,” Carl said.

He then held the AirTag near the NFC reader on the Pixel 4a, which loaded a web page explaining the AirTag had been lost and a request to call the telephone number on the website, so he did just that.

When I called back and confirmed I had indeed lost an AirTag, Carl said he would place the AirTag in an envelope marked with my name, and said I was free to collect at any point. 

As I know exactly where the AirTag is now, I’ll be jumping in my car and heading straight to the visitors center to collect the envelope containing my location tracker and once again, pass on my thanks to Carl for taking the time to get in touch. This is far preferable to scabbling around on my hands and knees in dense forest trying to track down the AirTag myself. 

This really does prove that lost mode can be vital in getting your AirTag back if you do misplace it. 

Had I not switched it on, there would have been no way of knowing how to contact the AirTag’s owner, so the only way I would have been reunited with it was if I headed back to the forest to look for it myself - something which I’d deemed not worth the time and effort. 

It takes just a few taps to switch on lost mode - open the Find My app, tap on the AirTag you have misplaced, and under the section marked lost mode, press enable and enter your phone number - but it could make all the difference in seeing your lost AirTag again. 

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Carrie-Ann Skinner

Carrie-Ann Skinner was formerly Homes Editor at TechRadar, and has more than two decades of experience in both online and print journalism, with 13 years of that spent covering all-things tech. Carrie specializes in smart home devices such as smart plugs and smart lights, as well as large and small appliances including vacuum cleaners, air fryers, stand mixers, and coffee machines. Carrie is now a copy editor at PWC.