Learning the ins and outs of utilizing a map and compass for land navigation is a perishable skill. With the onslaught of global positioning units, watches, phones, etc it would seem that the map and compass skills are no longer needed. One of the things you will often hear me say in both our videos and our classes is that you should never be dependent upon any piece of gear to “save” you. This idea extends with greater emphasis when we discuss anything that runs on batteries. Murphy’s Law dictates that it will run out of batteries when you actually need it.
That is why land navigation skills without any gear at all (see my other series Natural Navigation) is of utmost importance. Quite frankly though, unless you spend a lot of time outdoors, accurate natural navigation is a very hard skill to acquire. The next step up on the navigational ladder would be utilizing map and compass. Land navigation skills are hard to acquire only because we do not invest the time into the practice. With proper instruction, and then applying that practice, anyone can become more than adequate at navigating in known and unknown lands.
I put this blog post together to show you a few of the basics. Please do not think that this is an all inclusive class on land navigation, it is far from that. To get those skills you will need to do a very large heaping of self-study, or take the easier route by taking a class with an instructor who can you teach you these skills (obviously we teach these skills at Nature Reliance School, however there should be instructors of these skills in your area as well).
The first video I would like to share is the incredible basic, but most important skill of determining where North is on your compass. This video will help you:
In this video I show you the two basic methods for holding a compass appropriately. Center hold is for any basic baseplate compass, and the cheek hold which is utilized more often with folding compasses that have a sighting device such a device similar to a Silva Ranger, or military-style lensatic compass.
In this third video I show you how to determine where North is on a map. Simple truths are there for most maps, but pay close attention because there are some out there that vary from this:
Last but not least, I show the VERY fundamental methodology for orienting your map and compass together. This will help you start to put what is in front of you on a map to what is front of you on the earth.
There you have a fairly good introduction to the topic that is literally “at hand”, how to use a map and compass. Again, we would like to emphasize that a good instructor in the field of land nav is worth the investment of time, money, and effort. If you are in our neck of the woods (Central Kentucky) we would love to train with you at Nature Reliance School. If you are not, we travel to other locations to teach. If that doesn’t work for you, then please contact us anyway, we may know another instructor in your area who teaches similar classes.
Until next time I hope to see you on, or off, the trail!