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Navigation and Orienteering Principles

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Navigation and Orienteering Principles

Post by Spauldo on Thu Feb 02, 2012 12:09 pm

Here are some things I have learned through training and lots of mistakes.

Pay attention to things in this order

1. The Ground
2. The MAP
3. The Compass

1. The Ground - take a look at your surroundings before you start out. Check your watch. Notice what is in front of you and look behind you every now and then. What you see is how it will look on the way back (if you come back the same way). Take a mental note of prominent features on the way (ie the really big boulder that looks like a man's face just past the stream bed). What does and doesn't work as prominent features will bare themselves out through experience. Create a journey log in your head of where you have been (e.g. I crossed a stream about five minutes in then hit that ridge, I turned west and scooted along for about twenty minutes until I saw that huge lone oak on the rock shelf etc.)

2. The Map - visualize where you are going by studying the map intently before you step out the door. See things in your minds eye as you travel on the Ground and think about where you are on the mental map in your head. Make an effort to see the big picture using the map (the big field to my left, the large hill to my right front etc.). Always have a map. No matter how well you know the ground a map can help you make decisions about where you may want to go given the situation you find yourself in. It is as much a decision making tool as a thing that tells you where you are. Laminate it, or put it in a zip lock bag and make sure it is in a secure pocket somewhere where it won't fall out. Always Always Always orient your map when you look at it.

3. The Compass - You can navigate with just a compass, but based on this system I do not recommend it. A "sense" of direction is a myth. The sense is based on what was mentioned earlier which is your sense of the ground. The best use for a compass is to orient your map.

A few last thoughts.

1. Green, Amber, Red
2. Time
3. GPS
4. The Panic Azimuth (or better the Directional Handrail)

1. Green, Amber, Red - When going to a specific location think Green, Amber, Red. You and move quickly in a general direction toward a prominent feature (like a ridgeline) on the map (and in your head), this is green. On that prominent feature you are then slowing down a little to find a smaller feature (like a knoll) on the prominent feature, Amber. From the smaller feature you know exactly how many steps and at what azimuth your specific spot is (like the tree you scouted pre-season), Red.

2. Time - Think time more than distance. It will take me 1 hour to get to the ridge, 20 minutes to the knoll and 5 to the tree. You can estimate time based on distance. This is a larger topic for a later discussion.

3. GPS - these are great tools to tell you exactly where you are at any given time, but should never be used as either your primary or only source of navigation. On a short trip, maybe. Why? You can loose satellite reception, you can drop or lose the gps, the batteries can die, the device may just fail to turn on, and you can crack the screen.

4. The Panic Azimuth - a handrail is a navigational term for a feature that is alongside your area that can be found no matter your position in the area. You can have a series off handrails in any given area. Most times this is a road. Before you set out, know which direction the handrail is and if you get lost or panicked head in that direction until you hit the handrail. For example, I know in this patch of woods that there is a road that is to the East along the entire area. If it is dark or I get disoriented I will set my compass to East and walk in that direction until I hit the road.


I hope you found this helpful

How would you modify or add to what I have here? What is your practice/ritual/experience of navigating in the woods?


Last edited by Spauldo on Thu Feb 02, 2012 2:22 pm; edited 3 times in total (Reason for editing : corrected the title, changed questions at the end)
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Re: Navigation and Orienteering Principles

Post by Uncle Bob on Thu Feb 23, 2012 10:48 am

Good post very helpful.

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Re: Navigation and Orienteering Principles

Post by Spauldo on Thu Feb 23, 2012 5:03 pm

Thanks for the feedback Bob.
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Re: Navigation and Orienteering Principles

Post by apexmapping on Sun Jul 29, 2012 12:02 am

First off awesome post! #4 is a crucial thing that a lot of life long hunters I know have never grasped. IMO it may be the most important principal...before you do anything else you should know which direction to go if your equipment fails or you get lost. Another thing that goes hand in hand with this is....

Trust your compass! Like you say, your sense of direction is not foolproof no matter how good you think you are. I've found myself believing my compass was wrong more than once, but I was taught to check your compass regularly and always trust it. Hasn't let me down yet.....
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Re: Navigation and Orienteering Principles

Post by Spauldo on Mon Jul 30, 2012 12:35 am

Thanks apexmapping! I am the member who sent you a note about maps in my area. I agree - fatigue, sleep deprivation and loss of focus can all heavily contribute to our stubbornness or 'knowing' what direction is 'right.' A compass is that objective standard by which we can humbly correct our sense. Humility being the key:) Thanks again for the post and emphasis.
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Re: Navigation and Orienteering Principles

Post by Miller-TD#2 on Thu Oct 25, 2012 8:58 am

I would like to add to the list.

xx. Be familiar with how to use your watch as a compass, and know other means of finding NORTH that do not require a compass, and always remember: moss does grow all around a tree.

Daniel Boone once said: I have never been lost, but I have been bewildered.
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Re: Navigation and Orienteering Principles

Post by 308ruger on Thu Nov 22, 2012 1:00 pm

I do number 4 all the time, never heard it called the panic azimuth though.. That term may make me remember even more...

Great information

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Re: Navigation and Orienteering Principles

Post by Miller-TD#2 on Thu Nov 22, 2012 1:38 pm

I had to re-visit this post:

3. The Compass - You can navigate with just a compass, but based on this system I do not recommend it. A "sense" of direction is a myth. The sense is based on what was mentioned earlier which is your sense of the ground. The best use for a compass is to orient your map.

Based on the statement above: If you cannot trust your compass and the gps fails, then stay home. Proper knowledge of how to use a compass will in turn, with practice and experience, give you a sense of direction. I have taught this for years and it works. If the only good use for the compass is to orientate the map then why have a map.

Are you sure you know what you are saying?
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Re: Navigation and Orienteering Principles

Post by Spauldo on Mon Mar 18, 2013 8:12 pm

Just saw this. When I miss the email that someone posted I miss stuff. My reference point is needing to report my location within 10 meters at a moments notice under very difficult circumstances. That said, I do believe there is universal application to my comment. A sense of the ground with a positively identified direction from a compass can be very effective. The trouble comes when your 'sense' of direction and the compass 'sense' are at odds. Many times when you are tired and not making the best decisions. I have heard hunting instructors with similar experience say that is why they carry two compasses, to correct their 'sense.' A map can always be used to orient yourself to the ground which is usually the 'sense' that gets lost. The sense of where you are on the ground and where you came from. I do not walk out of the house without a map of my location and the BEST use of a compass (not the only use) is to orient my map. That is how I see it. I leave it to your experience as to whether this is 'a' technique or a 'preferred' technique. Respectfully.


Last edited by Spauldo on Mon Mar 18, 2013 8:13 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : mispelled a word)
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Re: Navigation and Orienteering Principles

Post by apexmapping on Sat Apr 20, 2013 3:03 am

It all goes back to having to trust your compass...and sometimes when you're cold and tired no matter how much you know you're supposed to trust it your "sense" of direction convinces you otherwise. My dad and most of the older guys I grew up hunting with carried two compasses and I tend to do the same in addition to my gps. Of course, I grew up depending on a compass for navigation so I always pull that out first. My gps is a secondary tool.
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Re: Navigation and Orienteering Principles

Post by Withered Oak on Fri May 24, 2013 9:52 am

Miller-TD#2 wrote:I had to re-visit this post:

3. The Compass - You can navigate with just a compass, but based on this system I do not recommend it. A "sense" of direction is a myth. The sense is based on what was mentioned earlier which is your sense of the ground. The best use for a compass is to orient your map.

Based on the statement above: If you cannot trust your compass and the gps fails, then stay home. Proper knowledge of how to use a compass will in turn, with practice and experience, give you a sense of direction. I have taught this for years and it works. If the only good use for the compass is to orientate the map then why have a map.

Using a map with your compass can allow you to triangulate (with 2 points, yourself being the third) and find your exact position on the map. In most cases this might be unnecessary, especially where I live. Knowing a road is to the "east" and then traveling that direction as in #4 may not be the best way to go about finding your way out, depending on the obstacles in your path of travel. Supposing there is a steep ridge / cliff or swamp in the direction you need to travel? Using a map and compass to find your position and then planning a route around an obstacle would be paramount. Remaining calm and having confidence in your ability with a map and compass is key. Practice. This may be an extreme case but I've seen it happen and in a relatively small area.

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Re: Navigation and Orienteering Principles

Post by thall145 on Sun Jul 28, 2013 7:56 pm

Terrain association is my favorite way to move. I study my map prior to movement and use terrain features and sometimes a pace count to keep track of where I am and where I am going. I like to often pull out my map just to reference my current position until I get to know the area. A pace count can work wonders. If you know your pace count (mine is 67 per 100 meters)...then I know how far I have gone or have to go. Remember rolling terrain and hills or thick vegetation can throw your pace count off, so make sure to account for this. If you are using a map and compass make sure you know how to shoot a back azimuth. If your heading on a 30 degree angle and want to come back the same way just add 180 degrees...you new azimuth would be 210 degrees. If your original azimuth is over 180 degrees, then subtract 180 degrees. Do not forget to add your GM angle...refer to map. If you get lost, look for a large feature...such as a cellular tower and a large ridge. Shoot an azimuth to the each feature. Now convert to the back azimuth and draw the lines on your map. Where the 2 lines intersect is your location.
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Re: Navigation and Orienteering Principles

Post by Miller-TD#2 on Tue Sep 24, 2013 11:34 am

thall145,

Good advice. Many scout troops(ScoutMaster's) often offer a simple class on exactly how to do this....
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