Green Beret Tips on Land Navigation

(Psst: The FTC wants me to remind you that this website contains affiliate links. That means if you make a purchase from a link you click on, I might receive a small commission. This does not increase the price you'll pay for that item nor does it decrease the awesomeness of the item. ~ Daisy)

It seems as if 99% of humans have grown a new appendage: the cellular telephone. The happy cell phone is almost indispensable for most and even provides GPS coordinates complete with maps, robotic voice instructions, etc. These make land navigation a cinch, right?

The user enters their location, then the destination, and bingo! Point A to Point B plotted and calculated, with rest stops and great places to shop with their debit cards listed along the way. A perfect world, right?

Here’s the other part of that scenario:

Suddenly, the car loses power, slowing to a crawl and then coming to a stop. The phone screens go dark. Mr. and Mrs. Happyfamily stare at one another, and the kids’ computer movie screen in the back goes out. A glow akin to a second sunrise is seen shimmering across the clouds.

No, it’s not an area of “no service” or a power surge. An EMP, an electromagnetic pulse, as just been detonated over the continental U.S. The missiles will soon follow the EMP. The cell phone era will have officially come to a close.

Some may attribute such to “fearmongering,” but take a look around you…

Everything else warned about on virtually every single platform – all of the sites, the blogs – it’s all coming to pass. Those formerly labeled “crackpot conspiracy theorists” (a moniker created, by the way, by our “government” to marginalize dissenting views) are, in essence, correct and accurate.

It’s been incremental: the pandemic, the destruction of food-producing plants, the corralling of the masses into tighter surveillance with more obstacles to their movement, the rising prices, the shortages in supplies.

No, you don’t have to trust these words. Trust your instincts. Trust in your common sense, and look around you. Put aside whatever pin you wear, blue donkey or red elephant, because both are meaningless when it all hits the fan. Put them aside, and look at what has happened to the U.S. and the world in the past ten years. In just the past five, for that matter.

The best resources are the ones you build within your mind and heart. That being said, let’s jump into land navigation.

The first rule of land navigation: Master the “low tech” and never rely completely on “high tech.”

Years ago, someone showed me their new wrist compass (the individual was in the service), and I nodded without saying anything. When questioned, I responded with, “What do you do if the battery runs out on it, or if it goes dead on you in the middle of an op?”

There are steps you can take to reduce the effects, should such a thing happen to you – what I call the “foreseeable unforeseen,” meaning you don’t know when the high-tech gizmo will fall apart, but you need to treat that gizmo as if it could shoot sparks and springs at any time.

Low-tech skill 1: Map Reading

There’s nothing like the good, old-fashioned, foldable map. Most people hate them, but that map can be one of your most reliable friends. The best ones come from USGS (U.S. Geological Survey) and the UTMGPS (Universal Traverse Mercator Grid Projection System).

You need to build up a good collection of physical, printed maps for your uses now and later.

Those maps provide you with elevations, contour lines, major and minor terrain features, latitude and longitude markers, grids, magnetic azimuths, declination, built-up areas, roads, and so forth. The map corresponding to the area you live in/travel in has everything you need to find your way around.

Civilian maps don’t concern themselves with these items in great detail. Civilian maps are “systemically-oriented,” meaning they have roads, towns, and cities. The mapmaker assumes you’re driving in a car to your destination. They don’t care about elevations, water sources, wooded areas, or other variables that are important. A lake is featured because the road runs across a bridge. Civilian maps are all travel and commerce-oriented.

You can still use them, mind you, but they don’t include the detail that you need for when the substance hits the fan. And one of the most important details you can learn about your area is the terrain features: the wooded areas and the places where water can be obtained.

So take a map (military or civilian) of the area you live, and plot all of the important hide-sites, forested areas, water sources, and potential bivouac areas beforehand and then physically visit all of these sites.

Those maps give you distances and directions you may need in the course of a breakdown or when fleeing a disaster – man-made or natural.

J.’s advice: Never mark directly on a map.

You can clip a sheet of plastic over your map to use (old-school) grease pencils or magic markers. You can laminate the map and mark on it, but always get rid of the marks. Don’t leave them on the map.

If you can follow marked directions to your hide-site, cache points, and route of travel, then so can someone else if they have your map.

There are plenty of resources available for you to study. My personal recommendation is to pick up a copy of FM 21-26, the Army’s guide to map reading and land navigation. The FM (stands for “Field Manual”) gives you everything you’ll need: every topic mentioned regarding map reading, as well as using a compass, terrain association, day and night conditions, and so forth. As military map-reading is more comprehensive, after studying the manual, you’ll find it simple to use civilian maps.

Low-tech skill 2: You have to know how to use a compass.

The compass, as you know, lines up with the magnetic poles of the Earth. The compass uses the 360 degrees of a circle, and each of those degree-markings, when employed in land navigation, is referred to as an azimuth. So, it should be a simple matter, then: look on the map, find where you’re going, and the compass points the way, right?

Not entirely. That’s fine for a generalized short distance marked by roads and noticeable terrain features. Walking “cross-country” is a different matter altogether. You need the declination.

There are three “types” of north: grid north, magnetic north, and true north. Declination is the difference in angle between any two of these three norths. The important ones for you to focus upon are grid north and magnetic north. Grid north is the “north” found on your map. Magnetic north is the north you find with your compass.

A military map provides you with a declination diagram that indicates the magnetic variance for the area and how to convert it so that you walk a correct, accurate azimuth.

It’s a subject in itself, but I’m giving you the basic overview here. For more information on using a compass, go here.

In the service, we went by this simple acronym: RALS.

This means, “right add, left subtract.” North on the map and on the compass is 360 degrees. Left of this 360 degree-mark – on an arrow pointing to, say, 350 degrees for a declination – that gives you a westerly variance. You must compute this variance before using your compass.

Right add, left subtract. That 10-degree variance if you’re traveling due east, and your plotted azimuth needs to be 90 degrees on the map? First, you must “add” that 10-degree variance we just mentioned to your compass heading.

You’ll be walking to the east (to the “right” of the 360-degree mark) and to account for the magnetic pull (the variance of 10 degrees to the west), you’ll add that variance to your compass heading. So, you’ll follow on a heading of 100 degrees, and the “pull” (magnetic variance to the west of 10 degrees) will mean you’re actually walking the route at 90 degrees, synchronized with what you plotted on the map.

This is simplified, but with study and practice you’ll see how it works.

If you’re off by even a degree in your calculations, this can translate into miles off target on a long-distance leg. Fortunately, the military maps not only give you the declination, but they tell you whether or not to add or subtract. As the poles move and shift, you must check on the declination and magnetic variance for your locale periodically, say every six months to a year.

Low-tech skill 3: Can you calculate your pace count?

The standard is the mile, the “holy hand-grenade” with the number three attached. Immutable and unchangeable for us “English-types.” The desire to convert the English-speaking nations to metrics was an abysmal failure, and that’s all fine and good.

We also need metrics, though. The military uses meters on its maps and in the calculations of everything from weapons systems to calibrations of equipment.

It’s a simple matter to convert the distances. A kilometer is 0.6, or six-tenths of a mile. There are 1.6 kilometers per mile. So, 20 miles converted to kilometers is 20 x 1.6 km/mile, to yield 32 kilometers. Thirty kilometers converted to miles (30 x 0.6) yields 18 miles.

(Land nav isn’t the only thing you’re going to need to know about when the power goes out. Check out our free QUICKSTART Guide to what to eat in a power outage as well.

The reason this is done is the increments.

Miles do not “break up” readily into even increments that can be quickly calculated or readily usable. For land navigation, this will be apparent to you once you find your pace count, a critical task that is completely personal, individual, and unique for you.

The pace count is a measurement of the number of steps you take in a given distance to cross that distance. The standard for the United States military is 100 meters. Now, 100 meters is equivalent to about 300 feet. Remember, a meter is about the distance of a yard.

Using a tape measure (the spooling kind, not the 30-footer), tie a ribbon to a tree, measure off 100 meters, and affix a ribbon to a second tree. That is your pace-count verifier. You can use other fixed points of measurement for this, but ensure they’re fixed – not the volleyball net post or gram-gram’s rocking chair on the porch.

Once you have this distance, you walk it and count off; not every step, but a step left and then right. That equals “one” pace. The number you have when you reach that 100-meter point is your specific pace count. When you have that? Next, put on a heavy backpack, and do it again. You’ll find a slight difference, as with a load, you usually take shorter steps, increasing the count.

You need to know your pace count, loaded and unloaded. Other factors will affect your count, such as walking through sticker bushes, over clear-cuts (fallen logs, timber, and stumps), through/across swamps and marshes, etc.

Once you have this pace count, you’ll be ready to rock and roll.

Plot your distance on your map and the grid azimuth to it. Then, you’ll convert for the declination. Then, you’ll walk it out until you reach that objective.

Pace count beads are a good tool.

They are affixed to a rope or cord. You can make your own out of 550 parachute cord. Nine at the top, separated by a knot, with five beneath, and a space and a knot below, at the bottom. They’re “beads on a string,” and when you walk 100 meters, you pull down one of those beads. When they all stack up, you’ve traveled 900 meters, and you jerk the stack back to the top and pull down one of the “bottom” beads on the lower level where the 1000-meter bead markers reside.

After you complete a whole “series,” you’ll have traveled 3 miles, or 5,000 meters – or 5 kilometers. Then you just keep track of that distance on a note card and march on. No complex “1/32 of a mile” or any nonsense such as that.

Field-expedient methods of land navigation are important too.

The sun and the stars can aid your navigation efforts, with or without a compass or a map. Our ancestors used them for thousands of years, and you can use them, too. Let’s list a method for each, for day and for night techniques, along with some others you can use.

The Sun

One of the easiest methods of “natural” land navigation to use is the shadow-tip method for finding where you’re heading. The sun is perceived as moving from east to west. Take a stick about an inch thick and about two feet long and jam it into the ground. The sun will throw the stick’s shadow onto the ground.

Mark the tip of the shadow with a rock. Now, wait about half an hour. The “new” shadow will have moved. Mark the tip of this second shadow.

Now draw a line in the dirt from rock 1 to rock two. Rock 1 puts the shadow tip to the west, and Rock 2’s point is to the east. Knowing this, then bisect the line with another straight line through the center and orient yourself. This is your North-South line.

The Stars

Find the “Big Dipper” and the front leading edge – those two stars. Use your fingertips, and place them “on” the stars in front of your face. Keeping your fingertips apart for your “star points,” now go five of those distances off the top corner cup-star of the dipper. There it will be – the North Star.

You can verify this. On the opposite “side,” across from the dipper is Cassiopeia, the “Lazy-W.” Go to the center star of that “Lazy W,” and measure five width distances out from that center, apex star, and yea verily, the North Star will be there.

Terrain Association

A known landmark or feature can aid you greatly in knowing where you are (half the battle) and knowing where you’re heading (the other half). The military maps are best for this. When you learn your terrain features, such as large lakes, rivers, mountains, etc., you can correlate your position to them relative to what’s on your map and your location on the ground.

The Natural World

Most major rivers (such as the Mississippi) flow from north to south. In the woods, moss usually grows on the north side of the base of the trees. The flights of the migratory birds during specific times of the year will clue you in by their direction of travel. The sun (if you wait out the whole day) will give you your position according to sunrise and sunset.

(Want uninterrupted access to The Organic Prepper? Check out our paid-subscription newsletter.)

People tend to think of land navigation as an “insurmountable obstacle.”

It is neither insurmountable nor an obstacle. It is a skill that, when you perfect it, you can refine into an “art” for yourself. Land nav can be one of those “fun for the whole family” adventures, where everyone learns new skills and takes something away from it. Once again, Ben Franklin’s adage, “An ounce of prevention’s worth a pound of cure,” holds true.

Take the time to study more about land navigation, and how to perform it both correctly and smoothly. There’s a difference. You can do something right and still pull out your eyeteeth (figuratively) doing it.

The “art” is when it is completely natural to you and unforced, and you perform it as easily as slipping on a pair of boots. You can do it! Just identify the areas you need to study and get to work!

What are your thoughts on land navigation?

Is this a skill you already possess or one you need to learn? Do you have any additional tips to add to this article? Let’s talk about it in the comments section.

About Jeremiah Johnson

Jeremiah Johnson is the nom de plume of a retired Green Beret of the U.S. Army Special Forces.  Mr. Johnson is also a Gunsmith and a Master Herbalist.  He graduated from the Special Forces course at SERE (survival, evasion, resistance, and escape) School, and is an expert in small unit tactics, land navigation, survival, and disaster-preparedness.  He lives in a cabin in the Rocky Mountains of Western Montana.


Jeremiah Johnson

Jeremiah Johnson

Jeremiah Johnson is the nom de plume of a retired Green Beret of the U.S. Army Special Forces.  Mr. Johnson is also a Gunsmith and a Master Herbalist.  He graduated from the Special Forces course at SERE (survival, evasion, resistance, and escape) School, and is an expert in small unit tactics, survival, and disaster-preparedness.  He lives in a cabin in the Rocky Mountains of Western Montana.

Leave a Reply

  • Great article J.J.
    One thing about USGI (NSN) compasses, they do not have declination adjustment. At least the one I have does not. Maybe newer ones do?

    I would argue the moss growing on trees on the North side of a tree.
    I have trees with moss growing all the way around the base. I have a few with moss just on the North side. The majority of them have moss on the NorthWest or West side. Some on the West and SouthWest side. And these trees are in the same area. I take notice of these things while walking the dogs.

    • Dear 1st Marine,
      Thanks for the kudos! Yeah, I try not to use anything digital if I can help it. I don’t know if the newer ones have it (the declination). Remember when those planes were flying off course (within the last year), because their compasses were off? The poles are “migrating,” and moving at a rate never seen before. Affects the birds (their seasonal migrations), too.

      I don’t know if you’ve ever read any of Graham Hancock’s stuff…but his book “Magicians of the Gods” is all about this kind of thing…polar shift, and sudden cataclysmic events…it’s deep…I think you’d like it. Very fact and scientific-oriented…dry for the first 100 pages…but very deep.

      Yeah, the moss is more a “rule of thumb” than a hard and fast rule, but I’ve seen what you mentioned when it’s growing on other sides, too.

      Hang in there, and watch the six! God Bless!


      J. J.

      • I have “Magicians of the Gods” and I found it interesting, but there was a lot of stuff there I didn’t know how to take. Never thought much about the polar shift that you mention, but now that you say it, I’ll have another look.

        Anyway, I never had major issues with my compass that I noticed, except on the odd times it went totally crazy, I assume because there was some powerful magnetic field around.

        • Back in the 19th Century the MN Iron Range miners would discover veins of iron ore by noticing their compasses going wonky.

    • Moss can only grow in predominantly shady conditions, hence the North side in the northern hemisphere. If it’s also growing on east/west side, it’s due to shading provided by the surroundings.

        • I love this! Learning is so much fun. And you guys and many comments just add to the thought process. So, I guess, when you’re out in the woods trying to find the Northern direction, look for the tree that has no shade at its base? Seems simple, but when you’re lost, this would be valuable. Thanks.

  • It’s much easier to find and download the kind of maps that have the elevation change details, water sources, landmark items, etc (in addition to the limited map details one used to get from gas stations) when you know their type name. They are called topographical maps, or topos for short. Here’s just one source for the US:

    If you want topo maps for other parts of the world, just run an online search for topographical maps for that region.


  • Excellent Article.
    To many people rely on compasses as well as cell phones for navigation, so it was good to see you included using the sun and stars in the article.
    The military does not have the advantage of knowing the local terrain from experience when first dropped into a combat zone. But for the rest of us, you should walk the route you plan to take so that you can do it using visual landmarks alone. Don’t rely on any navigation aids any more than you have to.
    Also if you are marking on the ground, ie. navigating by the sun, remember to remove all traces of that. Leave no traces, so no one can track you.

    • Dear Mic,
      Thanks for the compliments, sir. I hope others read your comments, as well. Always “low-tech” to high-tech. I wish I could have put more into the article, but at least this piece might point people in the right direction…no pun intended!
      Good job on mentioning the “track-scrub.” I do it all the time, but unconsciously…I didn’t think of mentioning that, and it’s a key action.
      You have a good day, and thanks for those excellent suggestions!

      J. J.

  • Thanks for the info in the article. However, in skill #3 you state there are 2.2 kilometers per mile. I believe that should be about 1.61 klicks per mile.

    • Excellent catch. Being Canadian and having to deal with this all the time, I was about to point this out.

    • Thank you, GDW! You know what I did? There’s 2.2 pounds in a kilogram…I used to have to use that conversion all the time…slipped up and put it in the land nav. I’ll correct it! Thanks again!
      J. J.

  • Excellent article. Essential skill IMHO. I love maps and navigation. If you go outdoor enough, especialy bike riding, you´ll develop a good sense for orientation and direction. Oh and also weather prediction lol.

  • Okay, This was a well written article by a knowledgeable trained expert, Butt, and that’s a big fat one, unfortunately, when you do the numbers, it takes quite some time to ‘master’ the skill to a point where you can deploy it with some adequate level of efficacy. And that would be under ideal conditions. Not somewhere in the Badlands of our national forests where you might have a makeshift shelter & stash location complete bears as big as Chevy Volts and all manner of other critters and terrain and weather, and everything else will deter you, or kill you quickly. Then old Squatch will drag away your body if the mountain lions don’t beat him to it.

    For a reality check before you go out ‘exploring’ in any serious forests, deserts, mountain ranges, or jungle-ish terrains, Read “Here’s How Easy It is to Die in The Wilderness” by Mahatma Muhjesbud. And then check out a You Tube documentary series 411, I believe, about people who go missing. It’s a big cover up and way too dangerous for the average prepper.

    Even if you are-or think you are-..say, an experienced big game hunter and already know how to use a basic compass for just a vector out and back to a stand, Navigating territory to the extent that JJ here goes takes a long time to master for any pragmatic efficacy. I am also speaking from professional experience and a ‘modicum’ of military empirical knowledge as an instructor and ‘player’ from the psycho jungles of Nam to hellish terrain in parts of Africa

    My input here is simple situational likelihood with the consideration of human limitations such as time constraints, money, and purpose.

    If you are someone who only watched a few dystopian survival vids on youtube and are just going to grab your BOB, get on your bicycle and hit it out for woods, and play it by ear trying to ‘live off the land? Well, you’ll probably die before you get too far, and most certainly will die once you are deep in the wilderness. The odds of even a trained combat experienced genuine Rambo by themselves would be slim. There’s just too much effort, stress, and difficulty doing it.

    Everyone must remember that all this survival training is not designed for a long summer vacation , It is for a TEMPORARY emergency situation. Huge difference, mainly in money, equipment and etc. etc. etc.

    So what good is wasting your valuable prepping time on training you will very likely never need?

    Time better spent getting (owning) a solid BOL shelter like a small camper trailer somewhere in an area far enough away from the major big cities on a small piece of land out of sight of neighbors, if possible, with a couple trusted like-minded people; if you don’t have a close family. Stock up on enough food and water and what you’ll need to be out of touch with all outside supply for at least a year or more, Fortify it..

    And KNOW the directions to it, along with side routes or short cuts by heart so that not only can you ‘navigate’ to it without modern gps, but so you can find it walking in the dark WITHOUT a compass, or having to navigate by stars or sun because considering how fickle and crabby old Ma Nature is these days, there likely will be weather that doesn’t allow it anyway, just when you’re en route

  • Great Article, and one in which I fully agree. I worked for the Bureau of Land Management as a Land Surveyor for several years in the 80’s, and compass skills were a must have. It’s a skill I’ve tried to keep to this day.
    I would note that better grade compasses, have user settable declination built into the compass, and this does make on the fly calculating much easier. That’s the only thing I would add to Jeremiah’s excellent article, is to spend a little more and get a compass with an adjustable declination ring. Silva, Brunton and a few other compass manufacturers offer this. Avoid the cheap Pac Rim compasses. I once had one that pointed South as North. Might work in the Lower hemisphere, but completely worthless in the Upper.

    One of the things I did with my children, and now do with my Grandchildren, is practicing Orienteering, map reading and compass use as a part of our vacation into the mountains here in Colorado. The kids seem to enjoy the competition, as they ask me of we’ll be doing this every year we go.

    I’m a bit of a Compass Collector, and have a very rare and early 19th Century Brunton Pocket Transit in my collection. These were commonly used by Mining Engineers underground in plotting the direction mine shafts would go. Another oddity compass I have is a 1917 Military Brunton done in Radians rather than degrees. With a map done in Radians, it’s actually easier to calculate bearings on the fly as Radians are dimensionless. Radians are still commonly used in Europe and other areas as their geometric benefit is recognized.
    But that’s a subject for a whole different article.

    Cheer Jeremiah, and thank you for sharing your knowledge and expertise.

  • I learned this many years ago. Both from military service and mountaineering in Colorado. In fact, whenever I went back to the mountains, I purposely would not take a GPS device with me for a couple of reasons. First, what if you drop the device and it breaks (or batteries run out, or you’re in a place – easy to do in the mountains – where you can’t get a signal from satellites, etc.)? Second, I’ve always looked at people who rely on GPS in the woods as weenies who couldn’t navigate their way out of a paper bag.

    When I drove a semi, my trainer taught me to pull out the trucker’s atlas and map out an initial route to my destination. Then go to other sources (like GPS) to refine it. Finally, write down my route – where my turns are, where my exits are, even where the truck stop I’m hitting was – and put it on a clipboard that lives on the dashboard. That way I can refer to it whenever needed.

    Is GPS useful? You bet, I use it in my car all the time. But I don’t rely on it, it’s more of a convenience.

  • Additional thought/s,
    If you are in heavy woodlands where your line of sight is limited to less than 100m, shoot your azimuth. Find a tree within your azimuth and line of sight, note it in your head so you can walk to it (while keeping your pace count) and easily recognize it.
    If you have another person with you, shoot your azimuth, and then have the person walk in the general direction. When they reach a distance where they can still be seen, use predetermined hand signals to guide them left or right, till your azimuth (you may have to shoot more than a few times) aligns with their center mass.
    Then walk to them, while keeping your pace count.

    I do not recommend night movements even in familiar territory (things look different at night, great way to twist an ankle, slips, trips and falls), but if you had to, the same can be done with two people, and using the red filter on flash lights. Again, predetermine signals to prevent confusion.

    Say you might have to shoot back azimuths to get back to a location. Rather than shooting azimuths and pace counting, as you go out, mark trees on the back side (be your front side on the return trip) with a single slash of a knife at say knee level. Could someone see the marks and know what direction you went in? Possible. But they would have to know where to look, have to chance finding every marked tree, or even know what the marks meant in the first place. But most people do not have that kind of observation awareness, except maybe Sherlock Holmes.

  • Hi Jeremiah, just my two cents worth. Battery powered wrist watches, which are most these days, can cause your compass to swing off if the compass is held near. The other thing I wanted to mention which ties in with your paragraph on terrain is that in many cases animals have regular trucks along ridge lines. I have often followed these if they are going in the same direction as me. In thick scrub it saves a lot of time and energy hacking through.

  • If you have the resources (land) or access to say, a state/national park, this is an exercise you can do. I have been on both sides of doing and setting up the land nav course.
    Have someone go out and plot a simple 4 point, course. Back in the day, we used a land surveyor tape. Later, a hand held Laser Range Finder. At each point, would be a ammo can. Inside the can was a index card. One side had a letter on it. On the other side, was the next azimuth and distance to the next point.
    The team would first, confirm their pace count. We set up the two points J.J. mentions above.
    Then, each team was placed at a starting point, the beginning of the course we set up previously. We gave them an azimuth, and distance. They had to shoot the azimuth, and do their pace count. They should of found the ammo can. They wrote down the letter, and shot their next azimuth and counted off their pace.
    At the end of the course, the letters should of spelled out something, e.g. LOVE, RICE, SPAM. If it did not spell out anything that made sense, or they did not find a ammo can within a few feet, they messed up. In the case of a misspelled word, they came across someone else course and their ammo can, which meant they were waaayyyy off.
    As we advanced, we would spell out longer words, do loops back to the starting point.
    It really hammered home the point of being able to shoot an azimuth and knowing you pace count.

  • OK, now you have compass in hand,and you have all your gear on. How will you adjust it because your wearing a Tanker holster that’s holding 1911. I had this problem elk hunting, So I undid the leash on the compass and set it on a stump. 3-5 o dec change.Now I wear a pouch on the front, bino’s,and pistol, still has the same reaction, but I know to stop and set the compass down on a stump to take bearings. Also not the hood of the truck either.

  • How to find declination when you DON’T know it….
    Wait for a clear night. Find Polaris. Point your compass’s N marking at it. Read the declination right off the needle compass, wherever it’s pointing.

  • Great Article!

    If you ever have the chance to visit a “Lewis and Clark” expedition museum (big one in Illinois on the Mississippi River across from the Missouri river about 4 miles North of I-70, please do so. (There are a number of L&C museums in the mid west). Ask a docent about how the expedition measured their longitude for map making. Wind up watches. Latitude was easy, measure the angle to Polaris. Then ask what happened with 5 of the 6 watches failed and the last one wasn’t kept wound….

  • Watch that meters to yards…it’ll bite ya!! 25 kilometers is about 15 miles. Just sayin’ Other than that, great refresher. Boy Scout handbooks, especially older 1980’s ones, are fantastic for land nav for beginners, too. I checked my compass declination in the Pacific Northwest here, and I’m off a degree and a half now. Whoops!

  • Good article. It’s good for everybody to know the basics, like the sun rises in the East and is due South around noon; I know educated adults that don’t understand that simple fact. We’ve all gotten used to high tech solutions that work great – until you need them. Last weekend I checked my car’s compass, it said “NW” when I was pointing East. Just checked my iPhone compass versus the USGI Cammenga (which is always correct as long as you’re not inside a metal shed) and it was dead on – but I’ve seen iPhone be very wrong on occasion. It’s worthwhile to be able to double check.

    Declination? I live right on the 0 line this year, but older maps of the neighborhood show significant declination. It changes from year to year.

    Can you “feel” North? Just think, every year the migratory birds stop over at the local lakes, and they find their way to South America and back with just their bird brains.

  • Unfortunately, I am one who can’t hold a compass, so dh would do the readings for me. As my body chemistry kills the magnetic field of a compass.
    Thought would let you and others know that there is a possibility of this occurring.

  • All The Way JJ! I have added a manual altimeter to my land nav kit. Just a dual scaled barometer, an older Gischard brand, but valuable in foggy mountainous terrain of the PNW.

  • Very good information….one comment….i used to hike a lot in the Belgium Ardennes, using military maps … time i did not have a map of the specific area…so i got a map at a tourist information center. Almost a copy of the military maps, BUT, also the hiking and mountianbike routes were on the map, and that made the navigating thing a whole lot easier….when hiking and wanting to NOT meet people you can see where you can most likely run in the critters, and mountin bikes in the wood can get so close you notice them when they pass…so knowing their routes is a plus military maps do not give you…same goes for langtlauf routes and GR routes( Grande Randonnee, red white stripes), which go through the whole of Europe and have loads of intersections and locally connected routes ( red with yellow or white) in and are a great alternative to when normal roads are not secure…so in that context military maps have less information or different….also you can avoid towns and cities in advance and stay rural.
    When the track signals are painted crossed you are not to continue in that direction….

    Since the whole world is a mountain bike paradise these days their road signs will add greatly to position calculation together with streams and sharp heights, especially when the weather is foul…many actually give distance to starting point so another source of information for you…

    I found calculation of the distance covered is tricky at best in mountian terrain…5 miles of walking can mean you are a mile and a half away from where you started….

    i love the topics on this site…..very refrecsching and when you think you know you see something you once knew or never before encounterd,……GREAT SITE !

  • You Need More Than Food to Survive

    In the event of a long-term disaster, there are non-food essentials that can be vital to your survival and well-being. Make certain you have these 50 non-food stockpile essentials. Sign up for your FREE report and get prepared.

    We respect your privacy.
    Malcare WordPress Security