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Basic Land Navigation

Basic Land Navigation

Basic Land Navigation

Navigation is a very important and useful skill for traveling in the back country. The idea is to use tools in order to find your way and plan a route of travel. There are several important fundamentals to learn to do this correctly. PRACTICE is the best way to become a good navigator and prevent getting lost.

Compass Basics

- Locate & become familiar with all the different parts of the compass

- The red needle points to Magnetic North (you must check the declination to find true north)

-A sighting compass will allow you to make more accurate measurements-Azimuth: an angle measured clockwise from North given in degrees to find a fixed point (also called field bearing)

- To find an azimuth, point the direction arrow at a point in the distance. Now turn the housing until the red needle is inside the orienting arrow (or shed) and read the degree number

-When possible choose a compass that offers the ability to adjust and set the difference in declination  

Shop Navigation Tools

-When possible choose a compass that offers the ability to adjust and set the difference in declination 

Topographic Maps

- The topo map is a 2-D representation of the 3-D landscape around you

- Contour lines on the map represent elevation & terrain features

- The contour interval tells you the increase or decrease in elevation b/t the contour lines (ex. 20ft)


- Closer contour lines represent steeper terrain while lines further apart show flatter and less steep areas

- The index contour is a darker line that helps to locate elevation more quickly

- Magnetic declination is the difference b/t true north & magnetic north. This can often be found at the bottom

- The scale of the map is also located at the bottom as well as distance information and other useful data

Understanding Magnetic Declination

-This is the difference b/t where a compass needle points and where the North Pole lies (this changes over time)

-The 2 intersect in the middle of the US near the Mississippi River at 0 degrees

-The further E or W you move from this line, the greater the difference

Example: Wyoming has a declination of approximately 12°E

-Its best to use a compass that is declination adjustable, otherwise you must remember to add or subtract the declination every time

To adjust you compass:

     -If dec. is Easterly (western US) rotate the compass dial clockwise

     -If dec. is Westerly (eastern US) rotate the dial counter clockwise