Nav­i­ga­tion is crit­i­cal, whether by GPS, map and com­pass, or di­rec­tions from your spouse. If you don’t know where you’re headed you may be bound for dis­as­ter or a very long ride home. If you’re in­ter­ested in learn­ing tra­di­tional nav­i­ga­tion (us­ing map and com­pass) there are sev­eral im­por­tant things you should un­der­stand as well as where to go to learn more.

Lat­i­tude / Lon­gi­tude

Two im­por­tant terms when us­ing to­po­graphic maps and com­pass for nav­i­ga­tion are lat­i­tude and lon­gi­tude. Lat­i­tude is the angular dis­tance of a place north or south of the earth’s equa­tor. It’s usu­ally ex­pressed in “de­grees and min­utes.” Lat­i­tude is in­di­cated on maps us­ing lines that go from side to side or left to right. They are par­al­lels run­ning east–west around the globe (as they par­al­lel the equa­tor). Lon­gi­tude is the angular dis­tance of a place east or west of the merid­ian at Green­wich, Eng­land. The Green­wich merid­ian is an imag­i­nary line used to in­di­cate 0° lon­gi­tude, and ter­mi­nates at the North and South Poles. All other lon­gi­tude merid­i­ans are num­bered both east and west of this. Lon­gi­tudes are also usu­ally ex­pressed in “de­grees and min­utes.” In less fancy terms, lon­gi­tude is known as lines that run up or down, north-south around the globe. They’re lines that run ver­ti­cally on a globe, with vary­ing cur­va­ture.


Dec­li­na­tion is the dif­fer­ence of true north and mag­netic north. Mag­netic dec­li­na­tion is the an­gle on the hor­i­zon­tal plane be­tween mag­netic north (the di­rec­tion the com­pass nee­dle points cor­re­spond­ing to the di­rec­tion of the Earth’s mag­netic field lines) and true north (the di­rec­tion along Earth’s sur­face to­wards the geo­graphic North Pole). Un­der­stand­ing the dif­fer­ence and know­ing how to set your com­pass cor­rectly is known as de­cli­nat­ing your com­pass.

Other Im­por­tant Notes

Learn to read to­po­graphic maps. Know­ing dif­fer­ences be­tween rivers, power lines, rail­road tracks, or con­tour lines could be the dif­fer­ence be­tween suc­cess and sor­row dur­ing your trek.

Check the age of your maps. If you have a map from 1984, el­e­ments may be miss­ing or wrong since it’s 34 years old.

Un­der­stand dif­fer­ent scales of maps, and use co­or­di­nat­ing rulers. If you have a 1:50,000 map, this means one cen­time­ter on the map equals 50,000 cen­time­ters (or 500 me­ters) on the ground.

Know how many steps you take to get to

25 me­ters, too. This helps you track how far you’ve gone on the map.

Lots to Learn

If this ar­ti­cle over­whelms you, you’re not alone. Tra­di­tional nav­i­ga­tion, even at the ba­sic level, can be com­plex. How­ever, there are peo­ple happy to help you learn. Ken Gal­lant from Den­drite Con­sult­ing in BC is a great re­source. Ken has been in­volved with SAR (search and res­cue) for over 20 years and teaches nav­i­ga­tional classes to in­di­vid­u­als and out­door clubs. In North Van­cou­ver, the Canada West Moun­tain School hosts monthly Moun­tain Nav­i­ga­tion cour­ses for those in­ter­ested in tra­di­tional moun­tain wilder­ness nav­i­ga­tion. Is­land Alpine Guides in Cum­ber­land, BC hosts a sin­gle-day Wilder­ness Nav­i­ga­tion One in­tro course to teach ba­sic nav­i­ga­tional skills. Out­door or­ga­ni­za­tions, clubs, or re­tail­ers

may also host classes in your area. Books and YouTube are also great re­sources.

In ad­di­tion to ba­sic nav­i­ga­tion, there are other tips for suc­cess­ful ad­ven­tures. I’ve learned these dur­ing my trav­els:

1. Know your equip­ment (and your rig). 2. Hy­drate, hy­drate, hy­drate! 3. The less you drive, the less it will cost

you. 4. Build a net­work of con­tacts (lo­cals as well

as across the globe). 5. Stay healthy on the road (this in­cludes

your mind, body, and soul). 6. Bring ba­sic tools (hav­ing proper tools to

fix your gear or ve­hi­cle can be a life­saver). 7. Hide elec­tron­ics and valu­ables items (in

your ve­hi­cle, on you, or around you). 8. Carry plenty of fuel (al­ways check where

the next fuel sta­tion is). 9. Stay in touch with fam­ily and friends. 10. Be pre­pared for the un­ex­pected—it

will hap­pen! 11. Pack your sense of hu­mor (even the worst sit­u­a­tions can be light­ened up with laugh­ter). 12. Bring a tire re­pair kit and spare tire. 13. Know the weather trends and study the

ter­rain be­fore you go. 14. The lo­cals are your friends (help if you’re lost, tell you the best restau­rants in town, or share their best kept se­crets for things to do). 15. Don’t pack too much (but bring a first

aid kit, good walk­ing shoes, com­fort­able

cloth­ing, and a flex­i­ble at­ti­tude). 16. If you get stuck, don’t panic. Stop, think, ob­serve your sur­round­ings, plan your course of ac­tion, and ex­e­cute your plan. 17. Carry copies of im­por­tant doc­u­ments and per­ti­nent phone num­bers in an e-mail draft in your in­box. It’s easy to find and is a life­saver in case of emer­gency. 18. Put your money in dif­fer­ent banks. In case of emer­gency and one bank is com­pro­mised, you’ll have ac­cess to the oth­ers. 19. Stop and smell the roses. 20. Have fun!

https://the­moun­tain­school.com/ pro­gram/moun­tain-nav­i­ga­tion www.is­landalpine­guides.com/ trips/55

 ??  ??
 ??  ?? Be pre­pared for the un­ex­pected. Know your rig and your gear.
Be pre­pared for the un­ex­pected. Know your rig and your gear.
 ??  ?? Know your route or you might get stuck.
Know your route or you might get stuck.
 ??  ?? Hy­drate, hy­drate, hy­drate.
Hy­drate, hy­drate, hy­drate.
 ??  ?? Un­der­stand­ing con­tour shapes.
Un­der­stand­ing con­tour shapes.
 ??  ?? Rough ter­rain.
Rough ter­rain.
 ??  ?? Un­der­stand­ing scales.
Un­der­stand­ing scales.
 ??  ??

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