OFF-ROAD ESSENTIALS: 16 NAVIGATION AND OVERLANDING TIPS
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.
Know your route or you might get stuck.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.
Understanding contour shapes.