I had a little trouble at first taking the topo map and
visualizing it as actual land marks. Once you get over
that hurdle however, navigating can be simple.
There are lots of great navigation books and sites. I am going
to give you some nav tips and some great resources.
The below link is a great resource for
learning land navigation. It is free and quite comprehensive. He
is a little brash, but the information is great. Land
Navigation Free Course
I first took a Adventure Racing Navigation course from
a former marine. I learned a lot and felt like I knew how to
navigate, until I did a race. Boy was I wrong.
We raced the Berryman in the Ozarks. It was my first overnight
race. Myself and a friend were navigating. We did alright in the
beginning, but during the night we were hiking along at a fast
pace. All of the sudden we had lost the trail.
We looked and looked...turned around...shot a back
azimuth...turned circles. The trail was no where to be
found. We ended up lost. We were a little afraid,
thinking we'd be lost in the Ozarks. We had no back up system
in case of emergency, no phone, gps, nothing.
We finally figured out to shoot an azimuth toward a road. We
just started bushwhacking on the bearing. When we finally found
the road we were ecstatic. We jumped up and down and hugged.
It was like Christmas!
I now practice 1-2 times per week before a race. I take a map
with me on my long runs. I will stop and try to figure out where
I am at on the map. I try to stop by a draw or ridge, so I can
learn to see what the different features look like to scale. This
is great Adventure Racing Navigation practice for me.
After I thought I knew a lot about navigation my father-in-law
bought me a book. This book is great for going beyond basic
Adventure Racing Navigation. I studied this book nightly and
really felt it took me to another level.
He will teach you how to measure the percentage of grade, how
to make the best route choice, triangulation and declination.
Even if you already navigate as I did, I found a lot of useful
First of all you must protect your map. You'll need a water proof navigation bag.If you are just
practicing navigation and not out for days, you can also use
zip-lock bags. Just be careful as they can easily leak if
The second thing is a good compass. The compass I like is the Brunton Adventure Racing Compass, as it has
the UTM scale on it as well. Though I do not use this for
plotting it is handy to re-plot in the field and for measuring
For plotting points you will need a UTM Plotter, sharpie, different color
highlighters, and a pencil. You should mark your points in pencil
the first time. When a teammate checks the point he/she can
circle the point with a sharpie.
You'll want the highlighters to mark your course for land
navigation. We use different colors, such as blue for the water
course. Remember to carry a pen or pencil and a highlighter in
your map case. You may need to mark something in the field.
For the paddling section of navigation a deck compass is great to have. It straps to
your kayak shell and you can have a hands free compass, while you
When you are in the mountains an altimeter is very handy,
telling you the elevation. It is not 100% accurate and needs to
be re-calibrated. The Suunto Vector is the altimeter I use.
points for a race you are often rushed. Though you may
feel rushed always recheck the points. This can cost you
time later if you mis-plot. It is tough to see teams take off
when you are re-checking points, but we've lost hours in a
race by not re-checking.
Our team has a pair of people working
together. One person calls out the points and the other
plots. When they are finished the other pair does the same and
checks the point. The second pair will mark the points with a
sharpie, the first with a pencil.
Practice calling out the numbers together before the race.
Certain people have ways they like to call the numbers out for
plotting. We have found it fastest to get the quadrant first,
then plot the points. To help you remember which number
goes first, I use this quote. Walk in the door and up
the stairs. That simply means go to the right first (in the door)
and up second (up the stairs).
Below shows you my picks for some great books on Navigation.