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Maps and Navigation

The following document is a primer on land navigation. Although this document contains all the necessary information for basic land navigation, you should not rely solely upon this document- it is in no way a substitute for actual experience. As the text states, and as we reiterate throughout our teachings, these skills require practice. Do not expect to just read this document and be an expert on land navigation!

This document is quite long and is broken down into 6 chapters. Click on the links below to open any chapter in a separate window.

For additional information on Map Reconnaissance, see my Blog post of 12 February, 2009.

See these pages for my thoughts on Global Positioning Systems, the SPOT Messenger, and PLB's

Also see the following blog:
The Global Positioning System and Its Place in Wilderness Navigation


Chapter 1- Introduction

Chapter 2- Equipment
                         The Compass
                              Holding the Compass
                         The Map     
                         Other Equipment
                              Waterproof map case
                              Grid Coordinate Scale

Chapter 3- About Maps
                         Map Scales
                         Marginal Information
                         Sheet Name
                         Bar Scales
                         Contour Interval Note
                         Road Classification Legend
                         Declination Diagram
                         Map Colors
                         Basic Terrain Features
                         Contour Lines
                               Index Contour Lines
                               Intermediate Contour Lines
                          Terrain Feature Diagrams

Chapter 4- Using the Map
                         Orienting to North
                         Determining and Setting Azimuth
                              Back Azimuth
                         Alternate Method
                              Grid North
                              Magnetic North
                         Grid Coordinates

Chapter 5- Navigation Techniques
                         Route Selection
                         Terrain Association
                         Dead Reckoning (Line of Sight)
                         Travel in Legs
                         Deliberate Offset (Planned Deviation)

Chapter 6- Expedient Direction Finding

                         Shadow Tip

Recommended Reading



The purpose of this manual is to familiarize the reader with basic land navigation skills. Land navigation skills are essential for anyone venturing into unknown territory, whether it is for an afternoon or an extended operation. Read the following information carefully and thoroughly. Understand the techniques outlined here before you need them- practice these techniques whenever you get a chance. Finally, never enter the wilderness without a map and compass. Armed with the following knowledge, a map, and a compass you should never become lost. (Note- All examples given in the text assume navigation in the Northern Hemisphere.)

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