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Primitive Living Skills- Learning the Basics-
Field Expedient Navigation

Field Expedient Navigation

The subject of navigation is covered thoroughly on our Maps and Navigation pages. The following information on field expedient direction finding is found in chapter 6.

Shadow Tip Method

This method of expedient direction finding is useful if you do not have access to a compass. It will give you accurate north-south and east-west lines.

Begin by locating a level section of ground free from obstructions. Place a straight, 3 foot long stick in the soil as near vertical as possible. Mark the position of the stick’s end some time before mid-day. Watch as the line becomes shorter as the sun nears its mid-day high point. This location should be marked as well. A line drawn from the first mark to the second mark will give you an east-west bearing. A line from the point marked at the shadow’s shortest, mid-day location to the base of the stick will give you a north-south bearing.

Using the Sun While Moving

The sun can be used as an indicator of general direction while moving. Remember that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Being familiar with the angle of the sun as it varies throughout the year is useful as well.

You should already be familiar with where the sun has risen and where it set the night before at you location. Keep this in mind and watch the sun throughout the day as you move across the ground. As an example, if you are moving northward, the sun should rise to your right, cross overhead at mid-day, and set to your left. If you are navigating northward in the month of December the sun will be low, behind you, and remain at you back even at mid-day.

Using the Moon and Stars

Polaris, or the North Star, can be used for night time navigation. It barely deviates from its position at true north throughout the year. To locate Polaris, first locate the Big Dipper. Using the distance between the two stars on the outside of the dipper as a reference, extend a line through them from the top side of the dipper. Measure out about 5 times the distance of the two stars. Here you should find Polaris.

The moon can be used for navigation in the same way as the sun. Note where it rises and where it sets. Note its position to you as you move across the ground.


We will add more to this page on field expedient navigation in the near future.

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Primitive Skills- Living Comfortably Off the Land
Primitive Skills- Learning the Basics, Water
Primitive Skills- Shelter
Primitive Skills- Fire
Primitive Skills- Food
Primitive Skills- Navigation
Primitive Skills- Primitive Weapons
Primitive Skills- Fishing
Primitive Skills- Flintknapping
Primitive Skills- Tracking
Desert and Wilderness Survival and the Survival Kit Page
Choosing Your Survival Knife



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