Archives for posts with tag: navigation

I think this REI video is a great, basic review of how to use a baseplate compass. Use this kind of a compass for orienting yourself on a map, taking a bearing, or navigation to a known location.

I have a nice Brunton TruArc 5 compass but couldn’t remember exactly how it worked. This was the best video I found. Hope it helps you too!


We’ve been reading Finding Your Way Without a Map or Compass by Harold Gatty, first published in 1958. It’s a fascinating collection of navigation skills gleaned from the world of pre-Western and native explorers, in which one’s own five senses (and memory) are the guides, instead of compasses, maps, or GPS.

In the book, Gatty furthers the theory that early Polynesians first found their way across the Pacific by following the routes of migratory birds. Once the islands were known, they followed the stars. For example, if you hold a forked stick at arm’s length, and position the North Star in the crook of the fork, then note it’s height by marking the horizon along its length, you will travel along a constant latitude. If the North Star rises against the horizon, you’re heading north. If it falls, you’re heading south.

It’s quite an interesting read. Hat’s off to my girlfriend, Natalie, for finding this one.

Last month I went to the Overland Rally in Hollister, CA, a weekend of classes, camping, and overland community, where travel, vehicle prep, driving, and navigation were all on topic. For example…

On international travel: if you’re traveling through a town and you don’t see any women or children, something is wrong. That said, the world is a pretty safe place and trouble is usually highly localized and easily avoided.

On vehicle prep: the most important change you can make on a vehicle is tires. Select ones that are suited to the environment in which you’ll be driving. For example, mud terrain tires work in mud but not on asphalt and snow.

On navigation: if you end up lost, stop. Figure out where you are (by plotting your GPS coordinates on a map or using a compass to triangulate your position from known points); make a plan; and proceed by dead reckoning (traveling a certain distance, on a known heading, from a known position) or by plotting GPS coordinates every few miles. Precision is the key. An error of a few millimeters on the map can translate into a few thousand feet on the trail. When following your compass, don’t forget to account for magnetic deviation (the difference between magnetic north and true north). Read the rest of this entry »