To be able to navigate effectively means that you are able to move from one point to another intended point by using the least resources possible. There are many tools to help us navigate, and using these tools effectively may be key to effective navigation. What are these tools? Amongst others are a GPS, laser rangefinders, a map and a compass.
The following article would be separated into different navigation methods and certain tips you can use to effectively navigate by employing that particular method.
Navigating by using a Map
Topographical maps are really good for navigating in the wild because different contour lines would show different landforms such as mountains, bare land or valleys. Basically, it shows you different levels of elevation.
Remember, that map reading takes practice especially if you want to use it to navigate. The goal is to be able to picture the landforms in three dimensions and later confirm whether it is true when you are traveling on foot.
Other tips to remember is to always carry your map in a waterproof case or prevent the map from having contact with water. Essentially, you should be able to locate yourself using different landmarks along the trail such as streams and junctions.
Do note that maps are only useful if you know where you are on them. This makes keeping track of where you are on the map really important, where you start, where you are going and where you intend to be.
The disadvantage of using topographical maps is that most sources of data would be out of date and the government now usually use aerial photography to update maps rather than surveying. Therefore, what you see on foot may be different!
Navigating using a compass
Basically, a compass would aid us by ensuring that we are moving on the right direction. Usually, you would use a compass with a map. This tool becomes useful especially in situations where you know that you should for example turn south, but you do not know which direction is south.
This is a really important aspect of traveling because knowing ‘where you are’ consists of three aspects, which are your position, your orientation and the intended direction you want to travel, where all three aspects are equally important. When your orientation which is you alignment with your surrounding is wrong, you would not be able to accurately pinpoint your position and would fail in traveling your intended direction.
The map would complement in providing you with visible milestones. The common problems faced is that the compass sometimes is affected by a “magnetic” north rather than the pointing to the magnetic pole. This means that the compass is aligning with the local magnetic field. The corrective action you can take is to acquire information and make corrections towards the reading.
Ideally, you would be able to get a proper compass with a bezel and a baseplate for effective navigation. Certain compass features you can consider would be a clinometer for measuring slope angle, a sighting mirror and luminescent markings so you can read your compass in the dark.
Navigating using a GPS
A GPS would be one of the most effective methods to navigate, but this method holds the highest risk. Navigating using a GPS can only occur if the GPS works. This means that there are situations where the GPS batteries may die or not being able to lock onto a satellite.
There are constantly 24 US navigational satellites circling the globe, which runs the Global Positioning System (GPS). A GPS functions by monitoring signals from multiple satellites and provide you an accurate estimate of your location.
A GPS would immediately let you know your position, your orientation and where your intended direction should be. Other functions would include informing you of your latitude and longitude. One important function which pulls the GPS apart from other navigation methods is the capability to allow distress signals.
With a GPS, you can use personal locator beacons or satellite messengers which are two different kinds of transmitters which gives out distress signals. The personal locator beacons are usually used only when there are extreme emergency situations. Usually, normal hikers or travelers who are lost would use the satellite messengers to inform our rescuers of our coordinates.
Reading nature’s compass
For this section, we are introducing a do-it-yourself method for determining where you are and where you should go. First, you can make your own compass. All you need is a large leaf, a compass needle and a magnet. You have to rub a magnet against the needle around 25 to 30 times to make sure its magnetized. After that, float the needle on a leaf in a pool of water. After some time, it would orient itself from North to South.
Other important rules would be remembering to always go downhill because the conditions for survival are better downhill. Another thing to note is to follow a river downhill, as it would slowly lead you back to safety. One other alternative would be looking at the starts to measure your approximate latitude.
Getting lost in the wilderness can happen to any of us, and it can happen in a matter of minutes. Therefore, by using the tips above, you should be able to get back to safety without much problems. Also, you can make it a habit to always do scouting before you go for your next trip. Scouting means that you would use maps on computer to familiarize yourself with the landscape first. After that, you can mark those locations which you are interested in the computer and transfer the waypoints into your GPS.
This is an extremely useful method because now, there are much more resources in the internet such as Garmin’s BaseCamp software or Google Earth. You just have to ensure that your GPS have sufficient memory storage to store the waypoints. By employing these methods, hopefully it can help you to navigate better and be more confident travelling! If you have any other tips you would like to share, please comment below!
Author Bio: I am John Lewis, a blogger, survivalist and outdoor enthusiast. You can follow me over at Epic Wilderness.