Feb 3, 2013 at 2:25 pm #1298810
Loki CuthbertBPL Member
@lokbotLocale: Portland, OR
My goal for this year is to learn new backpacking skills. I have only went out with a guide book and the gps on my phone. I don't even own a compass. I'm planning on remedying this problem ASAP. I had originally thought to take a map and compass class at REI.
I feel like REI can't even begin to compare to the vast knowledge from the collective minds on this forum.
My goals are.
1. Learn more about locating myself through triangulation and the use of a topo map.
2. understanding all of the features of a topo map
3. Finding water sources
4. learning how to make my own maps from topo! or the likes
5. Planning a trip without the use of a guide book and executing the trip this season.
Any suggestions for reading materials that can help me with these goals? Also if you're in the Portland area and would like to help a green horn build some new skills shoot me a PM.
-LokiFeb 3, 2013 at 3:16 pm #1950467
Jeremy and AngelaBPL Member
@requiemLocale: Northern California
There's plenty of good resources online that make a good starting point. Some are more detailed than others, but I think the link below would be a good starting point. (I.e. your questions are pretty general, and it'd take a good deal of typing to replicate what's already out there.)
For a shorter intro, I'd suggest the LandNav articles here (6 in all):
(Downloading the map they use may make it easier to follow along.)
Once you've got a good handle on the basics you should be able to ask more specific questions, and we can point out other ideas (e.g. using "handrails", common sources of error, etc.)
Note: one thing that link doesn't really cover is triangulation. You can find all that and more here:
(In the wild one hill can look much like another. They don't all come with large signs saying "Hollywood", which means unless you're really sure of your target, there will be guessing involved. On the other hand, if you are really sure of your target, you probably don't need to triangulate.)Feb 3, 2013 at 4:31 pm #1950485
Richard RenoBPL Member
@scubahhhLocale: White Mountains, mostly.
… And you can take it out in the field with you to practice, practice, practice!Feb 3, 2013 at 5:17 pm #1950502
– -K.T.- –BPL Member
Try an orienteering group. There is one in Portland.
There are a ton of videos on the subject through YouTube as well.Feb 3, 2013 at 5:55 pm #1950517
Dale WambaughBPL Member
@dwambaughLocale: Pacific Northwest
The REI class sounds like a perfectly good start to me— nothing like hands on with someone who can help with the parts that baffle. Once you have the basic concepts down, just get some practice in. Start in a big local park and you can use a smartphone or GPS to double check. In Scouts we practiced navigating in a rectangle or triangle to see if we could end up where we started. I think it is a lot of fun and empowering to learn.
I have several books and they all cover the same stuff. I'll bet the local library has a bunch; you might even find a DVD.Feb 3, 2013 at 8:34 pm #1950556
K PBPL Member
Not end all/be all but certainly wouldn't hurt:
Edit – also check and see if any local orienteering clubs, those are a blast. Recall many fond memories back in high school being on team (do they even exist any more?) and the competence you gain from navigating while under pressure of time/competitiveness.When you can run and navigate, you got it nailed! :)
KFeb 3, 2013 at 8:40 pm #1950559
Mary DBPL Member
@hikinggrannyLocale: Gateway to Columbia River Gorge
There's a series being published on portlandhikers.org right now.
More to come!Feb 6, 2013 at 1:03 pm #1951442
@justinmcLocale: Southern California
Thanks for asking this question! I also am looking to obtain some basic compass/topo skills.
Thanks to Ken's response, I'm going to take my wife to an Orienteering course on Feb 10th here in California, should be a fun way to learn.Feb 6, 2013 at 1:55 pm #1951458
All the sites linked to are excellent so I won't bother with more except to say that it's worth checking out http://www.youtube.com. You'll find some good tips there.
A fairly cheap and easy-to-digest book for compass reading is Wilderness Navigation by Bob and Mike Burns. It helped me a lot with getting the basics down.Feb 6, 2013 at 10:22 pm #1951662
Thayne NBPL Member
I took orienteering in middle school way back when and was an eagle scout. Fwiw I found the REI $25 course money well spent as a refresher in the basics of orienteering. Also, "mountaineering – freedom of the hills" will cover all the basics…above and beyond just using a map and compass.Feb 7, 2013 at 10:30 am #1951777
David ThomasBPL Member
@davidinkenaiLocale: North Woods. Far North.
I wouldn't suggest this as a starting point because, obviously, it deals with on-the-water issues more than land-based navigation. I knew and had done a lot of inland and water-bound navigation when I read it and I learned a number of new things.
I'll paraphrase what I thought was the coolest trick in there. Three fingers (your index, middle and ring fingers) held at arm's length are 6 degrees wide. 6 degrees has an easy to remember tangent of 1/10. i.e. if that mountain is 10,000 (2 miles) feet tall and covers 6 degrees, it is 10 x 2 miles = 20 miles away. Conversely, if you know a ridge is 4 miles (20,000 feet) away, those fingers cover a span of 2,000 horizontally or vertically on that ridge.
It also works with multiple 3-finger spans, or fractions thereof – a single finger is 2 degrees or a 1:30 ratio of height:distance.Feb 7, 2013 at 12:23 pm #1951819
Kevin BurtonBPL Member
There are some exceedingly lightweight compasses. Not having one is really a bad decision even if you're an ultralight nazi like me.
Mine was like 10-15g … it also has a thermometer.
It really came in handy in Yellowstone this year as the trail started to fade and we had to orient about 5 miles without a trail until we found it again on the base of a mountain.
Thank FSM for my compass!Feb 7, 2013 at 4:52 pm #1951937
Brandon =ÞBPL Member
Anybody take the REI 'Map and Compass Navigation Basics' class, was it worth it?
My girlfriend and I want to take some kind of class together, just something to get out of the house. That could be a good one, as I'm sure I have some holes in my skills and she is pretty new to backpacking. I just don't want to waste money on a class where you learn things that you would of picked up from reading an instruction pamphlet.Feb 7, 2013 at 5:01 pm #1951942
Scott SmithBPL Member
@mrmuddyLocale: No Cal
My wife and I both enjoyed it..
Some good excersises to "practice "..Feb 7, 2013 at 5:04 pm #1951945
@b-g-2-2Locale: Silicon Valley
The REI class seems rather expensive for what you get.
My suggestion would be to take a class from your local outdoor group whether that is the Sierra Club, the Mountaineers, or whatever.
If you get desperate, there is the U.S. Army and its Infantry training. For that matter, the Field Manual is online. It wouldn't hurt to browse through the manual before you take the real class.
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