Navigation - 10 Top Tips

Posted by Matthew Woodfield on Tuesday, September 24, 2013 Under: Top Tips

1. Concentration

Your navigation is normally as good as your concentration, so work on keeping focused. 

2. Strategy

Plan each leg and break down the journey to make it as easy for yourself as possible using strategies like hand railing, aiming-off and attack point.

3. The 5 ‘D’s

The 5 things I make sure I think about for each leg all start with a ‘D’:

  • Direction – whether this is left, right, North West or 233o. Use compass when needed, remember to adjust for magnetic variation.

  • Distance – How far am I going, use a compass to measure accurately. Will I use pacing or timing to measure this out?
  • Duration – How long will this take me? Calculate using speed, adjust for height gain and terrain. Start my stopwatch.
  • Description – what will happen en-route? List tick-off features, terrain changes, verbalise your strategy.
  • Destination – What is it you’re heading too? Don’t forget to stop.

4. Don’t lose your head in the map

You need to be able to switch between looking intently at every minute detail on the map in your hands, and seeing those details laid out on the land around you. Don’t get too sucked into the map alone, or you might miss out on the information all around you.

5. Kit is key

If your map has holes in the folds, if you compass has no romer, if you watch has no stopwatch, if you’re still trying to use a map case round your neck… then its time to go shopping and invest.

6. Maths is hard

Especially when you’re tired, its dark, raining sideways and ‘temporarily misplaced’. You can reduce the amount of maths and therefore errors in your navigation with some simple tools. A timing card showing a grid of distance against time for different speeds saves a lot of maths on the go. Laminate this and put it on your compass cord with 5 toggles, one can be moved each time you pace out 100m on longer legs.

7. Don’t fool yourself

Your brain will trick you, it wants to right – when relocating give 3 good reasons why you are where you say you are. Use the shape of the land, tools like timing and nearby features to back up your assumptions. You can always go on a little further to a larger confirming feature like a pond/road/sheep fold just to be sure.

8. Estimate your bearings

When taking a bearing from the map, estimate it first – is it North or East, or in between? Now when you place your compass on the map, you need to rotate the bezel less so it’s a bit easier, and you wont find yourself taking the bearing 180o the wrong way ever again.

9. Don’t be bamboozled!

Navigation is really quite simple, but some simple ideas were given complicated names by the folk that was bright enuff to think of them.

Re-entrant =                Where a contour line ‘re-enters’ the hillside, ie a gully or scoop of some sort.

Aspect of Slope =       Which way that bit of hill faces. If you roll a ball down the slope and take a bearing on it, that’s you aspect! Great if you’re not sure which part of a hill you’ve just come off.

Resection =                 Triangulating your position by taking bearings off identifiable features you can see. A complicated task made easier with pens and rulers, but if you can see that many features, you shouldn’t be that lost.

Romer =                      Handy measurer thingy on the side of every quality compass which makes taking grid references and measuring distance a piece of cake.

Naismiths Rule =        Hills are hard work to walk up so when you calculate your speed, add a minute per contour (10m).

10. Practice makes perfect

Navigation is a skill, if you don’t practice these skills you will have to work hard to use them. A sunny day on Pen y Fan doesn’t really require ‘mirco nav’, so go on a different route and push yourself. Head out in the wind, the rain, the dark and the cold – you’ll learn at lot from it and be more skilled and confident when faced with those conditions for real.

In : Top Tips 

Tags: navigation 

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Matthew Woodfield An infrequent collection of tips, tricks and ramblings about climbing, walking and the great outdoors...