Compass pointsWell, dedicated readers, it’s time for the basics of navigation. Understanding how to get from point A to point B and back again is probably one of the most important things you will need to know in the outdoors, whether you are hunting, hiking, camping, or skiing. It is also one of the simplest tools for safety and also the easiest to forget. Navigation is not like riding a bike, you will forget it if you do not practice.

Basic navigation requires waypoints, or a map and compass (especially if in unfamiliar territory). Imagine a farmers field. It is fairly easy to navigate to a point across the field and back to your original starting position. Now add hills, trees, rivers and other obstacles. It is very easy to get disoriented.

Beachburg ForestI had the privilege this week to go to Beachburg Forest. Here we began to understand how to navigate and orient ourselves wherever we were. Our instructors lined us up along the forest edge and told us to walk through and back and see if we came out where we had originally started. The instructors didn’t expect them to be logging in the forest but sent us through anyways confident that we would know when it wasn’t safe for us. The first half we were climbing over cut red pine trees and easy bush-wacking. Then we had to traverse where they had just started logging. It wasn’t too bad, the skidder was still far enough away that I could walk by and not worry about them. I arrived at the opposite destination and began to navigate back to the start. On the return route I encountered heavy logging activity very close to me. To work around the skidding, I decided to use a technique called pacing. This involves turning and walking directly to the left or right and counting your paces. Then walk forward until you are past the object, then count your paces back to the left or right. Believe it or not, at the original forest edge I ended up directly on my marker when I came out.

This navigation exercise wasn’t too challenging as we begin to understand, but as the terrain gets tougher and less familiar more complex elements will need to be added to our skills. Basic tools we will be adding involve topographical maps, compass orienteering skills, Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) tracking and survival techniques for surviving lost.


I understand they will be dropping us in the middle of Crown Forest next time and have to navigate to a particular waypoint … sounds exciting !!

If you have any questions about basic navigation feel free to email me at .


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