Advice on Wilderness Navigation

larryschwartz

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Feb 26, 2012
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Location
Annapolis, MD
Hello all,

I am working on a story for an outdoor magazine on wilderness navigation and was looking for what advice or tips my fellow Roksliders would give people who were new to finding their way in the backcountry. So, if you only had a few minutes to give someone advice on how to make their way in the backcountry, what would you tell them?

Larry Schwartz
 

Ghost

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Dec 28, 2014
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206
Location
Pine Grove, PA
Stay out of the creek bottoms and ravines, they can be a night mare. Also travel on the tops of the fingers and ridges they tend to have a lot less blow downs and dead falls.
 

BroodBuster

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May 9, 2012
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1,230
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Bothell, Wa
I'd first explain UTM grid. Then know how to calibrate your GPS to your paper map. How to put your GPS location on the map. And how to put a spot on your map into the GPS.
 

Mike7

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Feb 28, 2012
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1,287
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Northern Idaho
Don't panic, let someone know where you are going, trust your GPS and compass (especially when visibility to landmarks is limited or you have to go around a lot of obstacles which can put you off course), figure on cross country travel taking a lot longer than travel by road/trail when calculating distances, and familiarize yourself with the area before you go (in part so that in a worst case scenario you can at least go in one direction such as following out a creek/river and reach safety).
 

TJ

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Feb 25, 2012
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N.E Oregon
I'd first explain UTM grid. Then know how to calibrate your GPS to your paper map. How to put your GPS location on the map. And how to put a spot on your map into the GPS.

This^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Also, carry a compass
 

Ray

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Oct 5, 2012
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Alaska
So, if you only had a few minutes to give someone advice on how to make their way in the backcountry, what would you tell them?

A few minutes...I would tell them to take a class in land navigation. There are many options, but an on line one would not be at the top of the list. Local college with a ROTC program will have a military land navigation class that are typically open to the general student and not a semester long. REI stores typically schedule a class once a year, but that varies. A geocaching meetup might prove useful in learning the ropes>

I run into people every year in Alaska that without a trail or a road they would never make it. An hours worth of advice would just get them further into trouble. A few minutes of advice? It would just prolong their slow agonizing death.
 

Gwoodak

Junior Member
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May 5, 2014
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40
Pre-scout the area via google earth. Print out a screen shot and carry it. Basic compass gps skills. Leave a travel plan with friends/family.
 

Doj4Whlr

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Joined
Feb 26, 2012
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103
Location
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Love this topic! Gain an understanding of what the terrain you're looking at, looks like on the map in your hands. Be able to identify basic terrain features such as hilltops, draws, valleys, ridges, etc. Understand the contour interval on your map and what slopes look like on the ground. Learn how to use natural navigation aids such as handrails, backstops and attack points for example. Travel cross-country in hours of darkness only after you've mastered doing it during the day. Do not rely on a GPS as your primary; map and compass!
 

orionsbrother

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Jun 6, 2013
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IL
Maybe include something explaining magnetic declination. A lot of people have difficulty understanding that the North of their compass can be more North or less North depending on where they are.
 

Josh Wright

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Feb 29, 2012
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620
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Colorado
Never give up the high ground unless absolutely necessary.

Get to know your GPS before your trip.
Delorme InReach is highly recommended and will help loved ones fill connected.
 

kodiakfly

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Jan 25, 2014
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Kodiak
I run into people every year in Alaska that without a trail or a road they would never make it. An hours worth of advice would just get them further into trouble. A few minutes of advice? It would just prolong their slow agonizing death.

HAHA! Awesome.
 

jmez

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Jun 12, 2012
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Piedmont, SD
Be prepared to spend a night out in the open away from camp. Periodically check your compass throughout the day for a rough direction of travel. Camp is the opposite way. Make mental notes of any large, easily identifiable landmarks that you see during the day.

If you get lost in the mountains walk downhill, you will hit water at the bottom. Follow the water downstream. If that water leads to a bigger river,continue to follow that downstream. It really is that simple.
 

apphunter

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Jan 9, 2015
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For someone who has never done any navigation I would tell them to start witht trying to find the booklet for orienteering merit badge from boy scouts and go from there
 

Beendare

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May 6, 2014
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Some funny responses....

I think the compass and dead reckoning is the easiest....either that or know how to program a waypoint and then how to go back to it- thats all 90% of folks use a GPS anyway.

The whole find a river and follow it thing wouldn't work in many areas like remote Alaska or BC- heck you come to a fork thats not cross-able and you are screwed. We were stuck one year in northern BC when our drift boat was leaking badly and my guide was adamant about making it work as it was impossible to walk back to camp on the Stikine river. You would be surprised how hard big wads of chewing gum gets against ice cold water......
 
Joined
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OR Hunter back in Oregon
Compass and map!!!!!!!!!

GPS is a great luxury, but it can and will fail. I have very basic compass skills, but I spend hours looking at detailed topo maps of any area I go into.
 

ericfamilee

Member
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Oct 28, 2013
Messages
86
Location
Houston, Alaska
Become fluent using Google Earth and spend lots of time scouting out your area via Google earth. I become very familiar with my areas this way, then use on the ground scouting trips to verify information and learn details I couldn't see very well on Google earth.
 
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