Basic Land Navigation

GPS Satellites criscrossing the globe.

GPS Satellites crisscrossing the globe.

In today’s world of GPS everything where you simply plug-in a set of coordinates or tell your phone where you want to go basic land navigation has fallen by the wayside. Even in the military land navigation is becoming a lost art among many units. What happens once TSHTF and the military, who run the GPS system, put the 100 meter offset back into the civilian GPS signal? Or there is a failure that brings down the system? Or as is often the case you can’t get a signal because you are in a valley or deep forest? Can you find your way or find your location using nothing but a map and compass?

Tools of the Trade
Topo Map, Orienteering Compass, and Dry Erase Marker.

Topo Map, Orienteering Compass, and Dry Erase Marker.

Basic land navigation only requires three (3) “tools”.

  • A topographic map
  • A compass (for this article I will be using a basic orienteering compass)
  • A dry erase marker (if your map is laminated or sealed in plastic) or pencil
Finding Your Grid Coordinates

All topo maps have grid numbers listed on the top, bottom, and both sides. To find your grid coordinates you simply find the numbered line to the RIGHT of the grid you are square in. Then you find the numbered line on the BOTTOM of the grid square you are in and you can get the four (4) digit grid coordinate which will give you the 1 km square area you are in. Remember you read the map RIGHT AND UP.

First Read RIGHT.

First Read RIGHT.

And then read UP.

And then read UP.

To get a more exact fix on your location you first break the two (2) sides (from right to left and bottom to top) into ten (10) equal parts each. To get the next set of numbers for your coordinates you first go from the right and figure out which of the ten (10) parts you are in, then do the same from the bottom up.

This will give you a six (6) digit grid coordinate, which will give you your location within 100 meters. To get your coordinates within ten (10) meters  of your location you divide each of those ten (10) squares you mentally created in half, you would use either five (5) for half way between those lines or zero (0) for directly on a line. It takes practice, lots of practice to “eyeball” an eight (8) digit grid coordinate but it can be done.

They do sell a protractor that will make the job easier.

Orienting Your Map

To orient your map first lay your map on as level a surface as you can then find the North Declination line, usually located in or near the maps legend. Lay your compass on the map and line the edge of your compass up with the MAGNETIC NORTH LINE. Then simply turn your map until the North seeking arrow is pointing in the same direction as the Magnetic North Line on the map.

You can now use the compass to find a bearing to any terrain feature, road, building, grid coordinates, etc on the map.

Orienting the map using your compass and Magnetic North Line on the map.

Orienting the map using your compass and Magnetic North Line on the map.

Resection

When you aren’t sure of your location on the map a simple, quick way to find out exactly where you are is called Resection.

First orient your map and look for a prominent terrain feature you can see to the LEFT of your location. Then find that terrain feature on your map. Place your compass on the map, with the edge of the compass running through the center of the terrain feature and draw a line back-towards your vantage point.

Line the edge of the compass up with a known terrain feature.

Line the edge of the compass up with a known terrain feature.

Draw a line back along the edge of the compass towards you.

Draw a line back along the edge of the compass towards you.



Next find another terrain feature you can see to the RIGHT of your location. Find that terrain feature on the map, place your compass on the map with the edge running through the center of that terrain feature and draw another line backwards towards your vantage point.

Orient the edge of your compass through a terrain feature you can see to your right.

Orient the edge of your compass through a terrain feature you can see to your right.

Draw another line back towards yourself.

Draw another line back towards yourself.

Where the two-lines cross is your location. You can now get the grid coordinates to your location.

Where the two lines cross is your location on the map.

Where the two lines cross is your location on the map.

I’ve given you some basic skills that will allow you to know where you are even if that fancy GPS stops working. By learning these skills you can place caches, locate camps, etc. and you’ll always have a back up to your GPS.

Click Here and check out our supply of compasses you can use to stay “found”.

I look forward to seeing your comments and as always, Train to Survive!

Tom

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