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How do you navigate?  

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  1. 1. How do you navigate?

    • GPS
    • Map & Compass
    • What does navigate mean?

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I'm learning to use a map and compass but it's going slower then I thought it would. How long did it take others to gain a basic competence in using map and compass?

I took a couple of courses and then headed out to the mountains to practise. On my first solo outing, as soon as I made it to the mountains, the clouds descended and I couldn't make out anything. Next time I managed to get one bearing and then the rest I took were w-a-y off. Still, I'm slowly getting the hang of it and hope to get a fair bit of practise in this summer.

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I can't say for anyone else but maps, cartography, and navigation were pretty natural to me. Take a map you know of an area you know, imagine navigating around with it for a bit and you will figure it out. Translate those skills to the different landmarks where you are wanting to go and it also becomes natural.

I wanted to learn to fly when I was young (like my dad) so I used to play with his aviation maps when I was a little kid. It was easy for me to point out references like smoke stacks, railroads, industrial area's and such and imagine what they would look like flying overheard. Once I started doing that I never had a problem with getting lost pretty much anywhere/anytime. Most people don't have that kind of innate sense of direction but then again I'm a little weird. ;)

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I've found that i have a pretty good sense of direction. For the most part, i can tell general direction by using the sun and having my route "mapped out" in my head beforehand. I rarely use my compass. However, i don't hike in the thick forests of the eastern US, so i can imagine its harder there.

For maps, I've found that Trails Illustrated are normally the gold standard for maps in the areas i hike (western US).

Beartooth press has also impressed me quite a bit with their maps. Only maps I've used that are better than Trails Illustrated, but unfortunately they are limited to Montana/Wyoming/Idaho.

My other trick, which i didn't state above, is Google Map topos. They are getting really nice now a days and are a good scale for navigation. I'll just print screen them and save them as a JPEG. I can star points in google maps and coordinate them with way points on my datasheets i make for trips too. Using the satellite views, i can pinpoint those stars and their waypoints to exactly where i need them to be (roads/camps/streams/mountains/passes/etc.)

For areas that don't have good maps, i find the Google topos can be just as good as USGS quads, and a little nicer looking too.

Edited by tmountainnut
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Tmount, I use Google Earth topo's quite a bit, too. Same basic idea; scale it where you want it and print. There are some good online resources for topo maps of the Smoky Mountains but not every place has that much detail. Sometimes having a huge well-funded national park in the back yard has an advantage even if the information on the trails/camp sites is more than 20 years out of date. The topography hasn't changed much.

Another advantage of Google Earth is that you can pin routes on it (ruler option, path instead of just measure) and that might help with a general idea of navigation.

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