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Map & Compass, Orienteering?

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posted on May, 26 2020 @ 06:32 PM
Anyone ever "try" to get lost???

Anyone into navigation by map and compass, or orienteering? I am.

I got lost once, really lost, in my own back yard, the Windriver mountains of Wyoming. Sure GPS always works, right? Until it doesn't. There wasn't GPS when I got lost. But being lost in Wyoming, in the mountains, in the fall, can be deadly within hours.

Big Elk hunter set out in the morning before daylight, camped on top of a ridge, how could he not find his way back??? Impossible, right?

Around 3pm it started to snow. I had all the back-markers, so no problem back to camp. Then it started to snow harder, like real hard...and the whiteout set in. I couldn't see 20 feet. I was below camp, I knew that, so just walk uphill, right? I quickly realized 'up-hill' could be anywhere in about 5 different directions, and the terrain was not looking familiar. I was lost. STOP! (always stop!)

Don't panic. I was miles from camp, maybe 6 or so. I couldn't see anything, the snow was coming down so hard, and it was starting to get dark now.

I had tied some flagging tape through the tight timber I'd come through, but there was no tight timber where I was. I found a large rock cliff and started to make a 'camp' for the night. I was scared. I had the skills, but I'd never been in the situation to require them; staying calm was hard. I built a shelter from pine boughs, and a fire. I had my pack, and I always carried a survival kit, but it was old. There was a packet of broth inside, some sugar and that was about it (aside from stuff like a shelter, fishing hooks and some other stuff). After dark the wind picked up, and the fog blew off. It was cold, but at least I could see. I was miles off course! Just miles!

I swore in that moment I would never get lost ever again! I made numerous fatal navigation errors in the wild. First, I was too confident. Number #1 fatal error. Two, I didn't spend enough time back-sighting where I was. Three, I didn't plan my route on a map, and worse, I didn't have that map with me (it was my "back yard', right?) Wrong!

Suddenly a reality hit me...I could walk down 4,000 feet to the river, and follow the river (for "days") to the next town along the river. In doing so I would probably walk 50-60 miles. What an idiot I was, thinking that! And what of my buddies at my hunting camp? Where would they think I had gone, and how long would they search for me? NEVER...Never again!

Today, I will know exactly where I am, electronic instruments be damned. I will know my way back, always. Every time. I will know every compass heading, every magnetic declination for my area and I will come back.

I was 18 when that "lost" happened, and since then I have taught map & compass to numerous groups like the Boy Scouts and many others.

Lost? I guess it's possible, but I generally don't need to ask for directions (….and not even my wife does!!! LOL)

Do YOU know where YOU are?

posted on May, 26 2020 @ 06:43 PM
Oh, and BTW...I actually made it back to camp that night because of a stupid errant Mare horse. She didn't like anybody. But I found her that night, escaped in the snow, stupid B#, and though she wandered all over the place in that snowstorm, she eventually did wander close enough to our camp where I could smell the burning wood. It was late...and I was wrong....and I didn't get an elk...but I was glad to be there!

posted on May, 26 2020 @ 06:52 PM
a reply to: Flyingclaydisk

I have not done that since I was a kid, these day's I suspect that if there was an EMP of some kind taking down the GPS system most people would be completely lost which is rather sad, not to mention drivers whom have often become sat nav dependent.

Can't beat a good lensatic compass and a proper decent quality map to find your way though even today and they are often more accurate than the screwed up destinations many of those sat naves can send people too.

Of course it is still easy to be disoriented if you don't have a known landmark or woe betide are out orienteering and mistake one old church for another old church.

A handy - nay - essential skill to have for any even half baked survivalist and the more dedicated of course can find there way without the compass, know the sign's and can read both the mark's on tree's and stones (moss etc) to find north and south.

There used to be quite a few orienteering club's over here in the UK at one time, probably still are though these day's most probably cheat with sat nav and mobile phone digital compass which are useless for getting bearing's on landmark features but anyway.

posted on May, 26 2020 @ 10:08 PM
Use an accurate compass, trust it and stay true to your direction, then when you head back, just go in the opposite direction, no map necessary. That doesn't mean you'll be on the easiest or safest route possible, but straight in and straight out works.

If you have to change direction, use identifiable landmarks and leave an obvious trail marker. A trail usually isn't a problem, but it will look different going back in the other direction.

Around here, you would only have to go as little as a mile or two before you come to a road again, so all you need to do is pick a direction and stick to it to find your way out. Another thing is, once you find a numbered road or an address of some kind, you will know where you are.

Baseline road and mile roads usually run East and West as do number roads (like 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.).

The south side of an East/West road will have an even address, and the north side will have an odd one.

Addresses on East/West roads will get larger in either direction from a North/South center line road.

On North/South roads, even addresses are on the east side and odd address the west side of the road.

Mile road numbers usually start with a Baseline road as a zero or a one mile (but not as a solid rule), and go up in number as you are going north.

Numbered roads are related to the area's addresses and distance south of Baseline road. An increase of 8 = 1 mile further south.

So just find a cross roads with road signs and you'll know direction and location, no GPS or map necessary.

edit on 26-5-2020 by MichiganSwampBuck because: For Clarity

posted on May, 27 2020 @ 05:07 AM
a reply to: Flyingclaydisk
Also very important to be able to navigate at night . Daytime even if somewhat cloudy Nth is pretty easy to find . At night here in australia we have the southern cross which you can use to find south . If its cloudy just remember the moon and stars all rise in the east and set in the west . If its a cloudy moonless night , im lost .lol.

posted on May, 27 2020 @ 08:12 AM
I’ve been hunting with my family since I was a little fellow, I’m 62 now. And I don’t care much for killing anymore, so mostly my hunting days are over. Needles to say, I have had many years of backcountry experience from Alaska to Mexico, California to Alabama.

About 30 years ago, I got lost on the late muzzle loader, white tail deer hunt in middle Tennessee. I was very use to hunting in the eastern, mountains of the state. But middle Tennessee, south west of Nashville is as flat as a pancake. In the dense forests there were no landmarks at all. No hills, few creeks, ect. Like you, I didn’t have a map. Hell, I didn’t think I needed one. I didn’t think it was possible to for me to get lost. But I did that cold December day.

I had a cheap compass, so I had a rough idea where the camp was. Unfortunately we had camped at the dead end of an old logging road and I missed the road on the return trip. It was getting much colder and would soon be dark. Wondering through the dark forest with a feeble flash light ( before LED) isn’t my thing.
I did keep my head, no panic yet. Although it was very unsettling. I fired my black power, Ruger Old Army revolver three times, ( the distress call for a hunter), I was surprised at how bright the power flare was, it was getting dark fast. My Dad heard my signal and fired his gun at the camp. Long story short, I followed the sound of gunfire right back to camp.

Now days I carry enough supply’s and gear in my pack to stay comfortable, for a couple of days in the backcountry, even if I’m only going to stray a mile or two from camp. You never know what may happen. Cold, wet, and dark are not your friends. Hell, right now I carry a map, compass, lighter, and small Swiss Army knife if I am walking the streets of Paris or Rome.

posted on May, 27 2020 @ 08:19 AM
a reply to: Flyingclaydisk

That's really scary. I got lost in some mountain woods at night once and it was terrifying. I could hear things moving in the woods around me (hopefully just deer and not black bear or mountain lions that also populate the area) and I was so glad to get back to familiar surroundings.

posted on May, 27 2020 @ 08:47 AM
a reply to: Flyingclaydisk

Remember when I asked you in your interview if you've ever had to climb into a tauntaun for warmth? I bet you wish you had one then...

posted on May, 30 2020 @ 11:56 AM
Great thread.
Thanks all for sharing your stories. It's a sobering reminder of how quickly things can change when we think we know where we are. This is a skill I have wanted to learn for a long time and just haven't for whatever reason.
Do you have any books or videos you would recommend? What about compasses? Thanks!

posted on May, 30 2020 @ 02:31 PM
a reply to: Starcrossd

As for resources, there are actually quite a few good sources on the web (we'll get to those in a minute), but first let's talk about compasses, maps and a couple other things.

Compasses - There are a couple really reputable compass companies out there. Brunton and Silva are two of them. You can spend anywhere from a few bucks to a couple hundred bucks on a compass. I recommend just starting out with a basic map compass. There is one feature though which is an absolute must IMO, and this is a compass with adjustable declination. 'Declination', or Magnetic Declination, is the difference between magnetic north and true north and it changes as your location changes (both lat. and long). Sometimes fairly dramatically depending on your location.

Declination is a difficult concept for many people to understand, and even experienced navigators will make errors sometimes. So, it's worth the money to get a compass with this feature. One of the reasons declination is hard to understand is that you do one thing to convert from map bearings to compass bearings, and the exact opposite thing to convert from compass bearings to map bearings. It's easy to forget which one to do, or which way, especially when in a hurry, under stress or with other stuff on your mind. A compass with adjustable declination eliminates this problem, and makes things much easier to understand.

Here's a good recommendation for a compass:

Silva Explorer Pro

YOU - The next recommendation has to do with YOU (so nothing to buy here). And this is knowing your stride or pace. Go to your local High School football field and measure your stride. To do this, do the following:

1. Stand directly on the goal line.
2. Step forward normally with your LEFT foot
3. Now step all the way forward (normally) with your RIGHT foot. This is "one pace", and the next time your right foot touches the ground is "two paces", etc. (i.e. you're not counting your left step, only the right.)
4. Count the number of paces it take you to get to the 50 yard line (in my case it's almost exactly 25 paces). Write this number down on an index card.
5. Now, stand directly on the 50 yard line and start over (you can go to the far end goal line, or back to where you started, it doesn't matter). Count the number of paces again, and write it down. It should be close to the first number.
6. Repeat this process 4-5 times, writing down the number of paces each time.
7. After doing this a few times add up all the numbers and divide them by the number of times you walked the 50 yards. This will give you an average number of paces to go 50 yards.
8. Now divide 150 (feet) by the average number of paces to cover this distance. This will give you the average distance of your stride / pace (in feet). Write this number down and keep it. Now when someone tells you something is 300 feet away, you'll know exactly how many paces (or steps) you have to take to go a certain distance. This is a valuable thing to know. Just remember to always take the first step with your LEFT foot, and when you step forward with your RIGHT foot count "one" to yourself.

Maps - Next, go get yourself a USGS map of an area you like to spend time in, or are familiar with. Do NOT try to print one out from online, or buy some other kind of a 'sportsmans map' or anything like that. Get an official USGS map, nothing else (I am assuming you are in the US. If not I can give you some other similar sources in other countries).

When you get the map, it may come folded, but they often come in a tube unfolded. If the latter, how you fold the map is important:
1. Fold the map in half vertically, from right to left.
2. Now fold the side you just folded back over on itself vertically again.
3. Now flip the whole map over vertically and fold the (now) right side back over itself again vertically (from right to left).
4. Now fold the whole map in half horizontally from top to bottom.
5. When you flip the map back over you should see the title of the map on the lower right. You're done.

The reason you want a USGS map and no other is for several reasons. The most important reason is because the scale of these maps is generally 1:24000. And what this means is 1 inch on the map = 24,000 inches (2,000 feet) in the field. On your compass you'll notice some marks which looks like a ruler. Those marks are also laid out at the exact same scale as a USGS map (how about that, right?). So just with these three basic things, you're already in business! Ready to start learning map and compass navigation.

By the way, the official name of these USGS maps is what is known as a seven and a half minute (or "7.5' Quadrangle") map.

This post is probably getting too long, so I'll follow up with another post of some fun next steps and some resources.

edit on 5/30/2020 by Flyingclaydisk because: (no reason given)

posted on May, 30 2020 @ 03:00 PM
-- Part II --

Now, assuming you got a compass with adjustable declination, you should adjust your compass to the declination for the area of your map. Assuming you got a USGS map, the declination is indicated right on the map. This will get you pretty darn close, but just know that magnetic declination changes over time, so the declination indicated on the map will only be as current as the printing date of the map itself. It won't change much in 4-5 years, but over a few decades it could be off quite a ways (either way).

To understand more about USGS maps, declination, compasses and a whole bunch of other stuff, here is a great resource from Idaho State University:

Topographic Maps Resource

Now you know just about everything there is to know. Now for the fun part...

Remember how we meticulously folded the map earlier? Well, there was a reason. USGS maps are fairly big, so you'll seldom open the entire map at once, but because of how you folded it, you can now use portions of the map without having to unfold it completely. And, one of the things you'll need to do is place your compass physically on the map to take and get bearings. Because the map was folded just so, this task is much easier.

Here are some fun things to start off with (no particular order):

1. Figure out where you are on your USGS map. There's a number of ways you can do this, from easy to hard. You can pick out a building or landmark on the map and use that as a starting point (easy), or you can triangulate your location based on other landmarks you can see and your bearing to them (harder).

2. Pick out somewhere you want to go on the map. Doesn't have to be far, just any place. Practice taking a bearing from the map, and then walking in that direction until you get there. Then pick another place, and walk from the first place to the second, and third and so on. Try to look at your compass to keep the correct direction.

3. Now pick a location and using your scale calculate the distance from the map. Remember that "pace" calculation? Well, now we're going to use that too. But this time navigate to the location using only your compass and your calculation of the number of paces. (i.e. try to not look anywhere but where you're walking and your compass).

4. Lastly, and the most fun of all...try to get lost...and find your way back. (this was why you picked a USGS map of an area you like to spend time in or are familiar with).

You'd be surprised how great it feels when you succeed at each of these tasks. And, as you get better, you'll get even more confident and have more fun. Pretty soon you'll wonder why the heck you ever bought that GPS unit!

You see, the thing with GPS is, it's great for telling you where you are, but the screens are usually so small you don't have any idea of what's around you, and when you zoom out to see that you no longer have any real sense of where you are. You don't have this issue with map & compass. I kind of equate GPS to having a set of blinders on. Sure, you'll get there, but you'll miss everything else along the way. And, at the end of the day, the destination is important, but the journey along the way makes it all that much more rewarding.

Hope this helps.

posted on May, 30 2020 @ 11:51 PM
a reply to: Flyingclaydisk
Thats a ton of wonderful info. I feel like I've already been through a class session! (Yep, U.S. here)
I've got lots of homework!!

posted on May, 31 2020 @ 08:34 AM
a reply to: Starcrossd

You're certainly welcome! Always happy to pass on some useful information which will benefit people throughout their lifetime.

When I was in college I worked for an engineering/survey firm in the summer one year. The project I worked on was a survey for a gas pipeline across the state of Wyoming (it was actually a transcontinental pipeline, but our part was only across Wyoming). As part of this project we worked in some of the remotest areas of the back country imaginable. Many times we'd be so far out on location that we couldn't make it back to town (any town) at the end of the day, and we'd wind up working for several days just camping in the field. Heck, many times we'd be 80-100 miles from the nearest road even! This was long before GPS (back in the late 70's-early 80's). The only way to get to where you needed to be, and back again, was map & compass. I was already a nut about 'orienteering/navigation', but that job took things to a whole new level, a level where people's lives depended on getting it right. (Probably one of the coolest jobs I ever had, frankly).

I remember one day when we were looking for a boundary corner (we had to find these every so often to "tie-in" our survey to validate its accuracy and make any corrections for error). We were in the middle of nowhere. We were having a heck of a time finding this boundary marker. We wound up going back to our last known point and 'swinging an angle' to where it should be. Then we calculated the distance. It was about 3.5 miles from our track (all using USGS maps, mind you). We then started staking a straight line from our known point to where the marker should be. (it was a diagonal line about 35 degrees off of our course). After bushwhacking a perfectly straight line we found a pile of rocks known as a "cairn" at exactly 3.5 miles. We had found our boundary marker, right where it should have been. But more importantly, we had found something else.

Our boundary marker, or "monument" as they were called, was actually an original marker from the first 'wagon wheel' surveys of the United States performed in the late 1800's. We were standing where no man had probably set foot for nearly 100 years. And even more amazing still was the fact that, while we were using modern survey instruments of the day, the people who had put that monument there had done it using nothing more than a wagon wheel, a tape measure and some very crude optics! And it was accurate to the foot! the middle of nowhere-ville of remote Wyoming, over 150 miles to the nearest town. We had essentially found a monument placed there by the very same people who actually made the USGS maps we were using to find it! Now THAT was COOL!!

All that, by map & compass.

edit on 5/31/2020 by Flyingclaydisk because: (no reason given)

posted on Jun, 2 2020 @ 12:31 AM
a reply to: Flyingclaydisk
WOW!!!!! That is unbelievably COOL!!!! What an amazing experience!! How awesome that you were using the original map makers own schematics! Sounds like the best job ever!
What a great time and memories.. I'd probably Still be out there wandering around looking for it!

Thanks so much for sharing this.

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