Basics of Practical Land Navigation / Orienteering

Practical Land Navigation – Orienteering

With the development of information technology the need for utilizing physical objects to navigate is constantly decreasing. Or at least we believe that we can navigate through any location using our smart phones or navigational maps. However, even in modern day despite the technology and online maps when you go into the nature you will need to have some land navigation skills and instruments such as compass and map to effectively navigate through land. In order to navigate through land and nature there are some basic skills that you need to know, which are going to be discussed in the section below? So read below for more details:

What is Orienteering/ Land Navigation?

Orienteering is the process of using map and compass to find and plot accurate, precise and generally linear routes from one point to another, for land navigation.  For example if you are walking from point A to point B using a compass without ever steering from your route you would be orienteering. There are some basic guidelines that people who need to land navigate through orienteering must follow, i.e. they will need a compass to identify navigation point on maps, then you will need to identify the accurate distance. The opposite of orienteering is terrain association in which generally just a compass is used to navigate the way without precisely identifying the orienteering points on the map.

What Gear is needed? 

The gear needed for orienteering, at minimum, includes a compass and a topographical map. There are two primary types of compasses used in orienteering, they are the lenastic compass and the baseplate compass.

Baseplate Compass

Baseplate Compass

Lenstic Compass / Military Compass

Lenstic Compass / Military Compass

The baseplate compass is a basic compass that providers navigator with basic navigation options, thus it generally in clear and only has an orienting line, a degree dial and one or more scale of rulers.

Contrary to Baseplate compass a lenastic compass has a more articulate base and also includes a cover for protecting the dial. Lenastic compass has been used by US military in wars because it enables the orienteer to mark very precise navigation points because of its viewing lens.

In order to orienter properly it is important to know some basic orienteering techniques such as reading topographical map features, calculating distance by pace counting using ranger beads and visual referencing etc. To find out more about the techniques please read below:

Techniques of Orienteering 

Orienting your compass and map to NORTH

For this explanation we will be using a baseplate compass.

  1. On your topographical map select a starting point (or your current location) and your first waypoint.
  2. Place your Compass down on the map with the red arrow pointing in the direction you are going to travel. Now, align the edge of the compass on the imaginary line between both points.
  3. Rotate the bezel so the lines are parallel to the north south lines on the map. Make sure that north on the bezel matches North on the map and not the opposite.
  4. Now to orient the map and the compass to the real world terrain simply rotate the map and the compass together until the north needle on the compass points to north on the bezel
  5. You can now start navigating in the direction of the red arrow.

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