Maps and Land Navigation Basics

Map reading and basic land navigation is so important that nearly every military branch includes in as part of initial NCO (enlisted supervisors/leaders) courses. It is also often available as stand alone training courses. In many courses, the soldier/airman/sailor/marine is handed a compass and told to find their way back to the base camp without a map. Or a time watch.



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With or without a compass, nature can also offer clues on which way to travel to reach your destination. At night, the moon can provide you with a general direction of travel if you know how to read the subtle hints based on the ‘lighted’ portions of the moon. During daylight hours, a simple stick in the ground and two small rocks or other short sticks can give you a sense of direction to travel. All without a compass or even a watch. But when both are available – sometimes as a combined unit for a minimal purchase price, why not take advantage of them.

Most compasses also include a sighting line to line up distant objects. By keying on a mountain top, communications tower, extra tall tree and using the compass & sighting line you can travel in any direction relative to the object. Not just toward and away – the easiest, but also at an angle. The mountain top is to the east and you need to travel to the north, it is easily possible provided you understand the basic methods and indications.

Anyone of the books listed below will teach you more then enough in the basics to survival and find your way out of the lost location. By learning the information intact and complete, you will never feel lost, hopeless and helpless under any circumstance.

A good compass is invaluable if you are trekking unknown and unmarked routes. But even a basic compass is valuable to keep you on overall track. As trails wind and twist, you are often changing the direction you are walking physically at any one moment while you over all direction of travel remains the same. Like most things in hiking – or any in hobby – it is also okay to go inexpensive in the beginning, but plan on ramping up to high quality and higher cost as your hobby and time in the woods increases.

Pictures below are provided by contributors or supporters of this website. If you are interested in sharing your pictures of Nevada, please drop us a note.


Courtesy S. Ward – Mountains towering above the desert