Questions tagged [navigation]

This tag is for all questions about outdoor navigation with maps, compasses or mobile devices equipped with sensors for satellite based positioning systems.

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97
votes
4answers
12k views

Why would one aim off when navigating with a map and compass?

Sometimes while navigating with map and compass, the advice is to aim off i.e. to aim either to the left or right of the intended destination, as opposed to straight for it. Why and when would one ...
57
votes
3answers
12k views

How do you know you have reached North or South Pole without GPS?

Having read about the recent foot traverse of Antarctica by Colin O'Brady I was wondering which means the polar explorers of former, pre-GPS times used to determine that they had reached the North or ...
50
votes
6answers
8k views

I never adjust for true north. Is this bad practice?

This question (Calculate true north with a compass and map) got me thinking. I rarely bother adjusting compass bearings for magnetic north. Is this bad? I understand the theory but I just rarely ...
48
votes
10answers
5k views

How can you navigate without a compass or GPS

What are the ways you can navigate when you don't have a compass or a GPS? For example how can you tell which way is north.
41
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4answers
4k views

Compass compatibility: Can I use my US compass in Australia? [duplicate]

Background I bought my compass in the US last year. Next week I'm going to travel to Australia. Question Is my US-compass compatible with Australia? or do I need a special compass? Do I need an ...
31
votes
1answer
5k views

Are corpses on Mount Everest used as way-points?

A friend of mine loves to brag about his Mount Everest experiences. He's a great climber and adventurer but sometimes I think he might exaggerate his stories a little ;). However, lately he came up ...
30
votes
1answer
8k views

Will a compass work underground or underwater?

Because they rely on radio signals, GPS units generally do not work underground or underwater, but what about a plain ol' magnetic compass? Are the magnetic fields of earth present at all depths? ...
28
votes
9answers
5k views

How can you navigate / determine your location in thick fog?

Are there any good hints, tips and ways you can use to navigate around and find your location in thick fog (apart from a GPS)?
27
votes
12answers
6k views

How to temporarily mark a trail?

If one needed to hike out and then come back to a certain spot, how could one temporarily mark their trail so that it is easy to follow back to that exact spot when the route back is not obvious? ...
27
votes
3answers
8k views

How much distance is there between True North and Magnetic North Poles?

This question is not as simple as it seems, and a few minutes of googling did not drop the answer in my lap. A comment at I never adjust for true north. Is this bad practice? suggesting that: ...
26
votes
4answers
6k views

What advantage does the what3words coordinate system have over other, traditional systems?

I recently came across the what3words coordinate system in an outdoor magazine. The system divides the world into squares of 3 m x 3 m. Each square is then named with a combination of three (as far as ...
24
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21answers
16k views

As of 2019, why do mountaineering courses still teach how to use a paper map?

I've been looking into learning how to mountaineer and noticed that the local mountaineering society still requires a training in navigation as part of the prerequisites for most of their basic ...
24
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4answers
3k views

What should I do when I'm lost?

What should I do when I get disoriented or lost? How can I find help or make myself easier to find? This is a general question to do when lost in the wilderness, whether it is a meadow or mountain.
22
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3answers
11k views

How do you locate the “North Star”?

What if it's night and you want to find north? How do you locate the North Star in the night sky?
22
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4answers
3k views

How can I find north from the stars without recognizable constellations?

If I am trying to find out which way is north at night, and I can see stars, but not the North Star or the Southern cross or other recognizable constellations, because the terrain is limiting my view, ...
21
votes
7answers
7k views

What format should I use to report my location to emergency responders?

Suppose I am out in the wilderness and an emergency arises. I have an accurate fix on my location (from GPS, map and compass, astronomical observation, etc...). I manage to get in touch with ...
21
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2answers
4k views

Can a compass needle become de-magnetized over time?

My compass has become increasingly untrustworthy. Over the past couple years I had noticed that it often pointed pretty close to magnetic South, but it corrected after a light tap. In two recent ...
20
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4answers
1k views

Group protocol should the group become separated

A small group (2-10 people total) is travelling in a wilderness area. For whatever reason a person or a couple get separated. What is the best strategy for the lost ones? What is the best strategy to ...
18
votes
4answers
3k views

Are there any reliable plants to use for navigation?

I've always heard that moss grows on the north side of a tree. Presumably, this is because conditions on the north side, at least in the northern hemisphere, tend to get less sunlight and are damper. ...
17
votes
6answers
1k views

Are there any general rules of thumb for route finding up a mountain without any trails?

Sometimes mountains won't have trails or recorded routes simply because they don't get enough traffic that a trail will be created. Not every mountain has recorded routes simply because people haven't ...
17
votes
3answers
1k views

How precise is a pedometer for estimating on a backpacking trip?

In practice, how precise is a pedometer for estimating your progress on a trail? For example, if I'm to hike 10 miles, how far should I expect to be from the 10 miles marker? Is there data comparing ...
16
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2answers
2k views

What is “Isolation” and “Prominence” in mountain terms?

When I was browsing through the wikipedia page of the Denali mountain, I came across some piece of information. Refer the screenshot below. What does the term Prominence and Isolation mean?
16
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2answers
3k views

How to estimate distance in sea

While kayaking or swimming out in the open waters, it is quite important to be able to judge distances accurately before attempting to get from one point to another, such as from island to island. ...
16
votes
1answer
442 views

How do you stabilize a sextant for use on a boat in rough water?

Using a sextant to get accurate angle measurements is tough on moving vessel. It's even harder when the waters are rough. Is there a technique that is most useful in stabilizing the device and/or ...
15
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3answers
5k views

How do I read a topographic map?

When navigating in the backcountry, you'll usually bring a topographic map that shows the terrain so you can tell if there will be steep slopes or cliffs that might make the route difficult. A ...
15
votes
2answers
3k views

Is it normal for a compass to develop an air bubble at high altitude?

I live in Denver, Colorado. Going above 10,000 ft. (3,000 metre) always results in an air bubble large enough for me to want to tilt the compass to prevent the bubble from interfering with the needle....
14
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2answers
2k views

Thinking about a road trip out West

My wife and I are thinking of taking a road trip from northwest Ohio to "out west" - Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Montana, etc. I've never been farther west than Indiana, so it's a whole new ...
14
votes
3answers
5k views

Does Moss only grow on the North side of trees?

Well does it? Or does it only grow on one side? Or does it grow only on the side further from the equator? Is there any truth to this old adage?
13
votes
8answers
7k views

Is a smartphone or dedicated gps receiver better for navigation in the desert?

For most backcountry navigation I use a topo map and compass when necessary. Generally I'm following known trails and combined with some basic awareness of cardinal direction and land features I don't ...
13
votes
3answers
647 views

Navigational gear worldwide

Is there any difference in navigational equipment between the northern and southern hemisphere? We live in the northern hemisphere but will be emigrating to the southern in the next few weeks. We'll ...
13
votes
1answer
193 views

Magnetic deviation at either pole

I know that the magnetic north is not exactly at the polar north, so when hiking very close to the Northern Pole, you have to take the difference into account. This got me thinking: Is this also a ...
12
votes
4answers
2k views

Are there types of compass other than the regular magnetic one and the gyrocompass?

Today I learned about the existence of the "gyrocompass". A gyrocompass is a type of non-magnetic compass which is based on a fast-spinning disc and rotation of the Earth (or another planetary body ...
12
votes
3answers
2k views

Calculate true north with a compass and map

We've a map and a functional compass. A compass shows of course the magnetic north and the map provides us with the correct and current declination. The North Magnetic Pole is the point on the ...
12
votes
3answers
298 views

What Navigation Aids can I make on an island with only a knife?

In a recent discussion about navigating from a deserted island, it was suggested that if I have a knife and natural resources I could create my own navigation aids. In this instance I was planning to ...
12
votes
3answers
5k views

How is elevation gain and change measured for hiking trails?

If a trail is listed as 1500m of elevation change, what exactly does that mean? For example, if the trail goes up 500m, then down 200m, then up 100m, then down 300m, then up 400m, is that considered ...
12
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4answers
4k views

How to estimate current speed and direction while swimming at sea?

In an episode in the tv series "I shouldn't be alive", crew members of a yacht racing team got caught in a violent storm and found themselves stranded in the Gulf of Mexico after their boat capsized. ...
11
votes
3answers
533 views

Depth Perception in the Mountains

I'm not from the mountains. Every time I go into the mountains I lose all depth perception. I can't tell by looking if a peak is 100 meters or a 1,000 meters above me. I have to stare hard and look ...
11
votes
2answers
279 views

When is the best time of year to find the North Pole?

The Geographic North Pole or Terrestrial North Pole, is defined as the point in the Northern Hemisphere where the Earth's axis of rotation meets its surface. source There were several attempts to ...
11
votes
1answer
766 views

What is a catch feature in orienteering?

On of the terms used in orienteering is "catch feature". What exactly is a catch feature and how would a catch feature help one with navigating in the outdoors?
11
votes
1answer
675 views

Can I use satellite images as hiking maps, how?

I tried to find topographic maps of my area in Brazil, but the best I could find is some 1:50000 map from 1983. My biggest need for a map (besides not getting lost) is avoiding private properties and ...
10
votes
1answer
311 views

What are the measurements on this slope angle tool?

I totally need one of these This helps you estimate the slope angle on a contour map by measureing the gaps between the contour lines. This is to help you avoid avoid avalanche areas. I'm sure I ...
10
votes
1answer
3k views

Is a compass generally accurate in only one hemisphere, or both? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Navigational gear worldwide I'm not that well travelled (never been outside of Europe!) but at some point I'd love to head elsewhere to perhaps hike somewhere a bit more ...
9
votes
2answers
1k views

What is dead reckoning when navigating with a map and compass?

There is a technique for navigation known as dead reckoning, what is this technique exactly and when would it be useful?
9
votes
2answers
366 views

What does contouring mean in the context of navigation/orienteering?

One of the techniques while navigating in the outdoors is known as contouring, what does this mean and when would it be useful?
9
votes
2answers
177 views

How to follow bearings while running?

I'm am amateur orienteer that does a fair chunk of races. I'm reasonably decent at navigating - using attack points, bearings, contours, catching features etc. But I cannot follow a bearing ...
9
votes
1answer
154 views

In orienteering/navigation, what is a handrail feature?

One of the terms in orienteering/navigation is "handrail feature". What exactly does this term mean?
9
votes
2answers
166 views

How to find route for pedestrian

I want to make long foot trip from Salzburg via Innsbruck to Milan and from there to Venice. Is there a tool that allows me create routes for pedestrian? I'm looking for things like walking on ...
8
votes
1answer
631 views

I have a compass but no watch, how can I tell when it will get dark?

I was reading all of the answers to Are there any situations while backpacking that would require a watch? and surprised at the number of answers that said you need a watch so you would know how long ...
8
votes
4answers
2k views

Can a compass be thrown off by its surroundings?

Would it be possible for a compass be affected by its surroundings, such as a large iron deposit or other rocks to the point where it is not working correctly? I am not talking about declination but ...
8
votes
2answers
1k views

How do I find north using a watch?

I've heard this is possible but I'm not sure on the details. Can someone elaborate?