Navigation is a fun topic.   The subject of Navigation has spawned clubs and events all over the country called geocaching.    You can look forward to learning to navigate in the wilderness,   and if you don’t already,   someday you can be hiking completely off trail for days at a time!   And  complete rookies should not fear navigation,  but just start out hiking in a park with established trails.   A phone call to a ranger or a stop to the visitor center will tell you if trails are well marked with signs.   Plan your first trip to someplace with well marked trails,  bring a map and compass,  and have fun!   Practice using your map and compass while you hike,  even if you are on a well marked path.

A GPS is a fun optional tool to play with and so is an altimeter…but a map and compass are  essential tools,  so don’t leave home without them!   I have a great story about some kids my husband and I ran into that were hiking off trail in Yosemite National Park by GPS and didn’t really know how to read a map and compass.

Nowadays,  most of my hikes are off trail.   In fact I seldom am on trail for more than a few hours anymore.   However,  I paid my dues in learning to navigate via map and compass.   I got lost,  I found canyons when I expected to find vertical cliffs in front of me,   I spent hours backtracking after reading my map wrong.   I bickered with my husband over which way to go when we weren’t sure of our map reading skills,  and spent hours and hours and hours pouring over maps before and during each trip.   Somewhere along the way I became quite competent and can now look at a map for just a few minutes and see the landscape in my mind and am always spot on.

So for starters,  make sure you have a good topo map of where you want to go.

And honestly,  you can get a mega compass like this:

Mega Compass

Mega Compass

 and of course have fun with it.   But…if you don’t want to spend the money,   a simple compass like this is probably all you need:

A simple compass

A simple compass

Either way,   get a map and get a compass and get out on the trails and have some fun getting lost and finding your way again!   There’s only one way to get really good at finding your way…and that’s to get out there and practice!

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