Needing to learn map and compas

Discussion in 'Other Skills' started by MommaJ, Jan 14, 2018.

  1. MommaJ

    MommaJ Supporter Supporter Bushclass I

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    I have used the search history and read up on some of the books available, watched various lessons but it seems that I just cannot grasp it from book, video, or such. My thinking is either this spring or summer to take a class and officially learn how to but I hesitate in using REI or spending a couple hundred to learn when I am not sure if the instructor is competent ahead of time.

    This will be used while kayaking, hunting and hiking. I need to be able to learn how to use a compass other than to figure out North. Figure out where I am, how to get to a known point or just a point on the map, and just navigation in general.

    Note I cannot find my way when the sky is above me with but I can find my way through buildings, malls, and most subways I have come across.

    So does anyone here have any personal recommendations?

    I prefer NJ,NY,Pa but I have several trips to Maine to take between spring and summer so if necessary Maine, NH,and Mass could also work.
     
  2. EternalLove

    EternalLove Guide

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    I think REI would be just fine. I have taken classes from them and thought they were well taught. It's a not a government agency. They are motivated by profit which is wonderful as it should insure that they are competent and thourough in their instruction.
     
  3. Zunga

    Zunga Bushmaster

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    I only understand it a little and from navigation of a boat. No trees hills and valleys to speak of. But I gather you know where you are on the map and where you want to go. You place the compass and map north. Let's say say you want to go westish. A mountain on the map lets say. Draw a straight line from mountain to compass point. 240 degrees for example. Turn yourself until you compass reads 240 and take land marks at 240 as you go. If you get into a valley or forrest and can see no land marks. Follow 240 until you see one. That should get you to the mountain. Grain of salt please. Like I said limited experience and a lot of theory!
    Jim
     
  4. rsnurkle

    rsnurkle Supporter Supporter Bushclass I Bushclass II

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    What about the material you've looked at so far is confusing? For some folks skills only click when they can watch other people do it, but there's a lot of good material available online, so in case it can save you money, I'd love to hear where the available stuff was falling short for you.

    Most people who can find their way around a mall are using "terrain association". Or more specifically, map-to-terrain association: you look at the map to see how the features on it (stores, hallways, exits, restrooms) are located, relative to each other. Then you look around you to figure out which of the features you're currently close to, do the mental work to place yourself on the map, and then use the map and the features you're close to to figure out a route to your destination, using features along the way as guides to keep you on the right track and going in the right direction.

    In many places where you can see the sky above you, terrain association is very possible as a navigational tool. Instead of the map features being stores, hallways, exits, restrooms, the features become rivers, trails, hills, draws, cliffs, valleys, manmade landmarks, etc., etc. One tricky bit of mental calculation you need to learn to do is look at a contour map and learn to see the features that are created by the contour lines:
    [​IMG]
    If you can recognize the features on the topo map and around you in person, then you can let your mall wayfinding skills take over from there. Then you can add in compass skills in order to accurately orient the map to the world around you and also to describe where you're going in a different way than "walking upstream until I reach the beaver swamp, then going around it to the left and heading up to the saddle between the first two hills I reach".

    To actually answer your question (instead of just attempting to give you more written information and see if any of it helps): if you're still looking at your map and compass and thinking "what is all this even for, besides finding north?" REI will have a perfectly good course for getting you started. I have a feeling you'll pretty quickly get past the basics once you fill in whatever blanks are currently holding you back, but a real life person giving you examples and exercises may be the best way to fill in those blanks.
     
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  5. Primeval

    Primeval Supporter Supporter

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    I'm going to ask you some questions ...

    1) How do you read a topographical map?
    2 What are the key features (map legend) on a topographical map?
    3) How do you measure distance?
    4) How do you measure elevation?
    5) How do you orient your position on a topographical map?
    6) What is the difference between true-north and magnetic north?
    7) What is declination?
    8) Depending on the compass make and model, what are its features and how do you use them?
    9) How do you shoot an azimuth?
    10) How do you shoot reverse azimuths to pinpoint your location?

    The reason I wrote that out is because a good book or a one-on-one instructor or a group land-nav class can provide the answers. I'm not busting your chops, I'd just hate hearing of someone that read your post deciding your advice is beneficial and off to the woods they go to their own detriment.
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2018
  6. Zunga

    Zunga Bushmaster

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    Ya dude your busting my chops! I qualified my statment with saying i dont know much and take a grain of salt. But your correct. Someone who cant be bothered to read a entire post and then just runs off half cocked. That is silly. Wouldnt you agree?
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2018
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  7. slysir

    slysir Guide

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    You said you read books...did you read "Be expert with map and compass" [​IMG]

    There are some great beginner lessons included. You start by practicing in your back yard or familiar field. It's written for the beginner. I'm sure your local library has an edition.

    -John
     
  8. GreyOne

    GreyOne Elder Lifetime Supporter

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    Available in ebook form, check downloads-miscellaneous area.
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2018
  9. bacpacjac

    bacpacjac Guide Bushclass I

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    Thanks @rsnurkle! @MommaJ, I need to seriously improve my map & compass skill as well, and even though we won't be taking the same class, I appreciate you asking the question!! Good luck!

    Thanks guys! I'm going shopping for this one!
     
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  10. DavidJAFO

    DavidJAFO Guide

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  11. central joe

    central joe Supporter Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    May I recommend a couple of videos young lass. Shamans forge, and Really big monkey1 have a couple of good beginner videos. I think Dave is a member here. Both are good, clean family oriented people. joe
     
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  12. MommaJ

    MommaJ Supporter Supporter Bushclass I

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    I think a lot comes from looking at a map and getting confused right from the start. Then when i use to map to follow a known trail its missing the red star marking you are here and I have no clue where I am unless I start at the very beginning of said trail. For ex a trail near is intersects with several different trails of I follow trail a and then branch into trail b with the plan of reconnecting to trail a I cannot figure out where on trail b I am to make sure I am going to right way to reconnect with trail a.
     
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  13. MommaJ

    MommaJ Supporter Supporter Bushclass I

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    Looks like everything points to how to read a map. I always skim those sections because well I figured keys would be on every map and that they are specific to that map. With typography and elevation I just cannot see the land changes but I can feel them
     
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  14. MommaJ

    MommaJ Supporter Supporter Bushclass I

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    Lol when out on the watery I avoid any rivers that have now than one path which is not going to work in the long term plan
     
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  15. manitoulinbound

    manitoulinbound Apple Fritter Lover Supporter

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    Iam certainly no expert but I learned a lot from KC The Happy Camper on youtube. He has a couple short videos that are very helpful. Maybe give them a look as well.
     
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  16. Terasec

    Terasec Guide

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    Pa state parks often have free orienteering class
    I took a class there and was quite good for all ages
    Have to browse pa state parks calendar of events
    I took it at hickory run state park
     
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  17. MisterHoodoo

    MisterHoodoo Supporter Supporter

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    MommaJ,
    In my location REI offers two different map and compass classes. One is classroom based the other is out in the field. I have taken the field class and it was well presented with the instructor being very knowledgeable. Of course all class learning depends on the instructors ability to teach, and actual experience in the field being taught. So you may be able to check reviews and background of the instructor who is conducting the class.
     
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  18. Winterhorse

    Winterhorse Supporter Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    Good idea to take a course. That’s the kind of learning I respond to best. I can usually figure stuff out on my own but I really helps to have someone there to aactually ASK when you get a little stuck on a point instead of having to back up and start over. When it clicks and the lesson sinks in you get that “Aw-ha “ moment and everything suddenly makes sense!
    Sometimes it’s just a little piece of the puzzle your missing that makes everything else fall into place.
    Good luck and have a great time!
     
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  19. victoratsea

    victoratsea Supporter Supporter

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    Hey Momma J, check out orienteeringusa.org They list the orienteering clubs that might hold events in your area. I know that the Hudson Valley club and the Delaware valley clubs hold events in New Jersey. Those folks can put you on track to a fun way to learn map and compass by doing rather than reading or watching video. Give it a go!
     
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  20. Mr. Tettnanger

    Mr. Tettnanger Supporter Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    I am taking by a course in March. It is in Hanover Pennsylvania. It is being put on by Dwayne Unger and Kevin Estela.

    I need to learn it and it doesn’t matter how much I read or watch videos, I just can’t grasp it. I’m hoping the class makes it click.

    I’ll get the contact info.

    https://www.facebook.com/events/1972696076330579??ti=ia
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2018
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  21. CSM-101

    CSM-101 Scout

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    I'm with you on this one. I've read a couple of books and watched a lot of videos and I think I may have the gist of it, but it's too important a skill to not be sure. What I'd really like to do is get someone to drive me to somewhere I don't know while I'm blindfolded and give me a map and compass so I could see if I could really figure out my location and find a bearing to travel. :p
     
  22. MommaJ

    MommaJ Supporter Supporter Bushclass I

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    Mucho thanks everyone. I am normally a read and grasp learner that uses YouTube to fill inn the blanks but it's just not working. Maybe because I just need to bounce problems questions off of someone.
    @Mr. Tettnanger I'm going to show Ray that link and see about setting up to go.
     
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  23. CSM-101

    CSM-101 Scout

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    Some things I can pick up pretty easily from reading, others I can learn better from videos. And some things I need to see in person on a one to one basis... and this seems to be one of those.

    For what it's worth, one of the better tutorials I have is a PDF of the Randall's Adventure training land navigation lessons, but I can't find a link for it.
     
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  24. NWPrimate

    NWPrimate Supporter Supporter

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  25. Primeval

    Primeval Supporter Supporter

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    Another good book is (link) Wilderness Navigation: Finding Your Way Using A Map, Compass, Altimeter & GPS by Bob Burns and Mike Burns. It's written for beginners. But if reading book material isn't working then by all means take a class.
     
  26. Primeval

    Primeval Supporter Supporter

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    I did read your entire post which is why I spoke up disagreeing with you. I'd rather point out vague bad advice when I see it than not say anything at all.

    People go missing every year in the wilderness (sometimes with fatal consequences) because they don't understand land navigation. It's a life saving skill set I encourage everyone to learn.
     
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  27. Terasec

    Terasec Guide

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    In short see if this helps
    North on dial lined up with north on map
    Bevel lined up with your intended route

    6BC89F6E-AA8F-4D31-A6C6-D1CEA3007EFD.jpeg
    Now with compass in hand arrow pointing to N compass is facing direction you want to go
    31858FAF-7012-4DBC-8106-4AD1A2919905.jpeg
     
  28. MommaJ

    MommaJ Supporter Supporter Bushclass I

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    Somewhat that does help in figuring out how to go from map to hand and also how to line things up
     
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  29. Wyanokie

    Wyanokie Tracker

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    Hi MommaJ, I am rusty and need some review as well. I've done some map and compass work over the years and here's that I've found: definitely take some time to become comfortable with maps. If you have one or two favorite local nature preserves that you are well acquainted with, print some trail maps for them from the county or state (or whoever manages the property). If you visit Morris County Parks, they have very good trail maps that also have topo features. Next, go on caltopo.com and print some of those topographic maps as well for the same preserves (so you have different types of maps for the same preserve). Make sure to print these in color because you'll need that for the topo maps.

    Take some time to visit those areas that you're acquainted with, but this time when you visit use the map constantly and acquaint yourself with where you are vs what the features on the map look like. Most important features are terrain features such as contour lines and how the contour lines represent the elevation features such as peaks, ridges, valleys, etc. Try to continually orient the map based on the land features. As often as you can, connect a new land feature with the map. Keep in mind that a map is a 2 dimensional representation of 3 dimensional space, so the function of the contour lines is to represent that third dimension that is either coming out at you or sinking away from you when you look directly at the map. Don't worry about compass, scale, dead reckoning, any of that stuff at first, just get used to what terrain and space look like when looking at a topographic map. I would do this for at least a few weeks before moving forward.

    After you become familiar with that, then you can focus on scale and other features of the map.

    When starting off with the compass, these are the drills that I do when shaking off the cobwebs (only the compass, no map involved):

    Take a bearing-aka shooting an azimuth (which way am I facing now/which direction is that target?)
    Follow a bearing (my target is 20 degrees N of W, how do I get there?)
    Pick a target for following a bearing
    Take a back bearing from that target

    After doing that for a while, you can move on to the map and compass together.

    When starting off with the map and compass together, the first thing I do to review is practice orienting the map using the compass. It's such a simple thing but it's kept me from spending more than one unintended night outside. Then take your time to work up to plotting bearings, factoring in declination when going from map to compass or compass to map, etc.

    I think that once you get to the point where you easily connect the map visually to land features and you get used to the basic compass work, then moving on to plotting map bearings and triangulating becomes easier.

    Good luck with it! This thread has inspired me to get out and do some practicing as well!
     
  30. MommaJ

    MommaJ Supporter Supporter Bushclass I

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    Great advice I was just challenged to work with a map and take an imaginary walk using just the map then take a real walk using said map and see where i am compared to my notes from my imaginary map.
     
  31. Seahunter

    Seahunter Scout Bushclass I

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    This is an excellent book. It is set up like a text book with exercises you can do in your back yard or at the park to practice the skills that are in the book. It is very thorough, but starts with the basics. It does need to be read from the beginning and in order. This is because learning the use of map and compass is a little like learning math in that more advanced skills depend on a solid understanding of basic skills. I would recommended this book even if you plan on taking a class from REI. If you buy the book and it doesn't work for you it may after getting more familiar with a map and compass in the REI class.

    This is just my opinion, but I think that the clear base plate orienteering compasses are the easiest to learn how to use.
     
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  32. bosque bob

    bosque bob Scout

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    I agree with "primeval" here, for what it's worth. If you're just going around the neighborhood or to reasonably familiar places it's not likely to be a big deal. If you're looking to explore new areas, especially more remote ones, a solid grounding in both map and compass is a very good idea - and the map comes first. Proficiency in map reading is a skill well worth learning correctly and as completely as necessary for the anticipated circumstances. A good map at an appropriate scale contains a lot of very useful information IF one can access it. If books work for you fine, if you prefer a class fine, whatever gets you there safely and it seems you're heading in the right direction. Forced to a choice I'd go with a good map over a compass. My opinion only, of course, but based on lots of real world experience.
     
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  33. TRYKER

    TRYKER Guide

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    you could join your local SAR TEAM they train you in the use of maps and compass besides gps.
     
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  34. Primeval

    Primeval Supporter Supporter

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    I put this together using screen shots of google map and stock photos. This is a quick tutorial on different types of maps and adjusting your compass to true north. Hypothetically speaking lets say you're at Yosemite Valley, Ca. and the top center of the maps are true north.

    [​IMG]
    The first screenshot is a road map of Yosemite Valley.

    [​IMG]
    The second screenshot is a satellite view of Yosemite Valley.

    [​IMG]
    The third picture is a topographic map of Yosemite Valley.

    All three maps are are an overview of the same location. Nothing has changed except each successive picture is giving you more detail to navigate with. A topographic map is a 2 dimensional representation of 3 dimensional features.

    The lines you see (minus the grid squares, roads and streams) on the topo map are elevation contours (height) as the valley wall rises.

    Here are examples of how to read topo map features:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Again, you're at Yosemite Valley. You want to set your compass from magnetic north to true north so you can orient yourself on your map to navigate. This is called the declination which varies depending on your geographic location.

    [​IMG]
    Here's an example of a compass showing magnetic north vs true north.

    [​IMG]
    This is a picture of a declination map for the U.S. showing the offset in degrees you take into account for true north.

    [​IMG]
    Using the above declination map you see that at Yosemite you need to adjust the bezel ring on your compass by 15 degrees to the left offsetting the magnetic north pull on your compass needle to the right.

    Your compass is now set at true north.

    I hope this post helps folks with land navigation using a topo map and compass. :dblthumb:
     
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2018
  35. MommaJ

    MommaJ Supporter Supporter Bushclass I

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    Lol the way I have been falling apart lately( getting old stinks) they might need to extract me instead of letting me join. But good thinking
     
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  36. MommaJ

    MommaJ Supporter Supporter Bushclass I

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    Thank you. This actually makes sense like that.
     
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  37. Luzster

    Luzster Of course your opinion matters, just not to me... Supporter

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    IF you're doing kayaking then you really need to get a good grip on terrain association. IF you have any prior service Army or Marines in your family take advantage of them. Both branches are really good at teaching map reading, land navigation, etc. In a boat/yak, you don't have to worry so much about pace count and such, but you HAVE to have a good grasp on terrain association.
     
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  38. MommaJ

    MommaJ Supporter Supporter Bushclass I

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    Not the military guys in my family for many different reasons but I would not trust them to teach me .

    Most definitely agree with needing to get a good gripe on terrain and general map skills especially with kayaking. Hence coming upon the realization that this year I was to go further and to new place that are not just 1 path and knowing that my map and compass skills are no where near where they need to be
     
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  39. Primeval

    Primeval Supporter Supporter

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    You're very welcome. Another way of looking at land navigation is like this. When you're in the city you navigate with streets and street signs. In the wilderness you navigate with the physical terrain. Those terrain features are your street signs. Once you become familiar with how to identify those features visually as you see them and how they are depicted on a topo map you'll find out how easy it is and have a lot of fun exploring. :dblthumb:
     
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  40. MommaJ

    MommaJ Supporter Supporter Bushclass I

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    Going off what @Primeval posted earlier plus pending challenge work. I stared at maps today and tonight
    1 location many maps
    1. Google
    20180116_211658.jpg

    2. Google satellite
    20180116_211709.jpg

    3. Park map
    20180116_204205.jpg

    4. Online topo map
    20180116_204201.jpg

    5. same map as 4 just printed out and since nothing was visible I tried to replicate the lines
    20180116_204155.jpg

    A few observations on the orange trail around Brisbane lake.

    Looking at the Google map I can see that Brisbane lake turns into Mill run. Switching and looking at the online version of the topo map i can see that the area is swampy there and a low area compared to the surrounding area but I couldn't really tell that it was a stream/ river.

    None except the park map shows the restricted area(if you were driving down Atlantic road you would see chain link fence with barb write) The online too map shows that area as an open field with some light brown spots)
     
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  41. gila_dog

    gila_dog Supporter Supporter

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    Looks like you're mastering the computer skills that are available. But are you mainly interested in learning to use a map and compass to navigate on land in unknown country? That is just you and your map and compass, and no computer or phone. There is a sport called "orienteering" in which people compete to see who can find different points on a map most quickly. There are probably a lot of people doing that in NJ and you could learn a lot from them.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orienteering

    A friend of mine played a version of this game in which they were trying to find one or more hidden radio transmitters that were scattered around a large area. It required a radio receiver and a directional antenna, plus your map and compass. The best players he ever saw at this game were a group of Russian army guys. That was their job as soldiers, and they were really good at it. It helped that they were in really good physical shape because the country they were playing in was rough and steep and, to win, you had to be hauling xxx up and down the hills full speed.
     
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  42. MommaJ

    MommaJ Supporter Supporter Bushclass I

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    Tonight I was just comparing different maps I have access too. I picked up a map at the park earlier today and noticed it was very weak with information. I already had printed off their version of a topo map but could not read it hence pulling up the larger version that is online. Going back and forth between all the different maps plus 1st had knowledge of the area I started to be able to "see" what the topo was talking about.

    I have never really spent time exploring all the different map options available for an area

    I have thought about joining a local orienteering group but decided against it for various reasons.
     
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  43. Wyanokie

    Wyanokie Tracker

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    Hey MommaJ, when you start off with learning topographic maps, I'd go North of the Pine Barrens. The barrens are so flat, that contour line reading and terrain navigation are a real challenge. It's all upland pine forest with occasional cedar swamps thrown in here and there. I'd at least get out into Hunterdon County or above into places with peaks, ridges, valleys, waterfalls, spring-fed areas, etc. Not knocking the barrens because I love it there, but I learned a lot more about terrain reading when going north.
     
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  44. morganbw

    morganbw Scout

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    Lady just take a map of an area that you know and a place that you know you are at.
    Look around and find things this map shows. You are in a known location, no worries, you are not lost, just enjoy the info of the area around you. It will allow you to see beyond your location and if you desire info to step beyond your present location.
    There is no magic. There is something to learn about where a compass actually points.
     
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  45. MommaJ

    MommaJ Supporter Supporter Bushclass I

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    Right now heading to a park near me is a huge comfort plus I am already aware of the area just looking at it with new eyes so to speak. As I grow more comfortable I will definitely add some trails in from Hunterdon county.

    Thats the joy of the challenge I was given to learn the skills in a comfortable area. And its a way to learn the basics before taking a class.
     
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  46. MommaJ

    MommaJ Supporter Supporter Bushclass I

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  47. Dillon Finan

    Dillon Finan Tracker

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    The first adage of orienteering is you need to know where you are and where you are going. A compass can not tell you where you are on a map - you need to figure that out. If you do not know where you are do not worry (too much). Find a prominent feature in the landscape that is identified on the map and head there. Once you know where you are figure out where you want to go on the map. Use the edge of the orienteering compass (Fred) to make a line from where you are to where you want to go. Turn the dial on the orienteering compass (while keeping the base in place) so the red arrow (shed) on the compass is aligned with north on the map. Now the compass is on the map with the base pointing from where you are to where you want to go, and the red arrow on the dial is oriented with north on the map. Now turn your body so the red portion of the magnetic needle (red) falls in the red arrow (shed) on the dial while holding the compass in place. You are now facing the direction you need to walk. The saying is "put red in the shed and follow Fred".

    This is the simple part the further you need to walk the more likely you are going to get off your track. Rule of thumb is you find a prominent object on your track and walk to it, once there reorient on another prominent object, and keep that pattern to ensure you are walking in a fairly straight line.
    Walking in a straight line is the hardest part . . . Anyway I'll leave it there - hope I made sense :33:.
     
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2018
  48. mtnoutdoors

    mtnoutdoors Prov 27:17 Supporter

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    I understand I also have a hard time grasping using a compass and Land Navigation. I may ask a good friend if they can teach me how to do use a compass and land navigation.
    Prov 27 : 17
     
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  49. NevadaBlue

    NevadaBlue Graybeard Supporter Bushcraft Friend Bushclass I

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    Suggestion.

    If there is a park available near you, use it. If there is a map of it, great, if not, no biggie.

    Go to the park with a compass and know your stride length. Set a course in some direction, something that will take you a few hundred steps if possible. Follow that course for say a couple of hundred steps. At that point, turn 90 degrees to the right, take a compass reading to find that, and spot a landmark (tree, rock, building) and use that to maintain course. Go the two hundred steps. Repeat this 2 more times. You should be standing where you started or fairly close.

    Let me see if I can find the Boy Scout merit badge book.

    I couldn't find what I wanted. But, start simple, and do the simple things, just like we do with the bushclass. The training you are looking at will be good, and I bet you will be surprised when you make the breakthrough. Maps are wonderful things, IF you can read them.

    The reason I suggested a park is that typically they are big open spaces. When I bought a beautiful brass transit years ago, I used a local park to brush up on surveying principles. Handy for lots of things.
     
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2018
  50. MommaJ

    MommaJ Supporter Supporter Bushclass I

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    Have already started with the basics thanks to a challege given to me. I am right now learning to read a map and the various items that a topo map says and then go out and hike that trail looking for the things I noted on the map. Its been a huge confidence booster. I am already planning my next topo map verse real trail hike. The next step would be directionals and taking a class to get some bushwacking in, in a safe environment.
     
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