Finding Your Way

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Re: Finding Your Way

Post by ThreeperMan on Wed 15 Jul 2009, 15:38

Navigation without a GPS or without a map and compass will never be an exact science, but if you have an understanding of nature with regard to the ways in which it can help you with direction, it can mean the difference between life and death. It’s very useful to learn these skills in case you lose your belongings on route and need to rely on nature and the celestial bodies in the sky to help you find your bearings.

Finding Your Way from Point A to Point B
You may find that you have a map but you have no compass but know that you need to travel in a straight line from Point A to Point B. The best way of doing this is to break the route up into smaller manageable sections and then choose two landmarks ahead and line them up and then do the same thing looking back. You may not see any natural landmarks so you may need to get creative and invent some that you can identify.

Using the Wind
If a constant wind is blowing in one particular direction, you can also keep a straight line by making a mental note on an area of your body upon which you can feel the wind blowing most intensely. Therefore, providing the wind direction doesn’t change, you can be certain that as long as you can still feel the wind on the same part of your body, you are almost certain to be walking in a straight line. Also, if the wind feels cold, it will generally be blowing from the North and if warm, it will be blowing from the South.

Celestial Navigation
The sun, moon, stars and planets all play a role in celestial navigation and before the advent of technology; sailors learned how to navigate their ships even at night time by relying on this method. Although it can’t be 100% accurate, it can give you a good indication of the general direction in which you’re heading.

Remember that the sun always rises in the east and sets in the west. When it reaches its highest point at noon, its direction will be true south in the northern hemisphere. The North Star determines a northerly direction in the northern hemisphere and although it’s not the brightest star, it’s important because unlike the rest of the stars in the night sky, its position remains fixed so if you follow it, you know that you are heading north.

By being able to locate much more recognisable constellations on a clear night such as the Big Dipper (shaped like a one handled wheelbarrow) and Cassiopeia (shaped like the letter ‘W’), you’ll find it much easier to locate the North Star and it’s useful to do some research on maps of the night sky to aid you with navigation by the stars. Because the moon simply reflects the sun’s light and produces no light of its own and because of what we know about the sun’s daily pattern, we can also use the moon for direction at certain phases of its monthly progress. If it’s in a crescent phase, simply draw an imaginary line between both tips of the crescent and on downwards until you reach the horizon. The point where it touches the horizon is approximately South in the northern hemisphere. And, if the moon rises before the sun sets, the illuminated side will be west but if it rises after dark, the illuminated side will be east.

Using Plants and Trees
If it’s cloudy or overcast, however, you’re going to need more than celestial bodies in the sky to help you find direction and you can get some assistance from things that grow on the ground. For example, in the northern hemisphere, flowers and plants will tend to grow facing either south or east. And, if you know something about the prevailing winds in the area in which you’re situated and can see a general trend in the pattern of how the trees are leaning, that will have been due to the wind so if you know the direction of the prevailing winds, you’ll be able to establish your direction.

There are other ways of navigating without relying on a GPS or map and compass. Building a sun dial, designing a shadow stick or using a simple pocket watch are just some other ways which can help you find direction although, in a survival situation, you’re most likely to only want the quickest methods of gauging direction and in most cases anyway, you’re likely to only want to stay put until help arrives.

Thanks to

Your Bic lighter, and your pocket knife...
Don't leave home without 'em!!!

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Finding Your Way

Post by wannabemountainman on Sun 12 Jul 2009, 16:55

Navigation Tips - Finding direction etc., without a compass
by George Spearing
Hiking, and in particular hiking in remote areas, is a great experience if approached with due regard for fitness, safety and skill.
One of the major skill categories, is the ability to navigate with or without compass and map. Ideally, no one should head off the beaten track without map or compass, but what if you find yourself in that situation, or you lose or damage your compass?
Here are a few basic 'skills' that could one day be of use to you. Finding direction by using your watch...
If you have a watch that is set to local time, you can always quickly determine a good approximation of the points of the compass as long as the position of the sun is visible.
The method used varies depending upon which hemisphere (northern or southern) that you happen to be living in. The following methods are described using an analog watch, (that's a watch with an hour and a minute hand) but they can be applied just as well if you own a digital watch - just use your imagination to superimpose the 12 hourly numerals and the relevant position of the 'hour hand' on the face of your digital watch.
Northern Hemisphere
Holding your watch horizontally, point the 'hour hand' of your watch at the sun.
Note the direction that lies exactly midway between the 'hour hand' and the numeral twelve on your watch. This will be South.
Once you have established this, it will be easy to determine the other points of the compass.
Southern Hemisphere
Holding your watch horizontally, point the numeral twelve on your watch at the sun.
Note the direction that lies exactly midway between the twelve and the 'hour hand'.
This will be North.
These methods will give you a good approximation of compass direction and are not intended to replace the accuracy of a compass. If your watch happens to be adjusted for daylight saving at the time, then 'remove' the daylight saving for greater accuracy.
Another method of determining compass points can be used if you do not have a watch. This method takes longer and also requires enough sunlight to cast a shadow...
To find North without a watch
Before noon, on level terrain, position a stick of about 3ft upright into the ground.
Mark the tip of its shadow with a peg or stone.
Using the tip of the shadow as a radius, draw an arc around the stick. The shadow will shorten as it approaches noon, pulling back from the arc. It will then lengthen again - where the afternoon shadow once again touches the arc, place another peg or stone.
Now draw a straight line between the two pegs/stones - this will be an East/West line, with the first peg being in the westerly direction. You can now draw a North/South line at right angles to the East/West line.
The following (less accurate) method can also be used at any time of the day without drawing an arc...
Peg the tip of the first shadow, then about 20min later peg the tip of the moved shadow. Draw a straight line between the two pegs, and this will be an approximately East/West line, with the first peg again being the westerly one.
A typical error when lost, is a tendency to wander off what you may think is a straight line bearing, sometimes even slowly circling back on yourself.
To prevent this, note an object (tree, rock, terrain feature) that lies directly ahead of you in the direction you wish to travel, then aim for it. When you reach it, take another bearing on the direction you wish to head, sight another object directly ahead of you and repeat the process.
In areas of restricted distance visibility, you may have to repeat this quite often over short 'legs' to ensure that you are remaining on course.
Keeping a course by the clouds...
What if it's a cloudy day with no sun visible to get a bearing on, or the bush canopy prevents you getting a clear "shot" at the sun?
Well, if you're lucky, it may be windy with the clouds moving in a constant direction - note the directional flow of the clouds, and adjust your course relevant to their direction.
e.g., If the clouds are moving from your front from right to left over your shoulders, keep them there, at the same time, sight an object straight ahead of you and head for it.
To retrace your steps in the same general direction, just do an about turn, then keep the clouds moving from behind and now left to right over your shoulders, and repeat the process.
Being aware of your surroundings will often pay off, so try to cultivate that habit.
Telling the time without a watch...
Determine North, South, East and West using the method previously described.
Position your stick at the intersection point of your East/West, North/South lines.
The Eastern point of the arc around the stick will be 1800hrs, the Western point will be 0600hrs, whilst the Northern or Southern (depending on which hemisphere you're in) midpoint of the arc will be 1200hrs.
The approximate time of day can then be read off the arc using the moving shadow.
George Spearing is the author of "Dances With Marmots - A Pacific Crest Trail Adventure" ISBN:1411656180

Outdoor experiences include through hikes of the Pacific Crest Trail, the North Island of New Zealand, and the Great Britain.

Website: Dances With Marmots

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Join date : 2009-07-12
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