Watch: Safety, Maps, and Backpacking
Kevin Felts 04.24.17
Awhile back I came across the Youtube channel of flatbrokeoutside. He has some great videos about hiking, safety, gear, just all kinds of stuff. In one video he discusses a topic that I feel is of great importance, and that is basic map and compass skills.
With a smart phone, everyone is an expert at navigation. Just pull up Google Earth and you get all the information you need. Expect for the fact that electronics fail and can run out of power.
If someone is heading into the wilderness, there is no excuse not to have a paper map and a compass. There are numerous websites where maps can be printed or bought.
Study the Map
Before heading out on a trip, take time to study the map and define a route. What obstacles are on the route, such as a marshy area, cliff, or river.
When I am hiking, I define a start point, route and the route is based on water. Where are the creeks that may have water in a certain time of the year?
Take the time to learn, practice and hone your land navigation skills. Take a class on land navigation. Get involved with a local geocaching organization.
Go to a local park that has a hiking trail and bring your topo map and compass. Use your land navigation skills to see if you can follow the hiking trail with your compass and map. The trail is just a safety feature to prevent you from getting lost.
To practice my land navigation skills, I used to walk around the neighborhood (when I lived in a city) with my GPS, compass, and topo map. I would find my location on the map, shoot an azimuth back to my house, set the compass, and ask myself, “Is the compass pointing home?”
Train and practice.
When in doubt, fall back on your training.