Tips for orienteering & navigating
If you're an outdoors junkie, knowing how to use a map and compass is perhaps the most fundamentally important skill we can learn. Not only will it allow you to explore the world with the confidence, but it will also allow you to find your way back home.
When Team Merrell took part in the GODZone adventure race earlier in March, they were lucky to have Graham Bird (of Merrell Adventure Addicts) at the helm to lead them, one of the best navigators in the adventure racing world. So before the team set off on their 529km journey through some of New Zealand's most wild country, we asked him for his top tips on now to navigate with a map and compass.
Understand your map
It may seem obvious, but you need to have the correct map for the area you're in. You should also check the age of the map and make sure it's up to date - bridges, roads, tracks and buildings can appear and disappear over the years. Most maps come as 1:25000 or 1:50000 - so check the scale works for the detail you need.
Use reference points
Reference points are crucial as they allow you to understand exactly where you are on the map. Look at the features around you (rivers, roads, streams, bridges, etc) and try to match what you're. If you have a compass, use it to orientate the map to North and then line up all the features, which you'll then use to navigate yourself from point A to point B.
It doesn't matter how fast you're going if you're going in the wrong direction. So it's vital that you keep it simple, slow down, and continuously refer to the map so that you're always area of where you are. One top tip is to place your thumb on your location and move it along as you progress.
Most importantly, make sure you enjoy yourself!