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Camping, hiking, rock climbing, mountaineering, and backpacking – if you love any of these outdoor activities (or all of them), you’re probably familiar with the wilderness. And yes, aside from the adventure, being in nature alone is refreshing. But the wilderness is also unpredictable, so you’ll never know what will happen – you might lose your phone, drop it in the water, or the area might be too remote for a signal, any mishap is possible. A true survivalist should be prepared for anything. So, consider practicing these 5 ways to navigate in the wilderness without batteries to help you get ready for your next trip into the woods.
5 Ways to Navigate in the Wilderness Without Batteries
We know you’re used to consulting Google Maps for your navigation needs. But that app will be useless once your battery runs out or you’re outside of your network provider’s coverage area. So we suggest you get a refresher on map reading, especially if you’ll be in unfamiliar territory. If this is your first time, here’s a short beginner’s guide on maps.
Choose the right type of map. If you’ll be hiking, then you need a topographic map because, aside from roads, distances, and points of interest, it also shows details of the terrain.
Speaking of details, decide how detailed you want your map. Maps come in two different scales – 1:50,000 and 1:25,000. With a 1:50,000 scale, 1 centimeter on the map is equivalent to 50,000 cm or 500 meters of actual land area. While with a 1:25,000 scale, 1 centimeter on the map is equal to 25,000 cm or 250 meters of actual land area. The 1:50,000 scale is preferred by most hikers.
The best maps are waterproof and absolutely worth it to know you can read them even if the weather turns on you!
A compass and a map always go hand-in-hand. And unlike Captain Jack Sparrow, a real-life compass doesn’t just point to the thing you want most. A compass uses degrees as its unit of measurement. The compass needle – the one that looks like the hand of a clock – swings around the compass. Its red tip always points North, and naturally, the opposite tip always points South. The four cardinal directions (North, East, South, and West) are positioned around the compass at 90-degree intervals. Here are three easy steps on how to read a compass:
- Lay the compass flat on your palm. The direction-of-travel arrow (the arrow on the compass’ baseplate) should point toward where you’re going.
- Turn the compass dial so that the orienting arrow points in the same direction as the magnetic needle’s North end.
- Using your map as a guide, walk in the direction of the arrow.
Celestial navigation is a technique that has been proven effective since the beginning of time. We’ll quickly summarize some of the techniques you can use.
Navigating with the sun’s help may seem a bit primitive, but it might be your last resort if you ever get lost in the wilderness. Here’s how:
- Look for a straight branch or stick that’s about three feet long and stick it vertically into the ground where no other plants or bushes are around so nothing obstructs the stick’s shadow.
- The stick should cast a shadow. Mark the top of the stick’s shadow on the ground. This is the West.
- After ten to fifteen minutes, find the shadow’s tip again and mark it. The second mark is the East.
- To find the North, draw a line connecting the West and the East (East-West line). Then draw a line vertically perpendicular to the East-West line, this line will point towards the North.
Moon and Stars Navigation
We all know that the moon just reflects the sun’s light, so we can also use moonlight to navigate at night, but only if it’s in its crescent phase. Here’s how:
- Connect the moon’s pointed ends.
- Extend this line downwards until it reaches the horizon. This is your approximate North.
If the moon isn’t in its crescent phase, then you can consult the stars. To know your true north, you need to find the North Star or the Polaris. Here’s how:
- Find the Little Dipper, then locate the star at the tip of this constellation’s handle, that is the North Star.
- If you can’t find the Little Dipper, you can look for the Big Dipper instead.
- Draw a line between the two frontmost stars in the Big Dipper’s body.
- With the ladle’s mouth as the starting point, extend this line until you reach the North Star.
Mark Your Tracks
If you don’t have a map or a compass and you’ve yet to master celestial navigation, don’t give up just yet, because you can still mark your tracks to find your way.
We’re not telling you to go all “Hansel and Gretel” and leave breadcrumbs as you go along, that would be a waste of food that you might need later on! You can simply use a knife (or anything sharp) to mark the trees around you. This makes it easy to determine if you’ve already been to that area.
Follow the Land
It’ll be a huge advantage if you’ve been to the area before, because you can look out for familiar spots and find your way from there.
You can also look for human tracks such as footprints or any sign of human habitation.
Keep your ears open for the sound of any nearby water source such as a river or a stream. A water source usually means there are humans in the vicinity if you follow it for long enough.
That doesn’t sound hard, does it?! Yes, technology makes everything easier, but you’ll be able to sleep well knowing you’re ready for anything!