Navigation With Map and Compass


General Map and Compass | How To Use A Compass | Reading Topographic Maps | Adjust For Magnetic Declination | Measuring Distance With Paces | Navigation Without A Compass | Navigating Switchbacks | Orienteering | Navigate Softly & Leave No Trace | Map & Compass Extras

Just as important as knowing how to navigate with a map and compass is knowing how to protect the outdoors while we navigate. Anyone who goes outdoors should be familiar with and practice Leave No Trace methods, so before you pick up your map and compass hike on over to Leave No Trace skills and learn how to navigate without leaving a big impact on the outdoors.

General Navigation With Map and Compass Pages

navigation with map & compass To avoid getting lost when day hiking or backpacking you will find yourself needing to use Backcountry Navigation which involves Finding Your Way with a Map and Compass.

A good overview can be found at the Map and Compass Fundamentals page, which is a long but thorough document that details compass and map topics as well as navigating around obstacles and dead reckoning. There is also the OA Guide to Map & Compass which uses info from the Backpacker's Field Manual.

Once the basics of using a map with a compass are understood you can test your mapping and compass handling skills with a Land Navigation with Map and Compass Lesson Plan.


How To Use A Compass

how To use a compassIt is essential for hikers to learn how to Use a Compass.The more you know about Using a Compass With A Map the more confident you will be navigating and the more inclined you will be to trust your compass. There are Exercises To help you Practice Using Your Compass which will increase your skill level.


Reading Topographic Maps

topo map

Understanding Contour Lines is a major part of Reading Topographic Maps but just as important is recognizing the various other Topographic Map Symbols. When you have learned about the parts of maps then Using Topographical Maps will be easier.


Adjusting a Compass For Magnetic Declination

declination When navigating in different geographical areas you will find yourself Adjusting your Compass for Magnetic Declination. Luckily there are Riddles And Rhymes To Help You Remember Declination such as "east is least" or "west is best". It would also be handy to learn about the Factors that Influence Magnetic Declination.


Measuring Distance With Paces

Before going on a hiking or backpacking trip familiarize yourself with Pacing Distances and Determining your Pace because there may be a time when you want to Measure Distances With your Compass.


Navigation Without A Compass

navigation without compass
There may be a time in the backcountry that you need help Finding Directions Without Using A Compass and have to use some Improvised Navigation skills to find your way.


Navigating Switchbacks

hiking switchbacks
You should learn about Navigating Switchbacks if you go backpacking on terrain that has elevation changes.



Orienteering is a sport where a map and a compass is used to find specific places in the landscape. Orienteering is a competitive sport that can also be enjoyed as a leisurely hike. Knowing how to Follow a Bearing is a must in orienteering.


How To Walk Softly and Leave No Trace While Navigating

leave no trace methods Leave No Trace Hiking Methods

Leave No Trace Principles

The Art of Hiking on Muddy Trails Tips on navigating thru muddy trails.

Low Impact Color Choices for Gear


Xtras Unrelated to Map & Compass

fireworks cause pollutionNot really directly related to navigation or maps or compasses, but outdoor navigators following their moral compass may be concerned enough about the outdoors to learn more about pollution caused by fireworks.