Magazine article Geographical

Stay on Course: Understanding the Basics of Wilderness Navigation Is Relatively Straightforward and Well Worth the Effort. but Turning Those Basics into the Art Form That Is Advanced Navigation Can Take Years of Practise. Steve Watkins Orients Himself. (Geographical Crucial Kit)

Magazine article Geographical

Stay on Course: Understanding the Basics of Wilderness Navigation Is Relatively Straightforward and Well Worth the Effort. but Turning Those Basics into the Art Form That Is Advanced Navigation Can Take Years of Practise. Steve Watkins Orients Himself. (Geographical Crucial Kit)

Article excerpt

You could spend your whole lifetime honing your navigation skills and till not quite know it all, but you don't need to be an expert in order to embark upon a good trek. One thing is for sure, though -- it is extremely dangerous to wander off into the wilderness without standard navigation tools and a modest understanding of how to use them.

The most crucial item for navigating is a map. Without a map or some previous knowledge of an area, you have no chance of knowing even where you are, let alone where you are going.

Ordnance Survey maps have long been the industry standard for use outdoors. Its 1:50,000-scale Landranger series covers the whole of the UK and is likely to be the only type of map many hikers will ever need. They show footpaths, bridleways and other rights of way, and accurately map the hills with contour lines.

If you would like a little more detail and are visiting one of the more popular parts of the country, then you may find one of OS' 1:25,000 Explorer maps available for that area. These relatively new maps are scheduled to be available for the whole of the UK by 2005.

Only Harveys maps really compete with the OS maps for outdoor usage. Its 1:25,000-scale and land-usage colouring scheme prove very useful if you need to micro-navigate through tricky sections of land. Of course, a soggy map is no good to anyone so it is wise to put your map into a good map case.

Armed with a map, you can, in theory, find your way around the hills in any weather, but only if you are an ace navigator. Lesser mortals need to carry at least a compass with them too, in order to orient themselves and the map correctly, and to take bearings to follow in poor visibility.

The modern style compass was introduced by Silva in the late 1920s and it uses a magnetic needle set in a liquid-filled housing to give smooth and accurate readings. There are a host of compasses on the market today, ranging from thumb compasses and fairly standard baseplate models like the bestselling Silva Field 7, to highly specialised units like the Silva Expedition 54. This compass has a fast setting needle, a sighting system for taking accurate bearings off landmarks, extensive luminous points, map scales and magnifying panels. …

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