Do you know where you are?
Knowing where you are is a critical skill for anyone, but is especially critical for military operations.
Now most people won't ever participate in military ops, but if you are one of those crazy mofos who like to do GORUCK or other military endurance events, you will need to know the basics.
First, a little about me. I am a PATHFINDER graduate many times over. I have done a GORUCK event or 50. I am an Army veteran, but what are my qualifications to tell you about Land Nav?
I have always loved navigating by map and compass, it came naturally to me. I "tested out" of every land nav event in the military, and was an Orienteering junkie when I left the military. I was fortunate to participate (and sometimes win) hundreds of orienteering events here in the US, Europe and Asia.
WHAT YOU NEED TO GET STARTED
There are lots of videos and classes out there that will go over the basics of the map and compass. You can find one here.
But in the rest of today's post let's explore some basic things that will make your life much easier.
First, the map. Depending on the event you are doing, understand the map you are being given. Is it a topographical map, i.e. does it have contour lines, or the shape of the earth on it? When it does, the critical skill is to understand the contours and relate them to the ground. If I have to move from point A to point B, will I be going up or down and for how long? If those contour lines are close together, I know it will be steep.
Next is the scale. 1 over something, like 1/50,000. That means that 1 inch on the map is 50,000 inches on the ground. The important thing about scale is that the lower the number on the bottom, the smaller area the map will cover and probably more detailed the map will be. You would prefer to navigate with a 1/24,500 map vs a 1/50,000 map. Orienteering maps are sometimes 1/5,000!
Next up is pace. Now you may call it pace count, but the important question to answer is "How long does it take me to move a set distance?" When we do our events we measure out a 100 meter course and have people walk it a few times and count the number of times one foot hits the ground. For an average height person this will be between 70-75 steps. So that means that for every 70 steps you take, you have gone 100 meters.
Next is the compass. A good one can be found here. (and it comes with a protractor!) Get yourself a good baseplate compass. No one uses a military lensatic compass, except 2nd Lieutenants... When you are buying, look for one where the needle is steady and settles quickly. If your compass has an air bubble in it, throw it away and get a new one.
Now that you have a map and compass, let's get moving.
Look for the second installment on Mark's land nav series coming soon!