Do You Know Where You Are?

Today's blog post is written by PATHFINDER alum and founder of Fox Events, Mark Cichonski. Mark is an expert in land navigation and dropped by today with a great post on the subject.

Mark is running free Zoom land navigation classes here with Fox Events. This is the first post in a short series.

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.


So now, I know where I am, so let's get you oriented.

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.
As you get better you will start to know how long it will take to move a certain distance. Think about it.  Ever do an event and the Cadre says, "How long will it take you to get there team leader?" Do you ever make it on time. No, because you didn't consider the factors. You answered the question "How long will it take YOU to move there?" not "How long will it take you to move 30 hungry, tired people carrying lots of weight there?" Remember to consider the factors: how much weight are you carrying?, how steep is the route?, how overgrown is it?, how hot is it? And adjust accordingly.

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!

PATHFINDER Class 028 begins May 01. Get training like this and so much more! Join our ranks today for the ultimate ruck training programs.