Anyone who is exploring the great outdoors is going to want to have the ability to navigate their surroundings easily and safely. Unfortunately, not everyone has the navigational skills they need before they head out into the wilderness. In order to correct this problem, we’ve decided to write this guide—a guide that will give our readers some of the information they need to develop their wilderness navigational skills.
Never Leave Home Without Your Supplies
Before we embark on our journey, we’d like to remind everyone heading out into the wilderness that they should take some supplies with them. This should include an EDC Backpack or a similar pack that’s contained with some of the essentials you’re going to need. Essentials such as a compass, fire starter, and other supplies that you may need while out in the woods. Your kit should also include a sewing kit with a needle as well for reasons we’ll explain later in this guide.
Use A GPS Or Compass
Of course, the preferred method of navigating is using a compass or a GPS to find your way around the area. Thanks to the two dozen navigational satellites that circle the globe, GPS systems are an extremely accurate way of navigating. Unfortunately, the problem with these devices is that eventually, their batteries will fail, leaving the user without a reliable way of navigating.
A compass is a little more reliable when it comes to navigating the wilderness and it allows the user to easily find their way around. That’s why outdoor enthusiasts should have at least one compass on them. However, if the traveler ends up losing the compass or it gets broken, then they will have to find other ways to navigate their environment.
Make Your Own Compass
If you lose your compass or lost it somewhere in the woods, you can fashion one that’s suitable for basic navigation. All you need is a needle, a magnet, something buoyant such as a leaf, and either a container of water or a body of water.
The magnet is rubbed on the needle approximately 25 times and thereby magnetizing it, and then the needle is placed in the middle of the leaf and the leaf is set in water. The magnetized needle will align itself to the planet’s magnetic poles, pointing horizontally from north to south.
If a magnet isn’t available to magnetize the needle, then it can be rubbed on animal fur, your hair, or on silk. Sure, you’ll have to rub the eye of the needle approximately 75 to 100 times to get it to magnetize, but it does work.
Navigating By The North Star
One of the most common methods of navigating by night is to use the north star. All the traveler has to do point one of the arms towards the north star, all while stretching the other arm horizontally. They can then estimate the angle to measure the approximate latitude. Anyone who is having problems finding the north star can instead look for the Big Dipper Constellation and follow the line created by the front of the ladle to the north star.
Navigate By The Moon’s Horns
Another trick for navigating at night when there’s a crescent moon is to use the moon’s horns to figure out the direction. All you have to do is look at the crescent moon and use a stick to make a line that starts with the top horn and extends through the bottom horn. If that line is followed to the horizon, then that’s an approximation of South. However, that’s true only in the Northern Hemisphere. If the trick is performed south of the equator, then the imaginary line cutting from one horn to the next will be an approximation of North.
Navigating Using Natural Signs
As useful as it is to know how to navigate by the north star, most people are probably going to be traveling during the daylight hours. In those cases, they are going to have to use nature to navigate their surroundings. Let’s take a quick look at some of the ways nature tells us where we’re going.
The sun’s journey across the sky is probably one of the biggest telltale signs of direction. Its path across the sky is reliable and predictable. To use the sun to navigate, push a straight stick into the ground, and mark the tip of the shadow to mark west. Wait approximately 20-30 minutes and then mark the tip of the shadow again. Connect these two points to represent the eastern and western points. If you stand with your first mark to your left and you are second to your right, then you are facing north.
Geese can also be used to navigate, too. During the winter months, geese will fly south and during the spring/summer months they will fly north. Some spider species also build their webs according to their position in a particular direction. However, that’s beyond the scope of this article, and we suggest our readers do a little more research on the subject themselves.
The one thing that travelers can’t use to reliable navigate with is the position of moss. This is a myth that is pretty persistent but some people still claim its true. Depending on the location, moss will grow just about on any side of a tree, so it shouldn’t be used for navigational purposes.
The last tip we have for navigating the environment in a survival situation is to plan. Most survival situations happen in areas where the traveler voluntarily decided to go, so that gives the most opportunity to learn about their environment beforehand. Before heading out on your next camping trip, hunting trip or hike, learn the landmarks of the area and take a map with you. You should also know where bodies of water are and where highways might skirt the areas of the forest. If you do that, then you’ll never be able to get lost in the first place because you’ll always have an idea of your surroundings.