Site icon Avoiding Chores

Map & Compass – Navigation Tutorials

Map & Compass is a skill that needs practice to maintain our proficiency. The main reason for this is simple; GPS devices will fail us at some point. You might run out of power, lose it or break it. When this happens, we want to have a backup to continue to navigate out of the wilderness or to maintain our wits (because we’re not lost yet).

So we’ll focus on the basics you need to know in order to use your map & compass.


  1. How to Navigate a Route Using Your Compass Over Flat Terrain
  2. How to Navigate a Route Using Your Compass In The Woods
  3. What is a Safety Bearing?
  4. Use Pacing to Determine Distance Travelled
  5. Stay On Bearing With A Partner
  6. Stay On Bearing When Solo

How to Navigate a Route Using Your Compass Over Flat Terrain

Content coming soon.

How to Navigate a Route Using Your Compass In The Woods

Content coming soon.

What is a Safety Bearing?


A safety bearing is a direction of travel that will lead you to a road, railway which can lead you to safety when lost in the woods or when your GPS fails.

Before leaving for a hike, look at a map of the area and figure out what is the nearest road and determine the bearing.

If anything happens while on the trail, you can opt to use the safety bearing and bushwhack to safety.

Use Pacing to Determine Distance Travelled

This was something I learned when volunteering at the halifax search & rescue as part of the woodslore training that volunteers had to do.

The concept is rather easy; when you are navigating with a map & compass and a topo map, you will need to estimate your position or distance traveled on the map without the assistance of a GPS.

First you need to measure out a set distance, like 100 m on a flat surface. Like a certified running track.

Then walk normal and count the number of strides you will need to cover 100m. After a few lap, average out that number.

Then measure out the same distance over different terrain, like a trail or even in the woods bushwacking. Do the same averaging.

The goal here is to find out over different terrains, your average pace for 100m. So that when you are navigating you will have a better idea how far 300m just by counting your strides.

Stay On Bearing With A Partner

This is used when you have a partner navigating in a wooded area where it can be easy to get off course as you go around tress or other obstacles.

the concept is fairly easy.

1. take a bearing
2. have your partner walk ahead of you, direct your partner left, right or on bearing.
3. once your partner is 50-75 feet ahead, tell him / her to stop, adjust if necessary.
4. walk up to and leapfrog past your partner
5. your partner now directs you

this method will allow you to stay on course and increase your accuracy when traveling with your map & compass

Stay On Bearing When Solo

I mentioned in a previous video to include flagging tape or trail tape to your pack. The reason is to be use as a navigation tool to help you stay on course.

I had previously shown you how two people could navigate using the leap frog technique to stay on course, but if you are alone, you will flagging tape to help you mark your path along the way and help you to stay on bearing.

Once you get a lock on your bearing to travel, you usually fix your gaze to an object to help guide you like a tree. Once you cross a tree that is in your path, we can use that as a candidate to mark with our tape.

We want to use LOTS of tape. The reason is because we want this tape to be visible from a great distance. Very useful when navigating around a water obstacle.

Once you tag a tree with the tape, take your bearing again and continue on your path. Tag another tree that is along your course.

Now once you have more than two trees tagged, all we need to do is to line up the taps so that it is in a straight line. That way you can stay in course.

Made a mistake? just go back to your last tree and take your bearing again.

Exit mobile version