Timber Wolf, Lake Superior, Ontario

A lone timber wolf greets
paddlers along the north shore
of Lake Superior, Canada
(Photo by Michael Neiger)


All paths lead nowhere,
so it is important
to choose a path
that has heart.
  -- Carlos Castaneda


Improvements make
straight roads;
but the crooked roads
without improvement
are the roads of genius.
  -- William Blake


We shall not
cease from exploration
And the end
of all our exploring
Will be to arrive
where we started
And know the place
for the first time.
  --Thomas. S. Elliot
  Four Quartets:
    Little Gidding
, 1942


The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.
  --John Muir
  John of the Mountains, 1938


There is a great deal of unmapped country within us.
  --George Eliot
  Daniel Deronda


Look at this vigorous plant that lifts its head from the meadow, see how its leaves are turned to the north, as true as the magnet; this is the compass-flower, that the finger of god has planted here in the houseless wild, to direct the traveler's journey.

  --Henry W. Longfellow
  Evangeline, 1847


I shall be telling this with a sigh--somewhere ages and ages hence; two roads diverged in a wood, and I--I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.
  --Robert Frost
  The Road Not Taken,
    1916, stanza 4


I think there is a fatality in it--I seldom go to the place I set out for.
  --Laurence Sterne


As light and the day are free to all men, so nature has left all lands open to brave men.
  --Caius Tacitus
  Circa AD 55-117


Books are the compasses and telescopes and sextants and charts which other men have prepared to help us navigate the dangerous seas of human life.
  --Jesse Lee Bennett
  Books as Guides


Sails ripp'd, seams op'ning wide, and compass lost
  --William Cowper
  On Rcpt of
    My Mother's Picture


Though pleased to see the dolphins play, I mind my compass and my way.
  --Matthew Green
  The Spleen


Skill'd in the globe and sphere, he gravely stands and, with his compass, measures seas and lands.
   --John Dryden
  Sixth Satire of Juvenal


The Rucksack Masthead
By Michael A. Neiger (aka: LandNavMan), Marquette, Michigan
Wilderness tripper: backpacking, winter camping, swift-water canoeing
Web site URL: http://therucksack.tripod.com • E-mail: mneiger@hotmail.com
Contents copyright © 1984-2007 by Michael A. Neiger • All rights reserved.

Bush Skills

Last updated on September 14, 2010

I can’t rightly say
I’ve ever been lost,
but I’ve been
mighty perplexed
for two or three days runnin'

   -- Davy Crockett

Silva Ranger Compass

A tired, old
Silva Ranger compass --
a bush traveler's favorite
(Photo by Michael Neiger)

Contents of page

Land navigation team member info
   Recommended equipment
   How to waterproof & carry a map
   How to prep a map for GPS/UTM use
   How to set up a GPS unit for UTM use

Tactics & strategies in the bush
   Pace counting
   Aiming off

Geographic coordinate systems
   Latitude/longitude sytem

Land navigation resources
      Land navigation
      Land navigation
   Compass manufacturers

Map resources
   Paper map vendors
      Plat maps
   Digital map vendors
      Maps on CD
      Maps online
   Aerial/satellite images
      Online images
      Hardcopy images

GPS resources
   Backups for GPS units in the bush

   Linear equivalents
   Land survey equivalents
   Angular equivalents
   Compute sunrise/set moonrise/set


Looking for
wilderness tripping
equipment and
For 100's of sources for wilderness tripping equipment and supplies, visit the sources for gear page on this Web site.

Need help
finding a book?
Trying to buy a new or used copy of a book, but can't locate one? Want to find a library somewhere in the country that will lend you the book at no cost? Then visit the handy book finder page on this Web site.

a book, catalog,
or Web site.
If you know of a useful outdoor-related book, catalog, or Web site not listed on this Web site, e-mail the book's title, subtitle, author, publisher, date of publication, and short description; or the catalog's address and phone number; or the Web site's URL to Michael Neiger at mneiger@hotmail.com.

** Recommended


Orienteering compass with sighting mechanism

A high-quality orienteering-style compass is essential for precise triangulation, shooting long-distance field azimuths, and using as a map protractor & straight edge for calculating route azimuths and distances.

An ideal one is the Brunton Nexus 54LU Combi (also sold as the Silva 54 Combi) protractor-style compass with a unique prism optical sighting mechanism from Kooter's Geology Tools http://www.egeology.com/54lu.html (http://www.egeology.com)1-888-383-5219, $55 including shipping. (Note: This unique, precision compass is extremely hard to find, but it is worth every penny if you can get your grubby hands on one. It is much faster and easier to use than baseplate compasses with mirrors. It is functionally accurate to 0.5 degrees. If you have trouble locating it, try http://www.gps4fun.com, http://www.1sks.com, or search for it using the Froogle Google search engine at http://www.froogle.com).


Ranger pace-counting beads

These simple, abacus-like units are extremely handy for complicated, multi-leg routes that require continuous pacing or dead reckoning.

You can make your own or buy a set from Brigade Quartermasters, item no. SPC99 or RPC295 (avoid commonly available ceramic ones--they crack easily), 1-800-338-4327, http://www.actiongear.com.


Roamer UTM grid plotters

A roamer scale is essential for plotting UTM coordinates on topographic maps.

You can make your own or, if you're a regular on Sierra Club trips, request a free one from Michael Neiger. (Note: Most of the commercially-made units are too big for field use.)

For Michigan wilderness trips, you'll need roamer plotters for both 1:24000 and 1:25000 topographic maps. For Canadian wilderness trips, you'll need roamer plotters for both 1:20000 and 1:50000 topographic maps.


Pencil or pen

A 0.5mm mechanical pencil (consistent width makes it more accurate than a regular pencil) with an eraser, and wrapped with a rubber band to create friction and prevent loss, is essential for annotating maps, plotting azimuths, and recording GPS data such as plots, times, azimuths, landmarks, distances, and pacing info on notepaper.

A waterproof pen may be needed to mark on waterproofed maps. The Fisher Space Pen is a proven foul-weather writing instrument and is available from Campmor, no. 31655, 1-800-226-7667, http://www.campmor.com, or Forestry Suppliers, no. 49237, 1-800-647-5368, http://www.forestry-suppliers.com.


Waterproof notepaper

Waterproof notepaper is essential for recording GPS plot/time/azimuth/landmark/distance/pace info when cutting complicated, multi-leg routes.

You could buy a small, pocket-size, waterproof notepad from Campmor, no. 31653, 1-800-226-7667, http://www.campmor.com, or Forestry Suppliers (lots of paper choices), 1-800-647-5368, http://www.forestry-suppliers.com.

You could also make your own by simply waterproofing 3-by-5 cards or pieces of heavy-duty paper, just as you did your topo maps.


Route measuring scale

A 12-inch-long piece of white, waxy (sticky) dental floss marked at one-klick (1000 meter) intervals (per map scale) is handy for rapidly measuring irregular routes on a quad in the field.

To carry dental floss, tie it to the above pencil, wind the remainder around the pencil, and secure the loose end under the rubber band.




Maps, notepaper, and journals must be properly waterproofed and encased to withstand the abuse of a long-range wilderness trip.

Moisture will turn unwaterproofed maps and other paper products into soggy, papier-mache-like messes in short order. Likewise, maps not protected by a map case will be torn to shreds by brush, rough handling, and repeated folding.


Commercial map treatments

The best way to waterproof and reinforce topographic maps is to use a commercial map sealer such as Map Seal, Map Proof, Map Life, or Stormproof.


Map Seal

Aqua Seal
Trondak, Inc. (manufacturer)
   Map Seal is available in 4-, 8-, 16-, and 32-ounce quantities.

Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI) (vendor)

Campmor (vendor)


Map Proof

Nikwax (manufacturer)

Summit Hut (vendor)

Mountain Gear (vendor)

Altrec.com (vendor)


Map Life

Safety Central (vendor)

Liberty Mountain (vendor)



Martenson Co. (manufacturer)
   P.O. Box 261
   Williamsburg, Virginia 23185


Alternative map treatments

While acrylic products such as Minwax's "Polycrylic Protective Finish" Clear Satin and Krylon's "Crystal Clear" acrylic spray paint are effective at protecting maps from the elements, they should be avoided since they dry so hard the treated surface of the map actually cracks wherever it is folded.

Masonry and wood sealants, in particular Thompson's Water Seal, have been widely used to weatherproof maps. While admittedly not as water repellent, strong, or durable as some commercial map treatments, Thompson's Water Seal is effective on quality paper, especially when combined with a map case such as a zip-lock.

Thompson's Water Seal
   Thompson's Company (manufacturer)
   Note: using Thompson's Water Seal Clear
   Multi-Surface Waterproofer on maps
   is a nonstandard application of this product.
   Source: Thompson's Water Seal is sold by the gallon
   at hardware and building supply stores.

How to apply waterproofers

Always apply a map sealant according to the manufacture's directions. If none are provided, apply the sealer to both sides with a paintbrush, sponge, rag, or paper towel until the map is damp.

Next, wipe off any excess sealant from both sides with a paper towel to prevent the map from becoming sticky or gummy upon drying.

To dry a treated map, suspend it from a thin rope with clothespins. If necessary, apply a second coat. Always waterproof both primary and backup maps. An iron can sometimes be used to remove wrinkles.


Laminate for durability

For heavy-duty use, cover the backside of waterproofed maps with clear contact paper or transparent shelf paper as it will extend their life substantially.

However, keep the working side--the front--unlaminated so that annotations can be added and azimuths plotted. Wal-Mart and K-Mart are good sources for rolls of clear contact paper. Air bubbles trapped under contact paper can sometimes be "worked out" by burnishing or rubbing the surface.


Use a map case

In the bush, a waterproofed map should be folded in quarters and carried in one- or two-gallon-size, freezer-grade, zip-lock plastic bags. The edges of a zip-lock bag can be easily reinforced by folding wide, clear, shipping or packaging tape over each edge.

Zip-locks protect maps from wear and tear while at the same time keeping them clearly visible for in-the-field map reading. In addition, the air trapped in a zip-lock will help the map float if it ends up in a waterway.

Avoid using zip-locks with logos or write-on strips as they limit viewing of maps. Zip-locks free of imprinting allow a map to be viewed through both sides of the zip-lock.


How to carry and use a folded, zip-locked map

While under way in the bush, a waterproofed, zip-locked map should be carried in a manner so it is always oriented towards north, or the terrain at hand.

Folded in quarters, with the area of travel visible, the zip-lock can be held between the thumb and forefingers, with the thumbnail marking your current position on the map. This technique is known as "thumbing."

If both hands need to be free for climbing or another activity, simply secure the zip-lock, folded in quarters, to one of your forearms with a couple of rubber bands for quick, on-the-go use. Two, doubled-over, seven-inch-long, no. 117 size rubber bands work very well.




To accurately calculate route azimuths as well as rapidly plot GPS coordinates in the bush, it's essential that topographic maps are overlaid with the 1,000-meter Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) grid.


Make sure your maps have
1,000-meter UTM grid lines

While many maps come with the UTM grid pre-plotted, many do not. Take the time to make sure your maps have these black easting (vertical) and northing (horizontal) grid lines, both of which are spaced exactly 1,000 meters apart. Don't confuse this grid system with the red horizontal and vertical section lines, which are spaced about 1 mile apart.


Add 1,000-meter UTM grid lines if necessary

If your maps are not overlaid with the UTM grid lines, draw them on by connecting the short, light-blue tick marks along all four map margins. Do not confuse the blue UTM grid tick marks with the black 10,000-foot State Plane Coordinate (SPC) grid tick marks or the black latitude and longitude tick marks.

Your UTM grid lines must be exactly 1,000 meters apart. Double-check the accuracy and interval spacing of your hand-drawn grid lines using the map scale in map margin.

Draw each line using a .5mm mechanical pencil (reduces error created as regular pencils dull and lay down wider lines) and a straightedge, such as a new, absolutely straight (sight down it), nick-free (run your finger nail along edge) aluminum yardstick available from a building supply store.


Plot technical azimuths off UTM grid lines, not section lines

In the field, you will use the easting (vertical) UTM grid lines for calculating exact azimuths for challenging navigational situations requiring a high degree of accuracy. We will not be using the meridians of longitude or the south-to-north red section lines for calculating technical azimuths when we need dead-on accuracy.

The magnetic declination figures we use will be updated for the current year and adjusted for use with the easting (vertical) UTM grid lines, not the meridians of longitude or section lines.

While meridian of longitude lines, if pre-plotted, are fine for azimuth calculating, they do not lend themselves to rapid, on-the-go plotting in the bush. The red, south-to-north section lines are not suitable for technical azimuth plotting since they are neither consistently straight nor predictable in orientation, even on the same quad.





Always make sure your GPS unit is properly configured for the type of navigating you will be doing or it will spit out inaccurate positional fixes.


Coordinate grid system

Select the 1000-meter Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) grid coordinate system as it is much easier to use for quick, on-the-go land navigation that involves integrating traditional route-finding tools such as topographic maps, compasses, and ranger pacing beads. Do not select latitude-longitude, MGRS, etc.


Map datum (horizontal)

Check the margin of your map for the appropriate horizontal datum (do not use the vertical datum).

Currently, most Michigan topographic maps use the 1927 North American Datum (NAD 27). Some GPS units may break the North American Datum down further with CONUS (CONtinetal US), Canada, etc. Future topographic maps may well use the NAD-83 or WGS-84 datums, which are identical to each other for our purposes.

Canadian topographical maps for Ontario generally use either NAD 27 (Canada) or NAD 83. Newer maps may appear with the WGS-84 datum.

There are over a hundred (100) map datums, so get it right. If you select the wrong one, your GPS unit will be outputting incorrect coordinates. Do not select WGS 84 (usually the default setting), Mexico, Timbuktu, etc., as these will result in incorrect readings. For example, the difference between the WGS-84 and NAD-27 datums is about 300 meters.


UTM grid zone

The UTM grid system splits the world up into 60, longitudinally-arranged zones. Each zone is six (6) degrees of longitude in width, from east to west. Check the margin of your map for the correct UTM zone number.

Michigan is covered by two zones: 16 and 17. The 84 degrees west meridian of longitude represents the dividing line between zone 16 and zone 17. This meridian of longitude lies along an imaginary, north-to-south line running through Michigan communities such as Adrian, Saginaw, Standish, Atlanta, and De Tour Village, near Drummond Island. UTM zones in Michigan


The meridian
of longitude
at 84 degrees
west represents
the edge of
UTM zone 16
and zone 17,
both of which
cover the state
of Michigan.
(Drawing by
Michael A. Neiger)



Zone 16 lies west of this meridian of longitude. Zone 17 lies to the east of this meridian of longitude. In other words, zone 16 covers the western three-quarters of the Upper Peninsula as well as the western two-thirds of the Lower Peninsula. Correspondingly, zone 17 covers the extreme eastern end of the Upper Peninsula as well as the eastern third of the Lower Peninsula.


Unit of measure

Most GPS units have three units of measure: statute (tradition English mile measure; usually the default), nautical (the nautical mile is slightly longer than the statute mile), and metric (meters). Select the metric setting for the UTM coordinate system. The statute and nautical units of measure will both produce inaccurate readings when used with the UTM grid coordinate system.


UTM grid hemisphere

If your unit requires it, select the appropriate hemisphere, which for Michigan and Canada will be the northern hemisphere. You may not have to specify this.


Field-check unit for proper setup

Once you arrive at the starting point for your wilderness trip, always proof-check your GPS unit at a known location on the ground (e.g.: bridge, intersection, confluence of two rivers, lake) and compare this positional reading with the same known location on the topographic map. If you get in the habit of always doing this, you will be able to catch any erroneous configuration before it is too late, deep in the bush.





Pace counting, or tally stepping as it is sometimes called, is an ancient technique. Legionnaires in the Roman Army used it on the battlefield just as today's elite warriors do. Ranger pacing beads were widely used in Vietnam7 sets of pacing beads and continue to be popular with Army Rangers, Army Special Forces units such as the Green Berets and Delta Force, Navy Seals, and the British Army's SAS (Special Air Service).

The photograph on the right depicts several different types of commercial and handmade pace counting beads.

  1. Homemade beads made from leather disks, similar to hard, rubber disks used by Canadian forces, sold by Canadian Peacekeeper. Note: Disk-type pace counting beads are difficult to use in the dark or with gloves since you can't easily differentiate between them by feel.
  2. Beads made from indestructible rubber-like cups, used by Army Rangers, sold by Brigade Quartermasters. Very popular.
  3. Homemade beads made from short sections of rubber tubing.
  4. Unique beads made from miniature skulls, used by Airborne Infantry, sold by U.S. Cavalry and Brigade Quartermasters. Very popular.
  5. Homemade beads made from drilled-out, wooden, craft-shop beads.
  6. Hard, ceramic beads, which crack much too easily, widely available at military supply outlets.
  7. Homemade beads made from craft-shop beads, which crack much too easily.

Our English statute mile is based on the Roman soldier's mile. The Latin phrases "mille passus," or "milia passuum," which meant a "thousand paces," were eventually shortened to a "mile" in English. The average soldier laid down 5,000 "foot-lengths" or "feet" in a mile. Much like the pace we use today, a Roman pace consisted of two steps equalling about 5 "foot-lengths."


Why count paces?

While pace counting is admittedly an arcane distance determination technique that is seldom used by trail-bound hikers, it is an essential technique used by advanced-level land navigators who travel cross-country through challenging wilderness. In certain situations, a map and compass alone just aren't enough.

In his book, entitled "Orienteering," John Disley aptly writes that "more mistakes are made in orienteering by wrongly estimating distance than from any other reason." While most of us can quickly learn to travel in the right direction, few of us have any idea of how far we have traveled.

Think about Disley's observation for a moment. Have you ever cut an azimuth through the bush and wondered if you had missed your target, or perhaps not gone far enough, when it did not materialize? Did you continue on another 10 minutes, then 20 minutes, hoping it would appear? Or did you backtrack? You could have eliminated much of the guesswork in this situation by using a technique known as "step-counting."

Pace counting with Ranger pacing beads is well suited for the complicated navigational challenges faced by today's wilderness navigator. For example, pace counting is essential for dead reckoning, where azimuth (or direction of travel) data is combined with pacing (or distance traveled) data. With this technique, one can establish his or her position in nondescript terrain, foul weather, or even in complete darkness. The "dead" in dead reckoning is derived from "ded.," an abbreviation of "deduced." It's navigation by logical deduction. It does not necessarily mean it's a deadly form of navigation.


Purchasing pacing beads

Commercially manufactured pace counting beads are hard to find. However, several military supply outlets currently sell pacing beads configured for the metric measurement system, which dovetails nicely with 1000-meter UTM grid system used on CUPG wilderness trips lead by Michael Neiger.

Brigade Quartermasters
   Search "Ranger beads." Item no. RPC295: very tough, nearly indestructible rubber beads that work well with gloves in cold weather. Item no. SPC9903: SPC9911, or SPC9995; unique skull-type beads.

Canadian Peacekeeper
   Item no. 1020, uses unbreakable rubber disks, which may be difficult to use at night or while wearing gloves.

   Item no. 4594. fragile ceramic-type beads.

   Fragile ceramic beads.

Major Surplus and Survival
   Select "other miscellaneous." Fragile ceramic beads.

Omaha's Original G.I. Surplus
   Select "belts." Fragile ceramic beads.

Paracordist's Custom 550 Creations
   These high-quality, unbreakable Ranger pacing beads
   are handmade by Kevin Gagne from
   mil-spec 550 parachute cord.
   09-14-10: They're the best I've used in the bush to date.
   Check these out before you purchase another brand!

PPCLI Regimental Kitshop
   Item no. 4569.

Ranger Joe's
   Item no. 0122, Fragile ceramic beads.

   Select "gear" and "survival gear." Fragile ceramic beads.

U.S. Cavalry
   Item no. 18802, unique skull-type beads.


Homemade metric-based pacing beads

To construct your own metric-measurement-based pacing beads, you'll need 13 3/8-inch-diameter wooden beads, which you can buy at a craft shop, and a 33-inch-long black nylon bootlace from K-Mart or Wal-Mart. Avoid using brittle plastic or ceramic beads as they will shatter when they bang up against a rock.

Drill a hole, most likely about 3/16-of-an-inch in diameter, through each bead. The hole should be sized so the bead fits snugly on a doubled-over section of the bootlace. It's important that the bead not slide by itself on the bootlace; you should have to pull it along with your fingers.

After folding the lace in half, thread on the beads, four in the top 1000-meter-klick group (nearest the closed end of the bootlace) and nine in the bottom 100-meter-march group. Use an overhand knot at each end to prevent the beads from coming off.

Tie another overhand note in between the two groups of beads to keep them separated. If you leave a large loop at the looped end, above the overhand knot located over the four klick beads, you'll be able to use it for attaching the pacing unit to your pack strap or a D-ring.

Configured for the metric measurement system, which is how it should be for a CUPG wilderness trip lead by Michael Neiger, you'll be able to keep track of up to five klicks of travel. Metric-based pacing beads are ideally suited for use with the UTM grid system and a GPS unit similarly configured. Your finished pacing bead apparatus should be arranged as follows:

  • Upper klick (kilometer) counter: four 1000-meter (one klick or kilometer) beads
  • Lower march counter: nine 100-meter (1/10 kilometer) march beads


English-based pacing bead setup

To reconfigure a set of metric pacing beads for use with the English measurement system, or the statute mile, simply move two of what were the lower 100-meter march beads to the upper group of what were the one-klick or 1000-meter beads. The seven lower beads become 110-yard or 1/16-mile march beads and the six upper beads become 880-yard or half-mile beads.

Configured for the English measurement system, which is not used on CUPG wilderness trips lead by Michael Neiger, your finished pacing bead apparatus should be arranged as follows:

  • Upper half-mile counter: six 880-yard (or 1/2 mile) beads
  • Lower march counter: seven 110-yard (or 1/16 mile) beads


Field-expedient counting system

A field-expedient pace counting system can be improvised by simply gathering up several small pebbles or acorns and then moving them from one pocket to another every 100 meters. Pebbles have long been used for reckoning. The English term "calculate" is derived from the Latin word "calculus," a term that refers to a small stone or pebble used for doing arithmetic or reckoning.

Another way of keeping track of your pacing is to make a small slash mark on a piece of paper as you complete each 100-meter march. Or, you could tie a knot in a spare bootlace or short piece of cordage.


Using ranger pacing beads

For the purposes of pace counting, a pace is defined the distance between two foot-strikes of the right foot. In other words, a pace is counted each time the right foot strikes the ground, not each time the right and the left foot strikes the ground.

To use pacing beads configured for the metric measurement system, the average adult male traveling on a flat, open trail can simply count the number of times his right foot hits the ground and pull a lower 100-meter march bead every 66 paces, which should equal 100 meters, assuming his pace is about 1.5 meters long. The number of paces necessary to cover 100 meters for other pace lengths can be determined by referring to the chart below.

When no lower 100-meter march beads remain to be pulled, simply pull down an upper klick bead, which represents 1000 meters of travel, and then reset the 100-meter march beads by sliding all 9 back up.

Using pacing beads configured for the English measurement system is equally simple. The only difference is that when you reach to pull down the eighth march bead, which does not exist, simply pull an upper half-mile bead, resetting the lower march beads to begin counting into the next half-mile segment. This setup will allow you to keep track of up to 3.5 miles worth of pacing.

If you find you must make a lateral move to avoid an natural barrier or obstruction--be it a swamp, cliff, or Maneuver around an obstruction at right angleslake--always stop your forward pace counting and side step to one side at a right angle to your original azimuth. When you've laterally cleared the obstacle, continue counting paces as you walk parallel to your original azimuth route. Once you're beyond the obstacle, remember to stop counting paces and side step, at a right angle, an equal number of paces back to your original line of travel. Begin counting paces again when you resume travel on your original azimuth.

If a geographical barrier or obstruction
blocks your route, simply move at
right angles to your original azimuth.
(Drawing by Michael Neiger)

Avoid walking directly behind or abreast of another hiker as their pace may influence your rhythm and throw off the accuracy of your pacing. Each time you come upon a known landmark, which you can confirm on your map, re-start your pacing counting to ensure maximum accuracy. When traversing known distances, take advantage of the opportunity to check the accuracy of your pace counting as well as your rate of travel (minutes per klick).

With practice, pace counting will become nothing more than a subconscious, background activity that will greatly increase your land navigation abilities.


Figuring your pace

One of the easiest ways to calculate your pace in the field is to simply mark the location where your right toe (or heel) strikes the ground several times in a row and then measure the distance between the strike marks to come up with a good average. If you've measured your boot length prior to the trip, you can use your boot in a heel-to-toe fashion to determine your pace length. Always calculate your pace with a loaded rucksack in the bush you are about to traverse.

Once you know how long your pace is, consult the table below to determine how many paces to count before pulling a 100-meter (or 110-yard) march bead. While the march-bead pace figures in the table below are in meters, they'll work equally well with the English measurement system since 100 meters equals 110 yards.


Pace Length Table

Pace length
or distance between
two right foot impressions

Number of
right foot paces
needed to cover
100 meters or 110 yards
6' 0" 55
5' 8" 58
5' 4" 62
5' 0" 66 (average male)
4' 8" 71
4' 4" 76
4' 0" 83
3' 8" 90
3' 4" 99


Always verify your pace length at the start of a trip as well as whenever the terrain, rucksack load, or another factor affecting your pace length changes. Once fully mastered, allow for at least a 10 percent error rate on flat open terrain.

Hilly terrain will require you to alter your pace counting some, possibly skipping the counting of every third pace. You could also recalculate the horizontal distance advanced for each pace and then use a higher pace count for each 100-meter up- or down-hill march.

Keep in mind that distances measured on a two-dimensional map account for horizontal change only--they assume the terrain is flat. On the other hand, your in-the-field pacing measurements over the same terrain may be longer if the area is hilly since your pacing will take into account both vertical and horizontal influences.


Factors affecting pace

There are several factors that can influence the length of your pace and ultimately the accuracy of your results. Make sure you monitor your pace length as conditions change. Adjust your pace calculations accordingly.

  • Gradient: walking up or down grades will shorten pace.
  • Vegetation: weeds, brush, and downed trees will shorten pace.
  • Surface: loose sand, gravel, mud, standing water, boulders, snow, and ice will shorten pace.
  • Weather: high winds will shorten pace.
  • Fatigue: as fatigue sets in, your pace will shorten.
  • Load: a heavily-loaded rucksack will shorten pace.
  • Clothing: heavy clothing, bulky boots, or snowshoes slow pace.
  • Contouring (or traversing): walking sideways on a steep incline will shorten pace.
  • Sight distance: darkness, snowfall, heavy rain, and fog will shorten pace.


Keep a nav log

On waterproof paper, keep a running log for each leg of your route. It should include: UTM coordinates, elapsed time, distance paced, directional azimuth, and landmarks passed, with the time and paced distance noted. These bits of info will allow you to hone your distance-measuring skills--both pace-based and elapsed-time-based--as well as approximate where you are if you get disoriented.


Pacing v. Timing

While not as accurate as pacing, estimating distance traveled by the passage of time is a very useful technique. The best way to establish your rate of travel is to keep track of how long it takes to progress a certain known distance as determined by pace counting during your hike. This will ensure that your rate of travel is relative to the terrain and load at hand. With this information, you can calculate how long it takes to traverse a klick (1000 meters) as well as a 100-meter march.


What about pedometers?

In his book, "The Essential Navigator: How to Find Your Way in the Outdoors," David Seidman writes that pedometers are useless on all but firm, level ground. The gadgets are just not suitable for clambering over deadfalls or traversing rugged topography.



Aiming off is one of the most useful land navigation techniques available to wilderness travelers. It is used when you're headed for a distant objective, a waterfall for example, which is located near a linear or elongated feature, in this case a twisty river. Experienced land navigators aim off so they know which way to search for an objective located on a linear feature.

Experienced land navigators aim off to one side or the other of an objective located on a linear feature. By doing this, they know which way to search for the objective once they arrive at the linear feature and don't see the objective.
(Drawing by Michael Neiger)

For example, if you attempted the direct route in the illustration and arrived at the river, but did not see or hear the waterfall, which way would you search for it? And, how long would you look for it in one direction before self-doubt would drive you to look in the other direction?

To get around this problem, experienced land navigators simply "aim off" to one side of the waterfall. They don't try to hit it dead-on.

Aiming off involves the intentional addition or subtraction of several degrees of offset--or purposeful error--to an azimuth so your line of travel to an objective located on a linear feature takes you to the left or right of it, eliminating any question of which way you need to search for it if you don't immediately see it.

Aiming off has also been referred to as offset, lateral offset, deliberate offset, intentional offset, and intentional deviation.


Why is "aiming off" necessary

Aiming off is necessary since it is nearly impossible to cut an azimuth without any lateral drift. For example, errors in cartography (map making), map interpretation, compass design, compass sighting, and azimuth cutting may make it difficult to accurately navigate directly to a distant objective that is not readily visible.

In addition, external magnetic forces created by wrist compasses, wire rim glasses, watches, belt buckles, knifes, weapons, ammunition, jewelry, vehicles, fences, and power lines can influence the accuracy of a magnetic compass, sometimes in a very subtle, imperceptible manner. Watch out for this.

The longer the distance traveled or the more difficult the terrain, the more these factors creep in to reduce the accuracy of azimuth cutting.


Average error in azimuth cutting

According to the experts, you should expect about three to five degrees of error--or lateral drift--when cutting an azimuth with a conventional compass. For example:

  • In "The Essential Wilderness Navigator," David Seidman says that the average error in cutting an azimuth through the bush is around 3 degrees.
  • W.S. Kals writes in the "Land Navigation Handbook" that operator error and compass error across open terrain generally amounts to about 3 or 4 degrees.
  • According to Rick Curtis, author of "The Backpacker's Field Manual," and director of Princeton University's Outdoor Action Program, 3 to 5 degrees of lateral error is the norm.
  • In the second edition of "Maps and Compasses," Percy Blandford says that 5 degrees of error in cutting an azimuth is common.
  • In "Finding Your Way in the Outdoors," Robert Mooers, Jr., says to expect about 3 degrees of lateral drift.


When should you "aim off"

Aiming off is useful for reaching small, limited visibility objectives that happen to be located on or near elongated, long-sided, or linear features.

Examples of linear or "catching" features that work well for locating hard-to-find objectives such as campsites, waterfalls, cabins, caves, ponds, trail intersections, waterway confluences, and so forth include:

  • jeep trails
  • foot trails
  • railroad grades
  • creeks and rivers
  • valleys
  • shorelines
  • utility lines
  • fence lines
  • edges of swamps
  • ditches
  • tree lines
  • ridgelines
  • cliffs and escarpments
  • firebreaks
  • property lines


How much should you aim off?

When calculating how much offset to introduce, keep in mind that each degree of offset will shift an azimuth roughly 1/60--or 0.01745 for the more precise--of the distance traveled.

If you're using the metric measurement system, such as the kilometer, each degree of deliberate offset will shift an azimuth 17.45 meters to one side of an objective for every klick (1,000 meters) of travel.

Use the aiming off table below to calculate:

  • How many meters of lateral offset on the ground will result from each degree of compass offset.
  • How many degrees of compass offset you'll need to use to achieve a set number of meters of lateral offset on the ground.

Aiming Off:
Lateral offset in meters per degree of offset for each klick (1000 meters).

Offset in
Distance traveled in meters
1000 2000 3000 4000 5000
1 17 35 52 70 87
2 35 70 105 140 175
3 52 105 157 209 262
4 70 140 209 280 350
5 87 175 262 349 436
6 105 209 314 419 524
7 122 244 366 489 611
8 140 280 419 558 698
9 157 314 471 628 785
10 175 350 524 698 873

For those preferring to use the English measurement system, such as the statute mile, each degree of deliberate offset will shift an azimuth about 92.14 feet to one side of an objective for every mile (5280 feet) of travel.


Trigonometry behind aiming off

For those into trig--the problem-solving method developed long ago by the Egyptians, Babylonians, and Greeks--the authors of several leading land navigation textbooks recommend that you take the tangent of 1 degree and multiply it by the distance traveled to determine how much offset will result from each degree of change.

This recommendation notwithstanding, a closer look at the geometric problem involved in aiming off seems to indicate the tangent solution is more appropriate for right-angle-type problems, not the oblique-type triangle problem aiming off involves.

Since aiming off involves an isosceles triangle--a non-right-angle triangle with two equal-length sides--the more appropriate trigonometric function may be the sine. To use the sine function to determine how much offset will result from the addition of one degree, you would multiply the distance traveled by the sine of one degree divided by the sine of 89.5 degrees.


How much offset do the experts recommend?

The experts recommend that you use an offset of somewhere between 2 and 11 degrees. For example:

  • In "The Essential Wilderness Navigator," David Seidman recommends that you aim off by 5 degrees.
  • In its "Map Reading" field manual, the U.S. Army uses 10 degrees of deliberate offset in their example.
  • In his book, "The Green Beret's Compass Course," retired Special Forces Sgt. Don Paul recommends that you use 2 or 3 degrees of lateral offset.
  • In "The Outward Bound Map and Compass Handbook," Gleen Randal says to change your azimuth by 10 degrees.
  • In the "Land Navigation Handbook," W.S. Kals also recommends 10 degrees of offset.
  • In "Orienteering--Skills and Strategies," Ron Lowry and Ken Sidney suggest using an offset of between 6 and 11 degrees.
  • In the second edition of "Teaching Orienteering," Carol McNeill, Jean Cory-Wright, and Tom Renfrew appear to advocate aiming off between 3 and 7 degrees.
  • In the revised edition of "Orienteering," John Disley recommends an offset of 7 degrees or so.
  • In the second edition of "Maps and Compasses," Percy Blandford suggests an offset of 10 degrees.

Keep in mind that if you don't use enough lateral offset, you may unknowingly find yourself on the wrong side of your objective due to unintentional lateral drift, which may result from a number of factors including inaccurate compass sighting and the inability to walk a precise azimuth.

In other words, if you aim off by adding two degrees to your azimuth, but happen to experience a lateral drift of minus three degrees, you'll unknowingly end up on the opposite of your objective. Thinking you're on the intended side of your objective, your search may be futile.

In general, the longer the distance, the more difficult the terrain, or the less precise your azimuth cutting, the greater the amount of lateral offset you'll need.


Which way should you aim off?

Sea kayakers and wilderness canoeists will usually want to aim upwind or up-current so they can paddle with the current or wind to their objective once the linear feature is reached.

Snowshoers and cross-country skiers will likely want to aim for the uphill side of their objective so they can simply travel downhill to it and avoid an uphill struggle.

Everything else being equal, opt for the shortest route.


Handling obstructions while aiming off

If you're not running a precise, point-to-point azimuth offset, always veer around obstructions and obstacles on the same side as you are intending to arrive at your objective on. In other words, if you're aiming to hit a linear feature to the left of your objective, always go around the left side of any obstruction blocking your path so you don't accidentally "undo" the few degrees of offset you've built into your azimuth and unknowingly end up on the wrong side of it.




Magnectic declination calculators

Magnetic Declination Calculator
   by the Canadian Geological Survey

Geomagnetic Data
   by NOAA


  Go to Latitude/longitude coordinate sytem page



Barry's Scouting Resource Page

How to Use a Compass

Map and Compass for Firefighters
   A U.S. Government self-study course for wildland firefighters

Map Reading and Land Navigation (Army FM 3-25.26)
   Complete online version of Army manual.

Maps and Compasses

Topographic Symbols (Army FM 21-31)
   Complete online version of Army manual

U.S. Geological Survey
   Select "fact sheets," "mapping," and "fact sheets."



International Orienteering Federation

Orienteering Canada

Swedish Orienteering Federation

U.S. Orienteering Federation

World of O



Advanced Coastal Navigation AN-1, 2nd edition (U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary)

Basic Coastal Navigation--An Introduction to Piloting, by F. J. Larkin (Sheridan House, 1993)

Basic Essentials of Map and Compass, 2nd edition, by Cliff Jacobson (ICS Books, Inc., 1997)

Basic Field Manual--Advanced Map and Aerial Photograph Reading (U.S. Government Printing Office, 1941)

Basic Map Reading Skills, by Peter W. Preksto (Creative Education, 1979)

Basic Map Reading, by Keith Gillard (Longman [England], 1990)

Be Expert with Map and Compass--The Complete Orienteering Handbook, by Bjorn Kjellstrom (MacMillan General Reference, 1994)

Better Ways of Pathfinding, by Robert S. Owendoff (Stackpole Books, 1964)

Celestial Navigation, by Tom Cunliffe (Fernhurst Books, 2001)

Celestial Navigation in a Nutshell, by Hewitt Schlereth (Sheridan House, Inc., 2000)

Celestial Navigation Quick and Easy--In Your Head Calculations of Latitude and Longitude, by Roy T. Maloney (Dropzone Press, 2000)

Compass and Map Navigator--The Complete Guide to Staying Found, by Michael Hodgson (Globe Pequot Press, 2000)

Compass and Maps (Girl Scouts of the United States of America, 1973)

Concise Book of Map Reading, by Terry Brown and Rob Hunter (Gaga Publishing, 1980)

Contour, by Cecil McCallum and Andrew Baxter (Holmes-McDougall)

Contours, by C. Boxhall and E. G. P. Devereaux (Philip, 1965)

Cross-country Navigation, by Rod Phillips and Neil Phillips (Outdoor Recreation in Australia, 1989)

Elementary Map Reading (War Office [London], 1943)

Elements of Navigation--Prepared Especially for Home Study (International Correspondence Schools, 1941)

Essential Wilderness Navigator--How to Find Your Way in the Great Outdoors, by David Seidman (Ragged Mountain Press, 1995)

Essentials of Map Interpretation--A Workbook, Palmyra M. Leahy and Robert E. Cramer, second edition (Kendall/Hunt, 1991)

Exercises in Map Reading and Map Analysis, by John E. Mulhauser (University of Akron)

Exploring and Finding the Way, by David Watkins and Meike Dalal (Usborne [London], 1979)

Finding Your Way in the Outdoors--Compass Navigation, Map Reading, Route Finding, Weather Forecasting, by Robert L. Mooers (Sedgewood Press, 1990)

Finding Your Way on Land or Sea--Reading Nature's Maps, by Harold Gatty (S. Greene Press, 1983)

Finding Your Way--The Art of Natural Navigation, by Jennifer Dewey and Stephen Trimble (Millbrook Press, 2001)

Finding Your Way With Map and Compass (U.S. Geological Survey, 2000)

Finding Your Way Without Map or Compass, by Harold Gatty (Dover Publications, Inc., 1999)

Green Beret's Compass Course--The New Way to Stay Found (Not Lost) Anywhere, by SSG. Don Paul (Pathfinder Publications, 1985)

Have Map, Have Compass, Will Travel--A Walker's Guide to the Use of Map and Compass, by Kenneth R. Walpole (K. Walpole, 1999)

How to Navigate Over Land, Noel J. Hotchkiss (Stocker and Yale, 1991)

How to Read a Map--Using and Understanding Maps, by Scott E. Morris (Chelsea House Publishers, 1993)

How to Teach Map and Compass Skills, by Robert P. Larkin (National Science Teachers Association, 1976)

How to Teach with Topographic Maps, by Dana Van Burgh, Elizabeth N. Lyons, and Marcy Boyington (National Science Association, 1988)

How to Use a Compass, by Kjetil Kjernsmos

Introduction to Topographic Map Reading, by Kenneth C. Thompson (Southwest Missouri State University Department of Geography, Geology, and Planning, 1992)

Fundamentals of Kayak Navigation, by David Burch (The Globe Pequot Press, 1999)

**Land Navigation Handbook--The Sierra Club Guide to Map and Compass, by W.S. Kals (Sierra Club Books, 1983)

Land Navigation, by Bob Newman and Susan Newman (Menasha Ridge Press)

Land Navigation for Outdoor Enthusiasts, by Bob Newman (Menasha Ridge Press, Inc., 1995)

Land Navigation--Routefinding With Map and Compass, by Wally Keay and Nicholas Gair (Duke of Edinburghsaward [London], 1989)

Manual of Map Reading (Ministry of Defence [Great Britian], 1973)

Manual of Map Reading and Land Navigation, second edition (Ministry of Defence [Great Britain], 1988)

Map and Compass, by Cliff Jacobson (Globe Pequot, 2000)

Map and Compass--A Practical Modern Guide to Map Reading and the Day and Night Use of Modern Compasses, by John B. L. Noel (Simpkin Marshall, Ltd. [London], 1942)

Map and Compass--Discover the Excitement, by Erkka Laininen (Sunnto Oy [Finland], 1996)

Map and Compass Fundamentals--Orienteering, by Toy Martin and Dave Lotty (Reed, 1976)

Map and Compass--Instructor Manual, by Gail S. Ludwig (Missouri Department of Conservation, 1983)

Map and Compass Manual, by Jackson L. Carter (Carter's Manual Company, 1954)

Map and Compass Skills for the Secondary School, by Robert P. Larkin (National Council for Geographic Education, 1976)

Map and Compass Study--Conservation and Environmental Skills, by Frank G. Patterson, V. Eugene Vivian, and Norma T. Vivian (Conservation and Environmental Studies Center, 1969)

Map and Compass--The Principles of Orientation, by Charles Thoene (Edward Stanford, Ltd. [London], 1955)

Map Catalog--Every Kind of Map and Chart on Earth and Even Some Above It, 3rd edition, edited by Joel Makower (Vintage Books, 1992)

Map, Compass, and Campfire--A Handbook for the Outdoorsman, by Donald E. Ratliff (Binfords and Mort, 1992)

Map, Compass, GPS--An Introduction, by Robert Rutten (Outdoor Communications, 2000)

Map Essentials--A Comprehensive Map Skills Program (National Geographic School Publishing, 2001)

Map Reading (EP Publishing, 1983)

Map Reading (National Learning Corporation, 1998)

Map Reading (Tac Ops)--A Self-teaching Device, by Donald E. Meyer (1950)

Map Reading, by Jack Rudman (National Learning Corporation)

Map Reading, by L. M. Sebert and Sandi Lamanna (Renouf Pub. [Ontario], 1984)

Map Reading, by Robert B Matkin (Dalesman, 1997)

Map Reading, by the Australian Fire Authorities Council (Addison Wesley Longman, 1996)

Map Reading FM 21-26, by the Department of the Army (U.S. Government Printing Office, 1969, 1983). Excellent.

Map Reading and Aerial Photographs, by Brian O Cinneide and William MacNamara (Educational Company [Dublin], 1986)

Map Reading and Land Navigation (Army FM 3-25.26)

Map Reading and Land Navigation, by U.S. Army Infantry School (Desert Publications, 1995)

Map Reading and Land Navigation, by William (Gordon Press Publishers, 1990)

Map Reading and the Troop Leading Procedure (MS 102), by USMA Staff (Kendall/Hunt Publishing Co., 1993)

Map Reading Handbook, 2nd edition (TASMAP, Tasmania Department of Environment, 1991)

Map Reading Skills, by Peter W. Preksto (Creative Company, 1979)

Map Reading Training Course, by Steve Depenbrok (Peace Corps)

Map Skills, by Brian Turk (UTP [Great Britian], 1983)

Map Skills, by Pam Robson (1998)

Map Skills, by Seymour Reit (Macmillan Educational Company, 1984)

Map Skills, four volumes (Phoenix Learning Resources, 1989)

Map Use--Reading, Analysis, and Interpretation, 4th edition, by Phillip C. Muehrcke and Juliana O. Muehrcke (JP Publications, 1998). Weighing nearly 3 pounds, this 650-page bible is chock-full of detailed map and nav info.

Maps and Compasses, 2nd edition, by Percy W. Blanford (Tab Books, 1992)

Military Map Reading for the New Army, by W. Stanley Lewis and F.W. Morgan (Whitconbe & Tombs, 1945)

Military Science, MS 102, Student Text--Map Reading and the Troop Leading Procedures (West Point Military Academy, 1991)

Nature is Your Guide--How to Find Your Way on Land and Sea, by Harold Gatty (Collins, 1977)

Navigation--Finding Your Way on Land and Sea, by Tony Gibbs (Franklin Watts, 1975)

Navigation: Land, Sea, Air and Space, by Myron Kayton, editor (Institute of Electrical & Electronics, 1990)

Never Get Lost--The Green Beret's Compass Course, by Don Paul (Path Finder Publications, 1991)

New Explorer's Guide to Maps and Compass, by Percy W. Blandford (McGraw-Hill Companies,1992)

Notes on Maps and Map Reading, by H. M. E. Brunker, second edition (W. Clowes, 1905)

"On Track" Map Reading and Camping Guide--An Educational Resource (Australian Navigation Skills and Accessory Services, 1994)

Ordnance Survey Map Skills Book, by Chris Warn (Nelson and Ordnance [London], 1991)

Outward Bound Map and Compass Handbook, by Glenn Randall (Lyons and Burford, 1998)

Pathfinder's Handbook, by Christine Kennedy, Mark Smith, Pat Hancock, and William Kimber (Somerville House Publishing, 1993)

Piloting Seamanship and Small Boat Handling, by Charles F. Chapman (Motor Boating)

Plan Your Route--The New Approach to Map Reading, by Victor Selwyn (David & Charles, 1987)

Primer of Navigation, fourth edition, by George W. Mixter (D. Van Nostrand Co., Inc., 1960). Covers older, traditional at-sea navigation techniques.

Reading the Outdoors at Night, by Vinson Brown (Stackpole, 1982)

Route Finding--Navigating with Map and Compass, by Gregory Crouch (Falcon Press, 1999)

Sextant Handbook, by Bruce A. Bauer (McGraw-Hill Professional, 1995)

Sierra Club Wayfinding Book, by Vicki McVey and Martha Weston (Sierra Club Books, 1989)

Simple Map Reading, by Roger Smith (The Stationary Office [Edinburgh], 1997)

Simply Map-Reading, by Richard Neve (Telegraph [London], 1988)

Sniper Training and Employment TC 23-14, by the Department of the Army (U.S. Government Printing Office, 1969). Good nav info.

Spur Book of Map and Compass, by Terry Brown and Rob Hunter (Spur Books [Great Britain], 1977)

Staying Found--The Complete Map and Compass Handbook, 2nd edition, by June Fleming (The Mountaineers, 2001)

Step in the Right Direction--A Basic Map and Compass Book, by Don Geary (Stackpole, 1980)

Topographic Map and Compass Use, by Michael Taylor (Cornell University Instructional Materials Services, 1991)

Topographic Symbols (Army FM 21-31)

U.S. Army Map Reading and Land Navigation Handbook, by the Department of the Army (The Lyons Press, 2004)

Using a Compass and Pacing, by Robert Bardon (Raleigh, North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, 2000)

Using a Map and Compass, by Don Geary (Stackpole Books, 1995)

Wilderness Navigation--Finding Your Way Using Map, Compass, Altimeter, and GPS, by Bob Burns, Mike Burns, and Paul Hughes (Mountaineers Books, 1999)

Wilderness Route Finder--The Classic Guide to Finding Your Way in the Wild, by Calvin Rutstrum (University of Minnesota, 2000)

Wilderness Route Finder--The Complete Guide to Finding Your Way in the Wilderness, by Calvin Rutstrum (Collier Books, 1967)

You Can Be an Expert With Compass and Map--The Orienteering Handbook, by Erik T. Hjalmar and Rigney J. Francis (American Orienteering Service, 1977)

You'll Never Get Lost Again--Simple Navigation for Everyone, by Robert R. Singleton (Winchester Press, 1979)

Your Way With Map and Compass--Orienteering



Armchair Orienteering--A Practical Guide to Reading Orienteering Maps, by Stott Wnifred (Manitoba Orienteering Association, 1992)

AskERIC Lesson Plans--Orienteering: Map Skills

Basic Orienteering, Michael J. Riley and Robert Cremer (Contemporary Books, 1979)

Be Expert with Map and Compass--The Complete Orienteering Handbook, by Bjorn Kjellstrom (MacMillan General Reference, 1994)

Camping and Orienteering, by Michael Jay (Warwick Press, 1990)

Challenge of Orienteering, by Gordon Pirie (Pelham [London], 1968)

Circular Orienteering, by Gerald Vinestock (G. Vinestock, 1980)

Complete Guide to Orienteering in North America--A Comprehensive Manual for the Outdoorsman, by Berndt Bergland (Pagurian Press, 1979)

Complete Orienteering Manual, by Peter Palmer (Crowood Press, 1997)

D. Q.--A Basic Manual for Beginning Orienteers, by Jack Dyess (J & N Enterprises, 1975)

Discovering Orienteering, by Tony Walker (Shire, 1973)

Discovering Orienteering and Wayfaring, by Tony Walker (Shire, 1979)

Family Orienteering--Fun and Fitness With Map and Compass (Orienteering Federation of Australia, 1980)

Female Fitness on Foot--Walking, Jogging, Running, Orienteering, by Bob O'Conner, Christine Wells, and Eldin Onsgard (Wish Publishing, 2002)

Get Fit for Orienteering, by Steve Bird (Nonington Press [England], 1996)

How to Use a Compass--Using an Orienteering Compass for Fun & Exploration (SCIGO, 1992)

Learn Orienteering (Rebard O-Kartservice [Norway], 1988)

Let's Get Into Orienteering, by Toy. Martin and Robin Winterford (Aussie Sports Books, 1991)

Map and Compass Fundamentals--Orienteering, by Toy Martin and Dave Lotty (Reed, 1976)

Modern Orienteering Training, by Wilfred Holloway (Holl-O-Lit Publishers, 1980)

Orienteering (A. & C. Black [London], 1995)

Orienteering (Boy Scouts of America, 1995)

Orienteering (Nova Scotia Department of Education, 1978)

Orienteering (P.D. Hasselberg [New Zealand], 1980)

Orienteering, by Brian Martin Henley (E. P. Publishing & Scottish Orienteering Federation, 1978)

Orienteering, by Brian Porteous (Oxford Illustrated Press, 1978)

Orienteering, by Carol McNeill (Crowood Press, LTD, 1996)

Orienteering, by D. J. Foster and R. R. McGraw (Curriculum and Research Branch, Education Department [Melbourne], 1974)

Orienteering, by J. D. Watson, Laurence Ernest Liddell, and Hugh Chapman (E. P. Publishing & Scottish Orienteering Association, 1973)

Orienteering, by John Disley (Stackpole Books, 1979)

Orienteering, by Hans Bengtsson (Ward Lock [London], 1978)

Orienteering, by Neil Champion (Heinemann Library, 2000)

Orienteering, by Roger Smith (State Mutual, 1981)

Orienteering, by Tom Renfrew (Human Kinetics Publishers, Inc., 1997)

Orienteering--A Mental Training Workbook, by Gordon L. Underwood and Stephen R. Bird (Nonington Press, 1997)

Orienteering Book, by Steve Anderson (Anderson World, 1977)

Orienteering for Fitness and Pleasure, by Norman Harris (World's Work, 1978)

Orienteering for Sport and Pleasure, by George Atkinson and Hans Bengtsson (Green, 1977)

Orienteering for Sport and Pleasure, by Hans Bengtsson and George Atkinson (The Stephen Green Press, 1977)

Orienteering for the Young (International Orienteering Foundation)

Orienteering--Fun and Fitness With Map and Compass, by Peter C. Nicholls (New South Wales Sport and Recreation Service, 1975)

Orienteering Handbook, by Anne Anthony (Hancock House, 1980)

Orienteering Handbook--Mankato State University Army ROTC, by Edward C. Otto

Orienteering Instructor's Manual, by James Gilchrist and Lee Jack (Orienteering Ontario, 1984)

Orienteering--Instructor's Manual, by Peter C. Nicholls (Martin Educational in Association with Orienteering Service of Australia, 1977)

Orienteering--Instructor's Resource Manual, by Wilf Wedmann, Jennifer Fenton, and Bryna Kopelow (BC Recreation and Sport, Premier's Sports Awards Program, 1990)

Orienteering--Skills and Strategies, by Ron Lowry and Ken Sidney (Orienteering Ontario, 1987)

Orienteering--The Adventure Game, by Ron Lowry (Orienteering Ontario, 1987)

Orienteering the Easy Way--A Practical Guide to Learning, Teaching, and Practicing Orienteering Skills, by Brian Kendrick (B. Kendrick, 2000)

Orienteering--The Skills of the Game, by Carol McNeill (Crowood Press [England], 1996)

Orienteering--The Sport of Navigating With Map and Compass, by Steven Boga (Stackpole Books, 1997)

Orienteering Training and Coaching, by Carol McNeil, et al. (British Orienteering Federation, 1982)

Orienteering--Training for Performance, by Ron Lowry and Ken Sidney (Orienteering Ontario, 1986)

Outward Bound Orienteering Handbook, by Martin Bagness (Ward Lock [London], 1995)

Penguin Book of Orienteering, by Roger Smith (Penguin, 1983)

Rogaining, Cross-country Navigation, by Neil Phillips and Rod Phillips (Outdoor Recreation in Australia, 1982)

Rules of Foot Orienteering (Irish Orienteering Association, 2000)

Skills of the Game, by Carol McNeill (Corwood Press, 1996)

Start Orienteering (5-book series), by Carol McNeill and Tom Renfrew (Harveys, 1990)

Tackle Orienteering, by John Disley (Stanley Paul [London], 1982)

Teaching Orienteering (Johnson Camping, Inc., 1991)

Teaching Orienteering, second edition, by Carol McNeill, Jean Cory-Wright, and Tom Renfrew (Human Kinetics Publishers, Inc., 1998). An excellent, inside look at the skill of orienteering.

This is Orienteering, by Jim Rand and Tony Walker (Pelham & British Orienteering Federation [London], 1976)

Trail Orienteering, by Anne Braggins (Harveys, 1993)

Venture Orienteering (Boy Scouts of America, 1989)

Wilderness Navigation Handbook, by Fred Touche (Touche Publishing, 2004)

World Class Orienteering, by Wilfred Holloway (Holl-O-Lit Publishers, 1980)

World of Orienteering (International Orienteering Federation [Finland], 1998)

Your Way With Map and Compass--Orienteering



A & E Orienteering

Adventure GPS

Ben Meadows Company

Compass Store



Forestry Supplies, Inc.

Go Orienteering!, Inc.

Moscow Compass
   Russian-made compasses

Orienteering Unlimited, Inc.

Scarborough Orienteering

Silverman's Ltd. (10-06)
   2 Harford St.
   Mile End
   London E1 4PS
   Unique British land nav gear

Waypoint Enterprises

Additional sources for land navigational tools can also be found in the "general" and "military" sections of the backpacking resources page of this Web site.




Brunton Company
   Note: In addition to distributing Brunton compasses, Brunton, as a subsidiary of Silva Production AB (Silva Sweden AB) since 1996, also distributes Silva compasses in the U.S. under the Nexus name.

Kasper-Richter (K&R) Compasses

Moscow Compass

   Note: Nexus compasses are Silva compasses distributed in the U.S. under the U.S. trade name of Nexus by Brunton.

Pyser-SGI Limited
   Precision military compasses from the United Kingdom

Recta AG
   Note: Precision, Swiss-made compasses distributed by the Suunto USA.

Silva Sweden AB
   Note: In the U.S., Silva Sweden AB compasses are distributed by Brunton under the Nexus name. In the U.S., Johnson Outdoors, Inc. distributes compasses under the name of Silva.

Silva (U.S.)
   Note: Johnson Outdoors, Inc., distrubutes Silva compasses under the Silva name in the U.S.

Sun Company
   Compasses are listed under both "compasses" and "outdoor instruments."

Suunto USA




Michigan 1:24000 & 1:25000 topo map vendors

United States Geological Survey
   Select "Map" link http://ask.usgs.gov/maps.html
   for map ordering info.

   Stocks paper quads; restocks daily with local USGS map office

   Sells unique, customized topographic maps for your trip.


Canadian 1:50000 topo map vendors

Federal Maps
   Order free map index to determine which maps you need.
   Allow several weeks for delivery.


Ontario 1:20000 color topo base map vendors

Ministry of Natural Resources
   300 Water Street
   P.O. Box 7000
   Peterborough, Ontario, Canada K9J 8M5
   Click on "English" and "maps"

   Order free map index to determine which maps you need.
   Most detailed maps available.
   Allow several weeks for delivery.


Michigan Recreational Travel Atlas
Universal Map

   This 11-by-17-inch book of maps is a recommended county map source for wilderness trips since its maps include section numbers as well as township and range information. It also includes many old roads and placenames. Simply photocopy the appropriate maps and stow them in your pack. Keep the map book itself in your vehicle for easy reference when searching for the trailhead.


Michigan County Atlas
Universal Map

   Note: This 11-by-17-inch book is no longer in print. It may be available used, or via your local library.
   This book of maps is highly recommended county map source for wilderness trips since its maps include section numbers as well as township and range information. It also includes many old roads and placenames. Simply photocopy the appropriate maps and stow them in your pack. Keep the map book itself in your vehicle for easy reference when searching for the trailhead. However, this map lacks latitudinal and longitudinal data, which is handy when trying to decided what topographic maps you need to buy for a bush trip.


Michigan County Map Guide (2000)
   Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC)
   Note: This 11-by-17-inch book is no longer in print. It may be available used, or via your local library.
   This book of maps is a recommended county map source for wilderness trips since its maps include section numbers as well as township and range information. Simply photocopy the appropriate maps and stow them in your pack. Keep the map book itself in your vehicle for easy reference when searching for the trailhead. However, this map lacks latitudinal and longitudinal data, which is handy when trying to decided what topographic maps you need to buy for a bush trip.


Michigan Atlas & Gazetteer
   DeLorme Mapping Company
   Note: While this 11-by-17-inch book of maps lacks critical section lines and numbers as well as township and range information, its inclusion of latitudinal and longitudinal data makes it very useful for deciding which topographic maps to buy for a bush trip.


Mapbook of Michigan Counties (1984)
   Michigan Natural Resources Magazine
   Michigan Department Of Natural Resources
   P.O. Box 30034
   Lansing, Michigan 48909
Note: This 11-by-17-inch book is no longer in print. It may be available used, or via your local library.
   This book of maps is highly recommended county map source for wilderness trips since its maps include section numbers as well as township and range information. It also includes many old roads and placenames. Simply photocopy the appropriate maps and stow them in your pack. Keep the map book itself in your vehicle for easy reference when searching for the trailhead. However, this map lacks latitudinal and longitudinal data, which is handy when trying to decided what topographic maps you need to buy for a bush trip.   



Plat maps are extremely useful when planning an off-trail wilderness trip since they can help you chart private property and public property on your topographic maps prior to your trip. Plat maps are sold in books by county. To determine who sells the plat maps for a particular county, try contacting the county clerk's office in the county you will be hiking in. A handy directory of county clerks is available online from the State Archives of Michigan:

   Michigan County Clerks Directory



DeLorme Mapping Company
   1-800 452-5931

   See Terrain Navigator product

National Geographic Maps
   Select "maps"



Topographic maps

GIS Data Depot

   Select "online maps"



Other maps online

Doyle's GIS Links Web Page

Oddens' Bookmarks, Universiteit Utrecht

UC Berkeley Library

University of Texas Library



Online images

Google Maps and Images
   Satellite images of U.S. & Canada.
   Use "local search" for detailed views

Michigan DNR Satellite Images
   Select "publications & maps" & "aerial imagery archive"

Hardcopy images

Michigan DNR
   Select "publications & maps" & "aerial imagery archive"

Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources
   300 Water Street
   P.O. Box 7000
   Peterborough, Ontario, Canada K9J 8M5
   Click on "English" and "air photos"



As GPS units become commonplace among wilderness trippers, so does the potential for trouble when one of them malfunctions. Like any essential electronic device, it's not a question of "if" your global positioning system device will fail. It's only a question of "when" it will fail, and if you'll know what to do.


Learn basic map & compass skills

If your safety depends on a GPS unit, you should be prepared to navigate without it when it malfunctions deep in the wilderness. Carrying your GPS unit in a padded case and knowing how to use the device are not enough.

You must also have a working knowledge of land navigation with map and compass. Your rucksack should contain a GPS instruction manual, topographic map, orienteering compass, spare batteries, writing instrument, notepad, and UTM grid plotter.


Photocopy instruction manual

Deep in a swamp with darkness setting in is no place to find out you forgot how to enable your unit's backtracking function. Since foul weather can ruin an owner's manual in short order, photocopy and waterproof the pertinent sections with a commercial map sealer or by simply brushing on a thin coat of Thompson's Water Seal. Carry your manual in a see-through, zip-lock plastic bag.


Carry spare batteries

Batteries are the weakest link in GPS units, so carry spare ones. If your unit is on for long periods, it'll require more batteries then if it's just used occasionally.

In cold weather, alkaline batteries and liquid crystal displays (LCDs) can fail to function, so keep them inside your jacket where they'll remain warm and operational. Lithium batteries are an excellent option as they're unaffected by deep cold.


Always use a topographic map

When your GPS unit goes bad, you'll need a detailed topographic map to figure out where you are, where you need to go, and how to get there. The best maps for this purpose are the standard 7.5-minute, 1:24,000 United States Geological Survey (USGS) topographic maps, which cover a 6- by 8.5-mile area.

Experienced land navigators never enter the wilderness without these detailed, multi-colored quads. Carry your waterproofed maps in clear-plastic zip-lock bags.


Carry a high-quality compass

Detailed maps are of little value without a compass, so always carry an orienteering-style compass. The large, see-through, plastic-based ones from Silva, Suunto, or Brunton are the most useful and reliable.


Use the UTM grid system, not Lat/Lon

The cumbersome process of calculating and plotting latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates in the field can be simplified by switching your unit's coordinate system from lat/lon to the UTM coordinate system.

The UTM system is the hands-down favorite of experienced land navigators; it's also very similar to the military's MGRS coordinate system.


Set up GPS unit properly

After switching coordinate systems, make sure you select the appropriate horizontal map datum in your unit's setup menu. Check the margin of your map for the correct datum setting.

Here in Michigan, it's most likely going to be the 1927 North American Datum, which is frequently abbreviated as "NAD 27 CONUS." Don't forget to select the proper UTM zone (16 or 17 in Michigan) and switch the unit's measurement system over to metric.


Learn how to use a UTM plotter

With a simple commercial or homemade UTM map plotter, you'll be able to quickly and easily move UTM coordinates from your GPS unit to a topographic map and vice versa.

For example, you'll be able to take a UTM coordinate generated by your GPS unit and plot it on your map in a matter of seconds. Likewise, you'll be able to rapidly calculate the UTM coordinates of an interesting spot on the map, like a waterfall, and then plug the coordinates into your GPS unit.


Compare and contrast map and terrain often

Once in the field, get in the habit regularly comparing and contrasting your map and the surrounding terrain so you have a general idea of where you are, where you've been, and where you're going.


Periodically record route info in notebook

Periodically, make notations in your notebook or on the map as to the times you pass known landmarks such as trails, intersections, creek crossings, cabins, peaks, etc. Jot down your direction of approach and departure from each of these locations too. It's also important to record any critical waypoints in your notes or plot them on your map.


Practice calculating where you are

By taking regular notes, knowing how to use your GPS unit's UTM grid coordinate system, and understanding the basics of map and compass land navigation, you'll be able to quickly formulate an alternative plan when your GPS unit malfunctions.

You'll be able to approximate where you are relative to your last known position and then determine which direction you need to proceed to return to your vehicle or campsite.


Always carry a survival kit

As with any outdoor adventure, your last line of defense is always the survival kit tucked deep in your rucksack and an approximate itinerary left with a trusted person.


Learn more with these books

To learn more about GPS units and how to use the UTM grid coordinate system, read the very inexpensive "Using GPS--GPS Simplified for Outdoor Adventures," by Bruce Grubbs (1999, Falcon Publishing Co., ISBN 1560448210) and "GPS Made Easy--Using Global Positioning Systems in the Outdoors, third edition, by Lawrence Letham (2001, Mountaineers Books, ISBN 0898868025).

Another, more comprehensive work on the subject is "A Comprehensive Guide to Land Navigation with GPS," third edition, by Noel J. Hotchkiss (1999, Alexis, ISBN 189268800X).


Learn more on the Internet

On the Internet visit http://www.usgs.gov ("fact sheets," "mapping," "fact sheets," and "The Global Positioning System"), http://www.maptools.com, and http://www.joe.mehaffey.com.

To make your own UTM coordinate plotter, visit http://www.maptools.com.


Where to purchase equipment

Information about where to buy maps, compasses, UTM plotters, waterproof notepads, and write-in-the-rain pens, is available elsewhere on this page.





Geocaching - The Official Global GPS Cache Hunt Site

GPS Navigator Magazine
   Online magazine

James Associates GPS info page

Joe Mehaffey and Jack Yeazel's GPS Information

Map Tools

Peter Bennett's GPS info page

Sam Wormley's GPS info page

University of Colorado at Boulder
   Global Positioning System Overview

U.S. Geological Survey
   Select "fact sheets," "mapping," "fact sheets,"
   and "The Global Positioning System."





Comprehensive Guide to Land Navigation with GPS, 3rd edition, by Noel J. Hotchkiss (Alexis, 1999)

Global Navigation--A GPS User's Guide, by Neil Ackroyd and Robert Lorimer (LLP, Inc., 1994). Sea navigation.

Global Positioning System--Theory and Practice, by B. Hofmann-Weuenhof, Herbert Lichtenegger, and James Collins (Springer-Verlag, 2001). Technical

GPS (Basic Essentials Series), by Scottie Barnes (Globe Pequot, 2000)

GPS for Everyone: How the Global Positioning System Can Work for You, by L. Casey Larijani (American Interface Corporation, 1998). General overview of GPS and it's implications for society in the future.

GPS Instant Navigation--A Practical Guide From Basics to Advanced Techniques, by Kevin Monahan, Don Douglass, and Reanne Hemingway-Douglass (Fine Edge Productions, LLC, 1998). GPS for watercraft.

GPS Land Navigation--A Complete Guide For Backcountry Users of the NAVSTAR Satellite System, by Michael Ferguson (Glassford Publishing, 1997)

**GPS Made Easy--Using Global Positioning Systems in the Outdoors, 2nd edition, by Lawrence Letham (The Mountaineers, 1999)

GPS Manual: Principles and Applications, by Steve Dye (Baylin Publications, 1997). Technical.

GPS Navigation Guide--Using GPS with Map, Compass, Computer & Radio Tracking, by Jack W. Peters (2002)

GPS Primer, by Jerry Hnang (Acme Press, 1999)

Map, Compass, GPS--An Introduction, by Robert Rutten (Outdoor Communications, 2000)

Map Use--Reading, Analysis, and Interpretation (With GPS), 4th edition, by Phillip C. Muehrcke and Juliana O. Muehrcke (JP Publications, 1998). Weighing nearly 3 pounds, this 650-page bible is chock-full of detailed map and nav info.

Simple GPS Navigation: Sea, Air, Land, by Mik Chinery (Koen Book Distributors, 1994)

Understanding GPS: Principles and Applications, by Elliott D. Kaplan, editor (Artech House, Inc., 1996). Very technical.

Understanding the GPS--An Introduction to the Global Positioning System, by Gregory T. French (High Mountain Press, 1998). Very technical.

Understanding the Navstar : GPS, GIS, and IVHS, by Tom Logsdon (Wiley, John & Sons, Inc., 1995). Technical.

User's Guide to GPS--The Global Positioning System, by Bonnie Dahl, Steve Ault, Peter Dahl, and More Rubenstein (Richardsons' Publishing, Inc., 1993). Technical.

Using GPS--Finding Your Way with Global Positioning Systems, by Conrad Dixon (Sheridan House, Inc., 1999). For watercraft.

**Using GPS--GPS Simplified for Outdoor Adventures (or Finding Your Way with the Global Positioning System), by Bruce Grubbs (Falcon Publishing, Inc., 1999)

Wilderness Navigation--Finding Your Way Using Map, Compass, Altimeter, and GPS, by Bob Burns, Mike Burns, and Paul Hughes (Mountaineers Books, 1999)


GPS World



Adventure GPS Products, Inc.

Ben Meadows Company

   GPS for computers and PDAs

Forestry Supplies, Inc.

GPS Blowout.com


The GPS Store, Inc.

Map Tools

Waypoint Enterprises

Additional sources for GPS units can be found in the "general" and "military" sections of the backpacking resources page on this Web site.


For a comprehensive list of GPS Receiver Manufacturers, System Integrators, Equipment Suppliers, and Service Providers, visit http://gauss.gge.unb.ca/manufact.htm, which is maintained by the Canadian Space Geodesy Forum and the University of New Brunswick

Brunton Company

Eagle Electronics
   Marine units

Garmin International

Leadtek Research Inc.
   GPS for computers and PDAs

Lowrance Electronics, Inc.

Magellan Systems Corp.

   GPS units for vehicles

NavTrak, Inc.

   (Formerly Raytheon Marine; Apelco)
   Marine units

Silva Sweden AB

Trimble Navigation Limited
   High-end mapping and GIS products




Linear Equivalents
Mile Kilometer Yard Meter Feet Rod Chain Link
    1 0.91 3 0.18 0.05 4.5
    1.1 1 3.3 0.2 0.05 5
    5.5 5 16.5 1 0.25 25
    22 20.1 66 4 1 100
1/16 0.1 110 100 330 20 5 500
1/8 0.2 220 200 660 40 10 1000
1/4 0.4 440 400 1320 80 20 2000
3/8 0.6 660 600 1980 120 30 3000
1/2 0.8 880 800 2640 160 40 4000
5/8 1 1100 1000 3300 200 50 5000
3/4 1.2 1320 1200 3960 240 60 6000
7/8 1.4 1540 1400 4620 280 70 7000
1 1.6 1760 1600 5280 320 80 8000
1.25 2 2200 2000 6600 400 100 10000
1.5 2.4 2640 2400 7920 480 120 12000
1.75 2.8 3080 2800 9240 560 140 14000
2 3.2 3520 3200 10560 640 160 16000



Land Survey Equivalents
Acres Mile by Mile Section Township Yard by Yard
1       70 x 70
40 1/4 x 1/4 1/16   440 x 440
160 1/2 x 1/2 1/4   880 x 880
640 1 x 1 1 1/36 1760 x 1760
23040 6 x 6 36 1  





Angular Equivalents
Degrees Part of circle Mils Grad
1 1/360 17.8 1.1
3' (0.056) 1/6400 1 1/36
54' (0.9) 1/400 16 1




Compute sunrise, sunset, and twilight by city, or county, or latitude & longitude

Compute sunrise, sunset, moonrise, moonset, twilight, moon phases, altitude & azimuth of sun or moon, etc.
   U.S. Naval Observatory



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In God's wilderness lies the hope of the world,
the great, fresh, unblighted, unredeemed wilderness.
— John Muir 1838-1914, Alaska Wilderness, 1890

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