Trust your Compass

Redtail

Richard Proenneke
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You can follow a bearing all day, but unless you've got a landmark, you're unlikely to get where you want to go.

I've had a compass die on me in the field. I thought it was the iron rich ground I was sitting on, but standing up, the compass did swing differently, but still 90 degrees out. I knew it was wrong because I'd checked the landmarks. A backup compass got me where I needed to go. (And the dozen people I was guiding are still none the wiser!)
 

peter

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Not so, that's where the other aspects of navigation come in - dead reckoning and doing a bit of triangulation to observed features (reference points - geographical features). It's one thing learning to use a map and compass, but an entirely different thing learning navigation.
Gday Walker i agree that triangulation is a great skill to know {thats the only way i know how to find out where i am. I have no idea how to use a GPS}. I do understand what Big Bill is saying. I went down a trail that was not on the map, with this bloke, then off trail. 200m up from our trail, was a trail on the map, he thought we had walked in on the trail on the map. I think it is a good idea, to triangulate your starting point {thats what i do}.
 

Corin

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There are so many ways to navigate. So many tools at your disposal if you take the time to learn them. There are some great points here, but no one thing will be the be all and end all tool for navigation.

I teach my students as much as I can in the time allowed, but my advice on navigation is always the same. Don't trust any single piece of information. Use every piece of information available to you. Confirm your position via topography, compass bearings and distance covered as measured by time and estimated speed. Keep your GPS turned off in your pack. When needed it is also a valid tool.

When walking a bearing, if you have correct body posture, no parallax error, and stick at all times to the compass then you must trust the compass if you need any level of accuracy. But be sure you know the principals of "aiming off" and setting a "catching feature". I love walking bearings in featureless scrubby undulating terrain between know points. Ask the party and most will tell you you have walked a curve, despite arriving at your destination. Something to do with walking across a slope I think. It is easy to see how people walk in circles in these conditions, when a straight line feels like a circle.

It is interesting to note people using triangulation to identify their position. I once took an experienced Norwegian outdoorsman and navigator deep into the Wollemi NP. He had absolutely no idea how I was getting where we wanted to go. He relied heavily on triangulation at home with so many high and recognizable mountains it is apparently an excellent tool. Where I live if you can see three (the minimum number for accurate resection) recognizable features you are probably at a lookout. I use a form of triangulation that relies on measuring the respective angles of topography in my immediate vicinity. I would be keen to learn how others do it.
 
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Redtail

Richard Proenneke
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When walking a bearing, if you have correct body posture, no parallax error, and stick at all times to the compass then you must trust the compass if you need any level of accuracy. But be sure you know the principals of "aiming off" and setting a "catching feature". I love walking bearings in featureless scrubby undulating terrain between know points. Ask the party and most will tell you you have walked a curve, despite arriving at your destination. Something to do with walking across a slope I think. It is easy to see how people walk in circles in these conditions, when a straight line feels like a circle.
As a bit of an aside, experiments have been done on this walking in circles phenomena. It was assumed for some time that right-legged people tend to walk left-hand circles, and left-legged to the right. The hypothesis being that the dominant leg would step a fraction further than the other leg, and produce a curved path over distance.

But when they set up a bunch of people, blind-folded, and told them to walk straight across a flat field, they all walked right-hand circles regardless of their "legged-ness". Not only that, they pretty much spiralled back to there original position.

This was all in a recent doco, and I'm curious to see more papers on it. The presenters didn't think it was to do with location in the N or S hemispheres, but speculated that it may be an evolutionary trait that helps keep the group roughly in the same place. Or least stop the younger ones getting lost.

Good point, too, Corin on the principles of aiming off and catching. I leave my GPS on when using my compass, and it's interesting to upload the GPS trail and compare it to route bearings after a walk. I notice I tend to overcorrect to my right. I'd recommend everyone doing the experiment one day so you get to know your own idiosyncrasies.
 

Aussie123

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Its my theory that people tend to "think" they are drifting left or right, so they compensate by drifting in the opposite direction !
 
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