Navigation - a dark art?

Its a sad truth that far to many survival and bushcraft people lack even a fundamental understanding of map and compass work.

On a recent trip to Sweden I gave the group the task of map reading to our cabin - admittedly the landscape was snow covered and admittedly I gave the guy who openly professed no skill the map - but it was a team effort and several members where exforces and most claimed to be able to map read ...................... sadly this proved not to be the case and 200m past the only track available to lead us where we wanted to go I stop the excercise - it was both a wake up call for the group (imagine if they had gotten lost in a snowy landscape at -15 c) and proof of the pudding to me (without practice even folks who think they can map read - cant!).

So why is it folks will spend ages learning fire by friction or shelter building but seem to lack even the smallest degree of interest in a skill which, if known and practice, could probably negate the need to light that fire or buld that shelter - most SAR's and Mountain Rescue teams will tell you the majority of their call outs are for idiots who have gotten lost - am I being hard called them idiots? No I dont think so - if your stupid enough to go off into the wild without the fundamental skill of being able to locate yourself on a map and navigate out you are an idiot (you wouldnt try to fly a plane without the skills needed to land it would you?) - worse your a idiot who if lost not only risks his own life and the life of those with you but also the lives of those brave souls looking for you!

So whats the answer?? Well for starters its not carrying a compass with you in the hope its a magic talisman to ward of the getting lost spirit ............... equally its not carrying a button compass or learnng to tell directions by the sun or moon as these only give you cardinal directions and while in a survival situation these may be enough to assist you in finding a road or a lake or whatever they arent ideal when trying to find your car or the cabin you hired as night begins creeping over the hill!!

The only answer is to get out there and learn - you can self teach (not the easiest option) or you can attend a course - all the map and compass knowledge you need can be taught at basic level in less than a day - after that its all about practice ............. our sister company Bearclaw bushcraft are setting up navigation workshops which will be held on their bushcraft camps and will I am assured cover all the fundamental skills needed - or if your not a bushcrafter then there are courses run by the MTLB, DofE and various scout and orienteering groups ................

End of the day - there is no excuse for not learning to map read - as a survivor its one of the core skills and a skill, which if used correctly, can and has often averted a survival situation and emergency and saved many lifes - sometimes without anyone being aware of it at all!

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