Lost on the Trail ” Finding your Direction

by Rob Carlton

Taking a serious hike requires you to bring navigational equipment but sometimes this crutch can be detrimental. GPS units are ideal for finding your way but since they rely on modern technology there is a possibility that you wont bring enough batteries, you cant get a signal or theyll break. Compasses are a must have but what if you loose it, break it, or just forget to bring one? This is when knowing traditional techniques is essential.

Using basic navigation knowledge relies on nothing more than using natural landmarks and your position in relation to them to determine your direction. Theres no technology involved so you dont have to worry about anything breaking or not working properly.

Using the sun is one major way of finding your direction. As most know, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. There are things that can prevent you from using this as a marker. You may be in dense forest or it may be foggy which could prevent you from determining where the sun is. Try to find a clearing, climb a tree, or wait until theres a clearing in the fog.

If youre far from the equator it can be hard to determine the suns proximity so remember that in the Northern Hemisphere, such as in Malaga, Spain , the sun will be south of you and North of you in the Southern Hemisphere. At midday it is also difficult to determine so wait a half hour and note its movement. Its a good idea to track the sun at half hour intervals to ensure youre going the right direction.

Hopefully you wont be in such a predicament but finding your direction at night is possible. You can use the stars to guide you which should be relatively easy as long as its not cloudy or youre hiking near city lights. If it is cloudy then dont guess; take a rest and wait for the clouds to clear. At about 8 p.m. find the big dipper constellation which looks like a cooking ladle. There are two stars at the end of the dipper that directs you to the North Star.

Now that you know how to use these natural markers practice your navigational skills. Take a short hike with a compass or a GPS unit and put your skills to the test. Try to determine your direction using the sun or stars and then compare it with your compass or GPS. Once youve gotten it down youll be ready for mishaps with modern technology.

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