Back bearings are a really useful technique for finding where you are or confirming your location. They are also really simple to do and an often overlooked technique to use.

To confirm where you are

A big part of not getting lost when navigating is always checking that you are still on the right track, after all, if you always know where you are then how can you get lost.

This quick and simple technique will serve as a useful way to gauge whether you have gone the right way or not. It is particularly useful if your attack point is something quite subtle like a change in the contours or the start of a river. These are the steps you need to take:

  1. Assuming your compass is still set from the leg you have just done.
  2. Turn yourself around so that the White end of the compass needle is inside the red arrow on your compass housing.
  3. The direction of the arrow should now be pointing to where you started the leg.

If it’s all good then you have re-confirmed where you are and you can start the next leg. As you can see it is really very quick and simple so it’s worth doing where possible to be sure of your location.

To find where you are

this technique can be really useful when walking along a long linear feature without many features on it to gauge how far you have walked along that feature.So say you were walking along a ridge or edge of some woods or a river then you can use this technique to work out how far along that feature you are and confirm your location along that feature.

This is how you do it:

  1. Find a prominent feature that you can see on the land and on your map. this could be a summit or building or whatever.
  2. Take a bearing of the feature, accounting for magnetic declination.
  3. Set the compass to your map so that the grid lines on the map are aligned with the vertical lines on your compass.
  4. Line up one edge of the compass with the feature
  5. Draw a line from the feature, along the line of the compass to the linear feature you are on.
  6. Where the line you just drew and the linear feature you are on intersect is where you are.

If you are not on a linear feature or are not sure which one you are on then you can use this technique to work out exactly where you are. All you have to do is the same again but with a bearing off another feature and draw a line off that. where the two lines intersect is where you are. It is better to have three or more features to work from to get a more accurate position.

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