You are never lost if you know where you are, sounds obvious but it has an important point. If you navigating and you always keep track of where you are on the map, then your chances of getting yourself into a situation that you are lost are significantly reduced. There are three techniques I am going to to go through which are very simple things but are essential to keeping track of where you are on the map

Thumbing the Map

The first technique is called thumbing the map. Thumbing the map is a very simple way to keep track of your last known location on the map at all times. The technique is simple, every time you confirm your location on the map put your thumb on where you are and keep hold of the map with your thumb there. Next time you stop you don’t have to go searching round the map for where you were. It is a technique often used by orienteers who travel quickly across the map.

Thumbing the map

If you don’t fancy holding the map like that or you are walking long distances where you might want to put the map away then another way of doing the same job is with a grease pencil. Grease pencils are ideal for making on laminated maps, they are cheap, easily available and can be washed off when you are done. You can also use a regular pen or pencil but at risk of damaging your map. The concept is the same, every time you verify your location on the map you add a cross marking where you are. You can then link those crosses to get a visual representation of your route.

Keeping track on the map

Collecting Features

Collecting features are one of the most beneficial things you can do while navigating. It is the process of mentally crossing off features that you expect to be on your route. The advantage of this is that if you do not come across the feature you are looking for, or the complete opposite turns up, then you have an indication that you could have gone wrong, therefore you can double check and correct yourself if need be.

The features on your route could be anything from expecting to see to some woodland on your right to expecting a steep ascent or a river crossing. Before starting on a leg you should make a mental note of some collecting features, the more you have the quicker you will be able to realise any mistakes and the greater your peace of mind.

The image below displays just some of the collecting features we could use if we were walking along the red route, can you spot any for yourself?

Collecting features

Catching Features

Catching features are used to indicate that you have gone too far on your route, possibly missing a turning or feature. To make a catching feature look just beyond where you are aiming to go and look for a feature you will be able to easily spot on the ground, much like a Collecting feature. If we use the image above again as an example, say we are walking from left to right and our destination is the circular feature next to the building then our catching feature could be the woods. If we enter woodland then we have gone too far.

As you can see these are simple techniques that take very little effort to practice but they are a vital part of successful navigation.

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