All maps have north at the top of the map, orientating the map makes reading the map much easier. Orientating the map is basically turning the map so that north on the map is north on the ground. This makes it easier to relate what is on the map to what you can see around you, decreasing the chance of mistakes and making it easier to visualise the ground around you.

To orientate the map using a compass:

  1. Point your compass to the north.
  2. Place the compass on the map and line up the grid lines so that the top of the map is facing north.
  3. Now that your map is orientated you should always move around the map rather than turn the map around you.

You can also use natural features to orientate the map, such as the sun or the terrain around you. Linear features are great for this such as rivers, roads of the edge of a field or wood.

To orientate your map using the terrain:

  1. Have a look around you and locate 2 or 3 features you are likely to be able to find on your map.
  2. Find those features on your map.
  3. Line up those features with your position on the map.

A simple one would be if there a were a road to your right running parallel to the direction you are walking then you could just look on the map for the road,  line the road on the map with the road on the ground so that the map is lined up with the road. We have an opportunity for error with this whereby without a compass we could have lined the map up along the road but in the wrong direction so let’s double check our orientation. Pick a feature in the rough direction you are walking like a building, bridge or other landmark then see if it is ahead of you on the map.

Orientating the map is great for navigation but if done wrong can cause you to get way off track. It is always a good idea to double check any navigational decision as it could save you a lot of time and hassle further down the route.

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