Teaching Navigation

IMG_20191108_145734There are lots of lots of navigation techniques that help you either: navigate to a target or destination; or, to relocate (work out where you are when you’re lost). This blog sets out practical exercises that National Navigation Award (NNA) tutors can use to teach navigation skills. The exercises below are covered in NNA Tutor Award Course run by Aspen Outdoors Ltd. To find out when the next course will run see our event calendar.

TOP TIP: A top tip for tutors is to use orienteering maps when teaching nav. Because of the scale and detail of orineteering maps there is scope to do lots of navigation legs in a short distance.  

NAVIGATION TECHNIQUES: HELPING YOU FIND YOUR TARGET OR DESTINATION

Ticking off features, map to landscape: The tutor talks through a navigation leg, identifying a target about 500m ahead that the group will walk to. Before setting off the tutor prompts the participant to identify features on the map that they should be able to see in the landscape. The tutor summarises and lists, in order, the features to look out for. The group sets off together and as each feature is identified as they pass them. It’s a good idea to repeat this so that the participants get good at it. 

Thumbing the map: Participants fold their map up so it’s smaller and then use their thumb to mark the location of map features that pass by on their journey to the target. This technique is good to use with the exercise above (Ticking off features, map to landscape). The technique helps the participants to quickly find their location on the map.

Ticking off features, Challenge Exercise: Split your group up into pairs with similar levels of navigation skill. Working in pairs participants take turns to identify a feature on the map for their partner to navigate to. Ideally this shouldn’t be too far away (100-200m). If the target is found they swap over and repeat, if not they are challenged to find another target. The person setting the challenge is responsible for confirming whether they’ve found the target. This exercise teaches participants to look for suitable targets on the map (of varying difficulty) and develops skills in observing and noticing features in the landscape. As long as the participants stick to short legs the tutor can move between the pairs and offer support. The tutor should identify a prominent feature ahead (maybe 1km away) for all the participants to stop and regroup. This exercise is really participative allowing the entire group to be involved at the same time. 

Ticking off features, Memory exercise map to landscape: Participants memorize the ticking off features that they’ll see along the leg then put away the map and walk the leg, ticking off the features as they go until they reach the target. 

Ticking off features, Memory exercise landscape to map: Participants put their maps away. Tutor leads the participants on a short leg (e.g. 500m). The participants try to observe and remember obvious landscape features as they walk along; e.g. path turns to left, fence on right, uphill section, flat section, loch on left. The Tutor stops at the destination for the leg and the participants then take out their map and try and work out where they are.

Timing, Map to landscape: The tutor identifies a target for the participants to navigate too. They use their compass (ruler or romer) to measure the distance on the map. They then work out the distance in metres and an appropriate time estimate. They participants then walk the leg and test the accuracy of the timing method.

Pacing, map to landscape: As above but using pacing.

Timing, Landscape to Map: The tutor asks the participants to put their maps away and the tutor leads the group on a leg. Participants time the leg and when the tutor stops at the destination the participants try to work out the distance travelled, based on the time and estimate of speed. Then the participants plot the distance on the map and from that try to work out where they are. 

Pacing, Landscape to Map: As above but using pacing,

Checking your speed: The tutor identifies a target for the participants to walk to. The participants measure the distance, estimate their likely speed and come up with a time estimate. Using a stop watch the participants time the leg. During the course of the leg the participants are asked to pace out 100m and time the 100m to check the actual speed. If the actual speed varies from the estimated speed a revised time estimate is worked out and then tested for accuracy when the destination is reached. 

Compass Direction, Landscape to map: The tutor asks participants to put away their map. The tutor leads the group. Participants are instructed to check the compass direction of the route, whenever the route changes and to memorize the different directions (e.g. north first, then north west, then south west). The tutor stops at the destination and participants are asked to work out where they are.

Catching feature: The tutor asks the participants to navigate to a target. Participants are asked to identify a catching feature beyond the target that will tell them that they have gone to far. Participants are encouraged to identify for a catching feature on the map that is obvious and as close to the target as possible. This exercise works well when the target is subtle and challenging to find and there is a chance the participants will miss the target and walk onto and notice the catching feature. 

Attack point: The tutor identifies a subtle and challenging feature for the participants to find. Participants are asked to identify an attack point for the target, a clear landscape feature that is relatively close to the target. Participants are asked to measure the distance on the map between the attack point and the target and to pace out or time the distance to the target when they arrive at the attack point. 

Contour changes: The tutor identifies a target for the participants to navigate to that has one or more prominent breaks in slope. Participants are asked to look for these breaks in slope on the map and then use them as ticking off features. Participants are asked to try to feel the change in slope and notice how it affects their gait or stride length.

RE-LOCATION TECHNIQUES: HELPING YOU WORK OUT WHERE YOU ARE WHEN YOU’RE LOST

Relocation using linear features: Participants are asked to put their maps and compasses away and to follow the tutor to a destination. The purpose of the exercise is to simulate getting lost so participants don’t need to memorize ticking off features or keep track of compass direction. The Tutor stops at a point that has a linear feature along the route or adjacent to it. Participants take a bearing along the linear feature and then apply the bearing to the map. This works particularly well on forest tracks, re-entrants, ridges, fence lines, pylons, breaks in slope etc. 

Relocation using aspect of slope: Participants are asked to put their maps and compasses away and to follow the tutor to a destination. The purpose of the exercise is to simulate getting lost so participants don’t need to memorize ticking off features or keep track of compass direction. The tutor stops on a prominent slope and asks the participants to work out where they are using aspect of slope. Participants take a bearing down the fall line of the slope then apply that bearing onto the map, looking for slopes where the edge of the compass is at 90 degrees to the contour lines. 

To read more about navigation check out these other blogs.

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