Basic Navigation
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orienteering basics  |  British Orienteering Federation  |  orienteering in Merseyside

  Here are some simple navigational techniques for you to get to grips with.

This is moving around a hill at a constant level, rather than going over the top of it. This will increase the distance which you travel, but is less physically demanding than a direct route.
It is not usually important to keep at an exact height, but try to avoid the tendancy to descend too much.
This is also a good method of direction finding, especially in dense under-growth where bearings may not be very useful.

              aiming off
Aiming Off

Running on a precise bearing is a difficult skill. If you're trying to locate a particular point, such as the fork in the river (shown right), trying to head directly at it is a mistake.

If you miss the fork, which is likely, then you won't know which side you are on, and will waste time trying to locate it.
It's much safer to aim off to one sideand then turn into your destination from a known direction.


If you can't see your intended destination but there are obvious features on the map around it such as a river, ridge or road, you should try and use these features as handrails to lead you close to the destination.

This is often easier, quicker and more certain than attempting the direct route to the place you are trying to reach.

detouring round
  Detouring Around

This is the best way to skirt around a large but poorly defined obstacle, like a marsh.

Keep the straight line bearing set on your compass, and as you detour around the obstacle measure the distance by pacing. When you return to the compass bearing, you will know how many paces to take before you are back on your original course.

        The Usual Suspects...
    We all make mistakes when navigating (I don't - I start "detouring") and the best thing you can do is learn by them. Here is a list of the more common errors...
    The compass is wrong - Unlikely. Only in exceptional circumstances is the compass going to give you false information. Trust it over your own judgement.

Compass read upside down - surprisingly easy to do, especially when fatigued, so I believe.....

The map is wrong - depending on the age of the map it may be true. However, only man-made features tend to change, natural ones such as hills and rivers don't. It's more likely to be your mistake.

Following other people - very common, usually when there are many teams in the area. When you realise that the team you are following are going to a different control, it's too late. Perhaps they're lost anyway.

Not checking location - If you don't consult the map often enough, you may have been on the wrong course for some time. Trying to locate yourself now will be much harder.

Parallel course - Controls are often deliberately located in areas where there are parallel features beside the one you are looking for. If you find yourself on one of these parallels, it's all to easy to make the map fit the features rather than vice-versa.
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