Sleep kit.  Fire kit.  Cook kit.  What about your land navigation kit?  That’s right, your land navigation kit.  Have you given it thought?  Does your kit only include a map and compass (which you never use) and a GPS?  Are you going to rely exclusively on your GPS and batteries?  Well today we are going to give this often overlooked kit some thought. 

I had an instructor tell me once that he was going to show the class ‘a way’ and not ‘the way’.  He was implying that there are several ‘ways’ to accomplish the task at hand.  I have changed that statement just a bit and will tell you that I will be discussing with you ‘a way’ and it is UP TO YOU to determine ‘the way’.  It is your responsibility to search out quality instruction and to gain all the knowledge you can in which to develop ‘the way’ that is right for you and your situation.  With that said, we will begin talking through potential tools you may want to carry.


Map: Naturally you will want to carry a map of the area where you are going.  Maps can vary in type, size, as well as function.  We will cover maps in depth in a future blog. 

GPS and Compass: The two tools almost everyone carries is a GPS and compass.    Wait!  Do I recommend carrying a GPS with those nasty batteries?  Yes I do.  You should carry a GPS AND learn how to use it.  I have talked with many people over the years that have a GPS and have no clue how to use it.  So learn it.   I always carry my main compass (a Brunton type 15) and a backup.  So what compass should you carry?  It will depend on your skill and needs. You will not be able to answer that question until you gain knowledge in a class and then continue to train on your own.   However, just because you spend a lot of money on a compass doesn’t mean it is the best fit.

Grid Tool:  I always carry a grid tool to use with my UTM map.  Yes, I am a big proponent of UTM over lat/long.  I carry two (imagine that) grid tools.  The first grid tool is the PocketCorners that has both 1:24k and 1:25k scale labeled on it.  The second is the PocketSlots with the same scale.  I carry the second as a backup and both can be found at the Maptools website.  Although these are the two most frequent scale maps used, be sure that your grid tool matches your map.  If I am using an odd scale map I will construct a grid tool before leaving home and you can too.  I plan on doing a video on this topic in the near future.

Writing Instruments:  I think everyone will agree that you should carry a writing instrument.  Should you carry a pencil, pen, or marker?  I will say YES.  Each writing instrument has its own use.  When deciding on your pencil for your kit I would suggest a small (0.5mm) mechanical pencil and as a backup a standard pencil.  I like using the mechanical pencil when marking on my maps as they allow for consistent small markings.  Make sure you have erasers on both.  Keep in mind, the more you mark on your map the harder it is to read.  I also carry an ink pen with a fine point.  I use this when making notes in my notebook such as UTM coordinates, azimuths, distances and other notes pertaining to my routes.  Ink will last longer and will not fade over the trip.  Nothing would be worse than needing to retrieve your route information and seeing it faded so badly you can’t read it.    I also use a ink pen with my journal. Leaving the pen in my land navigation kit, I will know I will always have it with me.  Lastly I will carry a Sharpie marker.   Sharpies are great when writing on rough surfaces and when damp.  If I need to write something on my map, say for the whole group to know, I will use a marker in the margins so it stands out.

Route Measuring Tool:  I carry a thin 6 inch ruler that I picked up from Office Depot.  It is great when measuring distance or needing to draw straight lines.  I also carry about twelve to fourteen inches of waxed dental floss.  This is great when measuring non-straight (road) distance.  It is tough as nails and will last forever.  I simply wrap the floss around my pencil and then place a rubber band over it.

Waterproof Notepaper:  At one time I never carried this.  Until…….that one trip when I needed it.  So now I do.  I may have a standard small notepad, but I have included a waterproof pad as well.  Lesson learned. LNBlog

Other Stuff:  Pace-counting beads can be extremely useful when executing your route for the day and to have if you are ever lost.  I also carry some written notes like my personal pace count, standard to metric conversion, and declination adjustment information. I have also written down the frequency for NOAA Weather Channel.  Personal notes will vary and will be useful along your journey.  Having this data written down will make it easier to ‘remember’ if you find yourself in a stressful situation.  I have also purchased a small field cover from Tactical Notebook Covers.  It is small and holds my kit perfectly.  The last item is a small amount of paracord of which I can use as a lanyard for my field cover.  Yes, I drop everything.

I hope this short blog gives you food for thought for developing your land navigation kit.  If you have other tools that you carry please comment below and we can all learn together.  If you have any questions please drop us a line at Nature Reliance School.

Tracy Trimble,  Instructor with Nature Reliance School

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