Navigation in the countryside

If you want to use a map to navigate in the countryside, you need to know your position first.

  • Look for two to three recognisable features in your surroundings. Suitable are forests, water features, a mountain, a village, a single dwelling, a road. 
  • Then turn the map until the direction of the features you’re looking at corresponds with their location on the map.
  • A compass can make navigation in unfamiliar terrain easier. Set up the map facing north and then compare features on the ground to the map: Are they in the same direction?

If you set up your map correctly at the start of a walk, and if you consequently compare and adjust its orientation at every feature, you will always know your position and the direction of your intended destination.If it does happen that you can’t set your map to the landscape, the following will help:

  • Turn back on the exact route that you came until you reach a recognisable and safe spot and start to set your map to the landscape again. 
  • When you know you’re on the right track, keep going until you come to a feature that is also shown on the map and allow you to get your bearings. 

If you are completely lost, the following things will help to get you back into inhabited areas where you can get your bearings:

  • Orientate yourself along watercourses, roads or High-tension wires. Only walk on in steep or rugged terrain if there is sufficient visibility.
  • Listen for noises. Watercourses, roads and other civilisation noises are often audible over long distances.

Compass and GPS

If you want to go beyond marked routes, you have to be able to use a map and compass. There are numerous route recommendations on the internet, with the corresponding data to be downloaded on to a GPS (Global Positioning System). The down side of the GPS is that you need satellite cover and electric power. It is a very good aid in modern times, but it is absolutely no substitute for a good walking map and thorough route planning and preparation.