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Learn to Navigate

Learn to Navigate

Nigel Williams from Glenmore Lodge teaches us how to navigate

Nigel Williams from Glenmore Lodge teaches us how to navigate

To get where you wanna be, you godda know where you are and know where ya wanna go – the bit in between is called Navigation.

SplashMaps present a dilema for some in our community of Real Outdoor fans. They love that the maps are so light and indestructible, but some can be put off by lack of rigidity. They often ask if the maps can be both;

  • “stiff” – so they can balance compass and take a bearing, and
  • flexible – so they can walk in comfort without those silly neck holders.

Do they really know what they’re asking?

Initially we searched for a solution that did just this.  I’ve had suggestions from “electronic rigidity… like batman has on his cape!” and “Wired seams, as if it were my wife’s bra“. Does any of this help in our ambition to make a map that gets more people into the outdoors confidently and more frequently?

Poland in the 1930's

Things were different in the 1930’s, so why do we still navigate like that?

We asked an expert if D-cup technology and 22nd century material tech is really needed. Here’s what Head of Training Glenmore Lodge, Nigel Williams says;

Just who are the best navigators and how do they do it?

“The best navigators are orienteers and their teaching methodology is simple and highly successful. Unfortunately most of us have or are struggling to learn to navigate based on a teaching methodology of the mid 1930s which is governed by grid lines (grid references) and a mentality of plotting military positions and accurate bearings (magnetic variations and back bearings/resections) for artillery pieces,” says Nigel.

So why are people still taught to navigate the old way?

“Most don’t know what they don’t know and teach a system passed on by ex service people and national service men and women,” continues Nigel. “Many became the teachers of the 1950s,60s,70s,and 80s. The orienteering teaching systems came in around 1970s and has since produced world class navigators but walkers are reluctant to engage with orienteering often due to poor experiences at school.”

So we’re all victims of rather old fashioned attitudes to maps and navigation then. So tell us how we should be navigating.

A map in the hand is worth two in a carrier - keep the map open for a good connection with the ground

A map in the hand is worth two in a carrier – keep the map open for a good connection with the ground

“The best navigators fold their maps to a small area in order to hold it with a compass in one hand, the compass simply being for map setting (no need to turn the dial just make sure the north end of the needle is pointing to the top of the map where the title would be). They then just read the ground and map detail as they go folding out more information as needed. The ease with which SplashMaps can be folded or opened up completely for a wider view makes them very easy to navigate with in this manner.”

So really how important is a stiff map?

“In reality it is rare that anyone really needs to take an accurate bearing off the map if they maintain good contact between the map and the ground. Unfortunately however most people put the map away for long periods so effectively navigate by a series of relocation skills which are generally not particularly well understood but can benefit from a flat stiff map.

So how would you navigate with a SplashMap?

You can take a bearing on the map by placing the edge of the compass between A and B and then simply turn map and compass together until the red needle points to the top of the map as for map setting (again no need to turn the dial) then keeping the compass on the map aim carefully down the base plate. If you take the compass off the map you would need to remember where on the dial the needle was pointing.

Oh, so I don’t need to do any under-wiring and electostaticsification?
“Er, no.” I guess we just need to learn how to navigate.

You can find Nigel and Splashmaps in the forthcoming Professional Mountaineer magazine (out March 1st).

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