View Full Version : OK, seriously, land navigation

December 6, 2007, 07:17 PM
How many people here go out and land nav on a regular basis? Where do ya'll get your maps? How do you typically set up a training session?

I don't get a chance to train like I used to when I was in 20th. Now I typically do short legs on a CTT course (or WTT or whatever they call it now). To be honest, I think it's harder because when you are moving for 2 or 3 clicks between check points you can get a more accurate measurement of your azimuth and be selective about your route planning and attack points. When you are only moving 200 meters across an open field and end up within sight of two or three identical posts there isn't alot of training value there.

Even as an instructor, when I have to check the student's plotting before they leave I have a hard time justifying telling them that they're a few degrees off when the pencil lead width can throw them off a hundred meters. (I know, use a .5 mm mech pencil)

I came up with a training aid to help in verifying land nav plots, you can read about it on the bottom of the forum dedicated to shooting accessories where it was moved for some unexplained reason. Until we started using that we had to send an instructor out to each point with a GPS and record the data onto a master sheet. Every time a post fell down or got pulled out or was destroyed by fire we had to do it all over again.

Anyhow, the area where we run students is off limits to civilians and I want to take my kids out and teach them how to do land nav. I have alot of military maps from different AOs were I've trained over the years, but want to find some maps of State Parks and other areas that are laid out in the military grid square system.

Does anyone know of a source for these?

December 6, 2007, 07:51 PM
One great source of land nav training and experience is local or state Orienteering clubs and organizations. We have a great Orienteering club here in my area that holds 6 to 8 meets a year.

There are several different levels (with different maps and different courses, of course) that range from Novice to Expert. In addition to building land nav skills, it's good exercise and lots of fun!

I'm not sure how practical traditional land nav is with the latest GPS technology - doesn't require much skill to use a GPS - but in a SHTF situation, the satellites might be out of commission and batteries might be difficult to come by.

If you're interested, here are some links that might be useful:




I really enjoy orienteering.

December 6, 2007, 07:59 PM
at the risk of sounding immodest I'd say I'm an expert at lnd nav. I think that anyone that gets a go at the SFAS and SFQC star course has the right to make that claim. I have only done lat and long land nav as a classroom exercise though, and not much of that. Is civie orienteering lat and long based? What scale are the maps? where do you get the protractors?

December 6, 2007, 08:20 PM
You can get 1:50,000 USGS maps at a lot of bookstores, or order them from the USGS site. They're in UTM grid, but that's the same as MGRS so you can use the same ol' crappy plastic protractor.

December 6, 2007, 10:37 PM
I couldn't find 1:50000 maps on their page. I wonder if I could get a disk anywhere so that you could print the specific maps you needed for a variety of AOs

December 6, 2007, 10:54 PM
If I'm not mistaken, the most common scale used in orienteering is 1:24,000.

Never used a protractor in orienteering... but I am still at the novice/intermediate level.

December 6, 2007, 11:06 PM
My two cents, land nav shouldn't be taken for granted, it's tougher than it looks - although I think it might actually be easier at longer distance, if you've got the time and stamina to practice. At OCS I found the 400-800m range to be rather difficult, because it was too far to take it casually in woods, but too short to utilize terrain features to re-orient. Unless you have a very detailed map, you have to be covering some turf to be able to locate specific features assuming fairly uniform woodlands (no dramatic peaks or uniquely shaped lakes).

I hope to get better at it without the GPS at some point - so far I've always been lucky about finding my way out when I get turned around, although it can take me a few hours sometimes.

December 6, 2007, 11:47 PM
In my experience the most useful terrain features aren't terrain features, but roads. If you can find an intersection or even a pronounced bend in a road you can usually find it on map if it's something other than a goat trail. Of course alot of that depends on your A.O. At Camp McCall the vegetation in the draws was so thick that you couldn't tell where it started and stopped or even the direction of water flow once you were knee deep. I walked off of hill tops in the dark that were a contour interval high before. That's a hard way to find out where you are. Sometimes a pond or sinkhole can be helpful, sometimes its so dried up or so shallow you're in it and out of it before even noticing. Sometimes you can tell whether you are on an incline, sometimes you don't realize it until you notice the vegetation is thicker or the ground feels springier.

Of course doing it in the dark without night vision and having to exercise light discipline (red light under a poncho only) makes it hard and slows you down.

Choosing a good attack point, using a deliberate drift, looking for your backstop, and knowing your pace count and staying on course all help. I always try to minimize the amount I dead reckon and gladly trade time for distance. By that I mean its better to travel twice as far on a course where you can make good time and not get lost or get stuck in a swamp. Its better to walk 6 clicks in 2 hours than 1 click in 2 hours. I've been in stuf that was that thick or worse. It bites, literally

December 7, 2007, 06:00 AM
Map locator (http://store.usgs.gov/cgi-bin/map_locator.pl?store_url=http://store.usgs.gov/scripts/wgate/zww20184d6813/~flNlc3Npb249UFJEOklHU0tBSENJR1NTQVAwMjowMDAxLjAwMTYuY2M0MGZkNWYuMjM2NiZ*aHR0cF9jb250ZW50X2NoYXJzZXQ9aXNvLTg4NTktMSZ*U3RhdGU9MjQ5NDkuMDAxLjAyLjA1====?~okcode=SESH)
Choose the scale you want in the drop down box. You can order printed maps or download the digitals. They don't have 1 to 50s for all of CONUS. They do have 1:24,000 for all of it. Some of 1 to 24s that I've seen have UTM grids on them, some only have lat-long.

You can guesstimate grids pretty well using the 1:25,000 scale on the protractor. For more accuracy, or if you print a map at an odd size, you can use a ruler. Just measure the actual size of a grid square and divide by 10. That distance will be your 100 meter ticks. A sharpie and a transparency sheet and make your own protractor.

December 7, 2007, 09:11 AM
good info, thanks mike.

December 7, 2007, 10:18 AM
FM 3-25.26 Map Reading and Land Navigation (http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/policy/army/fm/3-25-26/index.html)

I haven't done any since PLDC. I still carry a lensatic compass, but I usually rely on Garmin these days.

December 7, 2007, 12:58 PM
Anyone who goes out in the woods should have the knowledge and equipment to get home again. :)

On a semi-related note, there's some severe flooding in my area that happened this past week. We're in the hills above the worst of it, and are well-equipped to hang out at the house until the waters have gone down. However, we have twice needed to get into town -- on the far side of the closed freeway -- to do some volunteer work for those who got flooded out.

What we needed more than anything: a good topo map of the area which showed all the roads too. From our own knowledge of the local area, we were able to plot a way to town which followed the high ground as much as possible, but in two cases we'd forgotten a (now-impassible) low spot in the roads we chose, and had to backtrack to a different one. If we'd had a good topo on hand, we could have avoided that problem and made much more efficient use of limited gasoline supplies.

Live and learn.


December 7, 2007, 05:42 PM
What we needed more than anything: a good topo map of the area which showed all the roads too.

Excellent point.

A few years ago and for ~$50 I bought a one year subscription to TopoZone that (IIRC) allowed unrestricted downloading of topos. I made good use of it, but did not renew. Seems these were USGS topos and do not include all the roads, or even most roads in some cases.

Meanwhile, I’ve purchased NatGeo’s TOPO for CA. I’ve printed customized, full size maps of my local area and keep them with my “survival” gear. I also print maps for whatever area I’ll be camping/fishing/riding in.

Even though I have a GPS receiver unit with mapping software, for me it does not completley replace the full-size hardcopy maps.

Adventurer 2
December 10, 2007, 02:48 PM
ISC - National Geographic State Maps let you set up in UTM format and WGS-84 equivalent (NAD83). http://www.4x4books.com/wftstates.htm
I am fairly certain you can get the 1:50,000 and definitely 1:24,000. I can't check because I replaced my Windows XP with Vista and the programs do not work on Vista. As a bonus you can further blow up the maps if you want to terrain associate.
My land nav skills jumped to the next level when I went to MWS with 10th Group. Read and Learn SOSES starting on page 169
The land nav with an altimeter is worth a read also.
Visit - http://www.geocaching.com/ Your kids will love doing this because there is a reward whenever you find a hidden cache.

December 10, 2007, 03:41 PM
Visit - http://www.geocaching.com/ Your kids will love doing this because there is a reward whenever you find a hidden cache.

I went out and found the four or five near my house shortly after I got my Garmin. Not really my thing, but probably great for kids.

At our annual "man-camp" trip in July I played around with sending some of the young guys out with quads, GPS receivers and coordinates leading to cryptic instructions for finding various treasures. Now that was fun!:)