Written by 3:34 pm Wilderness Navigation Masters

23) Taking a bearing from a Map & following it in the field

Hello and welcome to this lesson of the online course Wilderness Navigation Masters.

You will learn:

How to take a bearing from your map and follow it in the field.

This is a key skill that you will often use to navigate in the wilderness because it does work even when it’s dark and you don’t have enough landmarks to use.

But in order to work:

You have to know both, where you are on your map and your arrival point on the map too.

When you are able to locate these two points on your map, you are able to take a bearing from your map and follow it, till you arrive at your destination.

But you should have a distinguishable easy-to-see arrival point landmark to not miss it, and get lost.

And like we’ve seen in previous lessons, the more your arrival point is far away, our navigation gets less accurate.

For that, we have to use checkpoints, preferably linear landmarks intersections during our travel to correct our walking deviation.

Another technique that you can use to be more accurate in your navigation in the wilderness, is to count your steps in a smart way which you will learn in one of the next lessons.

How to take a bearing from your map and follow it in the field:

Now let’s see how can you take a bearing from your map and follow it.

[Skip video to 1:29]

  • In order to take a bearing from our map, we have two requirements.
  • The first one is the north-south line on our map, that are oriented to the geographic north.
  • – If you have a map like, where the north of the UTM grid is in the same direction as the geographic north, you can use the north of these blue UTM lines.
  • – If not, you can draw a line parallel to the edge of your map to get your north-south line that is oriented to the geographic north.
  • The second requirement is, adjusting your compass for magnetic declination if you have a declination above 3°.
  • If you have a baseplate compass-like mine, adjusting for declination means to mark the position of declination with the duct tape on the back of your compass.
  • If you have a compass that uses a little key to adjust for declination. Insert this little key in the hole and turn it to adjust for your declination.
  • Now.
  • Step 1: draw a line that intersects with both, your place and your arrival point on your map.
  • In my case, I want to go from the composite at Mirror Lake to this point near Mummy pass Creek campsite.
  • Step 2: align the edge of your compass with this line, and make sure that the direction of the travel arrow point to this landmark and not the opposite.
  • Step 3: turn the housing till the orienting lines are up and parallel to one of the geographic north-south lines on your map.
  • Step 4: read the bearing to your arrival point at the intersection of the dial with graduations and the direction of the travel arrow. In this case, it’s a bearing of 174°.
  • Step 5: Now, shoot your bearing of 174° by turning your compass till the magnetic needle sits in the orienting arrow if you have negligible declination, or sits in the duct tape declination mark if you have a declination of 20° like me.
  • Now, your arrival point is in the direction-of-travel arrow.
  • And in order to follow it, you can use the techniques we’ve seen before, like the ones in the lesson titled “How to navigate using a compass”.
  • In order to facilitate your navigation, you can orient your map to the geographic north, by aligning the top of it to the geographic north on your compass, which is the top of the orienting lines.

Like always, to remember what you’ve just learned in this lesson you have to practice it. So, let’s see what you have as an exercise.



In this exercise I want you to :

  • Go outdoor with a map of this area.
  • Mark your position on your map.
  • Pinpoint on your map an easy to distinguish landmark as your arrival point, and measure the forward bearing from point A to point B.
  • Follow the bearing using how to navigate using compass techniques till you arrive at your destination.

Repeat this exercise with different destinations.

That’s all for this lesson, if you have a question, you can leave it in the comments section below, to get an answer from me or one of the other students.

Thank you and see you in the lesson.

Updated on June 7, 2021 by Ben

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