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Navigating without a compass

Never try to navigate without a compass unless you are an expert or actually lost.   For practice, keep a compass with you.

Vegetation

In the forest, moss usually grows on the north side of trees.  But it's best to verify this by looking at the moss near the middle of the tree, as the bottom could be subject to moisture from the ground all day.   Also, check the moss on different trees that are sitting with both heavier and lighter vegitation and leaf cover, to compare.  Once you have noticed the mossy side of the trees, the next thing to do is try and verify by looking at the landscape.

When looking at a mountain, there will be more vegetation on the north facing side of a mountain than the south unless you are in a jungle or a place with a high average moisture content.  In some cases where there are no trees, look for the greener/more fertile looking side of the land.

The same can be said for a valley. Look to the slopes to both sides of the valley -- if the valley runs north and south, there will be more vegetation on the north facing slope than on the south facing slope.

Sun Shadow Method

Another method for finding north calls for using the sun and just a stick, dirt, and two rocks.

1) First, place a straight stick approximately 3 feet in length in the ground, early in the day before noon. Note the shadow that is cast by the stick. Mark the tip of the shadow with a small rock or twig (peg) in the ground.

2) Next, draw an evenly balanced circle around the stick from that rock. When you're done the stick will be directly in the center of the circle and the rock will be on the edge of the circle.

3) When noon occurs a bit later (technically called "solar noon" -- when the sun is at it's highest point in the sky -- which is generally in the noon hour on a clock -- but varies depending on time zones and locations) the sun will now be at it's highest point. This means that the shadow from the stick (in the center) will be at it's smallest point.

4) In the minutes and hour that follow the sun will begin to drop slightly in the sky as the day continues; the shadow from the stick (in the center) will begin to point longer and longer toward the circle that you drew in the dirt.

5) Once the shadow reaches the edge of the circle, mark it with a small rock or twig. Congratulations -- you can now identify east and west by drawing a straight line in the dirt from the first rock/twig to the second rock/twig.

If you are in the northern hemisphere, the first rock/twig will be pointing west and the second rock/twig will be pointing east.  However, if you are in the southern hemisphere, the first rock/twig will be pointing east, not west

Watch Method

- First off, you need an analogue watch set to the correct time; if it has been adjusted for Daylight Savings set it back an hour

- In the Northern Hemisphere:

  • Point the hour hand (the little one) at the sun 
  • Imagine there is a line down the middle of the angle between the hour hand and the 12 o clock mark
  • The line down the middle of the angle is pointing South; so the opposite direction is North

- In the Southern Hemisphere:

  • Point the 12 o clock mark at the sun
  • Imagine there is a line down the middle of the angle between the 12 o clock mark and the hour hand
  • The line down the middle of the angle is pointing North

 

If you have the time, it is best to try and use more than one of these methods together in order to more accurately verify the direction you wish to travel.

 

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