How to Navigate the Backcountry

Terrain Association

The first is the easiest in many situations. It's called terrain association (sometimes called inspection), which is matching up the terrain features you see on your map with the actual features they represent on the ground. Start by getting your map and compass oriented. Done? Okay. Now, take a look around you, and by that I mean that you should be looking at all the terrain you can see, which might be very close (such as the river you are standing beside) or which might be miles away (such as that cliff you can see across the valley). You can ascertain your position in many instances by just correlating what you see on the map and what you see on the ground.

But what if the weather won't allow you to see the surrounding terrain, or there is no major terrain? No prob-lame-oh. This situation calls for a very detailed map study. Examine the slight changes in slope, and look for tiny, perhaps intermittent creeks. Great attention to detail is the key.

And to help you not get lost in the first, perform a thorough map study before you head into the woods or desert. Note the major roads, rivers, ravines, and other terrain features that form the"boundaries" of the area you will be in. These help form your "escape" plan should things suddenly go bad.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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