Blog

The Art of Land Navigation

The Art of Land Navigation

Major Mike Sadler passed away this month, aged 103 years.  This British Army officer from the Second World War lived an extraordinary life.  Though, knowing a bit about him, the word “extraordinary” seems insufficient.  Among so much, Sadler was a master of land navigation. Sadler was one of the first members of the Special Air Service, an elite special operations regiment created in the early years of the war.  His task was to guide his patrol in their modified Willys Jeeps, all sporting Vickers K machine guns, along the North African coast to destroy Axis bases and airfields. Their strategy was effective because, thanks to Sadler and his traditional land navigation skills, the SAS could hide deep in the vast desert to the south where the Germans believed no one could possibly navigate, let alone survive — with its featureless landscapes, blistering sun, and constantly shifting dunes, some 100’s of […]

Read more

New USGS Map Source

New USGS Map Source

If you spend any amount of time outdoors, whether for work or at play, then having easy access to a map is important.  It will help you, not only to get the most out of your adventures or job, but to do so more safely and productively.  So, whether you are a conservationist, Ranger, or a member of a search-and-rescue team, or you simply want to hike, camp, or fish off of the beaten path, then you need to know how to use a map. However, a common problem is finding where to obtain them.  Luckily, I’ve a suggestion or two for you to consider. Overview The gold standard in the United States is the 1:24,000 scale topographic map since it best balances a manageable size of the land area covered against a detailed layout of natural and human-made features, including terrain.   With it, you can identify streams, vegetative sections, […]

Read more

Gear Recommendation: Gaiters

Gear Recommendation: Gaiters

After arriving at the trailhead earlier this week to teach our Basic Military Land Navigation course to a group of soldiers preparing for Army Special Forces assessment (SFAS), the first thing that I did (as usual) was to take off my street-shoes and swap them with the hiking boots that I store in the rear of my Jeep.  Then, as I reached for a neighboring set of gaiters and started to clip them to my laces and wrap around my lower leg, I decided to make a short video sometime later in the day during a break which would recommend them.  After all, there is nothing glamorous or exciting about gaiters (so they are easily ignored) but they dutiful perform an important function, which is why I rarely fail to use them in the outdoors.  So, if you spend any amount of time in the woods as a hiker or […]

Read more

We Practice What We Preach

We Practice What We Preach

In the last ten days, there were two search and rescues missions reported in the national news.  This, in and of itself, is by no means remarkable as I see at least a dozen such incidents reported each week alone as I scan the online headlines.  What is remarkable is how absolutely unprepared the parties were.  The first involved two brothers who set out for a “four hour hike” only to end up, after getting lost, spending three harrowing days in the woods — After their rescue, one of them stated to a group of reporters, “I didn’t think that it could happen.”  The second involved a lost hunter who, after already spending one night in the mountains, was left behind by a military helicopter searching for him because he didn’t know how to properly signal to it.  By contrast, whenever I head into the outdoors, no matter how short […]

Read more

Bear Spray

Bear Spray

One piece of gear that I believe that you should get in the habit of carrying with you during your outdoor adventures in any remote or reasonably remote location, especially where you’re out alone, is Bear Spray.  It’s one of those pieces of gear that you’ll likely never need to use, but should the occasion arise, you’ll be extremely relieved that you had it. So, I’d like to explain to you what it is; show you how to use it; and share with you some tips and issues to consider. What is Bear Spray? Bear Spray is an aerosol made from the oil of hot peppers – the same ones that many of you eat in spicy foods – only far more concentrated. It’s effectively the same “pepper spray” or “OC spray” that police officers use in the front-county.  The main difference, though, is that Bear Spray generates a larger, […]

Read more

Land Navigation Technique – Boxing Out

Land Navigation Technique - Boxing Out

Even if you are really skilled at using a map and compass, sometimes finding your intended destination can be a challenge.  So, I’d like to share with you a really useful tool called Boxing Out. Boxing Out can come in handy in many situations.  For example, a hiker could use it to help find a trail intersection.  Maybe you are competing in an orienteering race run by our friends at the Western Pennsylvania Orienteering Club and can’t seem to find one of their checkpoint flags.  Or perhaps you are a soldier training for Special Forces selection knowing that its landed navigation course is viewed by many as the toughest in the U.S. military and so is the key reason why so many fail.  Boxing Out, then, can be a really important tool to use. So check out this video to learn more: To learn more about this topic and other […]

Read more

What does COVID-19 have to do with Wilderness Survival?

What does COVID-19 have to do with Wilderness Survival?

As the tide of fear regarding the COVID-19 virus washed in locally this weekend, I witnessed a wide mix of responses, some of which I found heartening and others which left me with a loss of words.  Most people seemed to be simply going about their lives while following the recommended Center for Disease Control guidelines, like avoiding large crowds or events, maintaining distances of 6 feet from other persons for long periods of time, staying home if feeling ill, and, most importantly, washing hands regularly.  Likewise, on Saturday morning, while at a local gun store with Instructor Jarod, to buy a box of ammunition for a long planned private training with him (I’m a police officer) that he was kind enough to provide me, a customer had purportedly just left after having spent $20,000 on assorted weapons.  And later that day, I watched customers at a local store clear […]

Read more

Passing SFAS Land Navigation with Confidence

Passing SFAS Land Navigation with Confidence

You’ve committed yourself to challenge Special Forces Assessment and Selection (SFAS).  Without a doubt, the road to becoming a Green Beret is one of the most grueling selection processes that the U.S. Army has to offer.  After all, it is intended to be a reliable predictor, not just of your ability to pass the Special Forces Qualification Course (SFQC), but your ability to function in those operational environments in which you will ultimately serve.  Now comes the hard part, preparing yourself physically and mentally to not just survive, but thrive, amid the many challenges ahead that your instructors will throw at you.  One will be the need to pass the land navigation course.  So we would like to offer you three tips to help you train. Over the years, the most common concern that our military clients have expressed to us at True North is their ability to pass the […]

Read more

Snakebite Kits … Do They Work?

Snakebite Kits ... Do They Work?

One of the topics that True North covers in its various wilderness medicine programs, like Wilderness First Aid, is how to properly manage a snakebite.  Although, despite popular belief, such incidents are not common, and so few people actually die as a result, I still feel the need — almost an obligation — to cover this topic for two reasons.  The first is, even if it’s just a 1:1,000 chance that you or someone else could be bitten, it still remains a possibility, so if it does happen, then you’ll likely be darn happy that I spent the extra time teaching you.  But the main reason is that I am routinely shocked by all of the misinformation and hyperbole that abounds — from newspapers to medical journals to even first-aid manuals — and the still too common belief in old fashioned treatments and remedies, not just in lay persons, but […]

Read more

How to Find Your Declination

How to Find Your Declination

The essence of being able to navigate in the outdoors with only a map and compass is easy, but in practice it’s a bit more difficult.  For example, you typically need to adjust for magnetic declination when setting a bearing.  But fully understanding this concept can take some mental effort, and finding the most current setting for your location can be harder.  If you don’t, then you greatly risk finding yourself well off course.  So, let me share a tool with you that I am confident that you’ll find convenient and helpful. I regularly use the application What’s My Declination? on my iPhone because, in effect, it helps me to find North, the touchstone of land navigation. But you’re probably already asking yourself, “Huh? The needle of his compass should already be doing that.”  And, you’d be correct.  Sort of. The reason is, in effect, there are four Norths.  The […]

Read more