Basic Land Navigation

The goal of this course is to improve the confidence of anyone who spends time in the outdoors by providing the fundamental skills of land navigation.  Whether you are a beginner, or need a refresher, this course is for you.


This course is approved by the WMS for credits in its Fellow of the Academy of Wilderness Medicine (FAWM) program. See details below.

In our Basic Land Navigation course, you will start by learning the basics, like parts of the compass, how to read a topographic map, as well as how to use related tools, equipment, and resources. Then, as you become more confident in your ability, we will set off into the woods so that you can increasingly put your knowledge to use in an active, hands-on, and practicable way.  This will allow you to become comfortable setting bearings, translating terrain features, and estimating travel times, amongst other skills.  The foundation of this course is to learn by doing.

Amongst many other topics, you will learn about:

  • Compass selection and use, including orienteering and lensatic.
  • Map reading, with emphasis USGS topographic.
  • Map scales, with emphasis on 1:24,000.
  • Adjusting for declination.
  • Navigating techniques using dead-reckoning and terrain association.
  • Route planning for short or long-range distances.

This course is geared towards participants of all skill levels and backgrounds so no particular experience or athletic ability is necessary. We only require that you bring the necessary equipment, your sense of adventure, and your Positive Mental Attitude. From there, we will work together to take care of the rest. However, please note the “Level of Physical Difficulty” description below so that we can all get the most out of the program.

  • Course Duration: One Day (7 hours)
  • Tuition: $100
  • Course Limit: 10
  • Start / End Times: 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
  • Location: Hartwood Acres County Park (located roughly 15 miles north of Pittsburgh)
  • FAWM Credits:  This course is approved by the Wilderness Medical Society (WMS) for 6.5 credit hours of Land Navigation (05-015) in the Survival, Field Craft & Equipment subject area of its Fellow of the Academy of Wilderness Medicine (FAWM) program, but please note the WMS credit policy for all of its accredited programs: “This course offers FAWM core and elective credits. Actual credits awarded depend on personal credit needs and history as determined by the Wilderness Medical Society.”  For more information or clarification contact us, or the WMS directly.

After registering for the course, students will receive a detailed course information sheet which will contain all of the applicable details, like required and recommended gear, exact location, driving directions, etc. 

Description of the Level of Physical Difficulty – Moderate:  This course involves walking over varying distances at a steady pace over varying terrain that will include off-trail sections, rough spots, unexpected obstacles, and low to steep inclines and declines.  This course is conducted in varying weather conditions, including hot, cold, humid, rain, and snow.  This course is best suited for those in good physical condition.

Check Out these Answers to Commonly Asked Questions

Are bathroom facilities available during the course?  Bathroom facilities will be available before and after this course, and at various times throughout the day.

Where is this course located?  Our primary location is Hartwood Acres County Park, which is located roughly 15 miles north of Pittsburgh.

What is the minimum age required for our courses?  In our open registration courses, children 15-17 years old are welcome when accompanied by a parent or guardian.  In our private courses, however, there is no set age requirement as it depends on the specific group’s needs and goals.

What kind of gear do I need to bring?  True North will provide all of the needed training supplies, including maps and compasses.

BWN Equipment

Basic Wilderness Navigation – Equipment List

If you would like a better sense of what additional gear that you need to bring on the course, or optional gear to consider, then check out the equipment list that will be included with the course information sheet (just “click” on the image to enlarge) when you register.

However, since one of our course goals is to teach you about various gear, plus offer you a chance to “test drive” it before you buy it, if you don’t have an item, don’t necessarily feel compelled to buy it right away … especially if it’s expensive.  Instead, contact us to see if we can loan you an item or make a recommendation for purchase.