True North Blog

Suggested Resource for Land Navigation

Yesterday, at Hartwood Acres County Park, I spent the day teaching “Basic Wilderness Navigation.”  The main goal of this course is twofold.  First, of course, is to provide our students with the fundamentals of using a compass and map so that they can begin to feel more confident as they prepare for, and engage in, their chosen outdoor activities.  But, the second, and arguably the most important goal, is to provide each student with a solid foundation of understanding for their continued self learning.  That’s because, as I stress at the conclusion of our various land navigation courses (not to mention many of our other courses, like wilderness first aid), their training hasn’t ended, rather, it has only just started.  In short, and in common parlance, if you don’t use it, you’re going to lose it.  So, I very often recommend the book, Be Expert with Map and Compass by Bjorn Kellstrom, as a resource.

Be ExpertHuh? … Perishable skill?  The ability to comfortably and reliably navigate through the backcountry using a map and compass is what, in scientific parlance, psychologists call a “perishable skill.”  That is, there are certain types of skills that if you newly learn today, even with an advanced level of competence, that if you don’t continue to practice and study, over time you will gradually lose that skill even if your confidence level continues to remain high.  Example include wilderness first aid (like how to properly asses and treat a patient) or wilderness survival (like how to build a fire or construct a shelter).

This gradual loss of skill can be quite quick, in fact.  A recent peer reviewed research study indicates that such a loss can occur within six months, even in as little as three months.

Practice, then, really does help to make perfect … especially continued practice.

Anyway, first published in 1955, Kjellstrom’s book is a wonderful resource that has become a classic.  In fact, it is an oft cited reference in the U.S. Army Map Reading and Land Navigation Handbook.  I am confident that whether you are a beginner or even an expert, you’ll gain and hone valuable skills which will make you a more competent navigator.

Now get out there and practice!

Erik Kulick leaning aginst wall with True North badge on blue shirt

About the Author

Erik is the founder of True North Wilderness Survival School. He is a police officer, EMS provider, a Wilderness EMT, and a Fellow of the Academy of Wilderness Medicine. He has been featured in national and international media, including CNN, the Associated Press, and Backpacker. To learn more about Erik, visit him on LinkedIn and be sure to follow him on Facebook and YouTube.

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