Welcome to Land Navigation!
As the formerly eternal lost boy, I knew that I had to get my navigation together. Thankfully with appropriate military training, I have managed to do so. Here are some tips and resources regarding land navigation!
Read these two chapters from a US Army ROTC textbook to get you started:
Intro to Map Reading – covers essential map reading knowledge.
Intro to Land Navigation – taking map reading to land navigation.
Land Navigation Program – You can purchase a Land Navigation Program for further instruction. It’s a fairly good program that costs $39.95. A bit steep for what it is, but it will definitely give you good instructions in terms of map reading.
Military Protractor – INSTRUCTIONS: Download it and print it on transparent paper if you can’t get your hands on one the normal way. Use a pin to punch a hole in the middle of the protractor. Cut out the three triangles if you intend to use them. Make sure the edges are cut well too. This particular protractor is the Afghan National Army version.
Pace counts are an elusive art that smells of voodoo magic, pixie dust and the male version of a cow. However, with enough practice, this too can be mastered to a reasonable level.
Why Master Pace Counts?
For those who get tested on Land Navigation in the military or at ROTC (a poor performance at LDAC can jack your military career before it even begins), this is obviously a must. For everyone else, this could be very useful in the event your GPS actually breaks down in the field.
There are many tools for judging distances but the tool of my choice is a Garmin Forerunner 205. It is a GPS worn on the wrist like a watch. This is used as a training tool for establishing your pace counts. Pace counts are useful only when a GPS is not available for any number of reasons (i.e. malfunction, dead batteries with no spares).
Costing at just a little over a hundred dollars, this GPS not only tells you how far or what direction you are traveling in, but allows you to import that onto your PC for review.
Wear the same footwear that you would use in the field. Your pace count and all can change depending on what shoes you are wearing.
Keeping track of how many paces you took probably won’t be the only thing on your mind when out in the field. Either way, even a minor distraction can leave you asking if you just said “forty four” or “fifty four.”
Phase 1: Taking Pace Counts
The first pace count you should take is on a flat, improved road, such as the pace count for a hundred meters on your local outdoor, 400m track. This serves as your “control” pace count. Do it at least three times to make sure you are consistent. Use your GPS, but as a means of testing your GPS’s accuracy. If you are accurate to within 2 meters, you should be fine.
Next, do the same on a semi-improved road such as a dirt path and then on a grassy field. When going on a dirt path or grassy field, use your GPS to judge distance.
The next places to conduct your pace counts are in terrain that resembles the place that you will be working in. Study the maps of the areas you are going to and see what the terrain is like. Find similar features in your area and conduct pace counts. Diversify the number of areas of similar features you go to and average out your pace counts.
Make sure you do this for both day and night, and for the appropriate season if possible. Your pace count in a semi-improved road during the summer will differ from your pace count on the same road covered in snow and ice.
Phase 2: Testing your pace counts
The second phase is to take the pace counts you have acquired and go to places in which you have not taken your original pace counts. When you’ve chosen a direction, turn on your GPS and go until you feel that you have covered 100m (per your pace counts). Now, check the GPS and see what it says.
Repeat this exercise over and over in areas that you are not familiar with in order to improve your pace counts.
Your pace count in familiar and unfamiliar areas differ, even if the terrain features are very similar.