In the time before iPhones and Google Maps, or even well before compasses, navigation was done very differently. Mother nature has always been able to provide us with everything we need to navigate through the wilderness, we just have to know where to look.
Navigation in nature is something that many wilderness lovers pride themselves on being able to do, but it’s a skill that requires patience and time to get right. However, once you know how to navigate with things like the moss on trees or the direction of the moon, you can pretty much guarantee you’ll always find your way home.
If you’ve ever wanted to ditch your GPS system and let the planet guide you, we’re here to show you how. We’ve found all of the ways to navigate with nature and some handy tips you can use to ensure that you never get lost when you’re on a camping trip.
The Different Ways Of Navigating In Nature
Bringing along a compass or GPS system is one of those essential camping supplies, just like a sleeping bag or tent. Although it wouldn’t be wise to ditch them altogether, you can learn how to navigate using nature so if the need ever arises, you’d be able to find your way home. Here are some common ways to use natural resources in order to get where you need to go.
Most people think they can navigate easily using the sun, simply by claiming that it rises in the east. This answer is both wrong and right, as the sun doesn’t always rise in the same place, depending on the Equinox. Therefore, you need to think about the current season and then use these guides to show you the way depending on the sunrise:
- Northeast: Summer Solstice which takes place in June
- East: During March and September for the Equinoxes
- Southeast: During December or the Winter Solstice
There are methods which allow you to trace the sun’s shadow by using a stick, but it depends on many things like climate and where in the world you are. As this can change quite dramatically, it can take some time to learn.
There are a few methods for navigating your way through nature by using the moon. Although not entirely accurate as some others, this is still easy enough to test out and is called the crescent method.
Using your mind, draw a mental line that connects to two tips of a crescent moon and then move it down to the horizon. Be sure the moon is quite high and not too close to the horizon already. In places of northern latitude, you’ll get an idea of where South is by looking at this point.
Star navigating is a very popular method used but one that can seem complicated. If you were to find a star exactly above where you need to go, you could follow it until you reached your mark. However, as stars move often this can be hard, but this isn’t the case with the North Star.
Find the Northern Star in the sky and will always point to true North. However, it will take some research to be able to identify this star amongst the constellations, but it’s well worth knowing. The North Star sits directly above the North Pole at all times and will point you to a very accurate true North.
Sea navigation is extremely complex but it’s a method that was used by sailors and voyagers for centuries before other methods came to be. People usually assume that nautical navigation has more to do with star navigation but it’s actually more about the water.
Sea navigation is done by reading into things like waves, swells, and ripples. Those who are expert at this method will be able to use these signs almost like a map and know which way to go. However, it is quite complex when compared to the other methods and requires years of practice.
The next time you’re lost in the wilderness you might be able to look to your animal friends for some help or directions. People don’t realize just how beneficial animals can be, and how instinctive they are when it comes to their own actions and knowing about the weather and other conditions.
One example is to look for a spider’s web in a tree. These webs are built always sheltered from the wind, which blows usually from the southwest. If you’re somewhere around sheep, you can look at bushes and trees to see if one side is less healthy than others. This can indicate they have been feeding on that side and seeking shelter from wind also.
Paying close attention to the plants in an area can indicate some things about direction. Just by looking at them and assessing their branches and leaves, you may be able to tell which direction the wind came from or shone on them during the day. This can help you them to find your way due to common occurrences like wind coming from the southwest.
Another way to tell by looking at larger trees that aren’t in sheltered areas. You’ll find they may slant more towards one way than another, indicating that they’ve been combed by the wind from southwest to northeast.
People have a common misconception that they can simply lick their finger, hold it in the air, and the wind will show them which way to go. However, wind trends differ in each location, so it’s not exactly precise. To be able to test with the wind, you’ll need to first know about the trends in that area so you can better assess them. You should also keep an eye on the clouds to see their patterns, as this will all help with navigation.
Easy Tips For Navigating
Navigation is a skill that must be learned over years of practice, and it’s something that all campers should have a basic knowledge to keep them safe. Here are some easy tips that will make navigating easier and reduce your chances of getting lost in the great outdoors.
Make an effort at all times, not just when you’re lost, to remember where you’re going. We often walk along without paying attention to what we’re doing but it’s important if you want to navigate your way back.
Keep A Navigation Tool Close By
It’s always best to have your compass or GPS on hand, situated at the top of your bag or even in your hand. That way you can make quick checks as needed and rely less on guessing.
Finding your way in the great outdoors takes time and those who rush the process are more likely to become lost. Walk slowly and carefully and don’t rush anything.
Landmarks And Checks
Make a point of noting at what time you passed significant landmarks. If you become lost, you’ll have a better idea of how far you’ve traveled and in what direction so you can find your way back.
Know Your Pace
Pay attention to the pace that you’re walking, or if in a group, what speed you are all traveling. Knowing this one piece of information can be enough to save you and it’s often overlooked in navigating.
Understand Magnetic Variation
This refers to magnetic declination, which is the difference between what appears on your compass and the north shown on your map.
If you get lost, try not to think of the scenario in a negative way. Instead, think of it in an objective or positive manner. We might feel that we are losing our way but we are too proud to admit it and this is never the right approach.
No matter what happens, remaining calm will be the best tip you’ll ever get. Doing things in a panic will not be helpful and could alter your usually good judgment.
Using Nature To Find Your Way
While it’s always recommended to bring along a proper navigation tool like a compass or GPS device, nature also provides plenty of options as well. Learning how to use each of these natural resources to your benefit can be a great skill to have and one that may very well come in handy during your camping trips.
One of the most important skills we have is navigating, and especially when we’re out in the wilderness with no signposts to show us the way. Take some time to learn more about these navigational skills and show your friends and family what you’ve learned, to enable more people to be able to find their way if they’re ever in danger.