Interested in exploring the great outdoors? Whether you are backpacking Yellowstone, trekking through unmarked terrain, tracking and hunting prey, or simply interested in orienteering, the map and compass are invaluable tools for staying on course.
Put in its simplest terms, the compass is your guide to anywhere you want to go on the map. Orienteering, or the skill of navigation using a topographical map and compass, is the technique of interpreting what your compass is telling you and transferring that information to your map.
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Following are some tips and phrases to help you learn the basic terminology and become better acquainted with the in’s and out’s of map and compass use.
What the United States Declaration of Independence has to say about men, does not apply to maps. Not all maps are created equal, and know that only a topographical map works best for orienteering.
A topographical map consists of contour lines and a legend depicting natural and manmade features on the terrain. The scale of the topographical map most commonly used for map and compass navigation for orienteering is 1:24,000, otherwise known as the seven and a half minute map, produced by the United States Geological Survey (USGS).
What this scale means is that every unit on your map represents 24,000 units on the ground. In other words, the distance depicted by one inch on your map equals to 24,000 inches on the ground.
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The contour lines on the map are the brown lines that follow the contour of the terrain in the real world. Each line is a measure of altitude, so if you see several lines close together, this means that that area represents a steep increase in elevation. The distance in altitude between each contour line is 40 feet.
Other features on your topo map include bodies of water, depressions (craters) and manmade features.
First off, know that the top of your map is north and the bottom is south. Knowing this, pull out your compass and notice that it too indicates north and south. Most compasses used for land navigation consist of a round bezel over a rectangular base.
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