Hollywood somehow likes the concept of getting lost or stranded in a desolate place. There’s Tom Hanks in Cast Away, a young Brooke Shields in The Blue Lagoon, the hit TV show Lost, and of course, the classic story of Tarzan. Many of these films are based on true stories of people who were stranded somewhere for some reason. The movies focused on the drama that happened while the protagonists struggle to find their way home back to their loved ones. How much easier it would have been if they only knew how to navigate back to safety.
Of course, it takes time to learn the different ways to navigate. It’s not impossible, however. So if you don’t want to end up making friends with a volleyball, you better learn as many survival skills as you can including how to navigate and avoid being the modern day version of Robinson Crusoe.
How to Navigate with Tools
In these modern times, it’s hard to get lost. You have navigating tools at your disposal. A few clicks on your phone and you have Google Maps and GPS. In the old days, people used sextants, chronometers, slide rules, and the trusty compass. Pirates used treasure maps marked with an X to find their way or at least that’s what books, movies and cartoons thought us. We still use most of these instruments, especially when going on a camping, hiking or boating trip. It’s a good idea to have backup navigating tools in case the modern ones break down or run out of juice and are rendered ineffective.
That said, we’re here to learn how to navigate back to safety with the help of some tools.
The compass is perhaps the most popular navigating tool but probably not the most dependable, especially if you consider the one used by this Captain Jack Sparrow fella. Don’t get me wrong, though. Compass has lasted this far because they do work. What gives compass a bad rep are the super cheap ones that break easy or give inaccurate readings.
If you’re looking for a compass, shell out a few more dollars than the cheapskate in you would like to. Remember, in an emergency situation, you may depend on your compass to survive. Using a cheap one is like giving up all hope of getting back home safely. For beginners, a baseplate compass will do.
How to Use A Compass
To use a baseplate compass, you must first understand its basic parts. There’s the floating needle often with a red tip and the housing, which is the movable round piece with the direction and degrees. The direction-of-travel arrow is located on the base.
Hold the compass close to your body at waist level. The direction-of-travel arrow should be pointing away from you. Hold it at level so the floating needle will move freely. Observe the needle as you turn around slowly. The needle should be pointing at one direction even as you move. This is the north.
Turn the housing around until the travel arrow on the base plate and your desired direction are aligned. You will then need to adjust the housing a bit to compensate for declination. Magnetic north, which is where the needle is pointing, is several degrees off the true north. If you have a map, you can find the declination in your area.
Hold the compass in front of you once more and turn. This time, stop when the needle is pointing to the north or the N on the housing. Next, locate where you are (Point A) and where you’re going (Point B) on your map. Place the compass on the map with the arrow on the baseplate aligned with the direction from your Point A to B. Rotate the housing to align the N and S labels with the North and South on your map. Adjust for declination once more.
With the compass again in front of you, turn until the floating arrow aligns with the N on the housing. Start your journey back to safety by following the direction of the travel arrow. Of course, you can’t just walk straight like they do in cartoons or comedy shows. Watch out for ravines, huge trees, and other obstacles.
How to Navigate Without Tools
If Moana could sail treacherous waters and the vast ocean to find Te Fiti, so can you. Well, you’re not exactly looking for a humongous Beyonce look-alike goddess to give her groove back but you get the point.
In the Disney film, Moana’s ancestors were seafarers, who ditched their boats once they found land to settle in. In real life, this is known as the colonization of the Pacific Islands. Early humans around the globe travelled by land and sea to find the perfect place to start new lives. This was a time when wayfinding involved navigation tools that were nothing more than what we see around us.
The demigod Maui used the stars to navigate the seas, a skill he taught the badass Disney princess. This part of the story is embedded in human history. In fact, using the night sky was and remains one of the most popular ways how to navigate back to safety. It’s definitely a skill worth learning.
Use the Crescent Moon As Guide
If you find yourself lost in the jungle or alone on a boat in the middle of the sea, use the stars to find your way back. The first thing you must remember is that moonlight is actually sunlight that’s reflected on the surface of the moon. It’s the side of the moon that we see from Earth.
This bit of information will probably not win you any trivia game show but it will definitely help you navigate back to safety. That’s because you can use the two horns of a crescent moon to find north. Just connect the two tips of the moon and draw an imaginary line extending to the horizon. The point where your line meets land is north.
Find the North Star
You can also use the North Star to find north. If you don’t know which one is it, look for the Big Dipper. It’s a group of seven stars that resemble a dipper or plough when you connect the dots. The two stars at the tip of the dipper (the part where liquid would run off) align with the North Star or Polaris. Consider the distance between the two pointer stars then look for the star that’s five times this distance. That should be the North Star.
The North Star is directly above the North Pole. Hence, if you’re trying to locate the true north, you’re really looking for the North Pole.
Use Sticks to Navigate
Another way to find directions at night is to use a couple of sticks, one longer than the other. Look up and find the brightest star. Lie down on the ground in a prone position then drive the shorter sticks into the ground at eye level. Drive the other stick behind the first stick making sure their tips are aligned with your chosen star.
Observe the movements of the star. If it moves up, you are facing east and if the star moves down, you’re looking at the west. If the star moves to the right then you are facing south. Once it moves the other way, then you know you’re facing north.
Navigate Using the Land
When you’re on hiking and somehow loses your way, don’t beat yourself up. Even the most experience outdoorsmen and women sometimes get lost. Aside from knowing survival skills, it is also important you know how to navigate back to safety.
Survey your surroundings and determine which way is downhill and where the nearest body of water is. This should be easy if you’re familiar with the terrain. Go downhill and follow and water source you may find. This will eventually lead to a trail or to civilization.
If you’re unfamiliar with the place, find the highest place you can climb. Once on top, survey your surroundings and look for any signs of life particularly of the presence of humans. If you notice a gap in the treeline, that’s probably a road or trail. When it gets dark, be wary of artificial light. If you notice one, head towards it.
Learning how to navigate whether using a tool such as a compass or by depending on nature is one of the most important survival skills everyone must know. if you wish to know more survival skills and even tips on how to survive different scenarios, please visit The Gentleman Pirate. There are tons of important information we would love to share with you.
Just a disclaimer – We have partnered with these companies because we use their products and/or proudly trust and endorse them – so we do receive a commission if you make a purchase or sign up for services.
Often, we are able to negotiate special discounts and/or bonuses, which we will pass on to you via our links. We often get short notice on sale items available for 24-48 hours as we will pass these savings onto you.