Undoubtedly, you’re either reading this on a smartphone or you’ve got a smartphone in your pocket or sitting on the table or desk in front of you. Most likely, that device features a compass. In fact, the digital app version of one of the most ancient navigational tools in the world comes standard with most cell phones and other mobile devices these days.
Toss in Google Maps, Pacer, Apple Maps, MapMyWalk, Waze, and other directional apps that rely on GPS technology and you’ve got to ask yourself, “Why the heck should I bother using unwieldy paper maps and a handheld compass to explore the backcountry?”
Of course, there are plenty of good reasons to master traditional map and compass skills, the most obvious being, “Damn, I got no signal.”
Here at The National Center for Outdoor and Adventure Education (NCOAE), we include lessons in basic map and compass skills on every expedition we lead. In fact, it’s part of our “First 48” programming, which teaches students important technical skills they’ll need to know within the first two days of any NCOAE backcountry expedition.
During the Fist 48, NCOAE course participants learn the basics of a baseplate compass, as well as how to (more…)