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Navigation Tutorial (a Summary)

posted Jul 11, 2015, 4:29 PM by Guy O'Neill   [ updated Sep 10, 2015, 1:14 AM ]

Navigation is the component of Adventure racing that really attracted me to the sport. I can recall being spellbound by my race partner's ability to foresee when a rise or fall in our coming terrain was approaching. Then once introduced to Rogaining the deal was sealed.
As a beginner in the sport I thought that I had this nav thing sorted after 2 attempts, mind you I had a lead nav team mate which made it look somewhat easy. I entered 2 races as a solo, & well, didn't things change. I had to rely on my decisions solely, I could hear other teams say "look, follow him, he knows where he's going..." Right! Sure follow me if you dare.
Many rookie mistakes were made, but in a strange way I was glad to have made the mistakes and then be compelled to rectify them and discover how I went wrong and how to not repeat the same mistakes next race.

I started to Google navigation to the hilt. I have read articles, purchased e-books, read & re-read. Nothing much different in any of them, just portrayed in different manners. 

So I have come to the conclusion to write a Summary of Navigation Skill requirements, then you need to do the research and reading, and even once you understand what you are trying to look at on a map & how to point your compass, you SIMPLY HAVE TO GO BUSH AND PRACTICE!  
1. Map Reading
2. The Compass
3. Race Strategies 

1 - Map Reading

Goal: learn how to read a map & identify features (particularly small features) so you can pick the most suitable route to your desired destination.
Understand that the map in your hand will only tell you part of the story of the landscape, you need to be prepared to "read between the lines" literally.
Identify and use handrails and various features that will assist & verify your whereabouts as you navigate toward CP's (checkpoints)
Use these features to provide backstops and attack points.

You will learn how to identify all of your main features; gullies, spurs, cliffs, hills, depressions, watercourses, ridges, saddles.
Get a map of your local national park, go out and practise looking at the real world of what your looking at on the map.
The better you can identify where you are all the time the more accurate you will become at finding your entry and exit points looking for CP's in a race.
2 - The Compass

Goal: be one with the compass and understand declination. Add this skill to your honed map reading skills & you'll make it home.
Practise direct bearings, aiming-off strategies, micro-navigating, and pacing.

Putting Map & Compass together

Using your knowledge of these 2 instruments will enable you to not only locate where you are heading but to also re-locate yourself when the inevitable occurs, getting lost.
It is important to observe the overall surroundings, like skirting roads, major creek lines etc so you can design a safety bearing escape route.
The more familiar you become reading a map the more comfortable you will become entering foreign territory and finding your way to CP's & ultimately back home.

3 - Race Strategies.

Goal: develop your preferred race strategies. A few ideas below, but as always, horses for courses. How fit you are? The race terrain? Your team mate? All these attributes will potentially alter you race strategy from race to race. 
Primary Goal; collect the most points in the most efficient manner.

  1. Mark check points along similar elevations and gather these whilst at that elevation. Purpose is to minimise the elevation gain between CP points which of course economises energy.
  2. Determine where you want (or need) to be within 2hrs of the finish to ensure the best chance of returning to the finish in time.
  3. Bee-lining between CP's in order to cover the shortest distance is often reserved for the supremely fit athletes as you will do more elevation for sure.
  4. For pre-race course planning I mark a string every 10cm, & by placing the map on a cork board and using pin flags to plot the CP's I can run the string line between flags to determine approx distance, and hence approx timings, mix up course possibilities and options very quickly.
  5. Aiming off is particularly useful when crossing undulating terrain and wanting to hit a watercourse. 

Magnetic Declination

posted Jun 16, 2015, 1:10 PM by Guy O'Neill   [ updated Aug 11, 2015, 8:51 PM ]

What is it?
Compasses point to Magnetic North (somewhere over Canada)
Maps are to Grid North Pole
True North is the actual curved direction to the North Pole.

In Australia we get an Easterly Declination (except the very west coast of WA where it turns westerly)

When taking a reading off the map, subtract the declination to follow the magnetic reading on the actual trail.
So a reading off the map of 91deg East on the Gold Coast with a 11deg E dec = following a bearing of 80deg East.
The easiest method is to have a compass that allows you to set the red direction arrow to the declination setting.

When taking a reading from a feature on the trail, you need to add the declination to the reading from the compass to map it on the map.
So the opposite would've been true in the above example. If you were looking at a feature and the compass read 80deg then you'd add 11deg = 91deg to locate it on the map.

Bearing taken Off the Map = subtract
Magnetic Bearing onto the Map = add

Add to add to the Map.
Off when off the Map.

You need to Google the actual declination of the area you are going to be racing in as it changes from region and year to year.
here's the link http://www.magnetic-declination.com/

Mandatory Gear

posted Feb 18, 2015, 2:45 AM by Guy O'Neill   [ updated Feb 18, 2015, 2:45 AM ]

List of items recommended before leaving the trail head;

n the kit:

#1. Gear Aid Tenacious Tape – Repairs ripped jackets, sleeping pads, tents and shelters, etc.
#2. A bike chain master link – Since we transfer this kit from the trekking leg to the bike leg we keep a master link in this kit, double check to make sure your have your chains specific link.
#3. Type A Tear Aid patches – Similar to the Tenacious Tape but cut into small patches and great for fabric tears.
#4. 12 feet of 2″ Duct Tape – Dubbed Kentucky Chrome, this is one of the most versatile items in this kit. Perfect for bike repairs, patches, first aid, etc. There are literally a thousand uses for Duct Tape.
#5. Bic lighter – Fire is one of the most important survival tools and a must have at all races. I’ve used my bic to start a fire for someone who was suffering from hypothermia.
#6. SOL Tinder Quik- A waterproof and windproof fire starer that burns for up to 2 minutes.
#7. SOL Fire Lite – A one-hand operable sparker that produces a powerful shower of sparks. It provides over 5000 sparks and doesn’t run on fuel like the Bic. We use this as our back up fire starter.
#8. 3 spare batteries – Make sure you know before hand which headlamp you’ll be using and bring enough fresh batteries to power it, our Princeton Tech headlamp requires 3.
#9. Medical Tape – We recommend you bring a whole roll for splinting and other serious wound care, it’s very light and has many applications.
#10. Compressed towels – These compressed towels are very light weight and pack down to the size of a nickel but when you apply a drop of water they grow to small towel. Perfect for first-aid situations, emergency toilet paper, cleaning bike parts, etc. We love these!
#11. ChapStick – Make sure you find a chapstick that has an SPF rating and sunblock.
#12. Aquaphor – Eucerin’s  Aquaphor is an ointment and another multi functional item we have to have in our kit. It can be used for lip treatment, foot repair, chafing, etc. This has saved us more than once and will save us again.
#13. ID – Always keep a photocopy of your drivers license on your for multiple reasons. Make sure you check your state laws because in some states, color copies are illegal.
#14. Bandaids – We always keep an assortment of different sizes and styles of bandaids in our kit along with a few mole skins for blister care. The fabric bandages with an antiseptic are the best in our opinion.
#15. Epipen – This is an essential for all allergy sufferers and a serious matter. Make sure your friends and/or teammates know how to use this and the measures that follow after its use.
#16. SOL Emergency Blanket – This is one of the most essential parts of this kit and one of the items that started this article. The cyclists that needed rescued could have prevented their situation by simply carrying a “space blanket”. This item is on every mandatory gear list at every race I’ve ever attended, and if it isn’t you should bring one anyways. It can be used as a life saving device, emergency shelter, sun cover, and many more.
#17. Portable Aqua Tabs  – Most RD’s (race director) require each person solo or team to have the means to treat at least 1 liter of water.  Each tablet treats 1 liter every 4 hours, so this is a true survival item. If you find yourself needing to treat higher quanities at a quicker rate you should consider a different method.
#18. Medicine – We bring at least 3 doses of an Antihistamine (Benadryl) and equal doses of an anti inflammatory/ pain reliever such as Ibuprofen in a waterproof bag. If you have specific medical needs it’s a great idea to keep a few extra here and a small instruction sheet for emergencies.
#19. Pocket Knife – A folding knife at least 2″ in length is always required at races but we like to keep an extra knife in our kit, a small swiss army style knife with scissors, blade, and file is always a helpful tool.
#20. Tweezers – Light weight and an essential part of a first aid kit.
#21. Safety pins - These are another essential part of our first aid kit, perfect for attaching items, repairing ripped clothing and gear, use for medical purposes, etc. There are literally thousands of uses for safety pins.
#22. Creams and ointments – Obviously this will vary due to personal preference and sport but here are some items we alway keep on hand; Antiseptic towelettes, triple antibiotic ointment, Tecnu First Aid GelTecnu Extreme, and a few sting relief towelettes for summer adventures.
#23. Gauze Sponges – Gauze sponges are individually wrapped pieces of gauze that are required in most first aid kits. We prefer these because they pack down a lot smaller than a roll and don’t come unraveled and messy.


posted Jan 24, 2015, 4:46 PM by Guy O'Neill   [ updated Jun 16, 2015, 1:15 PM ]

link to full article 

Thanks to Mark Lattanzi another easy to follow instruction on navigation skills.

The basic idea is to take two bearings to far away, known features/objects (that are on your map). Nearby peaks are a typical choice. Ideally, the bearings to these objects are 90 degrees apart. Then, drawing (actually drawing with a pen) these two bearing lines on your map (accounting for declination as necessary) allows you to figure out your approximate position (the intersection of the bearing lines). This also works if you are on a trail (or other linear feature). Then you only need to take one bearing. The intersection of your bearing line and the linear feature is your approximate current position.

Some good tips from a seasoned campaigner

posted Oct 19, 2014, 2:05 AM by Guy O'Neill   [ updated Oct 19, 2014, 2:05 AM ]

navigation tips by robert rankin

Navigation skill courses

posted Jul 7, 2014, 2:29 AM by Guy O'Neill   [ updated Jul 7, 2014, 2:29 AM ]

basic nav & rookie errors (made by a rookie)

posted Jul 2, 2014, 1:23 PM by Guy O'Neill   [ updated Jul 2, 2014, 1:23 PM ]

It was the navigation aspect that got me hooked onto adventure racing & rogaines.
My 1st AR I partnered with a fella who was able to predict that we would be travelling uphill as we round the next bend, to decide to go bush whacking to save metres & we in fact shot in front of one team 3 times, forcing them to admit that even though they were faster than us they were not as smart as us. Well, not as smart as my race partner.
I never got to hold the map that race.
I wanted to be as smart as he was.
I wanted to be nav-savvy.

So the next 2 AR races had a solo division & I decided that to learn fast I had to throw myself in deep & be solely responsible for my own direction. I made mistakes, quite a few in fact, and I spent hours after each of those races going over my mistakes analysing where & how I went wrong, and what I need to do to next time.
I wrote notes on what I should have seen when out on the trail, I made notes on what equipment I should have on self to make it easier in the heat of battle (with the mind that is)
I purchased online books on navigation, & I have watched many youtubes & read many articles on nav.
I found another race partner who also knew a bit about nav and after 3 races of sharing knowledge developed further improvements.

Like any skill I find there are some essential basics that need to become base skills, ones you can fall back on, ones that when you are tired you simply go back to basics and sought it out, and of course there are the high end skills and tricks and simple down to earth experience that will come in good time. But get the basics as second nature.

My thoughts on the basics;
  • Learn to orientate the map
  • Know the value of declination... many times in the field you only need to know the general direction, but when you come across a split trail that is not shown on the map (could be a new trail since the last mapping) then the slight difference of direction due to declination can make the world of difference
  • Get a quality compass that sets fast, some cheaper ones take forever to set 
  • Take a map with contours to your local national park and take the time time to absorb the terrain and how it looks on the map
  • Learn to pace out your 100m, absolutely critical in the dark
  • Learn to identify features, find a feature on your map and go and find it
    • creek lines (many are dry)
    • identify gullies, re-entrants & spurs, especially little ones so you can count them & identify which one you should be investigating for that CP
    • learn how to convert scale to metres on the ground
    • know the contour incline, is it 5m, 10m or 20m .... can make quite the difference in route choice, hills hurt!
When on the move;
  • Be aware of your direction of travel all the time, check the compass and which way the trail should be heading
  • Note ahead of time if you should be changing direction anytime soon
  • Note a feature you should see before approaching a nearing CP
  • Note a feature you might see if you have over-shot the mark when seeking a CP
  • DON'T blindly follow other competitors
  • DON'T make the terrain match the map 

AR Navigation

posted Jun 21, 2014, 1:28 AM by Guy O'Neill   [ updated Aug 20, 2015, 1:04 PM ]

Pdf link below the article.

Navigation for Adventure Racing

Advanced Navigation_courtesy of Bob Miller via Checkpoint 16 website

posted Jun 21, 2014, 1:14 AM by Guy O'Neill   [ updated Jul 2, 2014, 4:31 AM ]

Pdf link below

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