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Thread: Navigation With Map and Compass - Part 2

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    Moderator Badey's Avatar
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    Navigation With Map and Compass - Part 2

    This is a continuation of part 1.

    http://www.personaldefenseforum.net/...l=1#post225286



    This segment will be about learning the basics of reading a topographical map and to recognize common land features shown on a map.


    When using a topographical map, the first thing you want to do is check the bottom corner for pertinent info, such as where North is oriented, declination (more on this in part 3), and how many feet are represented by each elevation line.







    A topographical (topo) map is a type of map that shows the contours and elevation of the land so that the navigator has a general idea if a proposed route is actually navigable. Without a topo map, impediments such as cliffs, ravines, and mountains could come as a complete surprise (which could cause considerable delay during the rerouting process).



    The lines on the topo map above show not only the elevations of the land, but the shape of its countours, and the directions that the land features face (for example, a creek flowing southeast).

    Making sense of all of the squiggly lines on a topo map can be a little daunting, so I'll cover a few common features:

    Here are some sketches of what common features look like on a topo map:

    From the top down of the image BELOW:

    A pass/saddle is a low point between two peaks. It looks kind of like an hourglass on a map.

    A ridge is kind of like a peninsula, except instead of water on 3 sides, the land falls away (elevation decreases) on 3 sides.

    A gully or ravine is a depression between two ridges.



    From the top down of the image BELOW:

    A bowl is a semi-circular/horse-shoe shaped depression that usually abuts against a lake in mountainous regions.

    A peak is a high point or prominence on the landscape, usually a high place, above the rest of the landscape coming to a point (gentle or abrupt).

    A cliff is a sharp drop in elevation. This is illustrated by how closely the elevation lines are bunched together.

    A very gentle slope is a very gradual drop in elevation. This is illustrated by how far apart the elevation lines are spread.



    As you are looking at the features on a topo map, It can also be very helpful to note whether the elevation is increasing or decreasing.

    Also, the closer the lines, the more rapid the change in elevation (or the greater the slope). The further they are apart, the more gradual the change is in elevation (or the slighter the slope).


    Here are some of the above-listed features shown on an actual topo map.












    As you practice identifying the features on a topo map, it becomes much easier. It is also extremely helpful to print a topo map of an area you are familiar with and compare the topographical features on the map with the ones you are observing on the landscape in front of you.


    Next we will discuss how to use a compass, then we will cover how to use a compass and map together.




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    PDF Owner 1MoreGoodGuy's Avatar
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    Awesome series of threads Badey.
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    Senior Member msgt/ret's Avatar
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    When I was stationed in California Topo maps were very handy for prospecting (never found much), knowing the elevation was handy but being able to follow the slopes made it easier to follow placer deposits back to the point of origin.
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    Senior Member Patti's Avatar
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    Useful info, Badey.

    I have a laminated topo map in my bug out bag.

    I went on a hike in the woods with some of my buddies, navigating by topo map and compass. Oh, and we had full packs. All I can say is: "It wasn't easy!"
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    Junior Member MiniSoda's Avatar
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    For as long as I can remember, hiking has been a favorite pastime of mine. However, I'm a little sheepish in admitting that I've never navigated using a topographical map. You've caused me to recognize the practicality in doing so. I appreciate your diagrams and descriptions.

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    G19 Slice11's Avatar
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    Timely thread, thanks for putting the work in to do this!
    I give the guys at work outdoor/survival type Christmas gifts and this year their goodie bags will have a lensatic sighting compass (and a recommendation to get themselves a Delorme Gazetteer).
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    Senior Member RightsEroding's Avatar
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    Good stuff Badey as always.

    Many TOPO maps have been upgraded with greater resolution due in part to satellite mapping.

    Just finished a fun hike last week, 10 miles into and out of a *new* area, with topo only and visual sightings.
    I of course did have my compass, PLB, GPS and radio with me as backup.

    I might add, speed and distance over ground can be estimated based on the Topo, ones general health and weather.

    It is good to know (estimate) how far one will travel in X number of hours.
    "A covenant not to defend myself from force, by force, is always void"...Thomas Hobbes

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    Senior Member LimaCharlie's Avatar
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    I learned land navigation with a topo quad map and compass the hard way at Camp Pendleton in 1969 doing ambush/counter ambush games. I have two Garmin GPS units with 1:24K topo quad maps plus paper topo quad maps and a compass for remote areas I frequent.
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