Student Review: Land Navigation 8/9 June: Diz

This was the inaugural Land Navigation class, in response to those that wanted some more training before the Rifleman’s Challenge.  If this is you, this class will fit the bill nicely.  You will come away with a new-found appreciation for terrain, and the ability to navigate over it.
It starts out with lecture theory.  So you will be introduced/re-introduced to maps, and a compass.  But not your GI lensetic compass, like you might have seen in boot camp.  You will learn how to use a true orienteering compass.  What this allows you to do is navigate, using a map and compass alone, without a separate grid reader or protractor.
This is a huge change; for those of you with some military training, you are probably used to using the lensetic compass, and some kind of grid reader, along with a protractor for reading azimuths.  And again, while this system works, with a true orienteering compass, you can do all this stuff, much easier, and on the fly.  Which in the case of civilian orienteering is the whole point.  And perhaps something for us to learn from as well.
Once you understand the theory behind what we’re about to do, Max sets you loose in the West Virginia countryside (or should I say hillside) to practice it.  The first exercise is a simple intro-level course designed to let you get your feet wet, finding 4 points.  It will also give you some familiarity with the terrain you will be tested on at the Challenge.  This was a good confidence builder for everyone.
On the second day, you are going to do two separate courses, that will resemble what you will be facing at the Challenge.  You do one in the morning, take a break, and then do another in the afternoon.  This day is a bit more challenging, in that all the talking is over; now you get to really put your new-found skills to test.  Things are starting to come together, as you find new confidence in your ability to navigate.  Each course will again have 4 points to find, but they are much longer legs, and more difficult to find.  The key here is not to panic when you can’t find it.  Back up, start over and attack again.  Don’t wander around aimlessly hoping to run into it.
Weapons.  Not required.  But carry a handgun if you want.
Equipment.  Maps are provided.  If you’re making your own, for your AO, go to  Choose UTM grid, not Lat/Long, and make it 1:25,000 or 1:12,500 scale.
You need a good orienteering compass.  Let me explain what I think is needed, and then I’ll give some good examples.  What you need is a good orienteering compass, as used in the UK, and the rest of the world, versus a compass sold here in the states.  Here’s why.  We are using UTM grid coordinates for navigation.  Essentially the same as the mil grid “removal” system.  So we are measuring, plotting, and navigating by kilometers, not miles.  So you need a compass that has built-in features to measure in METERS, not miles.  And a grid reader that supports 1:25,000 or 1:12,500 scales.  Almost all compasses sold domestically have scales to read miles, and support the FS 1:24,000 or 1:12,000 scale maps.  We need a compass that reads a 1,000 meter grid square.  I really don’t care how many miles it is; I want to know how many klicks it is.  So you need a Global or International compass.  There are two really good choices here.  The Silva Ranger 75, and the Suunto MC-3G/ MC-2G.  These compasses will work well with UTM grid, and also feature illum for night use.  This drives the price up, so it’s up to you, but it’s a feature I really want.
Ranger pace beads are a nice to have but you can get by without them.
A good hydration pack is a must.  Figure on at least a 3L bladder per day.
Good hiking boots.  You will be up and down the hills all day.  Your boots must be close-fitting with a good tread.  Extra socks and foot powder a definite plus.
Also long pants, at least, and long-sleeved shirt recommended.  You will be breaking bush all day long and need the protection.
Some kind of hat.
Supplies.  I would highly recommend some kind of electrolyte (Gator powder) mix.  You will sweat.  Some kind of energy bars.  I use GU gels, simply because that’s what I’m used to for endurance training.  They work well for here as well.  Light lunch with carbs as usual.  Sun screen.  Bug juice.  I used Deep Woods OFF spray and didn’t have any problems.
All in all, this is the best land nav training I’ve ever had.  Using the orienteering compass to plot azimuths, measure distances, and navigate is a real eye-opener.  The lensetic compass still has it’s place, but with this compass, you have new tool in the tool box.
I also tried out terrain association versus just DR and pace count.  It takes some practice to learn, but really opens your eyes up, and gets you off the compass and steer marks.  If nothing else, you can learn to combine the two techniques, by paying attention to the terrain features, while running an azimuth and pace count.  The two actually compliment each other in a way.
So come on out and give it a go.  Max is adding another class in August so there’s plenty of chances to do this before the Challenge.  You’ll be glad you did.  Or if you just need some land nav training for your own use, this is the best option for that as well.

Class Schedule

Training Calendar