Student Review: Land Navigation August: NightWatcher
In my dreams, I am a healthy and fit 20-something high-speed “operator”. In reality, I am a middle-aged (?late) overweight (actuarial obese, but heavy-boned) professional whose rent paying job requires mental energy, not physical.
The LandNav course offered by MVT was a subject I needed instruction in, among others.
Max is a gifted instructor with just a bit of British arrogance/humor to lighten the load.
The first day started with a very brief introduction to UTM/MGRS (Universal Transverse Mercator/Military Grid Reference System). Being
a bit of a nerd, the “technical” stuff was a review for me, but provided a baseline for instruction. I would strongly suggest any prospective student watch a few videos to understand the basics prior to the class if, like me, you want to fully benefit from the practical instruction/experience.
The rest of the morning session was spent on “plotting” as in finding a location on a map from grid reference, converting a map location to
a grid reference, finding your location on a map from reference points (map/topo features) and route planning (azimuth and range/distance).
A good bit of time is spent on interfacing your tools (compass/protractor) to the map and back.
There is a break for lunch, but be advised that you are so deep in the woods that one needs to “clean the owl shit off the clock to tell the
time”. Follow the directions and bring something with you!
The afternoon session is a practical exercise on Max’s “easy” course. The exercise was done in pairs, with each pair being given a
different “target” with the remaining target order left up to the team. 3 hours was allocated with most teams returning successfully in
about 2.5 hours. This was followed by a debrief and Q/A session.
The following day was 2 sessions of practical exercises with “harder” targets. The morning session was optionally run in pairs or
individually. The afternoon session was expected to be run individually to confirm learning objectives.
To say the terrain is “hilly” is a bit absurd. If you are unfamiliar with that part of the world, it is nothing but hills. The topographic
contour lines are spaced at 20-foot intervals in order to see distinct lines (10-foot intervals is typical on topo maps). The terrain
consisted of 80-100 percent slopes (40-45 degrees) with vertical gains averaging about 100 feet with intermittent streams in the draws.
Given my build and general (poor) stamina, it was tiring, but eminently doable.
The only pain I experienced was a blister on the ball of one foot, which leads into this caveat: Use good boots and wear them properly.
I used a well broken-in pair of Danner Acadias, but typically don’t lace them tight except for ankle support. The terrain at Max’s
requires quite a bit of “side-walking” up and down the slopes, and this leads to tremendous shear stress if your foot can slide from
side-to-side in the boot. Next time, all the laces will be tight.
Apart from good boots (worn correctly) and good socks (I prefer DarnTough wool, but YMMV), you will appreciate tough long pants since
you WILL slide into a bramble bush somewhere along the course. Depending on the season, a tough long sleeved shirt (with or without
DEET) is advisable. I didn’t wear any head cover, but we were under hardwood canopy during the course.
Hydration is critical, and you should plan on having a liter (or more) of water available during each exercise session. I carried a few
half-liter bottles in a day pack the first day. The second day, I left it behind and regretted it.
I’ve considered land navigation a weak point in my “preps” and this course filled the bill perfectly. The practical experience was