Land Navigation – More Than Just a Walk in the Woods, by GlobalScout

While sheltering in place has many advantages during an End-of-Civilization-Schumer-Dispersal scenario, there may be good reasons to travel on foot cross country. (In “Patriots” for example, squads and patrols traveled afoot for security, reconnaissance, communication, ambush and assault missions.) The following tips are offered for your consideration should you have to resort to “Shank’s Mare” for transportation.
Land Navigation can be divided into “tactical” or “peacetime” methods. While even in peacetime there are times that it is better to travel undetected, in a tactical scenario, being caught might be fatal. You’ll have to judge the situation yourself, but when in doubt, use the most cautious approach practical.

I’ll begin with normal situations where tactical concerns are secondary. Have a compass and whistle with you any time you are in unfamiliar territory or away from civilization. It is easy to become disoriented (especially at night, in dense vegetation or during periods of bad weather) and a quick look at a compass can often set you straight. If you do become lost or disoriented, stay put, if possible, and blow your whistle or use other comms (radio, cell phone, mirror, personal locator beacon, etc…) until you are found/regrouped.
Learn how to use a map and compass. It is fairly simple to learn, and can be fun too. I’ve made a game out of small-scale compass courses to teach the concepts used in navigating with a map and compass. There are various techniques, just find those you can remember easily and that are practical to use. Army Field Manual FM 3-25.26 Map Reading and Land Navigation is a good place to start, or there are many good civilian books on the subject. The Green Beret’s Compass Course, by Don Paul, Path Finder Publications 2004, is an interesting approach to the subject and a fairly quick read. The Internet also has some great resources on Map and Compass use. Here are a few sites to get you started:

Navigation With Map and Compass , Using the compass in interaction with a map , and Finding Your Way with Map and Compass (USGS)

Don’t forget to count your paces and/or use timing to estimate the distance traveled. This can keep you from overshooting your objective, and wasting time and energy to find your way back. In many cases, you can plan a “hold off” technique to purposely aim slightly right or left of your objective if there is an identifiable feature (ridge, river, road, etc…) that could lead you back to your end point. Once you hit that feature, you can turn in the direction of your objective and follow the feature until you reach your objective (e.g. when you get to the stream, turn left, and follow the stream uphill to camp). A GPS receiver is great help too, and potentially very accurate, but map and compass skills should always be there to supplement those battery-operated gizmos.

In a tactical, hostile environment, you would use similar navigation techniques as mentioned about travel in a non-hostile environment, but there are a few other considerations:

Evasion. If there’s a chance of running into goblins in the woods, navigation becomes more complicated. Moving undetected can be a challenge but can be done. Motion attracts an enemy’s eye more than camouflage can conceal you from him. For example, most deer and squirrels you probably see in the woods are noticed because of a twitch of the ear or a flick of the tail that alerts you to their presence. They are naturally hard to see, but the slightest movement can give them away. Move slowly, stop and look. Patience is a virtue that can save your skin.
Noise can also compromise your location. Be aware of noise and disturbing foliage and animals (birds or deer/elk). Masking your sounds by traveling in damp or windy weather may help.
When crossing “lines of communication” such as rivers or roads, cross at areas with limited visibility such as bends or shaded areas. Don’t follow trails or “lines of communication” or leave tracks on or near them. Avoid open areas where you can be seen from far away. This will reduce your chance of being seen, but will slow you down considerably! Instead of trail hiking at 1.5 to 3 mph, you might be lucky to go a quarter mile an hour in some terrain if you have to do it quietly and without being seen. Off road travel will also require much more effort and most likely be noisier. Plan for this.
Also consider what time of day you will be starting and stopping your movement. To avoid being seen by Night Vision Devices (NVDs), dawn and dusk can provide a light condition that is too dark to be easily seen with the naked eye, yet too light for NVDs to work well. Air Force Pamphlet 64-5 Aircrew Survival is a great resource that gives an overview of evading capture while traveling in a hostile environment.
Conceal your direction of travel in case you are captured (no sense in showing the bad guys where you were going). This includes not writing down headings or making markings on a map, and if you are using a military-type lensatic compass that locks the compass dial when it is closed, turn the compass off course before locking the dial so that your last heading is not revealed. To mark a map temporarily, use sticks, pine needles or string to show lines of position or course direction.
This overview is just a brief and limited summary of things to consider if you need to travel to survive. I hope it has provided food for thought and grounds for further research (FFTAGFFR). I also hope that I’ve included some tips that can keep you safe. Be Prepared, – GlobalScout