/ improving navigation...
I really want to do my MLS assessment this next year. My navigation isn't up to scratch though (excellent in winter for some reason but crap in summer). I want to know if theres any courses (pref lakes, wales, scottish hills) that you can go to anytime, with clearly marked checkpoints so you know if you're right etc. Does the army do courses for civvies? They always seem excellent at navigation so perhaps this is the best option.
I could just learn as I go or go on a specialised course with an MIA etc but not sure if this is the right decision. Got Peter Cliff's book and am aware of the orienteering society. This isn't a troll, it's a genuine post by someone wanting good advice please :)
Thanks in advance and merry xmas
You only need to be good at walking on a bearing, pacing and reading contours to be any good at navigation. anything else is superfluous.
I would disagree with your last statement: when leading a group and dealing with potential issues in difficult weather on difficult terrain, micro nav needs to be at a gold standard. I'm trying to come up with a training regime that will help me reach this standard. Don't have access to groups yet unfortunately.
> cheers though
My comment still stands. Micro navigation only really relies on your ability to pace and read the contours and relate the ground to them. then all you need to do is just walk on the bearing of your intended direction.
On a serious note, why not get a cheap gps, this can help you check you are right, presumably with working out your own location?
Nigel Williams wrote a good article on navigation, 'Is my navigation good enough for WGL, ML, MIA...?', a while ago. It used to be available in the library on the MLTA website (now MTA). The advice about orienteering is really good. Very significantly, Nigel Williams made an excellent observation about how candidates from orienteering backgrounds are much better at using relocation techniques than candidates from non-orienteering backgrounds. Too often these relocation skills are overlooked by candidates who believe that navigation is simply walking on a bearing for a requisite period of time/paces and recognising a few pertinent features as tick-off features.
Now is the perfect time to practise your navigation. Find where your local permanent orienteering courses are and navigate them at night, and especially in foul weather. It'll help you identify issues with your kit (clothing and headtorch, in particular), as well as improve your skills at route-finding and relocation. Then enter local competitions, start at green and then work up to harder courses. Join an orienteering club.
Orienteering is excellent practice and is done at varying levels of difficulty (cunning running) and you don't have to be fit.
Being able to navigate up and down hills is OK, but for the ML you are expected to be sble to navigate anywhere and do it at night and/or in thick fog.
So practice looking for small isolated features in less obvious places and go for those such as odd spot heights, odd buldges on hill sides, minor junctions on hill streams, dents in ridge and other small features which you would not normally bother with. If you can do it at night then try that too.
I'd like to try just using map and compass to improve; have tried a GPS and found it to be a bit faffy and time consuming. Besides on ML assessment they're not allowed! An altimeter is something I may get though.
In your initial post you asked for places you could go where there were markers so you definitely knew you were in the right place. You're not allowed those on your ML assessment either.
However, markers are a good way of building experience and confidence. That's where the GPS comes in. Do a few legs and then when you want to confirm your location, get a grid reference from the GPS. Smart phones will do this as well if you get the right app. I'm not suggesting using the GPS/phone for navigation, just to confirm your location a bit like having a marker on the hill.
I strongly recommend you try orienteering as others have said. It makes a big difference to your navigation. It will change the mindset you have when out with map and compass and greatly improve your ability to deal with the unexpected.
Hope this helps,
FYI the assessor I had banned me from using my Altmeter, so I would recommend getting proficient without one.
I've been using an iPhone with Memory Map as my 'instructor' when I'm out doing micro-nav practice. Pick somewhere that has lots of interesting contours and set yourself points to nav towards using contour interpretation, pacing, timing and so on. Once you get to your destination, you can use Memory Map to check your right.
The advice that was given to me was to try and use contour interpretation as much as possible, only adding in additional techniques when necessary. Use a variety of map scales as well - I was surprised just how much info I tended to overlook on 1:50000 scale mapping.
> My comment still stands. Micro navigation only really relies on your ability to pace and read the contours and relate the ground to them. then all you need to do is just walk on the bearing of your intended direction.
Micro navigation in good weather relies on your ability to concentrate for long periods of time on insignificant features when you can see the footpath rolling out in front of you for several miles.
Get off the paths and onto the moors.
Pick out ring contours and tiny features and navigate from one to the other.
After dark, watch out for werewolves.
> ... Does the army do courses for civvies? They always seem excellent at navigation ...
Excellent? Who told you that?!
There is actually some really good navigation training in the military but largely the skills emerge through practice, practice, practice. Little has changed in decades and what is done now is little different from the 1940s stuff of my Dad's and the 50 year old Mons Officer Cadet School booklet. (I am still involved with military navigation.) GPS is now widespread, and integrated into some modern equipment, but it's an AID.
Practice, practice, practice.
One of the best exercises I ever did in a military situation was when we were sent into a dense spruce forest (maybe near Pirbright) where we were sent on a set of legs. It was daytime but it was very dark under the trees. A NCO sat at the bottom of a tree at the end of each leg and made himself known if you got within 5 metres of him. Yes, very dark. That exercise really made you think.
An exercise I developed after that for practising walking on bearings and pacing was triangles (or squares if working in mils). Pace a leg of your chosen length (say 100 dbl paces) then add 120 degrees and do another leg the same length then add another 120 and do another leg. See how close you get to where you started. Do it again until you get better and better. Do it on the flat usually then when you are getting good try it on uneven ground or the side of a slope and see how it messes you up.
Good plan. His ideas about timing and about aspect of slope (fall-line) are excellent.
Lyle Brotherton is a an ex-para and a member of Tweed Valley MRT who has made navigation his life. He is big on GPS and he can tell you how to get the best from it and what its limitations are. Lyle has talked to everyone who is anyone in the field of navigation. He has written all that good stuff down and you can buy it for just over a tenner.
Your profile says you are in Yorkshire so you should not have difficulty finding a good place to practice. In the Hiighlands, I like to use the Monadhliath (between Speyside and Loch Ness) or the Levishie Forest area (north of Glen Moriston). These are middle altitude open moorland plateaux with few characteristic features and plenty of confusing ones. There are plenty such places in North Yorks and they are excellent for nav practice. However, features such as sink holes and mine workings in some areas make it quite dangerous so take care about where you go on your own.
> I'd like to try just using map and compass to improve; have tried a GPS and found it to be a bit faffy and time consuming. Besides on ML assessment they're not allowed! An altimeter is something I may get though.
This may sound daft, but you need to get out in all these places in all conditions and get the practice, The idea of the gps was to check your positioning, which i thought is want you wanted?
'An exercise I developed after that for practising walking on bearings and pacing was triangles (or squares if working in mils). Pace a leg of your chosen length (say 100 dbl paces) then add 120 degrees and do another leg the same length then add another 120 and do another leg. See how close you get to where you started. Do it again until you get better and better. Do it on the flat usually then when you are getting good try it on uneven ground or the side of a slope and see how it messes you up. '
Great idea! Cheers for the reply. If all goes well, I'll be heading up to the Lakes shortly so I'll try it out.
> Does the army do courses for civvies? They always seem excellent at navigation so perhaps this is the best option.
No they don't, Army PTI's run Brit Mil Fit, so it would be Army MAPRIC's running Brit Map Nav....
I can let you into the secret (I was top of the course on MAPRIC, I have also got lost at the head of 17 million pounds worth of armoured vehicles (dyslexic signaller, equal opportunities and all...)
It is all the information the army regards as required to relate a map to the ground: IE; there is nothing more a map can tell you once you have gone through these headings:
Giving an acronym DDCRAPS (remember it by picturing daffy duck having a shit at the side of the road.)
Direction: What directions are you from things you can see on the map, what directions do they go (a bendy path will only point a certain direction once) (google intersection and resection if this is too much.)
Distance: How far are you away from the things around you. Does this fit into where you are?
Conventional Signs: Can you see anything that is shown on the map? A trig point? Building? Tree line? Bend in pylon line?
Relief: Can the contours help? If it slopes down at a direction, then perpendicular to that is the direction of the contours. Does a ridge go in a certain direction? Where does the ridge go in that direction on the map, what do you expect the next change to be? (I am Jungle Warfare Instructor too, this is the way to nav in 50m vis after 3 days.)
Alignment: Find some feature that you can see on the ground or on the map and line them up! Spur with peak, corner of wood with corner of road. etc..
Proximity: Are you close to anything that can be identified on the map? If so, how far away is it and how does that relate to your understanding of your location on the map?
Shape: Are there natural shapes around that can help you? Such as woodlines, rivers, roads, towns, contours (bordering on relief I know, but all cross disciplines.)
If you think you are lost and have more than 100m vis (doesn't matter for direction of relief though,) I challenge you to go through these headings and tell me that you still have no idea where you are. I did my ML with Carlos and he was alright.
I thought you were in the RAF? I remember an RAF helicopter once tried to fly me into Iran. They put the eastings and northings in the wrong order in their machine.
> ... an RAF helicopter once tried to fly me into Iran. They put the eastings and northings in the wrong order in their machine.
Not so daft then. :-)
> Not so daft then. :-)
Well as the pilot and navigator got the eastings and northings the wrong way round (and they were on the helicopter as well! (they died a while later,)) I would regard them as pretty daft.
It's a bit difficult to get the proper jist of such things when there have been so many political changes of direction in the middle east. Sometimes we have been trying to get into Iran and not Iraq and sometimes the other way round and sometimes pretending not to be in Afghanistan and other times ... well, one could go on for hours.
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