Summer days can bring tricky weather conditions when you’re out walking in the countryside, but in autumn and winter the chances of hiking through clouds, mist and heavy rain become far greater. If you plan to hit higher-level routes then you will likely encounter snow, too. Which all means that navigation is crucial.
While GPS gadgets for navigation are now owned by many walkers you should be warned that they don’t always work. Apart form battery failure there are times when the GPS fails to located a satellite, thus rendering it useless.
So if you planning to get off the beaten track on foot it’s vital that you know how to navigate yourself using a map and compass. Oh, this is so old-fashioned we hear some of you sighing. Well, it might be old-fashioned but it’s the failsafe way of getting yourself safely back home – and it’s really not too difficult to learn.
Where to learn about hill walking navigation
Outdoor providers, guides and walking leaders across the UK offer a wide range of hillwalking navigation courses. There are courses for groups, one-to-one, women-only, basic, one-day, weekend and week-long.
To find the course that suits you, it’s important to be honest about what you already know. Do you know your how to orientate the map? Can you find a location using a grid reference? Do you know what contour lines mean? If the answer to any of these questions is no, you should join a basic or “learner” navigation course.
If you can already navigate by map and compass, there would be huge benefits on learning other skills, such as distance judgement, contouring and using your stride as a measurement.
Some courses also include use of GPS gadgets, and how to make the most of this clever technology while also understanding the drawbacks.
Women-only navigation courses
There are many people who think that men are simply better navigators. That they are born with this skill. The chances are, too, that if you see a group of men and women on the hills, it will be a man who is in charge of the navigation.
But, in fact, the experts tell a different story. In general men’s brains are wired for improved spatial awareness activities but mainly because they have a lot more experience of it. Also, did you know that maps were invented my men in the Army?
But women think in a different way and often navigate to a different set of rules. They can become excellent navigators but tend to learn map-reading skills in a different way.
Women-only navigation courses are the perfect place to start if you are a woman and nervous about navigation. The courses will have a far reduced level of testosterone. (We’re not male-bashing here, but simply reporting what we have found!)
Women tend to work in a more collaborative way when learning navigation together and without the guys there they can be left to get on with their own navigation style.
The outcome of all courses will be the same, whether it’s men-only, mixed or women-only, but it’s the atmosphere when learning that can make all the difference.