Re-Post – Essential Skills: Land Navigation – Get the Best Map You Can Find

topographic map

Originally posted on 12 Dec 2014.


Today, NPT members learning or practicing land navigation have so much more going for them in the way of map accuracy than those of us who learned some years back (like in 1974 for some folks….).  Back then you took what they issued you, and dealt with it.  Declination off?  Oh, well, deal with it.  Contour lines deceptive?  Too bad, deal with it.  Symbols inaccurate?  Ditto previous answers.

No, the snow wasn’t deeper, and we didn’t have to walk the entire route up hill.  However, unless you really paid attention, you could find yourself disoriented very quickly, because of the quality of maps needed wasn’t always there.

Thankfully, today map quality is a quantum leap better than they used to be.  Map studies done before taking to a route or a land nav course can save the navigator a lot of time because what he or she sees on the map will more likely reflect what is being traversed.  Especially if one gets themselves one of the more expensive, up to date satellite maps with MGRS grid and contour lines superimposed on it.  The declination is always the latest available, symbols match what you see on the ground, and the terrain features and contour lines are accurate.

Sure, it costs much more than the basic topographic maps on hand, which are fine for practice, but if you’re serious about your AO, you might consider saving your pennies for an up to date satellite map in 1:25,000 scale.  You can also choose the size of map you wish, which equates to how much territory is covered.  Again, you can get whatever you want to pay for.

My personal, ‘go to’ place for maps is,  I’m sure there are other places out there just as good, but I’ve been very satisfied with mytopo’s offerings, so I stick with them.  So much so that when I teach land nav, the maps I get for the class are from there.  I don’t recommend the satellite version for a beginning class, because the student will be plotting coordinates and azimuths on it, and that’s a lot of cash for practice.  But, to each his own.  You have the scratch?  Go for it.  Otherwise, for a beginner or even an intermediate skilled land navigator, the topographic maps with or without relief shading will do you fine.  Just make sure you get the MGRS lines (option available).

An aside, if you’re watching videos from you tube, don’t make the mistake of thinking that you don’t need to attend a good course or join an orienteering club to learn land nav well.  All the on-line courses or blog posts in the world can only do one thing:  Familiarize you with the concepts, principles, and techniques.  You need time under an experienced instructor to make sure you really gain the skill.  I highly recommend reading/learning everything you can before attending a course.  Doing so makes the class much more enjoyable for the participant, and learning kicks into high gear.

10 thoughts on “Re-Post – Essential Skills: Land Navigation – Get the Best Map You Can Find

  1. danmorgan76

    Reblogged this on danmorgan76 and commented:
    Solid advice from DTG. Everything I and others have written about land nav are tips and techniques to assist you when you attend an actual land nav course. You’ve spent the big bucks on your weapon systems, and to learn how to use them effectively. You paid the big bucks for that high-speed, low-drag kit and the same to learn small unit tactics. You’ve got your PT, intel and med training squared away. But if you can’t get your team to the objective and back….what’s the use of it all? Go get some professional training.

  2. Pingback: Land Nav: Get The Best Map You Can Find, And Then Get Trained | Western Rifle Shooters Association

  3. outlawpatriot

    I’ve bought my maps from the USGS for about 30 years. is great. it’s free as long as you download. Most are scaled 1:24000 so make sure you have a tool with that scale on it. You’re gonna need a plotter to print them out properly though. Fortunately I have one in the company shop where I sneak one through now and again. You can also send the downloaded file to a local blueprint company. Cost is about 4 bucks per print.

  4. Pingback: Land Nav Skills- A Consolidation of Posts – Mason Dixon Survivalist Association

  5. everlastingphelps

    BTW, caveat to remember with the natgeo PDFs is that they are at about 70% scale, so your protractor is going to be such a pain in the ass as to be useless.

  6. Defensive Training Group Post author

    Thanks for stopping by; and that’s why we choose the actual 1:25,000 or 1:50,000 maps. I can see where the NATGEO maps would be really good for familiarization or quick reference, but not for actual route plotting….

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