• Young women with maps and a backpack


Learn how to find your way using a compass and map or a Global Positioning System (GPS).


Plan a series of activities that will help you learn how to find your way in an unfamiliar area. You may want to invite someone with knowledge and experience to help you plan these activities. You could plan an activity where you use a map to find a landmark or a natural resource, such as a lake. You could also walk, bike, or drive to a new city or location using only a local map for directions. Consider planning a final activity, such as a day hike in the wilderness, where you can use the skills you have learned. Following are some skills and activities that could be useful to you. Before participating in these activities, make sure you are aware of any risks.

  • Compass reading. Invite an expert to teach you about the four main points of a compass, and make sure you know how to set a compass. Practice using degrees and compass bearings to find your way. You should also learn how to use landmarks to orient yourself.
  • Maps. Learn the different types of maps that will be useful to you, including basic road maps and topographical, aeronautical, and geological survey maps. Take special note of when the map was printed and note any landmarks that are missing. Make sure that the map has enough detail to guide you on a trail.
  • GPS. Invite an expert to teach you how to use GPS, including marking way points, making track logs, and backtracking. Learn how to find coordinates on a map and how to navigate to a marked point. Make sure you know how to enter GPS coordinates for longitude and latitude.
  • Geocaching. Practice your orienteering skills by searching for geocaches in your area. Geocaching is when an individual or group uses a GPS-enabled device (such as a smartphone) to locate a geocache, or container, hidden in an area. There are thousands of geocaches in cities, towns, and forests across the world, and you can find lists of local geocaches by searching online. In order to go geocaching, you will need to obtain coordinates for a nearby geocache and find it using GPS.

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