Map & Compass: Adjust for declination & orient the map

By Andrew Skurka / July 16, 2016 /

Backcountry navigation is an art. The basics can be learned quickly, like dead reckoning, reading a map, and using an altimeter watch. But extensive practice is necessary to seamlessly and flawlessly apply these skills in the field, especially when under duress or in challenging situations, like off-trail in a heavily forested area with rolling hills.…

Characteristics of an expert navigator: Part II — Proficiency in the understanding and uses of tools

By Andrew Skurka / November 26, 2013 /

This post is part of a series on the characteristics of expert navigators. I’d recommend first reading the Introduction and Part I, and then returning to this latest installment. Within a few days of starting my Appalachian Trail thru-hike in 2002, I began dead-reckoning using my watch and the Databook. With surprising accuracy, I now had…

Characteristics of an expert navigator: Part I — Equipped with proper tools

By Andrew Skurka / November 11, 2013 /

This is Part I of a series on the characteristics of an Expert Navigator. Read the Introduction. More installments are forthcoming. Every “Ten Essentials” list I’ve seen has included a map and compass, and modern versions sometimes also include a GPS. If only the first characteristic of an expert navigator — being equipped with proper…

Characteristics of an expert navigator: Introduction

By Andrew Skurka / November 5, 2013 /

Learning how to navigate was one of the most important and liberating skills that I have developed as a backpacker. On my earliest trips, when my navigation skills were at best rudimentary, I was unable to safely or confidently leave the security of obvious footpaths, foolproof blazes, and accurate signage. I also struggled to reliably…

My new Suunto Core, plus how I use my watch while backpacking

By Andrew Skurka / June 4, 2013 /

It was time to replace my Highgear Summit watch after many years of reliable service. Its face was scratched up; its buttons have become loose and its water-resistance has become questionable; and, aesthetically, I was looking for an improvement, maybe even worthy enough to wear on the altar in August. I settled on the Suunto…