Best Book Or Reference Guide For Using Maps, A Compass, Altimeter & GPS For Hiking, Orienteering Basics, Survival & Doomsday Preppers is reader-supported. When you buy via the links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Wilderness Navigation: Finding Your Way Using Map, Compass, Altimeter & GPS (Mountaineers Outdoor Basics) Paperback

Wilderness Navigation: Finding Your Way Using Map, Compass, Altimeter & GPS

This is a great book for learning how to use Maps, Compasses, Altimeters, and GPS devices to find your way in the wilderness.

Why you might need it

This book is well written and easy to understand. This is a very good, concise, complete book for hikers in general, and is especially useful for anyone who goes off trail. It includes the basics for a beginner, and it is small and light enough to put in your backpack for an easy and quick reference. This book concentrates on using the two most important tools for navigating which are good compass (with adjustable declination and mirror), along with a proper map. Wilderness Navigation: Finding Your Way Using Map, Compass, Altimeter & Gps (Mountaineers Outdoor Basics) was updated in 2015 and also discusses using the altimeter, and GPS, but warns you not to become too dependent on these two tools. Even if you use a GPS, since it relies on batteries, they could go bad or the electronic circuitry of the GPS could fail at the the time you need it most. The dependability of a compass that relies only on earth's magnetic fields, and the knowledge of how to use it is the most reliable navigation tool for off the trail hiking.

Added tip

If you just really want a good compass for use with maps but without all of the bells and whistles of a more expensive compass, the Suunto A-10 is a handy and well designed basically indestructible compass that will help get you where you want to go. For a lot of people, the Suunto A-10 or equivalent featured compass is adequate. However, if you want a higher end compass with more features, then you'll need to make some decisions on the features for your compass (metric or standard, global needle or northern hemisphere only, do you desire a map magnifier, a sighting mirror, geared declination adjustment, luminous points for night use, a clinometer, etc.). 

If you are a beginner to using a compass and maps, although it is not free, here is a link to really good training video on Survival Land Navigation | Runtime: 90 Minutes (Video Trailer - 1 minute, 7 seconds)You may want to purchase and read this book (or an equivalent instructional book) before you purchase your compass if you think you might want a more costly compass to make sure you are buying the compass with the features that you really wanted. The next (optional) recommendation is to take a class on navigating with a compass and map or at least look at some "how to use a compass" videos on YouTube. Then either go to the USGS website (or a commercial website) and get a downloadable topo map for your area. Take this book, your compass, and map out in your area and practice in your own area (where you cannot get lost) before going off trail. Definitely practice finding your way in your own neighborhood, area, or backyard using your compass and map instead of taking a risk that perhaps you do not really know how to use them.

Recommended accessories

  • Suunto A-10 Compass (NOTE: This lower cost compass will be perfect for a lot of people. It does have fixed declination and is not luminous)
  • Suunto MC-2 360 D-L-IN-NH SS004239001 Compass (NOTE: This is a nicer more expensive compass and works anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere). If you are going to pay this much for a compass, be sure you are knowledgeable of compass features before making your decision) 

Sample Amazon Feedback

"This book is fantastic, I have used it to to teach wilderness navigation workshops. It is required reading for the course.  I think that says it all."

"This was a suggested text for a Wilderness Navigation class I took. After reading it I felt like I had learned a lot. If you are interested in learning more about navigation and how to use a compass or GPS this is a great book to start with. It is easy to understand and explains things very well. Great book to have for anyone that spends time in the woods."

"Clear, concise and complete guide to wilderness travel. Well written with appropriate practice problems. Excellent book which is small and light enough to be in ones pack. But you really should study the book before you go into the wilderness...."

"This is a fantastic book, It clearly explains what seems complicated at first but can someday save your life. A must for every serious hiker."

"I have been teaching orienteering for seven years, and this book is everything I could ask for in an introductory text. There are more advanced books, it is true, but this book is reasonably priced, highly readable, and complete enough for the beginning through intermediate adventurer."

"Concise, Useful, and Comprehensive for Land Navigation.  I think this is the best book for backpackers and hikers in general, particularly those who will venture off trail. It extensively covers use of map and compass; and goes on to briefly but cogently discuss the more expensive gadgets- altimeter, and GPS. And it warns you not to become too dependent on these more expensive gadgets. Your most important tools for wilderness navigation will be a good compass, along with a proper map. Buy a good compass with adjustable declination and mirror, as the authors suggest. Read their recommendations for this essential tool before you shop, and then go to the USGS website and get a downloadable topo map for your residence. Take book, compass, and map out into your neighborhood and practice in your own backyard before heading off into the boonies. Only a fool would go into the wilderness without a map. For most, a good map and compass are all you really need. I would add one thing that is only mentioned briefly in this fine text: If you go hiking abroad or in the Southern Hemisphere, you need to buy a Global compass. Mine is the Suunto MC-2 Global, but it has a drawback: inches on the rulers and not centimeters. Most foreign topos are in meters. Buy a good global compass with both inches and centimeters, study this book, and you are prepared for navigating just about anywhere."

"Very good guide book to have for finding your way in the forest under difficult times. Good suggestions on how to avoid getting lost. The compass on the book cover is also the best model to use on a trail or map. I have six different compasses and Brunton 15TDCL is a great compass.  Be sure to also have a GPS and cell phone; be prepared for some unexpected event. Don't expect on having the cell phone work at all times. Get good boots and break them in before you leave for the trip. Get a good tent that is easy to set-up and one person larger than you will have on the trip. A good pack is important. Take insect repellant and make sure you can start a fire. Be sure the fire is completely out. Take water purifier tablets.  Before you leave on your forest trip, take a 'shake down trip' to use all of your gear. Don't take so much weight in your pack that you can't easily carry it all. Take dried food and try it before you leave. Mountain Home or Wise make good trail food. Take snack food.  Tell a friend when you will return and exactly where you started and where you will finish."

YouTube Videos

The following YouTube Video is a class that will show you how to use your compass and map to navigate safely and the Silva 1-2-3 System.

Silva Navigation School

The following five YouTube videos provide instruction on Map & Compass Skills.  This is a lengthy set of videos, but the instruction is very good.

How to Get a Topo Map - Map and Compass Skills - Video 1

Map Basics - Map and Compass Skills - Video 2

Compass Basics - Map and Compass Skills - Video 3

Using a Map and Compass on a Hike - Map and Compass Skills - Video 4

Pace Count and Ranger Beads - Map and Compass Skills - Video 5

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