Dear Badlands Rifleman: Developing land navigation skill

The following is a letter from one of the many awesome people I met at the recent Wyoming Scout Course. The quality and dedication of the people coming out to train never ceases to amaze me and it’s always a pleasure meeting them. My response is below his letter.

Hi, This is_______ from the Wyoming Scout course, I am one of the guys from ______. I am really glad I was able to meet you at class. I have really enjoyed your blog.

I talked with you a little bit about learning land nav. Do you have any recommendations for learning land nav (books, quality YouTube videos)? I want to learn land navigation, and then teach it to my wife, son, and maybe some others in my group. I have read through your land nav posts, but I am looking for your recommendations for helping to build some basic skills and habits. Thanks for taking time to write you blog, it makes a lot more sense to me after the scout class.

So while there are some good educational resources for learning land navigation, I want to preface this with the fact that time in the field practicing these skills will trump all of them. We are like three legged stools, with each leg being Knowledge, Skills, and Experience. Without all three we are not very well balanced. I’m going to shamelessly plug my own Fieldcraft Course here since it was designed to be an excellent place to get that land navigation experience in a realistic setting. Students leave the course with a professional level of land navigation ability, better than the Infantry Marines I worked with. Since you’ve already been to the Brushbeater Scout Course the training you would receive here would dovetail nicely, creating a very good balance. Ok, enough said about classes.

So first we have knowledge.

When it comes to the interwebs there is a lot of well meaning people putting out incorrect or partially incorrect information; they just don’t know what they don’t know. With that being said I’m only going to share resources that I have personal experience with.

Anything from Dave Canterbury and the instructors at The Pathfinder School is great information. Dave has an extensive Navigation playlist (as well as many others that are fantastic) on his YouTube channel providing hours of interesting information. I’ve been to the school twice and I highly recommend it.

The book “The Green Beret’s Compass Course” By SSG Don Paul is a good book detailing some advanced and thought provoking techniques and worth adding to the library.

Finally Army FM 3-25.26 is the Army publication on land navigation. It’s worth reading so you can understand land nav from a military point of view. The chapters on grids and terrain features are probably the most important unless you plan on picking up a lensatic compass, then you’ll want to check out those chapters as well.

Next is Skills.

On my Course Gear list I have navigation equipment listed there, I’d get the equipment there as well as some 1:10,000 scale maps from either MyTopo or The Mountyn. Get maps of your local hiking areas and go out and just get some practice reading the map and comparing it to what you see on the ground.

Next, go to your local football field. The distance from the back of one end zone to the opposite 1 yard line should be 109 yards, or 100 meters. You can use this to get your 100 meter flat pace count. Start with both feet on the back of the end zone, then start walking with your right foot and count every time your left foot hits the ground. Do this all the way to the opposite 1 yard line. Keep track of this number. There are many variables that will change it such as weight carried, weather, visibility and of course the terrain. As you add variables note the differences. Your pace count is how you keep track of the distance you’ve traveled and is as important to know as the ballistics for your rifle.

That should get you started, let me know if there’s anything else I can help with, take care!

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