How To Navigate In The Woods? – Essential Tips for Hiker & Camper

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How To Navigate In The Woods

When you’re camping in the woods, it’s fun to go for a hike, or explore your surroundings. The common danger that all campers face is the possibility of getting lost. This is a very frightening experience that most outdoors men and women have experienced at least once in their lives. It’s not only scary to get lost in the woods, it’s also very dangerous. This is why it’s important to know how to navigate in the woods. When you know what to do, it will reduce the chances of getting lost. This is an important topic to cover because knowing how to navigate in the woods can mean the difference between survival and not surviving. There is no need to be afraid to venture out and explore your surroundings, just so it is done safely. If you get separated from your hiking party, or wander too far from camp, here are some tips that can help you find your way.

Know where you are

The first thing that every camper should do is to know where they are. Become familiar with your location. Use a detailed map of the area and establish important features that will help you to know where you are at all times. Be aware of the visible landmarks including river bends, rock formations, hills, mountains, waterfalls, paths and so forth. These can help you to find your way if you become disoriented in the woods. The more features of the area you are familiar with, the less likely you are to lose your way.

Have the right equipment

There are two vital essentials for navigating in the woods. You should have a map of the area and a compass. The map should be as detailed as possible. It should show landmarks in the area along with any hiking trails and commonly used paths. Study the map until you are familiar with how the area should look.

It’s a good idea to start with shorter excursions that allow you to explore the area and become familiar with the lay of the land, adding more distance with each new hike. This helps you to establish a better sense of where you are at all times.

Stay within familiar territory

Using the map that you have, plan on staying within the area that you have become familiar with. It may be cool to discover new sights and locations, but it’s not worth the risk of getting lost. If you do wander outside of the familiar zone, make notes along the way, so you can find your way back.

It’s important to remember that when you’re walking in the woods, some landmarks can begin to all look the same. It’s never a good idea to wander miles away from your camp on your own, particularly if you are all by yourself. It doesn’t hurt to increase your hike into unfamiliar territory by a little bit with each new trip, but continue to make notes of your surroundings at all times.

Do not panic

When you’re in the woods and you have wandered too far from familiar ground, it is natural to become concerned. When panic sets in, the natural response is to move quickly in search of a familiar landmark. Avoid giving into this urge and relax. You must keep your wits about you because if you rush ahead quickly, and are going in the wrong direction, you’ll only make the situation worse.

Take a few moments to collect yourself and scan the area for familiar looking areas. Pull out your map and your compass and see if you can determine precisely where you are before you start walking.


Backtracking can be helpful in locating familiar or at least useful landmarks. Go over the exact path you took to get where you are at. If you’re calm, your memory will be working much better. Keep an eye on the compass and compare landmarks and geographic features with your map. When you can compare these with the map, plot your course back to camp, based on the direction that you need to go and the landmarks that are on the way back to your camp.

Bottom line​

Even experienced hikers become confused and disoriented in unfamiliar surroundings. This is why campers should take the time to prepare in advance. Having a map and compass are important, but if you don’t know how to use them, they will do you little good. Take the time to become familiar with each of these important tools and experiment a little on your own before you head out into the wilderness.

Form good habits when walking through the woods and learn how to make mental notes while referencing your area map. This will help you to better navigate through the woods and it will lessen the chances of becoming lost.​

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