Navigation Class

Learning to use a compass and topographical map at REI

I’ve always wanted to take one of the outdoor skills classes at REI but now I had an excuse to! navigation and being able to use a compass correctly is vital to know before going on any backpacking trip. First off, the employee who was our instructor was amazing! He was so knowledgable, funny, and patient.  Before taking the class I had known the general idea of what a compass was used for but I never knew how important they really are.  I was kind of worried that since I was by far the youngest person, I might struggle or fall behind but that didn’t happen! I was so happy that everything made sense and seemed really logical.  We learned how to read a map, how to set a compass’ declination, how to take a bearing, and how to shoot a bearing. For map reading we learned what different colors and symbols meant.  We also learned how to read both topographical maps as well as hiking maps.  One of the most interesting things I learned was that every area has to set compasses to a different declination because everyplace has a different spatial relationship to the true North Pole. Setting a compasses declination allows for the compass’ readings to be accurate.  Before this class I thought taking a bearing and shooting a bearing were the same thing…but they’re not!  Shooting a bearing is how to locate a point on your map in the real world, by finding how point A relates to point B in terms of directional degrees.  However, taking a bearing is for when you’re in nature and trying to find the location of an object in the distance.  Taking the REI Map and Compass Navigation Class was such a great experience and I’d love to take their more advanced class on GPS Navigation in the future.