How good are your backcountry navigation skills?

Try the Wilderness Navigation Challenge and find out.


The Navigation Challenge is a series of about 80 questions and answers/explanations that cover beginner to intermediate wilderness navigation skills. (It's designed as a teaching tool and for self-evaluation, not as a "test", so no test anxiety please!) If you're a beginner, you will learn a lot. If you were already skilled in wilderness navigation, you will still learn a few new tricks. 

All aspects of navigation are covered, among them:

  • The 3 kinds of map scale 
  • Using a map grid, a twig and your finger to measure distance
  • Contour reading (spurs, gullies, summits, knolls, plateaus . . .)
  • Off trail route selection
  • Using an altimeter to find your point position
  • Contours - contour lines, index contours and contour interval
  • UTM coordinates - why you should know about them, how to plot and measure
  • How to use coordinates from a GPS to plot your position on a map and get "unlost" 
  • How to print free topo maps with well marked trails and shaded relief
  • Magnetic declination (what it is, when you do and do not need to care about it)
  • How to easily find the correct declination for any point on earth
  • The Four Core compass skills: measuring a bearing, following a bearing, plotting a compass bearing onto a map, and measuring a bearing from a map
  • Aiming off - what is is and when to use it
  • Why triangulation often does not work
  • 7+ helpful navigation tools for your smartphone
  • Terrain visualization practice (look at a section of topo map, get a picture in your head what the terrain looks like, then look at a Google Earth image of the actual landscape)

If you can answer most of the questions correctly, congrats, your navigation skills are pretty solid!

If you get stuck on a question, most answer slides have a link to an instructional video that covers that particular question in more detail.
You can see the videos on YouTube; search for "Columbia River Orienteering Club."

The navigation challenge is a PDF file that is hosted on a shared Google Drive.