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’re 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.