Traveling through the wilderness requires for you to learn how to use all your senses. The more you learn to merge your senses, the more you will be able to enjoy the environment, but also make it safer when navigating through. The following natural navigation methods should be known by anyone who plans on spending a great deal of time in nature.
In the great outdoors, your needs remain constant regardless of your climate, terrain or health. It is up to you how you met these needs and how you prioritize them. I firmly believe that you can increase your skills and knowledge through others and I try to learn as much as I can from people around me. Every trip I make is carefully planned, regardless the environment I’m in. When it comes to wilderness navigation, I often use five methods to find my way.
Today’s tech market is flooded with numerous brands of smartphones and GPS devices. They are designed to keep us busy, but also to help us find our way in any environment we can think of.
Gone are the days when these modern pioneers would navigate through the wilderness with just a map. Nowadays, they rely on their mobile phones and various GPS devices to find the safe path. Rather than “abusing” technology, it’s best to look at how we can navigate using natural navigation.
It’s important to acknowledge that your GPS is not fail-proof and navigating through the wilderness without knowing what you’re doing can put you in danger. You should have the ability to confidently navigate your course within your self-sufficient means.
Five useful natural navigation methods
1. Crescent moon
Although this is not the most accurate method of estimating direction, the crescent moon can help you figure out the path of travel. What you need to do is draw an imaginary line between the points of the two horns of a crescent moon and continued to the horizon. The point you make will be roughly south in the northern hemisphere and roughly north in the southern hemisphere.
2. Plants and trees
Every camper has heard that trees and plants are affected by wind direction and greatly influenced by the sun. However, that’s pretty much all the information they get and few people know how to make use of it.
The growth of plants and trees is greater on the sunward side (south if in the northern hemisphere) as they strive to maximize sunlight for chemical processes. Felled trees will show this growth pattern as well with their rings being more pronounced on the sun side. There are certain plants which are great direction indicators since their head points or bends northwards.
Related reading: 7 Essentials for Navigating Through the Wilderness Without a GPS
Another sing to look for is moss and lichen since they are great signs for natural navigation. They grow on the shady side of trees and rocks. As a general rule, this would suggest the north facing side, but you have to pay attention to the surroundings. Shade can also be provided by trees or other natural formations. Look for many other indicators before making an estimation.
3. Wind direction
Prevailing winds leave the biggest impression and directional effects on vegetation, snow, sand and other objects on the surface of the earth. It is one of the most useful natural navigation sign if you know how to read it. Different areas around the world, practically without exception, have a prevailing wind from a particular direction that dominates at some seasons, and often at all seasons.
For instance, windswept trees will lean away from the wind. Therefore most windswept trees will lean towards the northeast. Fresh snow will often form dunes or drifts that are parallel to the prevailing wind direction.
Find out about the prevailing wind direction for the area you live in, as it varies according to each region. As a wilderness traveler, you should know how to interpret those effects on nature to help you find your direction.
Suggested reading: Smartphone Survival Uses In A Wilderness Emergency
4. Spider webs and other creatures
Spider webs are also affected by the prevailing wind and you should look for spider webs during your journey into the wild. Spiders spin their webs in more sheltered area and in open spaces they will form the webs where there’s shelter. If there are a lot of broken webs, it may suggest a recent change in wind direction from the prevailing wind.
Small birds, animals and insects also tend to nest or burrow in the shelter and away from the wind on the leeward side of hills. They are a good indicator of the direction if you manage to spot them.
5. Puddles and rocks
The heat of the day from the sun warms up whatever it touches, even if it is overcast. As far as natural navigation goes, this is most likely to be the south facing aspect of a feature in the northern hemisphere. For example, a large bare rook will feel much colder on the shaded side.
In the same way, the sun will affect puddles of water. The puddles along the way will dry up more quickly on the southern side of trees or hedges where there is more direct sunlight.
When it comes to man versus nature, nature will always win if you are not prepared. Nature doesn’t give second chances and you are on your own if you get lost in the wilderness. It’s always good to know what you should do in the wild when there’s no one to help you. We should all know about the essentials natural navigation methods before embarking on a journey into the wilderness.
Most people die in the wilderness because they get lost. They never intended for that to happen, but somehow it did, and they weren’t prepared. I know that you think it could never happen to you, after all, no one plans on getting lost in the wilderness. What are you going to do if that happens, shouldn’t you be prepared for it and know how to cope with such a situation?