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Pentland Outdoor Navigation

Navigation starts at home...

Know your route – Before you head out for a hike,  you should always plot the route. Know where you’re leaving from, where you’re going and what the route and surroundings look like. Pick out features, landmarks or anything that could be used to locate yourself should the weather turn.

I would recommend setting checkpoints and having them written down or marked on the map so you can tick them off as you go. You’ll have much less space to relocate if you lose your bearings. (I'm not one for marking maps...old habits die hard)

Plan escape routes - The weather can be unpredictable, even during a British summer. You never know when a heavy cloud might descend and limit visibility. Planning where the nearest path back to safety is from anywhere on your route ensures you know the best way to escape should the weather turn. Be mindful of where the nearest buildings, roads or rivers are that will lead safely back to civilisation.

Pack the right kit - OK, this isn’t directly about navigation (although a map and compass should be #1 and #2 on your list), but packing the right kit can make the difference between keeping calm in a whiteout and all-out panic stations. Check the weather, and even if all looks well, a spare jacket for the cold and a head torch for unanticipated darkness will stop you from getting caught off-guard.

The 5 D's

Direction - What direction should you be heading in at different points in the journey? This could be an “approximately North-West” or a more precise “38 degrees.”

Duration - How long do you think it should take you to reach each notable feature or 'checkpoint' on your route? Being realistic helps for this step, and you should take terrain into account when estimating timings.

Distance - How far is it between each checkpoint on your route? This will also help to determine the duration between points.

Description - What does the route look like? What notable features can you use as 'checkpoints' for each stage of your journey? Think inclines, flat terrain, marshland, forests, streams, valleys, walls, and roads. You should identify details of your route and a few notable 'off-route' features to tell you that you've overshot or taken the wrong path too.

Destination - Where are you heading and what do you expect to find when you get there? Should you be looking for buildings and roads or a more obscure spot like a part of a forest that looks great for an overnight bivvy.

Self Reliance
Storm Shelters
Night Navigation

Cold and Hypothermia creep up on the unsuspecting like thieves in the night


C.  KEEP CLOTHING CLEAN.  Dirty clothes matt together and lose their insulation.

O. AVOID OVERHEATING.  Sweat wets and chills.

L.  WEAR CLOTHING LOOSE AND IN LAYERS. Trapped air insulates.  When working, loosen at the neck or take off layers.  Remember to put back on when resting.

D.  KEEP CLOTHING DRY.  Socks, boots and underclothes will dry in your sleeping bag with you.

F.  FIT YOUR CLOTHING PROPERLY.  Adjust your clothes, and make good seals at ankles, waist, neck, head and wrists.

E.  EXERCISE YOUR FACE, FINGERS AND TOES. Do not forget your nose.

E.  EAT FOOD AND DRINK PLENTY - BUT NO ALCOHOL.  Food gives energy and heat, whilst alcohol opens the skin's blood vessels, which allows essential core heat to escape from the body, thus giving a false sense of warmth.

T.  TIGHT BOOTS ARE TERRIBLE.  They constrict the blood flow and restrict movement.  Look after your feet by cleaning, airing, powdering and exercising once a day.  Do not wear nylon socks.  Keep boots waterproofed.