Map & Compass

mapsEven if one has a GPS, incase of loss or electronic failure, one should be able to determine the location and to navigate using only a map and a compass.

This set of videos were produced in the summer of 2014 to aid in the teaching & learning of basic map & compass skills with special reference to The Bluff Wilderness Hiking Trail. The videos were developed for kids ages 8-9 and up (also available to adults!). It is assumed that users are familiar with concepts of latitude and longitude, north and south poles, magnetic north, true north. (See Web Resources below for more on those and related topics.)

Thanks to Kai and Sascha P., Richmond C., Steve F. and David P.


Hikers on The Bluff Trail
Hikers on The Bluff Trail

Where are we? (2 min)
Richmond describes why it’s important to be able to give the grid co-ordinates for your location.

Grid Coordinates (4.5 min)
Kai and Sascha learn how to determine the grid coordinates.

Whats on the map of The Bluff Wilderness Hiking Trail (12 min)
Richmond describes the grid system, the trails, contours, colours and symbols.
View Map

Triangulation (9 min)
How to find out where you are, even if you are off-trail but have a map and a compass.

Basic Compass - click on image for larger version
Basic Compass – click on image for larger version

Triangulation – review (8 min)
A review, with labelled maps, of the triangulation process.

Orienting the Map (4 min)
We’re on a small but spectacular “mountain” in the Backlands of Halifax south mainland. Kai shows us how to orient the map so that we can relate what we see on the map to what we can see on the land.

Our map of the Backlands

Navigating with Map & Compass (5 min)
We are on Piggy Mountain and we want to go to Williams Lake. We can’t see it, but it’s on the map, so we can still figure out how to get there.

Using the Sun to tell Direction (5 min)
Steve shows us how to use a stick and the sun to determine direction.

Some Web Resources


  • Basic Map & GPS Skills
    32 page pamphlet by the National Geographic Society on how to read a topographic map, use a compass, and determine GPS locations on a map.
  • Magnetic Declination
    Natural Resources Canada page
  • Instruction manual for Silva Ranger Compass
    16 page pamphlet explains basic functions of the compass
  • Using a Garmin GPS with paper maps for land navigation
    40 page Garmin pamphlet.
  • Using a Sundial
    School or home activity. A BioEd Teacher Resource from the Center for Educational Outreach at Baylor College of Medicine.
By Upper Five Bridge Lake, late September
By Upper Five Bridge Lake, late September

Map and compass days on The Bluff Trail

Girl Guides & Pathfinders on The Bluff Trail
GuidesMay 10, 2014: WRWEO Board members lead a Wilderness Workshop for the 1st St. Margaret’s Bay Guides & Pathfinders on The Bluff Trail. The girls learned map skills & to identify some native plants and we talked about “Wilderness” and what it means to us. We all learned a lot! View Pics

Family Day on The Bluff Trail

July 19, 2014: Five Families with youngsters participated in this WRWEO-sponsored, Nova Scotia Park Event lead by Nanci Lee and David Patriquin, Co-chairs of WRWEO. We were joined as well by Troy & Christa with MoMo, Troy’s Seeing-Eye Dog. At the trailhead, participants were given a brief intro. to the ecology of The Bluff Trail, and to using a Map & Compass. Then they set out to search for specific plants at points indicated on a map of The Bluff Trail (“biocaching”)… read more