Intro to Backpacking: Part 6 – Navigation Basics

The sixth chapter in our series – An introductory look at map, compass, and electronic navigation resources.

We’ll look into the types of maps available, how to use a compass with a map, and how you can use electronic resources for trip planning, the printing of maps, and navigating in the field with your GPS enabled device. And why it is not map and compass vs. GPS, but how each set of tools complement each other.


The Columbia River Orienteering Club produces an excellent 18-part series for in-depth navigation topics including how to use Gaia and CalTopo.

CalTopo makes for an excellent mapping resource.

Gaia GPS is another tool I use frequently esp. on my mobile device in the field.

Avenza provides many different map sources for its Android and iOS app; many free.

For trail-specific navigation such as on the CDT, the Atlas Guides (aka “Guthook”) provides an excellent resource

And for more beginners info, you can also check out my book: “How to survive your first trip in the wild: Backpacking for Beginners”

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4 years ago

Really loved this series Paul. Keep up the great info. I think i visit this website daily in hopes of new content. Hope you and yours are doing well.