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#159806 - 01/07/12 05:50 AM Re: Brain Teaser - Navigation skills [Re: Jimshaw]
DTape Offline
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Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 666
Loc: Upstate NY
I disagree Jim. A map and a compass does work, though it requires some knowledge and skill (the rod and cricket don't work at all).

That said, the primary purpose of navigational aids is to NOT get lost in the first place.
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#159807 - 01/07/12 05:55 AM Re: Brain Teaser - Navigation skills [Re: Jimshaw]
oldranger Offline
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Registered: 02/23/07
Posts: 1735
Loc: California (southern)
I certainly would not argue against a GPS, but I have always used a GPS, and map, although rarely a compass. Actually, a real good thing to have is a nice aerial photo of the terrain. I can usually spot the bush or rock I am standing next to.

GPS signals can be distorted; inaccurate readings, while not common, are certainly not unknown.

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#159810 - 01/07/12 06:55 AM Re: Brain Teaser - Navigation skills [Re: Jimshaw]
Gershon Offline
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Registered: 07/08/11
Posts: 1109
Loc: Colorado
Originally Posted By Jimshaw
I think this demonstrates that a map and compass is about as useful for finding yourself when you're lost as a divining rod or a trained cricket - get a GPS.
Jim


Expert navigation skills aren't easily learned. Maybe not even necessary for the casual hiker that stays on main trails. Personally, I never carry a compass or a GPS (except on day hikes to measure my speed.) Topographical features are enough to stay oriented.

With the emphasis on speed hiking and distance hiking, I feel a lot of other skills are being lost. It's just different. Not good or bad.

Getting reoriented when confused can be difficult. But in most areas people travel it's not impossible with a good knowledge of the skills which really aren't that difficult. Are these skills essential? Obviously not since many don't have them and go hiking.

For me, using a GPS would change the experience. It's all what the individual wants. Learning navigation can also rekindle the fun for a person who has gotten tired of just hiking from point to point.
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#159811 - 01/07/12 08:28 AM Re: Brain Teaser - Navigation skills [Re: finallyME]
Gershon Offline
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Registered: 07/08/11
Posts: 1109
Loc: Colorado
Originally Posted By finallyME
Originally Posted By Glenn
Somebody got a "100 Best Navigation Problems" book for Christmas, didn't he? smile


I need to find similar problems to this one. I think I want to tackle the orienteering merit badge this year. The problem is, most of the boys are showing no interest. If I make it a game with prizes, I will at least trick a few into earning it.


I think I'd use extra hikes as motivation. Here is an exercise that can be fun. First a person needs to know their pace on trails. Mine is about 3.2 mph when moving. A stopwatch would be helpful to start and stop for any breaks.

Rather than putting tick marks on the trail with distance, time is easier. The number of tickmarks is the time to walk the trail in minutes plus one for the start. (Run the watch for a minute before starting or the times will be off.)

Then simply walk the trail and stop every 10 minutes, stop and use a GPS to save the position for later reference. This will teach that time can give a very good indication of position.

On the way back, use topographical features to refine the position.

After getting home, compare where you were based only on time with where you actually were.

The map is made with Topo Explorer. It saves a lot of busy work in making the tick marks.

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#159812 - 01/07/12 08:51 AM Re: Brain Teaser - Navigation skills [Re: oldranger]
Dryer Offline
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Registered: 12/05/02
Posts: 3591
Loc: Texas
Quote:
I certainly would not argue against a GPS, but I have always used a GPS, and map, although rarely a compass.


I'm the opposite. I'll carry a GPS if I'm hiking under tree cover....Womble Trail in Arkansas or any of the Ozark trails is a good example. CCCC trail near Houston too...featureless. Everything looks the same there and a compass, doesn't do much. Mostly I carry a very small Silva compass/whistle combo around my neck, and topos I printed to 8.5x11 format. A good example is hiking the Outer Mountain Loop in Big Bend Ntl. Pk. So many land marks there that I can gauge my trail progress with one quick bearing to a mountain, intersecting the trail. GPS is pointless there and dead weight. I still sometimes carry an altimeter just to keep the skills sharp, if there is lots of elevation change. I'm a geek/nurd when it comes to this kind of thing. wink
I've always had a love for navigation and find the iPhone compass app and all the map apps a blast to use. Get lost in a big mall or office building and that compass becomes useful. The AroundMe app is fun, even in buildings since it triangulates on cell tower signals and not GPS sats.
So many amazing new ways to navigate but I still like the simplicity and lightweight-ness of map and compass.

The old skills is how we got to the new skills...best learn and practice the old ways, in the event you run out of batteries. grin
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#159813 - 01/07/12 09:22 AM Re: Brain Teaser - Navigation skills [Re: Dryer]
oldranger Offline
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Registered: 02/23/07
Posts: 1735
Loc: California (southern)
One reason I often carry a GPS is because of its great value in pinpointing the location of archaeological sites, something I did professionally for many years. For recreational hiking, and even SAR applications, using an accurate Topo map is really all you need, at least in western terrain, where I have had the majority of my experience. The exception is when you encounter reduced visibility. Then you are glad you brought along your SUC(seldom used compass).

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#159816 - 01/07/12 09:34 AM Re: Brain Teaser - Navigation skills [Re: Dryer]
skcreidc Offline
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Registered: 08/16/10
Posts: 1590
Loc: San Diego CA
Dryer is dead on. I would add snow to that list. You bring what you need to fit the circumstance. Both map/compass and GPS take some proficiency to use. Over the past few years going out with people who are still getting used to their GPS, I can tell you there IS a learning curve on it. I still only use map/compass, but my background experience with this culiminated with being paid to accurately mapping geologic contacts with a Brunton compass (also known as a pocket transit) using eye height and pace as well. Obviously this is pre GPS. I am comfortable with that and have a slight distrust of things with batteries. However, travel in flat terrain and snow is very challenging using map and compass. But snow is the one in particular which makes me want to buy a GPS unit.


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#159817 - 01/07/12 09:54 AM Re: Brain Teaser - Navigation skills [Re: skcreidc]
Dryer Offline
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Registered: 12/05/02
Posts: 3591
Loc: Texas
Quote:
Brunton compass (also known as a pocket transit)


Ooooooooooo..... a Brunton Pocket Transit! <drooling here> grin An amazing piece of equipment!

Absolutely agree about hiking in snow, even in places familiar. I got lost in my own nature preserve, of which I cut the trails, after a freak snow last year. The weight of the snow bent cedar trees into the trail, which was indiscernible because of snow cover. I had to bail out to a nearby road to get home, and I found it by noise of cars. This is like being lost in your own house. grin
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#159818 - 01/07/12 10:18 AM Re: Brain Teaser - Navigation skills [Re: Dryer]
Gershon Offline
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Registered: 07/08/11
Posts: 1109
Loc: Colorado
Another teaser.

How long would it take YOU to hike from waypoint 1 to waypoint 5. The waypoints are 1/10 mile apart.

Explain work.

Ideally, this would be followed up with actually hiking the trail and testing the theory.



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#159829 - 01/07/12 02:18 PM Re: Brain Teaser - Navigation skills [Re: Jimshaw]
Jimshaw Offline
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Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3967
Loc: Bend, Oregon
What I meant to say is "For the average hiker with little if any compass skill, if lost anyplace without clear landmarks, even with a map, that compass isn't going to do anything at all except tell you which way is sort of north." shocked

The warm feeling that novices get from having a compass is missplaced and dangerous. Even highly skilled members of this group cannot use a map and compass to get un-lost in a white out or where there is featureless terrain, AND even an expert with a map and compass is gonna have a tough time getting to an exact location, like an archaeological site, OR YOUR TRUCK.

GPSR's are not easy to learn to use, BUT anybody capable of logging on here and reading this can operate a GPS. just use evrything on default, set a waypoint at your truck before you leave, and then when you return - walk towards that waypoint. If it fails - if the Iranians jam your GPS signal, well then yer just gonna have to use some of those Daniel Boone skills aren't you. Spare batteries are nice - and lighter than a spare candy bar.

YES navigation problems are fun [as long as you do them from a nice warm dry place, not when lost in snow without food or water...] I just think they belong in OFF TOPIC, not in the begiiners forum - because they generate a false reliance on a unrealistic faith in compasses. Frankly I'd rather see people with no maps, no compasses and no GPSR's, when learning because if they learned to look around and navigate by the angle of the sun and by the terrain, they might be able to find their way out later IF that GPS or compass fails..
Jim


Edited by Jimshaw (01/07/12 02:28 PM)
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#159833 - 01/07/12 03:14 PM Re: Brain Teaser - Navigation skills [Re: Jimshaw]
Gershon Offline
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Registered: 07/08/11
Posts: 1109
Loc: Colorado
Jim,

It's in the Backcountry Topics, General Discussion. Not the Newbie section.

I would agree a lot of people don't know how to use a map and a compass to determine their location if lost. It's a lot easier when you know about where you are when you get lost. A key to not getting lost is the ability to take accurate fixes every so often. How often depends on the trail and the person.

I'm not against a person carrying a GPS. It's a hike your own hike thing.

But I'm not sure why you are so against someone learning navigational skills. The first questions got kind of out there, but the last is a very simple building block to navigation.
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#159840 - 01/07/12 04:10 PM Re: Brain Teaser - Navigation skills [Re: Jimshaw]
ringtail Offline
member

Registered: 08/22/02
Posts: 2296
Loc: Colorado Rockies
I grew up on a farm that was about 5 miles from the nearest town and I could see the elevator from the roof of the barn. My first reaction to the puzzle was to walk to the town and buy a grape nehi and pour a packet of peanuts into it. I can think better when I am refreshed.

On a featureless pairie you do not need your exact location unless you are calling in an artillery strike. cry

The two primary methods of navigation are vector and relational. Vector is what you use on the ocean, e.g. travel X miles with a heading of XXX. Relational is what we use most days of our life, e.g. drive north on the road to the Sinclair station and turn west. You need to be able to combine both methods to be a good navigator.

World class orienteers have been interviewed to find out how they navigate. They primarily are map readers and use their compass only to verify location. When I am in the backcountry I probably look at my map hourly, but all of 2011 I used my compass once.

The ideal leg of an orienteering competition offers three route choices. The shortest is a vector route to a point of attack, then less than 100 meter vector to the control. The medium length route follows topographic features. The longest route follows handrails like roads or fences.

Mr. Shaw is correct that the GPS can do things that can be accomplished no other way, but do not ask me to abandon my topographic map.


Edited by ringtail (01/07/12 04:13 PM)
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#159841 - 01/07/12 04:14 PM Re: Brain Teaser - Navigation skills [Re: Gershon]
Dryer Offline
Moderator

Registered: 12/05/02
Posts: 3591
Loc: Texas
Quote:
But I'm not sure why you are so against someone learning navigational skills.


Jim also likes dull knives, but that's just Jim. grin

I believe his point to be..."don't pack or depend on that stuff unless you really know it's limitations in a real world situation. "

I agree. You can get yourself even "lost-er" by by not knowing what you are doing, and finding that out when you are already in deep peanut butter. Example...I once participated, as a requirement, in a SAR compass class. The "ex-army ranger" teacher laid out the entire course in error using reciprocal headings, meaning he read his compass backwards. He actually argued with three of us, all pilots, who protested that "north is the other way!!!". Once he figured it out, he reset the course while we all waited. He almost taught 25 people to read their compasses backwards and they would have assumed themselves 'trained and qualified'.

But, on the other hand Gershon, hopefully your post will prod a few folks to learn and hone their skills, so I appreciate it.
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#159844 - 01/07/12 04:51 PM Re: Brain Teaser - Navigation skills [Re: ringtail]
oldranger Offline
member

Registered: 02/23/07
Posts: 1735
Loc: California (southern)
Bear in mind that "map" is not a constant. Some maps are a whole lot better than others - planimetric vs.topographic, large scale vs small scale, recent vs old ( has it been updated in the last ten years? - may or may not be vital), and most importantly, when the map was in production, did anyone carry out a competent field check. While most USGS maps are quite good, I have seen some with mislabeled features and trails placed with the help of a cold brewski in a backcountry bar..

What is interesting is that for many of us, the compass is a rarely used item - well, the better ones do have a mirror that is nice for shaving and signalling.

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#159846 - 01/07/12 05:01 PM Re: Brain Teaser - Navigation skills [Re: oldranger]
skcreidc Offline
member

Registered: 08/16/10
Posts: 1590
Loc: San Diego CA
Quote:
Bear in mind that "map" is not a constant. Some maps are a whole lot better than others


Such as the Mexican 60 meter contour maps. Not bad, But I found myself correcting a number of spots on the ones I used.

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#159848 - 01/07/12 05:06 PM Re: Brain Teaser - Navigation skills [Re: skcreidc]
oldranger Offline
member

Registered: 02/23/07
Posts: 1735
Loc: California (southern)
60 meter contour interval? Gadzooks! It must have been like navigating using an aeronautical chart. Fortunately, I have only done that once.....

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#159851 - 01/07/12 05:12 PM Re: Brain Teaser - Navigation skills [Re: oldranger]
aimless Online   content
Moderator

Registered: 02/05/03
Posts: 3141
Loc: Portland, OR
OK. I admit I haven't read any of this thread except the first post, back when it was posted. But my solution to that problem would be to walk over to the grain silo and read the name of the town printed on it in big block letters facing the nearest highway. blush

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#159852 - 01/07/12 05:14 PM Re: Brain Teaser - Navigation skills [Re: oldranger]
skcreidc Offline
member

Registered: 08/16/10
Posts: 1590
Loc: San Diego CA
oop!!! Did I say 60m? blush More like 60 ft...20 meter contours was the interval. 60 m would be horrific!

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#159853 - 01/07/12 05:31 PM Re: Brain Teaser - Navigation skills [Re: oldranger]
Gershon Offline
member

Registered: 07/08/11
Posts: 1109
Loc: Colorado
Since Jim gave a resume, I guess I will, too. I learned very basic skills in the Boy Scouts in the mid-60's. As we didn't backpack much, I never got proficient.

I learned aircraft navigation in a course at the Air Force Academy. It was in the T-29 which dates me a little. (1973 I think.) This included celestial navigation and dead reckoning.

In survival school, I learned ground navigation. Our test was a 2 week trek bushwacking about 7 miles at night without a map. Except for one drawn in the dirt before leaving. All we knew was the straight line distance to where we were going each day. We also got some general landmarks for each day's destination.

As a pilot, I wasn't expected to know how to navigate in the KC-135, but a couple times I navigated across the Atlantic using dead reckoning and celestial navigation. (This was in the days before INS and GPS and we weren't allowed to use LORAN.)

As an instructor pilot in the T-37, one of the things I taught was low level visual navigation which primarily used dead reckoning and visual landmarks. I also taught the ground school on how to use the prayer wheel. (A fancy circular slide rule.)

What I can say is my skills are VERY rusty, so I'm likely to say something wrong along the way. I will also say it would be very difficult to learn navigating in the woods using a map, a compass and a stopwatch without practicing each skill until proficient.

Since I stay on trails, my needs are less, but a couple times this summer we got on the wrong trail and knowing how to read a topographical map kept us from going off too far in the wrong direction.

One thing that has disappointed me is I haven't found a single comprehensive website on learning basic navigation using a map and a compass. Sounds like a good book for me to write.

BTW, nobody answered the last brain teaser.
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#159858 - 01/07/12 07:05 PM Re: Brain Teaser - Navigation skills [Re: Gershon]
Dryer Offline
Moderator

Registered: 12/05/02
Posts: 3591
Loc: Texas
Quote:
BTW, nobody answered the last brain teaser.


We're tired. grin

Didn't know you were a pilot. One of my favorite things to do is cruise at about 1000ft agl and sight see using the sectional charts. If the compass will hold still, its actually useful, and you can do the whole trip using it and the attituded indicator. grin
IFR, although safer, is so mechanical.
Nav while hiking is so much different because of the pace and lack of visual cues.
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#159861 - 01/07/12 07:26 PM Re: Brain Teaser - Navigation skills [Re: Dryer]
Gershon Offline
member

Registered: 07/08/11
Posts: 1109
Loc: Colorado
Originally Posted By Dryer
Quote:
BTW, nobody answered the last brain teaser.


We're tired. grin

Didn't know you were a pilot. One of my favorite things to do is cruise at about 1000ft agl and sight see using the sectional charts. If the compass will hold still, its actually useful, and you can do the whole trip using it and the attituded indicator. grin
IFR, although safer, is so mechanical.
Nav while hiking is so much different because of the pace and lack of visual cues.


One of my fun tricks when I was flying in the T-37 with another instructor was in the weather. I'd take a soap pad with suction cups on it and put it over the attitude indicator. It was fun watching people flail. With a lot of practice, it can be done using the turn and slip indicator, VVI altimeter and airspeed.
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#159862 - 01/07/12 07:32 PM Re: Brain Teaser - Navigation skills [Re: Gershon]
billstephenson Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/07/07
Posts: 3917
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
Originally Posted By Gershon
If you want to find exactly south, then you can just put a stick level ground and trace the path of the end of the shadow in the dirt.


I've considered this a bit more, and the solutions offered, and I think that as it pertains to the original exercise, you already know due South, so that's irrelevant. Knowing when noon is doesn't help without a current Nautical Almanac on hand, and you *also* need a pretty balls on accurate watch to know when noon is. Even 30 seconds off can cause an error of miles. And the watch has to be fixed to GMT, or you need to know the offset by heart. So even a regular old watch wouldn't help much.

Remember, you only have a map, a compass, and one fixed location. Even with grid ticks on your map you still need at least one more fixed location to reference. While standing still, the sun on the horizon is the only one available. The farther above the horizon the less accurate your fix will be.

The only other way that I can truly resolve this is, as has been pointed out, to know exactly how far you've walked in a specific direction to get a second fix on the grain tower.

--

I don't agree that having a map and compass and no skills gives one a false sense of security. That false sense comes from not having a clue. But if you have even a half a clue you might be able to figure out that if, for example, you keep walking north you will cross the road you came in on. In that case a map and compass can help get you there even in a white out.

I think what you need to teach beginners first about orienting is how to use a compass to orient themselves and their map.

Next would be how to draw a line on that map from a feature they can see on both the map and in the distance. Then how adding another line to another feature shows them where they are on the map.

Once they can do that, you can propose an exercise like the one you've offered here and it will get their brain gears grinding, but before they can do that you might as well ask them to build a time machine.

--

I know this is a drift, but personally, I think you need to teach "traveling" skills too. How to read the terrain, how to use landmarks, and as OM has often advised, how to stop and turn around and look back at where you've been every now and then. Once you've acquired traveling skills you don't need no stinkin map to get back.

It's worth considering that skills needed to use good maps are pretty new, but traveling is a pretty old skill. A lot older than maps. When the Scouts were created we didn't even have good maps. And not everyone is good at reading those things anyway. It's a brain thing. Some people get it at first glance, and others never do. I know hillbillies that can't read a Bazooka Joe comic but they can wander for days in the forest and always find their way home. I've even met a few Okies that can do that laugh
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#159863 - 01/07/12 07:53 PM Re: Brain Teaser - Navigation skills [Re: Gershon]
Dryer Offline
Moderator

Registered: 12/05/02
Posts: 3591
Loc: Texas
Quote:
It was fun watching people flail.


And spew. Blahhhh. crazy I've tried that....bored night flying. Center calls and asks "what the heck is going on?"
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#159864 - 01/07/12 08:11 PM Re: Brain Teaser - Navigation skills [Re: Dryer]
balzaccom Offline
member

Registered: 04/06/09
Posts: 2026
Loc: Napa, CA
I learned navigation two ways. One was hiking, and included everything from reading a map and compass to "dead reckoning" miles walked by estimating speed and keeping track of time.

I still do both of those when we are hiking.

I also learned celestial and coastal navigation as a sailor. And I am happy to say that I never ended up in Hawaii by mistake.

The answer to your second question? If the waypoints are .10 mile apart, and I DON'T have a backpack on, then I am estimating something like 25 minutes to hike that half mile. It's pretty steep and I don't know if there is a trail, or what kind of trail, or just rough terrain. That makes a huge difference.

And now for some navigation humor--this from my grandmother, who pass away some forty years ago. It was one of her favorite jokes.

THE HUNGARIAN MOUNTAIN CLIMBERS

It turns out the the four Hungarian mountain climbers had been very successful, and found themselves on top of a towering peak in the Alps. And yet, there was some disagreement about the name of the peak. Some believed that it was called one thing, and others insisted that it was really called something else.

After some heated discussion, the group decided to request their navigator settle the argument. He pulled out his map and compass, and carefully studied them both. He took a sighting of the sun, and checked his map again against the surrounding peaks.

At last he came to a decision.

He pointed to a tall peak on the horizon, soaring high into the sky. "Do you see Mt. Blanc over there?" he asked all of his companions. They all agreed that they could see it.

"Well," concluded the navigator with great certainty. "We are right on top of it!"


Ahhh. Czech humor!


Edited by balzaccom (01/07/12 08:14 PM)
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#159869 - 01/07/12 09:25 PM Re: Brain Teaser - Navigation skills [Re: Gershon]
lori Offline
member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2801
Originally Posted By Gershon



One thing that has disappointed me is I haven't found a single comprehensive website on learning basic navigation using a map and a compass. Sounds like a good book for me to write.



there's already good books on navigation - I usually recommend Wilderness Navigation, by Bob and Mike Burns, it's quite good as it is easy to understand for the novice, very straightforward and laid out well with great illustrations.

And if people turn straight to the chapter on the GPS there is a big box that says "if you skipped all the other chapters and turned to this one first, thinking that using the global positioning system will make it unnecessary for you to learn map and compass, please go back to the beginning of the book and read at least chapters one through five before reading this chapter. Using GPS technology effectively requires a basic understanding of how to read maps and how to use a compass."

SAR teams everywhere should write these guys thank you letters.

For an online resource, I usually point people at http://www.princeton.edu/~oa/manual/mapcompass.shtml - it's not as thorough as the book but does okay for map and compass basics.
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