Part One
  Map Reading

  Reading Topographical Maps Introduction 1. HOME

  Topographical Maps - Definition, Purpose and Categories 2. Maps

  Information in the margins of an army map 3. Marginal Information    and Symbols

  Latitude, Longitude and Other Methods to Locate Points on Topographic Maps 4. Grids

  Translating Distance on a Topographic Map to Distance on the Ground 5. Scale and Distance

  Grid North, Azimuth, Declination And Other Concepts Used To Find Direction With Topographic Maps 6. Direction

  Overlays - Used Primarily In Army Map Reading 7. Overlays

  Aerial Photographs - Supplements And Substitutes For Topographic Maps 8. Aerial Photographs

 Part Two
  Land Navigation

  Using Compass, GPS, Sun, Shadows, and Stars in Land Navigation 9. Navigation Equipment    and Methods

  Reading The Shape Of The Land In Topographic Maps 10. Elevation and Relief

  Orienting and Navigating With Topographic Maps 11. Terrain Association

  Mounted Land Navigating With Motorized Vehicles 12. Mounted Land    Navigation

  Land Navigation In Different Types of Terrain 13. Navigation in    Different Types of    Terrain

  Sketching Topographic Maps A. Field Sketching

  Folding Topographic Maps B. Map Folding     Techniques

  Units of Measure and Conversion Factors Used in Reading Topographic Maps C. Units of Measure and      Conversion Factors

  Units of Measure and Conversion Factors Used in Reading Topographic Maps D. Joint Operations      Graphics

  US Army Training Material for Map Reading and Land Navigation E. Exportable Training      Material

  Orienteering F. Orienteering

  US Army M2 Compass G. M2 Compass

  Additional Aids such as Night Vision Goggles and Global Positioning System or GPS H. Additional Aids      (GPS, Night Vision)

  Global Positioning System -  GPS J. Global Positioning      System - GPs


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This is currently the most widely used method of navigation. The navigator plans his route so that he moves from terrain feature to terrain feature. An automobile driver in a city uses this technique as he moves along a street or series of streets, guiding on intersections or features such as stores and parks. Like the driver, the navigator selects routes or streets between key points or intersections. These routes must be capable of sustaining the travel of the vehicle or vehicles, should be relatively direct, and should be easy to follow. In a typical move, the navigator determines his location, determines the location of his objective, notes the position of both on his map, and then selects a route between the two. After examining the terrain, he adjusts the route by the following actions:

a.   Consider Tactical Aspects. Avoid skylining, select key terrain for overwatch positions, and select concealed routes.

b.   Consider Ease of Movement. Use the easiest possible route and bypass difficult terrain. Remember that a difficult route is harder to follow, is noisier, causes more wear and tear (and possible recovery problems), and takes more time. Tactical surprise is achieved by doing the unexpected. Try to select an axis or corridor instead of a specific route. Make sure you have enough maneuver room for the vehicles (Figure 12-2).

Figure 12-2. Reading Topographic Maps - Primary route.

Figure 12-2. Primary route.

c.   Use Terrain Features as Checkpoints. These checkpoints must be easily recognizable in the light and weather conditions and at the speed at which you will move. You should be able to find a terrain feature from your location that can be recognized from almost anywhere and used as a guide. An example is checkpoint 2, the church, and checkpoint 3, the orchard, in Figure 12-2.

(1)   The best checkpoints are linear features that cross your route. Use streams, rivers, hard-top roads, ridges, valleys, and railroads.

(2)   The next best checkpoints are elevation changes, such as hills, depressions, spurs, and draws. Look for two contour lines of change. You will not be able to spot less than two lines of change while mounted.

(3)   In wooded terrain, try to locate checkpoints at no more than 1,000-meter intervals. In open terrain, you may go to about 5,000 meters.

d.   Follow Terrain Features. Movement and navigation along a valley floor or near (not necessarily on) the crest of a ridgeline is easiest.

e.   Determine Directions. Break the route down into smaller segments and determine the rough directions that will be followed. You do not need to use the compass; just use the main points of direction (north, northeast, east, and so forth). Before moving, note the location of the sun and locate north. Locate changes of direction, if any, at the checkpoints picked.

f.   Determine Distance. Get the total distance to be traveled and the approximate distance between checkpoints. Plan to use the vehicle odometer to keep track of distance traveled. Use the pace-count method and keep a record of the distance traveled. When using a pace count, convert from map distance to ground distance by adding the conversion factors of 20 percent for cross-country movement.

g.   Make Notes. Mental notes are usually adequate. Try to imagine what the route is like and remember it.

h.   Plan to Avoid Errors. Restudy the route selected. Try to determine where errors are most apt to occur and how to avoid any trouble.

i.   Use a Logbook. When the routes have been selected and the navigator has divided the distance to be traveled into legs, prepare a logbook. The logbook is an informal record of the distance and azimuth of each leg, with notes to aid the navigator in following the correct route. The notes list easily identifiable terrain features at or near the point where the direction of movement changes (Figure 12-3).

Figure 12-3.  Reading Topographic Maps - Sample of a logbook format.

Figure 12-3. Sample of a logbook format.

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Map Reading and Land Navigation Buy the book this website is based on: Map Reading and Land Navigation

This website is based on the US Army Field Manual: "Map Reading and Land Navigation" Buy a copy from to take with you out in the field.


Book Review - Be Expert with Map and Compass

One of the best ways to learn and become proficient in any subject is to find a way to make a game or sport of it. That's exactly what orienteering does! Orienteering began to develop almost 100 years ago in the Scandinavian countries as a fun and effective method for military training in land navigation. Bjorn Kjellstrom was closely involved with the early development of orienteering, and he is the person who introduced the sport to North America. He, along with his brother Alvar, and a friend named Gunnar Tillander, invented the modern orienteering compass. They manufactured and marketed it as the Silva Protractor compass. This compass, along with Bjorn's book Be Expert with Map and Compass, made it much easier for anyone to learn how to use a map and compass.

This book has become the most widely read classic on the subject of map reading, compass use, and orienteering. Over 500,000 copies have been sold in the english language editions alone. There have been very successful editions published in French, Italian, and other languages as well. It is a short (just over 200 pages), easy to read, enjoyable book that can help you to have fun while you learn the subject quickly and effectively.

The book is organized into four main parts, plus a short, useful introduction. Part 1 covers having fun with maps alone. Then, Part 2 covers having fun with a compass alone. Part 3 puts it together and shows you how to have fun with a map and compass together. This section also introduces the game or sport of orienteering. Part 4 covers competitive orienteering for those who would like to compete with others in the sport.

A reproduction of a segment of an actual topographic map is included as a fold-out in the back of the book. It is used together with the "how-to" instructions the book provides. For example, one of the exercises in Part 3 is an imaginary orienteering "hike" that uses the sample map.

If you would like to have one of the best books available on map reading and using a compass, Be Expert with Map and Compass is hard to beat. You can buy a copy from today.

Read a book review of Agincourt

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