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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These large geographic regions are found within the tropics near the equator (Central America, along the Amazon River, South-Eastern Asia and adjacent islands, and vast areas in the middle of Africa and India) (Figure 13-3). Jungles are characterized as rainy, humid areas with heavy layers of tangled, impenetrable vegetation. Jungles contain many species of wildlife (tigers, monkeys, parrots, snakes, alligators, and so forth). The jungle is also a paradise for insects, which are the worst enemy of the navigator because some insects carry diseases (malaria, yellow fever, cholera, and so forth). While navigating in these areas, very little terrain association can be accomplished because of the heavy foliage. Dead reckoning is one of the methods used in these areas. A lost navigator in the jungle can eventually find his way back to civilization by following any body of water with a downstream flow. However, not every civilization found is of a friendly nature.

Figure 13-3. Land Navigation - Jungles and savannas.

Figure 13-3. Jungles and savannas.

a.   Operations. Operations in jungles tend to be isolated actions by small forces because of the difficulties encountered in moving and in maintaining contact between units. Divisions can move cross-country slowly; but, aggressive reconnaissance, meticulous intelligence collection, and detailed coordination are required to concentrate forces in this way. More commonly, large forces operate along roads or natural avenues of movement, as was the case in the mountains. Patrolling and other surveillance operations are especially important to ensure security of larger forces in the close terrain of jungles.

(1)   Short fields of observation and fire, and thick vegetation make maintaining contact with the enemy difficult. The same factors reduce the effectiveness of indirect fire and make jungle combat primarily a fight between infantry forces. Support by air and mechanized forces can be decisive at times, but it will not always be available or effective.

(2)   Jungles are characterized by high temperatures, heavy rains, high humidity, and an abundance of vegetation. The climate varies with location. Close to the equator, all seasons are nearly alike with heavy rains all year. Farther from the equator (India and Southeast Asia), there are distinct wet (monsoon) and dry seasons. Both zones have high temperatures (averaging 75 to 95+ degrees Fahrenheit), heavy rainfall (as much as 400+ inches annually, and high humidity (90 percent) all year.

(3)   In temperate climates, it is the areas of vegetation that are most likely to be altered and incorrectly portrayed on a map. In jungle areas, the vegetation grows so rapidly that it is more likely to be cleared and make these areas be shown incorrectly.

b.   Interpretation and Analysis. The jungle environment includes dense forests, grasslands, swamps, and cultivated areas. Forests are classified as primary and secondary based upon the terrain and vegetation. Primary forests include tropical rain forests and deciduous forests. Secondary forests are found at the edges of both rain forests and deciduous forests and in areas where jungles have been cleared and abandoned. These places are typically overgrown with weeds, grasses, thorns, ferns, canes, and shrubs. Movement is especially slow and difficult. The extremely thick vegetation reaches a height of 2 meters and severely limits observation to only a few meters.

(1)   Tropical rain forests consist mostly of large trees whose branches spread and lock together to form canopies. These canopies, which can exist at two and three different levels, may form as low as 10 meters from the ground. They prevent direct sunlight from reaching the ground, causing a lack of undergrowth on the jungle floor. Extensive above-ground root systems and hanging vines are common and make vehicular travel difficult; foot movement is easier. Ground observation is limited to about 50 meters and air observation is nearly impossible.

(2)   Deciduous forests are in semitropical zones that have both wet and dry seasons. In the wet season, trees are fully leaved; in the dry season, much of the folliage dies. Trees are usually less dense than in rain forests, which allows more sunlight to filter to the ground. This procedure produces thick undergrowth. During the wet season, air and ground observation is limited and movement is difficult. During the dry season, both improve.

(3)   Swamps are common to all low, jungle areas where there is poor drainage. When navigating in a swampy area, a careful analysis of map and ground should be taken before any movement. The soldiers should travel in small numbers with only the equipment required for their mission, keeping in mind that they are going to be immersed in water part of the time. The usual technique used in swamp navigation is dead reckoning. There are two basic types of swamps—mangrove and palm. Mangrove swamps are found in coastal areas wherever tides influence water flow. Mangrove is a shrub-like tree that grows 1 to 5 meters high. These trees have a tangled root system, both above and below the waterline, which restricts movement either by foot or small boat. Observation on the ground and from the air is poor, but concealment is excellent.

(4)   Grassy plains or savannas are generally located away from the equator but within the tropics. These vast land areas are characterized by flatlands with a different type of vegetation than jungles. They consist mainly of grasses (ranging from 1 to more than 12 feet in height), shrubs, and isolated trees. The most difficult areas to navigate are the ones surrounded by tall grass (elephant grass); however, vehicles can negotiate here better than in some areas. There are few or no natural features to navigate by, making dead reckoning or navigation by stars the only technique for movement (Figure 13-3). Depending on the height of the grass, ground observation may vary from poor to good. Concealment from air observation is poor for both soldiers and vehicles.

(5)   Bamboo stands are common throughout the tropics. They should be bypassed whenever possible. They are formidable obstacles for vehicles, and soldier movement through them is slow, exhausting, and noisy.

(6)   Cultivated areas exist in jungles also. They range from large, well-planned, well-managed farms and plantations to small tracts, cultivated by farmers. The three general types of cultivated areas are rice paddies, plantations, and small farms.

c.   Navigation. Areas such as jungles are generally not accurately mapped because heavy vegetation makes aerial surveys difficult. The ability to observe terrain features, near or far, is extremely limited. The navigator must rely heavily upon his compass and the dead reckoning technique when moving in the jungle. Navigation is further complicated by the inability to make straight-line movements. Terrain analysis, constant use of the compass, and an accurate pace count are essential to navigation in this environment.

(1)   Rates of movement and pace counts are particularly important to jungle navigators. The most common error is to overestimate the distance traveled. The distances below can be used as a rough guide for the maximum distances that might be traveled in various types of terrain during one hour in daylight.

Type of Terrain Maximum Distance (In Meters)
Tropical Rain ForestUp to 1,000
Deciduous Forest500
Secondary jungle100 to 500
Tall Grass500
Swamps100 to 300
Rice paddies (wet)800
Rice paddies (dry)2,000
Trailsup to 3,000

Table 13-3. Guide for maximum distance.

(2)   Special navigation strategies that are helpful in jungles include:

(a)   Personal pace table. You should either make a mental or written personal pace table that includes your average pace count per 100 meters for each of the types of terrain through which you are likely to navigate.

(b)   Resection using indirect fire. Call for mortar or artillery fire (airbursts of white phosphorous or illumination) on two widely separated grids that are not on terrain features like the one you are occupying and are a safe distance from your estimated location. Directions to the airbursts sometimes must be determined by sound.

(c)   Modified area/point navigation. Even when making primary use of the compass for dead reckoning, you are frequently able to area navigate to an expanded objective, which is easily identified by terrain association. Then, simply develop a short, point-navigation leg to your final destination.

Return to Navigation In Different Types Of Terrain



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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