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Course Catalog

Course Catalog

Class Theme: Natural Navigation, Map & Compass, Lostproofing & Orienteering

Wolf Journey Book Cover - Artwork by Joanna ColbertQuick Navigation & Orienteering Class Itinerary:

If you are already an expert navigator, this class will give you great teaching tools for use when hiking with novices. If you are “navigationally challenged,” then we hope the simple way we teach these skills will open a world of understanding for you in the wilderness. Your instructors Kim & Chris Chisholm have a combined 35 years of Search & Rescue and Outdoor Leadership experience as well as a lifetime of hiking/backpacking to share.

15 Minutes Before Class – Awareness Games: Please arrive early in order to complete any registration information, view recommended books, answer questions, and play awareness games that are so important to navigation.

15 Minutes on the Testing Your Dominance & Risk Management: Learning always builds over the course of class, so be sure you don’t miss the introductory information. After reviewing the 10 Packing Essentials and risk management tips shared from our Search & Rescue background, we will help you test to see if you are “right or left dominant” because when walking in nature, most people continually veer left or right when they actually want to go straight. Key to navigating in nature is learning how to compensate for your dominance.

Young participant putting her navigation skills to the test

15 Minutes on the Top 10 Lostproofing Skills: The most important skill for lostproofing is awareness. In fact, some people say there is no such thing as being lost, just in being unaware, so we will practice skills to improve your spacial recognition including wide-angle vision, expanded hearing, and new ways of walking appropriate to various environments, among other skills.

15 Minutes on the Top 10 Orienteering Skills: You will be amazed by some of the incredible ways to find north-south-east-west in order to walk in a straight line toward your destination on a map. One of our favorite is floating a leaf in water, and placing a pin on the leaf. Amazingly, it points to magnetic north. We’ll demonstrate that, and some other ways to orient yourself to the cardinal directions in city and wilderness, from GPS to the stars.

15 Minutes on the Top 10 Navigation Skills: There are some very important skills to learn in order to negotiate your way through nature without map or compass. For instance, do you know how to follow the contours of a hill in order to stay above thick brush and away from steep cliffs? How about lining up landmarks in order to go straight? We’ll talk about these skills and practice others as allowed by time and location.

15 Minutes on Map & Compass for Smarties: No matter whether you have GPS or not, the crux of these skills is understanding map and compass. If you are an expert navigator, you know how frustrating it can be to help novices understand maps, and if you are a novice, you know how frustrating it can be to read one. But no worries, as our method of using map and compass should allay your fears, even when it comes to contour lines and magnetic declination.

30 Minute Orienteering Challenge: Now let the fun begin as we send you out on an orienteering challenge that we have set up for you!

15 Minutes of Class – Resources & Questions: As you can tell, we really pack in the knowledge, so we allow wiggle room at the end of class to review skills that you wanted to cover more deeply.

15 Minutes After Class – Feedback & Planning: Please join Chris & Kim after class to review experiences, browse resources, discuss feedback, and brainstorm ideas for the future. Email or Call us at any time with any questions and requests.


– Hats, warm clothes, proper footwear, and rain gear if necessary for the outdoor portion of class.
– Flashlight/Headlamp will make things a lot easier for map reading after sunset.
– Notebook plus Pencil & Red/Blue Pen if at all possible for good highlighting of map contour lines. If you have a terrain map of the class area with contour lines, or can print a map with contour lines from the Google Maps “terrain” option, please bring that as well.
– Compass if possible, but please note that “surveyor’s compasses” and other non-map-compasses won’t work. If you don’t have a map/orienteering compass yet, try online, or cheaper sports stores for last-minute purchase, and we may have the following recommended compasses for sale at class, including: the Rothco Orienteering Compass Item #337 for learning in the $10-$15 price range, or the Brunton 15TDCL Compass if you want to go up to the next level in the $35 price range for precise mirrored sighting and adjustable declination. If you are hard-core, please share your more pricy suggestions at class:)

To get a jump-start on the skills we cover in this class click here for our blog post on the subject and to practice these skills in depth, check out our summer kids camps, our overnight youth camps and adult expeditions covering navigation skills.

For more training and active events to practice your navigational, map and compass skills, we recommend the following:

The Tacoma Mountaineers annual navigation class and weekend practice series in Western Washington.
The Oregon Sierra Club annual leaders training.
Cascade Orienteering Club which has introductory to advanced events almost every weekend in the Puget Sound area. Experience not necessary, instruction available at the start, and courses for all skill levels.  Practice your navigation skills and discover the sport of orienteering!
MerGeo which puts on endurance navigation events on larger maps with less detail, in more rugged areas. These endurance-length navigation races are popular as a team event and often done at a hiking pace. Using only map and compass, it is up to you and your team to find as many checkpoints within the stated time limit as you can! Events range from 2 to 10 hours (and sometimes 24!) and take place in rugged, beautiful venues across Washington State.

Class Locations:

Next Regularly Scheduled Class: Friday, February 26, 2016 at the Tacoma Branch Mountaineers Building in Old Town Tacoma, WA. Other options for more extensive learning include our summer Wilderness Navigation & Orienteering Challenge. Call 253-604-4681 with a credit card to register or to schedule a custom class at another time or location. Questions? Email anytime.

Other Class Topics During the Academic Year:

January: Wilderness Survival Skills including Bow Drill Fire Demo

February: Natural Navigation, Map & Compass, Lostproofing, & Orienteering

March: Local Wild Edible Plants & Backcountry Herbal Medicine

April: Safety, Tracks & Bird Alarms in Cougar, Wolf & Bear Country

• May: Backcountry Gourmet Camp Cooking Class

• June: Two Special Weeks of Classes in Puyallup & Issaquah

October: Climate Change Training – Lifestyle, Debates, Emergencies & Carbon Sequestration

November: Backcountry Crafts – Making Rope, Berry Collecting Baskets, Sleeping Bag Mats & More