Switch on!

Navigation is all about gathering evidence to prove where you are and having a strategy for getting to where you want to go. Being ‘switched on’ means checking your position regularly and is the most important tool in navigation.

Have the right kit

A compass with a long baseplate and a romer is best. Silva type 4 is a good example, although cheaper versions are ok. If possible use a laminated map with a permanent marker – this saves having to fold the map into the confines of a map case.

Practise plotting grid references

At the start of the event you get two minutes to plot the checkpoints using six figure grid references. Practise this with your groups beforehand; making it into a competition can help create some pressure, which you will definitely feel on the day of the event!

Know how to take a compass bearing

Keep checking you’re going in the right direction with a quick bearing. It only takes 10 seconds and is good evidence that you’re on the right track. County Mountaineering team events are a great place to learn how to do this.

Use tick off features

As you go along, keep asking yourself ‘what will I pass next?’ For example, if you think you should be in a wood and you’re not- stop and recheck!

Have a method of measuring distances

There are various methods of doing this. A simple one is to work out roughly how fast you walk (a practice hike is a good time to do this). For example, if you walk at 4km an hour and you need to go 1km until a checkpoint, then if you can’t see the checkpoint after 15 minutes-stop and recheck.

Have a reliable timing device

This could be a phone – so long as its battery will last the whole day – better still a watch. Keep checking on time – because it’s no good knowing what speed you walk at if you don’t know when you started.

Know what map symbols mean

This is easy to do as they are shown in the key on OS maps. The OS website is also a good resource for all things to do with navigation.

Don’t spend ages at checkpoints

This is a simple way to really cut your finish time. Spending ten minutes at six checkpoints will add an extra hour to your time. That could be the difference between coming 1st or 21st!!


From the above think about each navigational ‘leg’ in terms of "The 3 D’s": Description (What are you going to see), Distance (How long will it take) Direction (What is the basic direction of travel).

The County Activities Team run navigation events specifically designed for the Chiltern 20/ Southern 50. Contact us using the contact form in the footer or see our ads in North Circular.

Help on The Internet

Check out these websites for assistance and use the videos as part of your pre-event training:

Choosing a compass with Glenmore Lodge

The Steve Backshall OS Map Reading Series (although the music soundtrack tends to get on your nerves)