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Top 10 pieces of Navigation Equipment

After reading Lyle Brotherton’s excellent Navigation Manual we were inspired to check our navigation kit to make sure that we are fully up to date and ready for the worst conditions and most waterlogged of maps. According to Mr. Brotherton (and he should know having trained SAR teams in over twenty countries), these are the best pieces of kit to keep you on the right path :

1) Suunto M3 Global Compass – a high quality baseplate compass capable of performing from -40 to +60 degrees C! Should be more than enough for a weekend in the lakes then….

2) Latest set of waterproof OS Explorer maps. Obviously.

3) Grid Reference Tool, used to quickly find a grid ref in the field.

4) Tally counter – not dissimilar to the clickers that door men use to count revellers in and out of clubs, these handy devices are useful when using a techniques known as pacing.

5) Grease pencils are useful for writing on waterproof maps and the markings can be rubbed off when you are finished.

6) Head Torch Рwhilst you should never navigate at night, you never know when you might have to. LED torches are best but  look for a torch with a minimum range of 50m. The classic Petzl Tikka Headtorch is reliable and one the cheapest head torches that you can trust to do the job when you need it most.

7) Backup Lithium Batteries for head torches, phones & Sat Systems.

8) Mobile Phone, though don’t rely on it and if you do a lot of hill walking, it may pay to invest in a ruggedised model to prevent water damage.

9) Compass Binoculars will allow you to take bearings at far longer distances than by hand compass.

10) GNSS or Satnav system. Though these can vary wildly in price, a reliable system can be purchased now for under £100.

With all this in mind, remember that the best piece of navigation equipment is your brain! Fine tune this tool as much as you can by reading the Collin’s Ultimate Navigation Manual.

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Collins Ultimate Navigation Manual Book (Lyle Brotherton) Review

Collins have been famed for their “Gem” guides which provide a handy pocket reference for just about any topic you can imagine. Whilst the “Ultimate Navigation Manual” has little in common in terms of size (it weighs in at 368 pages and is roughly A5 in size), it shares the same easy to understand writing style and excellent graphic design.

The author, Lyle Brotherton, is a professional navigation expert and has taught navigation to search and rescue teams in 24 countries so is more than qualified to write about the topic. Added to this, the fact that Sir Ralph Fiennes is prepared to put his name to the work in the form of a preface is testament to the quality of the publication.

According to the Digest of Scottish Mountaineering Incidents, navigation errors are the primary cause of mountain accidents, so whether you are a new walker or an old hand, it pays to brush up on your skills. This book makes it extremely easy to do that and provides all the necessary “micro-navigation” techniques to operate in a wide variety terrains and conditions.

The author suggests that readers follow the book through sequentially for maximum benefit, but Collin’s excellent graphic style make this an excellent book to pick up and enjoy at any point. Vivid graphics and informative inlays position this book not only as an essential manual but also as a fascinating general interest book.

The book starts with the essentials chapter, covering basic navigation equipment and tools before moving onto techniques, special environments and finally the use of modern Global Navigation, Satellite Systems (GNSS) and Digital Mapping – often erroneously referred to as GPS. The layout of the book encourages the practical application of learning through four weekend challenges.

These challenges are supported by detailed lesson plans which makes the book a great buy for scout leaders and outdoor instructors. Though the book isn’t waterproofed in anyway, it is small enough to fit into a backpack during the four learning weekends provided that you consult the weather carefully. If every mountain enthusiast bought and used this book, mountain rescue teams would have a lot less work to do!