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Scott Mcalister By Scott Mcalister

The OS GetOutside Champions recently learnt how to navigate with just a compass and a map thanks to the team at Ultimate Navigation School – find out how they got on and how you can join a course.

Navigation: The process or activity of accurately ascertaining one's position and planning and following a route. Or at least that's the dictionary definition... I will come back to mine later!

How many of us actively use navigation techniques when out on a walk? How many of us get lost, and fortunately find our way again?

Should we always be looking down at a map? Staring at a compass needle?

Of course not, we should be looking up, taking in the view, and enjoying our surroundings. After all, that is what we set out to do!

What about when the weather changes? When you stray off path? When you've been so busy enjoying the view that you've temporarily misplaced yourself? What then? That is when navigation skills will come to your aid.

Learning to navigate with Ultimate Navigation School

Statistically at least half of all mountain rescue call outs are due to a navigational error, or someone not taking the right equipment out in the first instance!

Obviously this is a worrying statistic. With this in mind Ordnance Survey decided to send its #GetOutsidechampions on a two day navigation course at the weekend. As ambassadors for the great outdoors, it is only right that we should be able to offer advice out in the field so to speak.

So it was that a bunch of us met up in the Peak District on Saturday morning to be put through our paces (quite literally) by the guys at Ultimate Navigation School. As forecasted the weather was not too pleasant on day one!

But of course it was perfect conditions to demonstrate the importance of good navigation techniques.

Day one comprised of understanding the 5 D's, and putting them in to practice.


Have you ever got to the start point of a walk and set off in the complete wrong direction? I have!

The excitement of getting started and the views around you are a tempting distraction from checking your route on the map! Take 5 minutes to check before you go, you'll thank yourself for it.


If your route is planned then you should have an idea of the distance you will travel. Again this is important to know, especially at times of the year when days are shorter and darkness falls quite quickly.


How long will the walk take you? There is a rule known as the Naismith's Rule.

This allows an easy calculation of the time taken for a hill walk, for a reasonably fit and steady walker: 15 minutes for every kilometre of horizontal distance, plus 10 minutes for every 100 metres of ascent. The time should be calculated for the slowest person in a walking group. This is a guide only. It is best to time yourself walking a kilometre over three occasions, and then averaging out the times.


This is your opportunity to assess the terrain you will be crossing on your walk. Also it is important to advise anyone walking with you of the route and any hazards. Don't undersell it or no one will want to walk with you!


This may seem obvious, but if you are walking as a group not everyone may be aware of where the route will end? If you get separated, it is reassuring to know that everyone at least knows where to head to. It's also helpful to break the route in to small legs so it does not seem as daunting a prospect, so each leg will have its own destination.

After spending around six hours stomping around the peaks putting these techniques into practice, we were then given the night off to unwind and relax....but not without a little bit of homework! We were given the route for the following days walk, and had to write the route card collectively. Every day is a school day as they say in the world of navigation. I can vouch for this being true as I learned some new skills myself that will be invaluable to me in the mountains of the Lake District!

We woke on the Sunday to a beautiful sunrise and the prospect of a glorious day on the fells.

We met at the hotel for a quick safety brief (and a coffee) before heading out on our adventure.

Our group was made up of 11 of us, as a few of the champions were off doing more advanced techniques. We broke the route up in to sections and each took a turn to lead the group on their section.

What I love about the #GetOutside Champions is that we all support and encourage each other. Sunday was the perfect example of that.

I'm pleased to say that we made it around the full route without getting lost (when we were lost it was intentional, Honest!) What I will take most from this weekend is that navigation is not just an essential tool to have in your kit, it is also a fun activity. If you have children with you, get them involved too.You'renever too young to begin the adventurous learning curve.

So going back to the start, I said you don't need to have a map and compass in your hand for the whole walk, I still stand by that, but I for one will be checking my map more often on walks now. Setting it to the ground, picking out features, confirming my position even when I know where I am. The old saying "use it or lose it" springs to mind. Hone your skills on dry bright clear days with excellent visibility. Pick out a feature in the distance, take a bearing off it and follow that bearing. If the day ever comes when you're caught out in low cloud or a whiteout, you'll feel a lot more confident about getting yourself out of there I assure you.

But what about GPS?

He's not mentioned GPS or electronic mapping I hear you say....

In today's technological world it is comforting to know that you can get your phone out and instantly get a fix on your location on mapping software such as OS maps. These apps are also useful for plotting and following a route, but you should always take a map and compass out with you, and know how to confidently use them.


The process or activity of accurately ascertaining one's position and planning and following a route.

That's the dictionary definition...


Happy navigating :)

Become a navigator with UNS

Interested in become a qualified navigator?

Whatever your ability, from a beginner to seasoned explorer, you can find a great navigation source to suit you with Ultimate Navigation School. Their trained instructors even teach the military, so you can guarantee they know their stuff.

Visit the website to find out more.

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Scott Mcalister By Scott Mcalister


Scott describes himself as 'an average down to earth man with an obsessive passion for the outdoors'. His favourite place to visit is the Lake District, and he regularly leads a walking group from his work (The Lake Buddies).

As well as hiking, Scott is a keen photographer and loves to share his images across his social media accounts and his blog. He is also a brand affiliate for Lake District clothing firm Ascendancy Apparel.

You can find out about Scott's adventures at