Ashley Burke's Web Page

Navigation with Map and Compass - A resource for bushwalkers, hikers and wilderness enthusiasts

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Welcome to my navigation page!

Via this website you can:

Find out about and apply to join one of my Navigation Training Weekends

Learn navigation online via a free online tutorial


Navigation is the skill of using a map, a compass and your brain to find you way through wild country where there is no track, trail, signs or other man made navigation aids. This skill is indispensable for the bushwalker, trekker, cross country skier and mountaineer. With it you can find your own way through the country that you are travelling through rather than having to keep to well used signposted routes. Thus it can enable you to enter remoter and more seldom visited areas. The skill is empowering because it enables you to head out into the bush on its terms, and to become confident in your own ability to find your way and be comfortable in a natural environment far away from any human infrastructure. With navigation skill the bush becomes your home, not something to feel insecure in and not something you need to insulate yourself from or protect yourself against.

I have prepared this website and run regular navigation training weekends to help bring this skill to anyone with a sense of adventure and a desire to feel independent and confident to venture - safely and reponsibly - into a wilderness landscape.

Joining a Navigation Training Weekend

From time to time, normally in the months of March to May, I take small groups on a 2-day weekend educational bushwalk focused on teaching the skills of navigation. For more information on these weekends and how to join, click the button below.

Online Learning

Navigation is a practical skill. The best way to learn it is to put it into practise in a real landscape with a map flapping in the wind, and the compass around your neck pointing you in the right direction. That said, the practical aspects of navigation do draw upon a set of techniques that are possible to learn online, before heading out into the elements. So I have put together an online tutorial which explains the techniques of how to read a topographic map and how to use your compass to determine your direction of travel or to work out your location.

So why not start with online learing of map and compass skills by clicking the button below.

GPS Technologies and Navigation

Today most smartphones include a GPS receiver and a quick look at any app store will reveal a bewildering number of GPS navigation apps, downloadable digital maps, and various tools for tracking routes, recording waypoints, and collecting data. Many of these apps and features are useful aids for the navigator, and the wide range of possible uses for these various GPS applications cannot be ignored.

Nonetheless, relying solely on GPS technologies for your navigation needs would be a mistake. Even if you embrace and use GPS technologies for cross-country navigation, a good background in traditional map reading and compass skills is indispensable knowledge and skill to ensure you are safe, confident and self reliant when out in a wilderness area.

Here are some things to think about when assessing the balance between GPS technologies and traditional map and compass skills.

Benefits of GPS

The primary benefit of GPS technologies when used in conjunction with traditional navigation methods is for safety.

Limitations of GPS

It is important to be aware of some limitations of shortcomings of GPS technologies as tools in wilderness navigation. This is not to dismiss these technologies as inadequate, rather, to highlight that you also need traditional navigation skills to enhance your safety, reliability and accuracy when navigating.

  • If using your phone for GPS navigation and not a dedicated GPS device, your GPS technology will last only as long as your phone battery. Lose power and the ability to recharge, and all the benefits of GPS are lost.
  • GPS receivers may not receive a signal in narrow ravines, deep valleys or anywhere where there is not a large amount of open sky.
  • Map reading is extremely limited on even the most advanced hand-held GPS devices due to the small screen. There is simply no substitute to being able to spread out a large detailed map of your area and scrutinising it to get a full picture of your surroundings.
  • GPS devices are heavier, bulkier and more fragile than a map and compass.

    Conclusion Re GPS

    Use GPS technologies by all means, but learn and use traditional map and compass techniques as the foundation of your navigation skill. You need the baseline skill in traditional navigation techniques, which you can then build upon using the latest technologies to enhance your experience. I offer you the opportunity to gain this baseline skill via my navigation training weekends and online navigation tutorial.


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    This page created 12 Jul 2008, last updated 10 Feb 2018.

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