In this age of in-car navigation systems and mapping applications for smartphones, a knowledge of how to read maps and navigate is still essential. It's not difficult - most of us already know how to read a Street Directory or interpret the maps that we see on our smartphones.
This section describes some of the techniques that are used by skilled navigators - bushwalkers, rogainers and orienteers - many of whom feel quite at home navigating through the bush...kilometres away from the nearest road. The principles apply to most types of maps - so next time your GPS gives bad advice or your smartphone battery dies...you'll be ready.
Route choice is very important in navigation sports - you need to choose a route that you can follow without getting lost.
Alternative 1 - the straight line - is the shortest way, but the green stripes indicate rough terrain and slow going.
Alternative 2 - avoids the dense vegetation - but finding the checkpoint (even with a compass) will be difficult.
Alternative 3 - walk down the track until you see the stream on your right, walk East along the stream until you see the fence, then walk along the fence until you arrive at the fence corner - the checkpoint should be just on your right.
Alterntive 3 is clearly safest - because it uses handrails for easy navigation.
Sometimes, checkpoints are placed in vague areas where everything looks the same. Unless you know exactly where you are, finding a checkpoint in a forest or in a complex area, can be very difficult.
The answer here is to approach the control from a good Attack Point. An Attack Point is an obvious feature, that you can see from a distance, with no similar objects nearby (so you don't get confused). Your Attack Point should be close to the checkpoint - so many orienteers plan their route to the next control backwards...first, identify your attack point and then work out how to get there.
When you reach the Attack Point, take a careful bearing and walk in - many orienteers estimate the distance to the checkpoint and pace count to work out when they're close to the checkpoint.
This page provides some examples of Attack Points and how you can use them to find controls more quickly.