Navigation – Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) coordinates are very helpful when using a map, compass, or GPS. UTMs are based off a metric grid system and allow you to accurately pinpoint your current location or the location of a distant goal. In North America, we use eastings and northings. Think of them like an X, Y axis. The eastings are your X and the northings are your Y. Always read out the eastings first followed by the northings second. Make sure to always orient your map before working with UTMs.

Triangulation is another skill that can prove itself useful in the backcountry setting. To triangulate, orient the map first then find recognizable landmarks on the map that you can see from your current location. Shoot a bearing to your first recognizable landmark and rotate the dial so that the “shed” is over the red end of the needle. Place the corner of the compass on the landmark on the map and pivot the compass around that landmark until the red needle is in the “shed”. Use a pencil to draw a straight line along the edge of the compass and continue to the edge of the map. If you are on a trail, then the line should intersect the trail that you are on and your position is at that intersection. Find two other landmarks and repeat the process, you are somewhere in the triangle formed by these three lines. To be more accurate, take more bearings and trace them onto the map.

How To Use A Map & Compass Video


About Philmont Scout Ranch

Philmont Scout Ranch, the Boy Scouts of America's premier High Adventure™ base, challenges Scouts and Venturers with more than 214 square miles of rugged northern New Mexico wilderness. Backpacking treks, horseback cavalcades, and training and service programs offer young people many ways to experience this legendary country.