Following the plan

How to follow a bushwalking plan

Before starting any bushwalk, you will make a plan. Then on the bushwalk, the navigation side of things is about following that plan, and updating it if things change.

Micro-navigation How to micro-navigate

Micro-navigation is when a navigation task is broken down into small pieces. A whole journey comprises of an infinite number of micro-navigation decisions, the result being getting from point A to point B.

Micro-navigation involves noticing the tiniest of features on a map. Things like, for instance, the number of twists in a river, a subtle change in the direction of a ridgeline, an implied knoll. Maps are a wealth of information once you start to examine these details, and they provide a much clearer picture on how you are traveling through the landscape.

Being able to micro-navigate is highly advantageous in poor weather conditions too. For instance, when visibility is poor, being able to recognise subtle nearby features could make the world of difference to understanding where you are in the landscape.

Group navigation Why your input is so important

When you’re starting out, it’s easy to feel quite self-conscious about your navigation skills compare to others that have been practicing for longer. So it’s easy to let someone else take the lead and make decisions. Remember, everyone has to start somewhere, and navigation is one of those things that only gets easier with practice.

Never be afraid to shout out when you don’t think things make sense. The more people in the group that keep an eye out for stuff, the less likely you are to go wrong. So many groups have blindly followed the person at the front only to realise half an hour later that they’ve gone in entirely the wrong direction! A short two-minute conversation to figure out where the group is on the right way can save hours of backtracking. Also, by speaking up, you’re making sure that the whole group agrees with the route decision, and encourages everyone to think about the landscape and where the route is going.

Even if you are not actively following the map on a bushwalk, follow the shape of the land and make a mental note of features you pass. Becoming familiar with these landforms trains the brain to spot quickly those features that most people would miss. A memory of the landscape is extremely useful if the group has to backtrack.