Hike Navigation

Knowing how to navigate a hiking trail is an essential skill

While hiking is a relatively safe outdoor activity, it is only safe if you are prepared and know how to navigate the Australian bush. The key to any successful hike is knowing where you are going, where you have been and how to return safely. During your trip preparation you should also be aware of potential emergency and evacuation points in case things don’t go to plan. The most common cause of ill-fated hiking trips is people getting lost, so it is important to know how NOT to get lost and what to do if this does occur.

The most honest advice I can offer is, if you don’t know how to read a topographic map and use a compass or navigate a hiking trail using other aids, then stop to consider the hikes you plan to undertake as some hikes will require more advanced navigation knowledge. Having someone in your group that knows how to navigate is not really enough. You need to be able to return from every hike as if you were hiking solo. We all need to start every hike with the knowledge that we are personally in control of making it back safely.

Anatomy of a compass


There are many different types of compasses, but for hiking/bushwalking, it’s important to purchase a unit that can reliably measure bearings and help you determine your route of travel. 

Following a Bearing

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The easiest way to ensure you are following a bearing is to pick an easily identifiable object, such as a tree or rock, in the distance,along the line indicated by the direction of travel arrow.

How to read a map


Knowing how to read a map isn’t difficult, for most people, given training, a bit of practise and continual use. The symbols, topography lines and direction helpers all might require a little understanding, but the...

How to use a compass


How to use a compass for hiking in Australia Using a compass is a life saving skill. Your own life or someone in your group could be saved by your ability to read a map...

Navigate using the sun

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The earth’s relationship to the sun can help you to determine direction (celestial navigation). This allows you to navigate using the sun on your hikes.

Navigating at night


Navigating at Night need not be as daunting as it sounds. Provided that the skies are working for you and are not covered in cloud. If you can find the Southern Cross, or ‘Crux’ by...

Planning your hiking route on PC


Planning your own hiking route can be a rewarding experience. It helps you discover new places. Planning your hiking route on your computer provides you with the tools to easily determine and review your route...

Rock cairns for navigation


The rise of “pointless” rock stacks (cairns) are angering some in the bushwalking community, who believe they impinge on the natural environment and can lead hikers astray.

Smartphone navigation for hiking


Smartphone Navigation for Hiking – A fad or useful tool? You want topographical maps and offline GPS navigation when you’re hiking into the wilderness? Have you considered smartphone trail navigation apps? Google Maps certainly isn’t...

Stay on route

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Using your compass to orient yourself and your map and then identifying objects on the map in your real world will keep you going the right direction.

Understanding topographic features

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While they may look intimidating, all hikers should learn how to read a topographic map. Topographic maps are two-dimensional representations of a three-dimensional landscape. They show the basic landmarks of the area. The most useful...

Using a GPS

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Have you purchased your first GPS unit and now find yourself staring at the screen wondering how to use a GPS? Don’t worry, you are not alone. Here’s a few tips to get you started.

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