Navigation Trail Hiking Australia

Navigating a Hiking Trail is an Essential Skill

Hiking is a relatively safe outdoor adventure. As true as this might be, it is only safe if you are prepared and know how to navigate the Australian bush. A key and critical aspect of your trip preparation is knowing where you are going and being aware of potential emergency evacuation points. 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 direct and honest advice I can offer is if you don’t know how to read a topographic trail map and use a compass, then don’t go hiking. Having someone in your group that knows how to use them is not good enough. Case scenario; you accidentally get separated from the group and the trail seems to have disappeared or is now heading off in a number of directions. What do you do? You really need to start every hike with the knowledge that you are in control of you making it back safely.

Smartphone Trail Navigation for Hiking

Smartphone Navigation for Hiking

Smartphone Navigation for Hiking - A fad or useful tool? You want topographical maps and offline GPS navigation when you’re
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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
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PC Route Planning

PC Route Planning

Planning your hiking route on your computer Planning your own hiking route can be a rewarding experience. It helps you
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Navigate at night trail hiking australia

Navigating at Night

Finding your way by using the Southern Cross Navigating at Night need not be as daunting as it sounds. Provided
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Navigation by Watch Method trail hiking australia

Navigate Using the Sun

Navigate using the sun when hiking in Australia The earth’s relationship to the sun can help you to determine direction
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How to Use a GPS

How to use a GPS when hiking in Australia Have you purchased your first GPS unit and now find yourself
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How to Read a Map Trail Hiking Australia

How to Read a Map

How to read a topographic hiking map I often meet other hikers on the trail who seem confused about their
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Anatomy of a Compass Trail Hiking Australia

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 ...
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Spurs and gullies

If you are confused about distinguishing spurs and gullies have a look at where the creeks run, these are the ...
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Following a Bearing

The easiest way to ensure you are following a bearing is to pick an easily identifiable object, such as a ...
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Navigation tips

Following are a few navigation tips to help you return safely. Trust your compass, especially at night. Hiking at night is ...
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Leave a map

As part of your hike planning you will have prepared a trail map, details of your group and emergency contacts ...
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Building cairns

You may see rock cairns (piles of rocks) along the trail. Don’t destroy them, but don’t add to them either ...
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For all hikes I undertake I actually use my smart phone and hand held GPX as a quick update on my current trail position but I always plan my hikes using a scaled topographical map and I always carry a map and compass in my pack. For most hikes around Victoria I highly recommend the Outdoor Recreation guides by SV Maps. I use them every time I am hiking in the areas where maps are provided.

SV maps contain excellently detailed topographical and trail data, as you would expect, but there are a few things that set them apart from other maps I have used. One of the things I love are the distance markers defining sections of hiking trails. This reduces the need to measure scaled distances with your compass and allows for educated decisions to be made when planning your hikes.

SV’s Outdoor Recreation Guides also come with local flora and fauna information, local area history and a range of walk suggestions. This thoughtful features truly assists in hike planning as it allows you to better understand the trail you intend on hiking as well as explore trails that you may not have been aware of. I have used this features many time in order to combine trails into multi-day hikes.

I highly recommend you check out SV Maps and always carry a map with you.


Stay On Route

On many front-country (tourist) hiking routes, such as state and national parks all you need is a simple trail map of the area and a good sense of direction. Hikes of this kind are generally only a few kilometres on a well-traveled route so your chances of getting lost or injured are pretty slim. But, even there, a thunder storm, accident, or recent trail damage may force you to take a detour and lose the trail.

On back-country treks (undefined trails), understanding a topo map will help you plan where the more difficult steep ascents are, where you will have amazing views from high ridge lines or be stuck in a gully with no view but the trail ahead. By reading a topo map at home and planning your route, you can visualise what the terrain looks like even before you ever see it. You’ll know the name of a high mountain in the distance and more importantly know it is East from where you are hiking in case you become disoriented.

Your compass is the other half of the navigating tool-set that you need to bring. In some areas with enough visual landmarks, you can do just fine with a map alone. A compass alone can keep you heading in a certain direction, but you don’t know what you are heading towards. For all areas, a map and compass together can get you home along the safest of routes. 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.

Global Positioning Systems are very common now, so too are mobile phones. Unfortunately, some people think they are magical devices that keep people from getting lost – Nope! They are useful tools but should never be relied on. If they run out of batteries, get wet, or break, then it is a good idea to have a compass as a back-up. AND TO KNOW HOW TO USE IT!

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6 thoughts on “Navigation

  1. You can use Avenza maps to buy certain maps in Australia like the Strzelecki Track. You can also get all the Parks Victoria ones for free. Works reasonably well. If I’m flowing a GPX I use ViewRanger. It has a surprising amount of detail for a for app which can be overlaid with the GPX data. Both are free apps with purchases available for greater detail. Have also seen the HemaMaps app which offers good detail as well.

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