Scenario A: You’re knee-deep in mud, canoe on your shoulders, bush-whacking your way along what you swear was a portage trail on the map. While you try to sound confident about the great secret lake ahead, your partner begins to mutter about divorce lawyers.
Scenario B: After a day of smooth paddling, you arrive at your destination lake with the afternoon sun still high. Consulting your map, you find a prime campsite with both a sunset view and morning light, plus a gentle breeze to fend off evening bugs, and settle into camp for a glorious evening.
Basic navigation and map reading skills can mean the difference between a miserable misadventure and a glitch-free journey. Foggy days, flat landscapes and unmarked portages and campsites can all leave the uninitiated paddler wishing they knew how to truly navigate. The humble compass and a basic topographical map will keep you on track long after your top-end GPS has run out of batteries—or was used as a chew toy by your trusty tripping dog.
A basic orienteering compass can be purchased in any outdoor store for the price of a latte and a dozen donuts. Topographical maps can be ordered online in advance or often bought from local paddling organizations or authorities.
To navigate with map and compass, simply hold the compass flat in the palm of your hand away from any metal objects and watch the red end of the needle swing north…