Don’t have the time or money for expensive in-person backcountry navigation courses, but intend on adventuring through the wilderness just the same? Aim Adventure U offers an online class in Backcountry Navigation so that you can learn basic skills without leaving the comfort of your own home.
This course was put together by the Colorado Outward Bound School and Backpacker magazine, and all the sections are taught by veteran Colorado Outward Bound School instructor Sienna Fry. The program is designed to be taken at your own pace, with all lessons available to be retaken as many times as you please. Once you’ve purchased the course, the materials are yours forever.
The sections are broken down into videos, reading, practice assignments, and quizzes. The practice assignments are intended to get you outside to apply your skills in the real world while the quizzes are intended to help you perfect the material and identify areas you might be struggling with.
Aim Adventure U’s Backcountry Navigation course is broken down into eight sections. The first section is on maps and teaches you how to read them, how to match contour lines to the landscape, and how to use latitude and longitude. The second section is on using a compass, offering tips on taking a bearing and location triangulation.
After teaching these basic skills, the course progresses to route planning, providing a comprehensive overview of how to calculate distance, measure elevation gain or loss, and identify landmarks. The fourth section is on digital GPS devices and how to implement real-world orienteering skills alongside a smartphone app or unit.
The fifth section takes all these skills and applies them to actual travel, whether on or off the trail. The course offers tips on how to stay found, navigate around obstacles, and what to do if you lose the trail. The sixth section touches on special navigation issues such as visibility and extreme weather and the seventh section addresses what to do if you do get lost, including how to backtrack and when to call for rescue.
The entire course takes around eight to ten hours to complete and can be purchased for $150 from Aim Adventure U.