Tips for the Road #9 – Orientation & Navigation

This is the Ninth installment of my ongoing series of Random Survival Information.

This set of tips will cover orientation and navigation.

A clear head will find itself,” begins the “What to Do When Lost in the Woods” flyer published by the U.S. Forest Service, published in 1946. It continues, “finding oneself is a test of a man…” it goes on to suggest;

Stop, sit down and try to figure out where you are. Use your head, not your legs.

If caught by night, fog or a storm, stop at once and make camp in a sheltered spot. Build a fire in a safe place. Gather plenty of dry fuel.

Don’t wander about. Travel only down hill.

If injured, choose a clear spot on a promontory and make a signal smoke.

Don’t yell, don’t run, don’t worry, and above all, don’t quit.

How to Find a Lost Trail

If a trail is lost, there isn’t much to do but to search for it.

A very good way to do that is to mark the last foot-print or sign you notice as the center of the circle and go round it at a distance of anything from 30 to 100 yards.

The trail should be discovered somewhere crossing the circular track you are following.

At night you can always use the Big Dipper to find North (in my hemisphere at least)

Navigation in a City environment. (from survivopedia)

The Grid System.⁣

While each city and state varies, these basic rules of thumb can help with your navigation. Highways that end in an odd number usually go North/South as do Avenues (uptown/downtown). Even numbered highways run East/West as do Streets (crosstown). With the exception of large cross-streets that run in both directions, even-numbered streets run one-way towards the east and odd-numbered streets run one-way towards the west. House and building numbers stay the same as you travel down the same road, so if you see an odd address on the right side of the roads rest assured all the houses on the right will be odd numbered.⁣

⁣Satellite Dishes⁣

Look for satellite dishes on buildings or towers. Satellite dishes work by pointing the dish towards a geostationary satellite that stays over the same point. Because of this, most dishes in the city will be pointing in the same direction. A great way to orientate yourself.


In the larger older cities most churches were built to face east and can be used to get a rough estimate of which direction you are pointing. In addition, many church grave yards have their gravestones aligned east to west. For a mosque, If the mosque is west of Mecca, then this niche will be pointing east. If the Mosque is east of Mecca, then the niche is pointing west.

⁣Pedestrians ⁣- Orientation & Navigation

If you are trying to get from one point to another study the flow of pedestrian traffic. By following a crowd in the late afternoon, it will take you towards a station or other transportation hub. In the morning, walk against the flow of the crowd to locate these stations⁣. Roads are designed to carry traffic. The bulk of the traffic is either heading into or out of the city. Bigger roads will lead out, usually.

⁣Flow of Rivers in City⁣

Know the direction a river flows through your city. Does it flow north, south, east, or west? Is the flow from higher ground to lower ground? Do these rivers flow to the sea or to other rivers?⁣


The wind pushing the clouds will remain fairly constant, providing there are no dramatic weather changes. Clouds will help you move in a consistent direction.

East/West Roads

In most big cities when there is a long street that has been separated into East and West. There is a boundary crossroad that is the neutral. All street addresses that are East of this road  will have the East locator added to the address. The same is true with the West portion of the street.

Here is Directions if you have a wristwatch.

Make a DIY leaf compass with water, a leaf, and a needle.

You’re probably aware that it’s easy to walk around in circles in a forest without realizing it. Help stay on course with a makeshift compass. Simply place a leaf in a glass of water. Then, magnetize the end of a pin or needle by rubbing it onto your clothes repeatedly for about a minute (or at least 100 times) and carefully place the threading needle atop the leaf. The magnetized end will point north.

If you spend a lot of time in nature, buying a compass is a good investment and they’re very affordable and indispensable for blind navigation.

Here is a great way to Judge distances, it is called the parallax method; From Wikihow 

Step 1. From your clear vantage point estimate the horizontal length of the object you are looking at in the distance. For example, if it is a smaller car it is about 10 feet long.

Step 2. Hold your arm out straight, close your right eye, and put your thumb on the right end of the object.

Step 3. Keeping your hand still, open your right eye and close your left eye. Your thumb will appear to have “jumped” to the left. This “jumping” phenomenon is called “parallax.”

Step 4. Estimate how far the left edge of your thumb jumped. Did your thumb jump 3 times the length of the object? Half the length? Keep this number in mind. For example:

  • If your thumb jumped half the length of a 12-foot-long car, then it jumped 6 feet.

Step 5. Multiply that number (the jump) by 10. This will give you the approximate distance you’re looking for. For example:

  • If your thumb moved half the length of a 12-foot-long car, or about 6 feet, then you would multiply 6 by 10 to conclude that the car is about 60 feet away from you.

Back to the Prepper Perspective Page

One thought on “Tips for the Road #9 – Orientation & Navigation

Let's get things nice and sparkling clear