By: Blonde Two
Only a fool would venture onto Dartmoor at any time without all of the usual warm gear, safety kit, and common sense, but there are few key things that you should always bring if you are intending to do some night navigation. A quick, but important, note here, you might be tempted to leave these things at home on a bright sunny day. This, if you don’t mind me saying, would represent poor decision making as it, a) gets dark every day, and b) might as well be dark if the mist comes down. Here are 5 things you definitely need for night navigation, which means any navigation as (do I really need to say it again) it gets dark every day.
It should go without saying really and presumably most of you would take a torch if you were going out at night. By far the best type of torch to take, if you are planning to use a map and compass (which you will be unless you want to stay out until daylight), is a head torch. Head torches leave both hands free for maps and compasses and have the added advantage of always pointing where your eyes are looking.
I know, possible overkill, but not really. Imagine yourself standing on an empty bit of moorland, it is pitch dark, the mist is swirling around you, you are going to have to use your navigation skills to get yourself back to safety. YOUR TORCH BREAKS, I don’t just mean that it runs out of batteries, it breaks, kaput, no use… I think you get my drift.
A map yes of course, but how waterproof is your map? You are at more risk of hypothermia if you are out in the rain but this is greatly increased if your map has disintegrated into a soggy mess and you can’t find your way home (we have seen this happen with unhappy results). Either choose a laminated map such as the Ordnance Survey ‘Active Maps’ or invest in a map case (that you keep in your rucksack).
In theory, you should carry a spare compass as well, but I will let you off. One reason we Blondes are so keen to get people out using their navigation skills at night is that it really highlights how confusing the dark can be and how easy it is to lose your sense of direction (everything I have just said applies to mist as well – maybe even more so because mist moves around more than dark). The ONLY guaranteed way (excuse me for shouting) to be sure you are walking in the right direction in the dark or the mist is to walk on a compass bearing.
Not only does it get dark every day (I keep saying that don’t I) but it gets dark at a different time every day. The best way to avoid getting caught out after dark (and nobody manages to get this right every time) is to plan your route properly. Work out your distances, allow for height gain, build in coffee stops, and then add some contingency time. The other thing that will help with time of course… is to take a watch.
Night navigation is great fun once you have learned the skills. Keep an eye on our WORKSHOPS page to find training opportunities. Learning to navigate well isn’t however just about fun, one day it might be your map and compass skills that get your family back to safety… or tell the emergency services exactly where you are… or even mean you don’t get into trouble in the first place.