Survival Navigation: Can You Find Your Way Without A GPS Or Compass?

Dump your GPS. Electronic navigation aids are wonderful devices. But what happens when you don’t have them on you?

You might as well be hijacked. In situations like this, you need to know where north, south, east and west are. You have to get your bearings, and get them fast. After all, failing to get to your destination risks exposing yourself to no protection, supplies or communications. S

The first critical issue to overcome in navigating is finding true north, but how do you do it without an electronic compass or GPS? I’m going to give you 2 proven ways to determine true north. Soon enough you can perform these techniques with just an analog watch or just a simple stick.



One reliable navigation method that exists is to use an analog watch. Here’s how it works. Just put a stick at the center of the watch face and make sure the shadow of the stick is over the hour hand. So how do you determine where north is? Half way between the shadow and the number 12 if you are in the northern hemisphere. It’s just the opposite for the southern hemisphere.

Here’s a second watch method. Point the hour hand towards the sun. South will be halfway between the hour hand and the number 12.



Navigating via the sun and stars has proven its self for hundreds if not thousands of years. It works 100% of the time. But what do you do if you don’t have a watch on you? Just remember this. The sun rises in the east, and sets in the west.

So here’s what you do. Just grab a straight stick and put it in the ground vertically. Mark the end of the shadow. Wait 10 or 15 minutes, and mark the new location. After a few more times, draw a line through these points. That’s your east – west line. If you are in the northern hemisphere, the shadow will be north of the east-west line. Next, draw a perpendicular line to the east-west line, and that’s your true north. Another twist on this is if you stand on the east-west line with the first mark on your left, then you are facing true north whether you are in the northern hemisphere or southern. It won’t matter.



Now you’re heading in the direction you want to go. But how do you know how far you’ve gone? Let’s say you want to do an ad-hoc sort of orienteering based on the sun and your distance. How do you track how much ground you’ve traveled? Pacing beads.

There are a few ways you can use these. The first is to have each bead represent the distance you’ve walked. The other is the number of strides you’ve walked.

A significant draw back to this method is paying attention to your counting. It sounds obvious, but unless you are constantly counting in your head the whole system fails.

Most of the time electronic navigation aids will stand up to the challenge. But you have to assume that they are by your side at all times. Maybe this weekend you can try this. Try going to the park and testing the stick in the earth method. And grab an analog watch while you’re at it.