One of the most important but also one of the most overlooked survival tools to know is navigation. You see, survival is not just about living out in the wilderness for an extended period. It’s about surviving in the wilderness while trying to get out and back to civilization as quickly as you possibly can.
Now, you may tell yourself that navigation is not that big of a deal because you’ll have the aid of navigational survival tools such as a phone, GPS, compass, map, etc.
But what if you find yourself in a survival situation without any of those items? How will you navigate your way to safety then?
Fortunately, there are a large number of navigation methods at your disposal that do not involve the use of tools and equipment. These are:
It’s a well-known fact that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. This is also why it’s one of the most powerful navigational tools at your disposal.
You can also use the sun to get very specific about your sense of direction. What you will need to do is find a straight pole and drive it into the ground. Mark the tip of the shadow, representing west. After a twenty minute period, mark the tip of the shadow all over again. Connect the two dots with a line to represent your east to west line.
If the first mark is to your left and the second is to your right, you will know definitively that you are currently facing north.
Use Your Watch
Believe it or not, you can also use an ordinary wristwatch as a makeshift compass as well. The only limitation is that your watch needs to be an analog watch and cannot be digital.
Using the local time, hold your watch horizontally with the hour hand pointed at the sun. Now split the angle between the position of the minute hand when it is on twelve, and the hour hand. This line will be your north to south line.
Knowing that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, you can then figure out which end of the line is north and which end is south.
Historically, travelers and explorers have always used the stars in order to navigate, and you can do the very same thing today as well.
In fact, you can easily navigate using only one star: the North Star, also known as Polaris. The North Star is located near the Big Dipper. Once you have located the Big Dipper, all you need to do is to follow the line that is created by two points on the front of the ladle.
Although the sun sets in the west and rises in the east, giving you one of your most powerful senses of direction, what if you have to travel at night when there is no sun?
The best alternative, in this case, would be to use the moon. As long as the moon has risen before the sun has set, the illuminated portion of the moon will be facing west. But if the moon has risen after midnight, the illuminated side of it will be facing east.
Create a Makeshift Compass
You can also build your own makeshift compass using random everyday items. You’ll need a container; a leaf; a knife; and a needle, safety pin, razor, paperclip, or something else that’s straight and metal.
Simply fill up the cup with water and place the leaf on it. Turn your paperclip or safety pin into a straight line and magnetize it by running it against your knife for about a minute. Set the needle on the leaf and allow it to orient itself. After a few minutes, it will be facing in the north to south line.
Follow The River
Last but not least, another navigational strategy at your disposal is simply to follow a running stream of water downstream. Head downhill into the valleys and keep searching until you find that running water source.
Simply follow the water stream. It will eventually lead to a larger water stream and eventually a river, and you should eventually find civilized settlements sooner or later.