Navigation doesn’t come easy to many of us. Maps, degrees, compasses, SatNav… They can be confusing if you don’t know how to use them. What if you don’t have any of these things and you’re stranded? The good news is you can navigate without a map or SatNav.
It is common knowledge that the sun rises towards the east, and sets in the west. It may also be helpful to note that if you are in the northern hemisphere, the sun will be due south at midday. At midday in the southern hemisphere, the sun will be due north.
You can also use your watch to figure out where directions lie. Hold your watch so the hour hand points to the sun. Then imagine a line going through the twelve, and another going thru the hour hand and the sun. In the northern hemisphere, true south is halfway between the twelve and the hour hand (between the imaginary lines). In the southern hemisphere, this midpoint indicates true north.
Finding north during the night, in the northern hemisphere, is done by locating Polaris (the North Star). It is between the Plough and Cassiopea.
One can also use the movement of stars to figure out directions. Keep your eye on two fixed distant points on the ground. Also watch a star above the landmark. If the star appears to rise, you're facing east. If the star seems to fall, you're facing west. A rightward loop (of the star) indicates south, and a leftward loop indicates north.
Plant life can help you figure out directions as well. A tree's leaves are more abundant on the sunny side. Generally, flowers grow towards the sun. Moss usually grows on the side of a tree that faces away from the sun. For trees of the northern hemisphere, the rings grow closer together on the south side. On the south side, the bark will appear to stretch more.
If you have a needle, string, and a magnet or piece of silk, you can make your own compass needle. Run the magnet or silk over the needle every few hours. This will keep it magnetized. Dangle the needle from thread (make sure the thread isn't twisted or tangled). The needle should point towards north.
You can also estimate distance traveled. Generally speaking, if you're on an easy path with little load, you can cover about three miles in an hour. On a trail, during the day, with no load you can cover about a mile and a half in an hour. Adverse conditions will slow you down - if you're traveling at night with no moonlight and a heavy load, in a rainforest, in a forest, or in tall grass - you may only cover about a half mile in an hour.