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Desert Navigation Techniques

navigating the desertDeserts are one of the most difficult terrains to navigate. Here are a few suggestions to keep in mind and help you prepare to set out in to the desert.

Before you set out on your desert adventure, study your map. Seek identifiable landmarks to base your path on. Try to get the most recent maps and make sure they have roads identified. Most deserts, especially in North America, are criss-crossed with roads. These features help in orientation. Invest in a good compass as well.

Deserts are flat, sunny and rarely have obvious landmarks or cloud cover. These facts together create amazing visibility but can also make it extremely difficult to visualize and estimate distances.  Pacing becomes a valuable navigation technique when you aren’t always able to trust your eyes. Remember that objects are usually further than they appear and distances are deceptive in the desert.

The severe heat and lack of water make traveling at night, dusk and dawn a good option. At night the stars come out and can be a great asset when navigating. Before you set out in the desert, make sure you study the night sky and know where your pointer stars are. 

It is a good idea to check in with the local forest service station or park station before you set out. These venues are usually up to date on changes to terrain, roads and trails. Pick their brain about the best current routes.


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