Resources for Instructors

I have been teaching wilderness navigation and GPS use for more than a decade. Here are some of the exercises and presentation materials that you may find useful when you teach. You are welcome to modify these material to suite the need of your class and your teaching style. I have put a huge amount of effort in these resources over the years, thus I ask the following.

  • Please don't redistribute for profit.
  • Please share your improvements with me.
  • Please don't ask me to make changes for you.
  • Please point your students to my web site,, for their coordinate plotting needs.

I teach a Wilderness Navigation Class at West Valley College for the Parks Management Department. If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area this is a great way to learn or improve on your navigation skills.

HandoutDude The "Handout Dude"

You will occasionally see the "Handout Dude" in my slides. He serves as my reminder that its time to hand out materials.

I use Apple's Keynote to build my presentations. I'm also including versions exported for Microsoft Power Point and as Adobe pdfs. The Power Point export feature is not 100% perfect. If in doubt about what the slide should look like, see the pdf version.

Using our tools to plot and measure UTM, MGRS, USNG, and other metric grid coordinate systems

Here is a link to a page with our Plotting UTM Coordinates with a Grid Tool video, our tutorials, exercises, and presentation materials.

We also have large classroom training aids made for several styles of our tools. Here is a page with more about these tools.

Using a Compass

North Reference

Teaching folks about the different North References, when to use them, and how to convert between them has been one of my more difficult problems. A lot of students come in with lots of confusion and sometimes even incorrect information on this topic. I've put a lot of thought into how to teach this, and tried many different techniques.

You can get an overview of how I teach the topic from the online tutorial. Last year one of our printing jobs had a bit of extra space running through the press. I turned this into a 4 page, half sheet handout on North References. I will send you one for free with your order if you wish. Or you can download the pdf file and take a look. If you want to use the handout for your class, they are available for less than it would cost you to print them on your own printer.

Item description Price
North Reference Sheet
Part Id: NorthRefSheet, Made in United States, UPC: 824249000863

There is also a page that makes custom declination reference sheets. Put in the zip code or lat/lon for a location and make some choices about what north references you want to use. We'll figure out the current magnetic declination and grid variance for the selected location. The result is 5 images that include:

  • A small scale map showing both UTM zone boundaries and lines of constant magnetic declination (or combined magnetic declination and grid variance).
  • A custom declination and grid variance diagram.
  • Conversion formulas
  • Compass set up instructions.
  • Examples of plotting and measuring bearings on a map.

You can click on the images for a larger version sutiable for use in presentation slides. Or you can download a pdf file that folds up into a reference sheet you can give to your students.

If you want to talk about the ramifications of different north reference choices, you can create comparison images by changing your north reference options.

Large classroom training aid compass

This is a demonstration baseplate compass that is big enough to hold up in front of a classroom and be seen by your students. You can demonstrate common compass skills including:

  • Orienting yourself and your map with North and the cardinal directions
  • Sighting a bearing to a distant object
  • Traveling along a heading
  • Plotting a bearing on your map
Item description Price
Classroom Training Compass Visual Aid
Part Id: Compass-TA, Made in United States, UPC: 824249000740

Sighting a Bearing

  • Lecture Slides - SightingABearing key ppt pdf

Plotting Bearings

Locating the Smoke - Using Intersecting Bearings to Locate an Unknown Point

This is a short stand alone lecture and exercise on location by intersecting bearings. It works particularly well when your students are involved in wildland firefighting or forestry.

Location by Plotting Bearing from your GPS

This is a "location by resectioning" technique where the bearing comes from a GPS instead of a compass sighting. It's useful when you are working on a map that does not have a coordinate grid.

Location by Triangulation [old]

Topic now covered in the Plotting A Bearing section. I still use the exercise.


Back in the days when I was training folks to take the NASAR SAR Tech II test, I would occasionally run across a student that was really struggling with the navigation portion. I discovered that two bits of equipment substitution was often all that was required.

First off I gave then a handheld tally counter to keep track of their pacing. Next I taught them how to use a sighting compass. No dial to turn and needle to align. Just look through the lens, line up the target, and read the magnetic bearing.

This compass is also my personal choice for a compass.

Older Material

UTM Intro
The basics for using UTM coordinates


Using USGS Maps


We also have the Topo Symbols and Locating the Grids handouts for sale printed in full color at a very reasonable cost.

Item description Price
Locating Coordinate Grid Information on USGS Maps
Part Id: GridsSheet, Made in United States, UPC: 824249000849
USGS Topographic Map Symbols
Part Id: TopoSymSheet, Made in United States, UPC: 824249000887

Lat Lon Intro




GPS Intro


How GPS Works


UTM Details


Using A Compass


Public Land Survey System