Before you read further, if you are at all unsure of your compass skills, review this post on taking and following a bearing.
The tough decision
Now, if you haven't had to bushwhack in a race, it probably isn't an adventure race at all. But, you do need to think hard every time that you make the decision to bee line.
Distance, Terrain and coverageThe golden ratio that I have heard several successful teams say is 5:1. Unless your bushwhack is 5 times shorter than a trail, take the trail. Navigating trails is easier, faster and takes less energy.
|Don't stop to poop here|
If your bushwhack involves...
- Storm deadfall
- Water features (lakes, streams, brooks) that are surrounded by low flat land
- Large water features
- Wetland symbols on the map
- Heavy fog
- Stinging Nettle (right Wayne?)
- Raspberry, blackberry or any other blood thirsty bushes
- Deep snow... and you have no snowshoes
... your bushwhack is going to be terrible and you should increase your golden ratio.
If your bushwhack includes...
|Take a picture and proceed with joy|
- Wide open forests with prancing deer
- Flower laden meadows with butterflies and birds chirping
- Large paved empty parking lots
...feel free to bushwhack with confidence.
Navigation tips for bushwhackingWhen you make the decision that you should bushwhack, here are some things to consider:
This picture to the right with the difficult approach shows a person approaching the end of a trail head on. If the navigator is off on their approach by even a couple of degrees, they will probably miss the trail head and pass by.
Use features along the way
Ideally the bushwhack will have some features that will help you keep track of where you are along the path. Contour lines, boulders and other prominent features can be used to verify your distance, if they are on the map. Hopefully a wetland isn't your identifying feature...
Don't stare at your compass
Unless your visibility is nil, you shouldn't stare at your compass the whole time you are bushwhacking. Take a bearing, look up and find a feature in that direction, and walk to it. Otherwise you will introduce small errors into your bushwhack that will build up quickly.
This technique also allows you to navigate around difficult features without losing your bearing. (think lakes, large boulders, cliffs, etc.)