Wilderness Navigation Course - Foothills - 2019

Navigation Course

Wilderness Navigation Course

Wilderness Navigation Course - Foothills 2019

COVID-19: Learn about our most up-to-date guidance for participants and leaders on our COVID-19 Response page. All participants and leaders must agree to the COVID-19 Code of Conduct before participating in this Mountaineers course.

The Foothills Wilderness Navigation Course consists of four (4) required activities. To  receive credit, participants must complete all four. Online activities can be taken either sequentially or concurrently. 

  • 1 of 4 eLearning Workshop - this online activity must be successfully completed before the In-Person Workshop
  • 2 of 4 GPS Online Module - this online activity must be successfully completed before the In-Person Workshop.
  • 3 of 4 In-Person Workshop - must be successfully completed before the Field Trip
  • 4 of 4 Field Trip - activities 1 - 3 must be completed before taking the Field Trip

   ==== Click MORE+ to see further details ========


  1. Register for this Wilderness Navigation course and pay the fee.
  2. Register for one eLearning Workshop
  3. Register for one GPS Online Module
  4. Register for one In-Person Workshop, schedule this AFTER the two online activities
  5. Register for one Field Trip, schedule this AFTER the In-Person Workshop
  6. Purchase your required course material e.g. maps, books, compass. See this course  Required Equipment and Course Materials tabs.
  7. Read course FAQs, link provided in the Course Materials tab.  

Once you signup for a particular activity, please try to keep that date, If you move to a later date do so very early so others have time to fill your spot. If you make changes at the last minute, it affects everyone. So, KEEP YOUR DATES. 


Successful completion of this course will earn you a Basic Navigation Badge and Basic GPS Badge. Fulfilling requirements for any club course which requires either or both badges as a graduation requirement.  The badges are valid for 3 years.

NOTE: This is not a beginners course.  It prepares you for the rigors of back country and off trail navigation.  If you want an Intro course, two other courses may suit you first, "Staying Found", offered by the Foothills Branch and "Introduction to Map and Compass" offered by the Seattle Branch.  Neither of these courses meet the navigation requirements for Climbing, Scrambling, Snowshoeing, etc. This one does.


Please see the Curriculum Summary / Syllabus in the Course Materials Tab for more details on the curriculum.  The sections build upon each other, and the learning goals by the end of the course are as follows:

1. Skilled in travel thru varied terrain & conditions, on and off trail.

2. Navigation tasks can be shared among the entire team.

3. Able to maintain high level of situational awareness – all team members can determine point position & return to your Camp/Trailhead

4. Skilled in using full tool set – map, altimeter, compass GPS and emergency communicators. 

5. Able to provide support to bewildered, abandoned, ill-equipped or overly ambitious souls


The entire course will take 24 to 30 hours to complete. Please plan accordingly.

  • The eLearning Workshop is an online "at your own pace" activity which must be completed before the In-Person Workshop. Typically, this activity is allotted 2 to 3 weeks to complete. It will take you about 8 hours to complete including book readings, the online modules, and the practical exercises with map and compass. You must finish this activity before the In-Person Workshop. It covers the basics of  map and compass, coordinate systems, plotting and taking bearings and coordinates, altimeter and GPS system basics, and an introduction to trip planning.

  • The Online GPS Module is also an "at your own pace" online activity. It also typically is allotted 2 to 3 week period to complete. It must be successfully  completed before the In-Person Workshop.  It will take you 4-6 hours of online work and practical exercises to complete. It covers basic GPS functionality and reviews the use of digital tools for trip planning.  You will be required to install and configure Gaia GPS on your smartphone and use Caltopo ( a web based tool) for trip planning.

  • The Workshop is a 3 hour weeknight activity at the Bellevue Botanical Gardens.  You'll do practical map, compass and GPS exercises to prepare you for the field trip.

  • The Field Trip is an all-day event. It presents both on and off-trail exercises with approximately 5 miles of hiking and 1,200' of elevation gain.  You'll tie together different ways to use your tools (map, altimeter, compass and GPS along with emergency communications devices such as locator beacons and satellite messaging.


Carpooling to the Field Trip is strongly encouraged because parking will be limited, so please specify your carpool preferences in your personal profile. You can view other students' carpool preferences by viewing the roster on the field trip activity page. (The activity page can be found after sign-up under "My Activities" when you click your name on the Mountaineers website)

Required Equipment

You will need maps, compass, altimeter and GPS. See the Required Equipment tab below details. 

Required Reading Assignment 

  • Before the Workshop, you'll have readings from the Burns & Burns book "Wilderness Navigation", 3rd Edition. Mountaineers members get a 20% discount when ordering it online from Mountaineers Books as well as purchasing it in person at the Mountaineers Bookstore located in the Seattle Mountaineers Program Center. Please support the Mountaineers by purchasing it directly from the Mountaineers. 
  • Additional reading is available in "Freedom of the Hills."

For More Information and Other Courses

For more info about this course, about equivalency options, or other navigation courses, please see our Foothills Navigation Home Page and/or the Foothills Navigation Committee Page.

Course Requirements

This course has no scheduled activities.

Required Equipment

10 essentials and rain gear for the field trip as well as the following:

Wilderness Navigation, 3rd edition by Burns & Burns. 

You'll need to purchase a USGS map.  The best local source is the  Mountaineers Books Online by clicking the items under Required Reading below.  The Mountaineers Bookstore at the Program Center also has the maps.  Mountaineers members get a 20% members discount when purchasing from either Mountaineers source. 

The required map is also online at USGS.GOV with the product numbers shown below.

  • USGS Baring, 1:24,000, Version 1982 (1982 Revision of a 1965 map), Product Number 105315  (Used in the Workshop)

If you download and print a USGS Map on your own plotter, be sure to select the older Index 1982 and Baring 1965 maps, not the new "2014 US Topo". 

A Romer is a tool used to measure coordinates.  In our course, we use a UTM Romer Tool, and you have three options for obtaining and use:

  1. Many compasses have a romer scale on their base plate which will satisfy this requirement. 
  2. Purchase a slot style UTM Romer from Maptools.com
  3. Print the UTM Corner Romers from the Course Materials tab.  And, review the Quick Guide to UTM at Maptools.com regarding use of the "mini corner style tool".

See the Course Materials tab for a "Mountaineers Approved" compass which you need to purchase before the Workshop. Unfortunately you can't share a map or compass with a friend of family member during the practical exercises. Some local stores might run out of the model you want so it's recommended you buy a compass well in advance. Only compasses meeting Mountaineers compass requirements will be accepted, so before purchasing a compass make sure to read our compass requirements. 

Many smart phone apps, such as the Gaia GPS App, provide sufficient altitude functionality to get you through the course. Many people prefer a wristwatch style altimeter or analog altimeter as they delve further into mountaineering.  For reviews of inexpensive (and expensive) altimeters, see the Blog Entry on How to Pick an Altimeter.

Course Materials
Compass Required Features and Evaluation

Compass requirement and suggested models for Wilderness Navigation. Content copied from: - Required Compass Features 03Jul2018ph.doc - Compass test results table 21Jun2018 bb ph.doc

Foothills - Wilderness Nav 2021 Curriculum Summary.docx



Workshop Map-2.pdf

Map - Compass Course Checklist_FH.docx

Workshop Map-1.pdf

Route Info Table.pdf