Wilderness Navigation Course - Olympia - 2024

Navigation Course

Basic Navigation Course

Olympia's off-trail navigation course includes instruction in maps, compass, GPS, coordinate systems, terrain recognition, and route planning. It includes two online instructional modules, an online workshop, and a day-long field trip. You earn two badges: Basic Navigation and Basic GPS.

The Olympia Wilderness Navigation Course has four required activities which you will complete in order. They are:

  1. Online Map and Compass (conducted on-line, at your pace, during the first half of April)
  2. Online GPS (conducted on-line, at your pace, during the second half of April)
  3. Online Workshop (two options in late April and early May)
  4. In-person Field Trip (either May 11 or May 12)

How to sign up for the course

  1. Register for this Wilderness Navigation course and pay the fee.
  2. Register for the Online Map and Compass activity. (See tab below.)
  3. Register for the Online GPS activity
  4. Register for one Online Workshop
  5. Register for one In-person Field Trip

What to do next

  • Obtain the equipment listed in the Required Equipment tab below. Since you may have to order these on-line, do not delay. You have to have these items in time for use with the online coursework.
  • Review the material in the Course Materials tab below.
  • Start reading the “Wilderness Navigation” book.


This course earns you two badges: Basic Navigation and Basic GPS. The Basic Navigation badge is required for Alpine Scrambling and Climbing course completion. The Basic Navigation badge is valid for 3 years.

Course Requirements
Course Activity Date Availability Leader
Online Workshop
Online Classroom
Mon, May 6, 2024
Registration closed Mar 14
9 participants
0 instructors
Online Classroom
Wed, May 8, 2024
Registration closed Mar 14
12 participants
1 instructor
Olympia Navigation Field Trip
Kennedy Creek
Sat, May 11, 2024
Registration closes May 5
1 participant on waitlist
1 instructor
Kennedy Creek
Sun, May 12, 2024
Registration closes May 5
10 participants
4 instructors
Required Equipment

Besides the 10 essentials for the field trip, this course requires the following:

  • Book. “Wilderness Navigation,” 3rd edition, by Burns and Burns
  • Computer. Required for the online instruction and workshop. A phone is not useful for the online portions.
  • Compass. You’ll need to have an appropriate compass before the online instruction in April. This blog entry has useful advice. See below for more details.
  • Maps. Needed for the online instruction.
  • Smartphone with Gaia GPS app. Details below.

Your compass MUST have the following features:

  • Adjustable declination. Some compasses are sold with “declination scale,” which means the declination is NOT adjustable. Avoid models with “tool-free adjustment.” In practice, these are very hard to adjust.
  • A transparent, rectangular base plate. You’ll need the transparency and the straight edges for plotting and triangulating on the map. Avoid models with small, oval, or tinted baseplates.
  • Degrees in 2-degree increments and marked from 0 to 360°. You’ll need the accuracy of the 2‑degree increments. Avoid compasses called “quadrant,” that are marked 0-90° four times around the bezel.
  • Meridian lines. These lines are marked inside the rotating dial and are parallel with the north-south line.

Examples of useful models:

  • Silva Ranger 2.0
  • Suunto Navigator MC-2
  • K&R Alpin and Sherpa BW2

A smartphone and Gaia GPS are used for the Online GPS coursework and the field trip. Any recent smartphone has a GPS chip in it and can be used the Gaia GPS app, which is available for both iOS and Android. Gaia GPS Premium is available as a Mountaineers Member Benefit, at no cost for the first year. You must have the Smartphone set up with Gaia GPS Premium before coming to the field trip.

A standalone GPS unit may be used instead of the smartphone and Gaia GPS combination, but you are responsible for knowing how your unit works. Our instructors cannot be experts in all of the different models available. If you have a smartphone, download Gaia GPS. You’ll find it useful, too.

Course Materials
Romer 1:24000

A 1:24000 Romer that you can print, especially if you have transparencies (remember them?).


Another Romer you can print. This one has several scales and a different design, which might be more useful when printed on regular paper.

Order Romer from Maptools.pdf

Or you can order a plastic Romer from Maptools by following the link in this document.