Seattle Wilderness Navigation Leader & Instructor Information Page 2022+

Seattle Wilderness Navigation Leader & Instructor Information Page 2022+

A place for leaders and instructors to get information about instructing at a Seattle Wilderness Navigation activity. Checklists, Links to Materials, How-To Guides, etc.
The Wilderness Navigation course makes use of volunteer leaders and instructors to help our activities run smoothly and safely.  Safety is the first consideration, then learning, then a little fun.  
For 2019, the course has been modernized to include use of GPS, and restructured. These pages and worksheets can help you understand the changes and be better prepared to serve as an assistant instructor or a small group leader. 


Review the course description itself for information about how it's structured, required activities for students, and primary learning goals. Register as an instructor in the main course page, then register for the activities that you would like to instruct.


Each year, we hold several instructor training sessions for the workshop and field trip.  These are highly recommended, especially if you are not familiar with our new format created in 2019. 


If you wish to review the Online Map and Compass course, please contact the  Seattle Navigation Chairs  to get a login to the learning management system. You need to be registered as an instructor in the current  Seattle Wilderness Navigation Course(s)

Already (or interested in) instructing a online Map and Compass course? Read the following FAQ: ELearning FAQ and Tips for Leaders and Instructors

Review the Introduction to Digital Navigation Online course

The GPS Online Module is the newest part of the course for 2019.  Review the Introduction to Digital Navigation course,  a Google presentation with exercises, videos, and supplemental links.

Again, you need to be registered as an instructor in the current  Seattle Wilderness Navigation Course(s)

set up your own gaia gps

To prepare your Gaia GPS for the workshop and field trip. view a GPS Setup Guide on Mountaineers.Org.  As an instructor, follow the Instructor version of the guide. There are links directly to the GPX files also for those that are confident in setting up their devices. The workshop GPX file is the same for both students and instructors.  The field trip GPX file is different between instructors and students, so be sure to use the instructor field trip GPX file. You will also need to download to your smartphone a map of the field trip for offline use (see the setup guide for details).

Review the in-person workshop material

Reviewing the instructor version of the workshop packet will prepare you to instruct at the In-Person Workshop.  The In-Person Workshop Material is also available on Mountaineers.Org

Review the field trip material

Reviewing the instructor version of the field trip packet will prepare you to instruct at the Field Trip. The two field trip packets (student and instructor) along with a short version of the instructor packet (Instructor Notes) that you can use on the day of the field trip, are also available on 

leader information

If you will be an online primary activity leader, please see our Online Primary Leader Page

If you will be a workshop day-lead or a module leader, please see our In-Person Workshop Leader Page 

If you will be a field trip day-lead or one of the small group field trip leaders, please see our Field Trip Leader Page.

Best Practices for Instructors

As volunteers, we're not trained instructors, but we do have skills to share. Certain practices have found to be helpful:

  • If you are a small group leader,  get your assistant instructors involved early and often.  Let each of them take the lead on topics. Identify and recruit those assistants that you feel could lead a small group. If you are an assistant instructor and would like to become a small group leader,  just let us know - we are always in need of small group leaders.
  • First time instructors are seen as "assistant" instructors, and usually will be paired with an experienced instructor.  This way, you get to help where you can while you "learn the ropes" of what and how we teach.
  • Be supportive to students.  Be a guide and a mentor.
  • It's usually more important to "grasp the concept" than it is to "get the perfect right answer."  For example, the "best route" question can have a variety of answers.
  • Have questions?  Grab a senior instructor or committee member.
  • Identify Yourself -- We use name badges and/or colored tape to identify us as instructors.
  • Watch the schedule.  Gently nudge students forward when they're getting behind.
  • There are lots of opinions and biases out there.  Which tools? Which GPS? Which Apps? Which technique?  Don't get too deeply into those.  These come up quite often:
    • UTM vs Latitude/Longitude -- Both are commonly used in the field. We've found that UTM is easier to teach and fits within our time constraints. It's based on 1000 meter squares. People can conceptualize distances in meters.  Lat/Long is introduced as a valid coordinate system but takes too long to teach the plotting and reading of Lat/Long.
    • DATUMS & PAPER MAPS (NAD27 vs NAD83/WGS84) -  For the geographic areas we use, the older NAD27 maps are still the best suited for our teaching purposes.  We'd love to move to newer maps using the newer datums, but they aren't yet available with the detail and features we want in a map (except from digital only sources).  When they are available, we'll make the shift.
    • True vs Grid vs Magnetic North -- Our classes teach using UTM, and to use the UTM grid when both measuring and plotting bearings on the maps (LAT/LONG is covered briefly).  Since our devices are reading magnetic north with an adjustment for true north,  there will be an error introduced when applying field bearings to the map using the UTM grid.  For our area, the error is about 1 degree.  We feel that this is a reasonable error since measurements and devices can vary and it is within our acceptable wilderness navigation tolerances.  If students asks, simply explain the issues so they can understand, and they are free to use a true north grid on their maps after the course.
    • GAIA GPS vs. OTHER APPS vs. Dedicated Devices -- After years of running GPS classes with mixed apps and devices, we really had to standardize on one.  We standardized on Gaia. It is a fully-featured app and the Board obtained a pro-deal  so members can get a GPS tool without additional cost, at least for one year.  We don't recommend Gaia over other devices or apps,  but it helps us teach the basic concepts of GPS.  Students can transfer those same concepts to other devices and apps if they wish.
    • "Do you really need a map and compass  anymore?".  Lot's of debate on this one! For this course we will teach all the core tools, and we recommend that students bring all of them on their adventures.  Don't rely on only one type of navigation device. After class they will be able to develop their own navigational strategy.


      Contact the  Seattle Navigation Training Group