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Wilderness Navigation

Wilderness Navigation Course Tacoma Basic Climbing

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As of February 22 this course is open to anyone wishing to take Navigation. 


This course earns you the Basic Navigation badge. The Basic Navigation badge is a requirement for many advanced courses such as Climbing, Scrambling and Intermediate Snowshoeing. The Basic Navigation badge is valid for 3 years.


This is not a beginner's course. It focuses on "off-trail" navigation requirements for Climbing, Scrambling, Intermediate Snowshoeing and other more advanced courses. As part of the field trip, participants will be required to hike off trail across rugged terrain with fallen logs, creeks, brush, and steep slopes. There are no prerequisites for Wilderness Navigation. This course is suitable for students with little or no navigation experience.

If you are looking for a more introductory course or something focused on "on-trail" navigation, consider "Introduction to Map and Compass", " Staying Found On-Trail Navigation " and/or “Introduction to GPS Navigation, Trip Planning and Workflow”. Note that these courses do not meet the navigation requirements for Climbing, Scrambling, Snowshoeing, etc. Wilderness Navigation does.


This Tacoma Wilderness Navigation Course has two parts. For credit you must complete both. Activities are:

  1. Online Map & Compass course

  2. In-Person Field Trip


The Tacoma Wilderness Navigation course does not maintain “rolling enrollment”. This means that individuals on the last session’s waitlist are NOT automatically rolled into to the next session. Individuals who were waitlisted for a session must re-enroll when the next course is posted.

We encourage you to enroll even if there is a waitlist. There are always some cancellations before the course begins. No fees are required to be on the waitlist. The waitlist is managed on a first come, first served basis. If a slot opens, you will receive an email offering you the option to register. Payment of course fees are required upon accepting the offer to enroll.


  1. Register for this Wilderness Navigation Course and pay the course fee.

  2. Register for the online Map & Compass.

  3. Register for the Field Trip

  4. Obtain required equipment and materials listed in “Required Equipment” and “Course Materials” tabs


Once you sign up for an activity, please try to keep that date. If you are not able to make your scheduled field trip day, it may not be possible to roll you into a future course field trip. If you must cancel from the course do so very early so others have time to fill your spot or be pulled in from the waitlist. If you make changes at the last minute, it affects everyone. Once the online course is started their will be no refunds issued.


There are 2 separate activities which must be completed in order to successfully pass this course. The entire course will take up to 20 hours to complete. DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THE TIME COMMITMENT FOR THE ONLINE ACTIVITIES. THEY TAKE TIME.

  1. Online Map & Compass is “at your own pace” over a 2-week period. It takes 7 to 8 hours to complete. It must be successfully completed before attending the field trip. DO NOT WAIT TILL THE LAST MINUTE TO START THIS COURSE, IT HAS SECTIONS THAT WILL BE GRADED BY AN INSTRUCTOR. This activity 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. It includes readings from the book and practical exercises at home with map and compass. Register after signing up for the course.

  2. Field Trip is an all-day event at the Mountaineers Irish Cabin Property located near Fairfax, WA just outside the Carbon River entrance to Mt. Rainier National Park. The field trip includes both on and off-trail exercises, with about 3.0 miles of hiking and 1,000' of elevation gain.

*Field trip end time

There isn't a definite end time of the field trip. Be prepared to stay in the field all day. It is best not to make personal plans the evening of the trip as we cannot guarantee when you will be home. Every student in the course will be navigating through off-trail terrain, and this means people will finish at different times. It is required that everyone stay together until the last student safely returns to ensure everyone is accounted for during our final head count.


Online course:

Compass, Book and Map. See the Required Equipment and Course Materials tab for details and links.

Field trip:

  •  A Mountaineers approved compass.
  • Sturdy hiking boots. (No tennis shoes)
  • Rain gear and extra warm clothing, including hat and gloves. (No cotton clothing*)
  • The Ten Essentials.
  • Lunch, extra food and at least 2 liters of water.
  • Zip lock bag for map and handouts (gallon size).
  • Sharp pencil.
  • (optional) Clipboard.

*A note on clothing and footwear

It's extremely important that you come prepared wearing proper clothing and footwear. Weather at this location is rarely ideal with it being either cold, raining or both. In compliance with the Mountaineers club wide navigation standards, this exercise involves steep terrain that is often slick and muddy.  Additionally, this exercise involves some water crossings and bushwhacking. Wearing cotton clothing such as jeans will not adequately keep you warm, dry, and able to move through terrain effectively. Tennis shoes are not made for hiking off-trail in varied weather conditions. For our students and instructors' safety we ask everyone that attends the field trip to show up as prepared as possible, so they do not put themselves or others in danger in the event of an injury or accident. Students who do not come to the field trip with proper equipment may not be able to participate for safety reasons.



During the Online Map & Compass activity, 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."


Carpooling to the Field Trip trail head will be in accordance with the club recommendations in effect when the field trip is held. Currently, carpooling is not encouraged.

Badges you will earn:

Course Requirements

This course has no scheduled activities.

Required Equipment

10 essentials and rain gear for the field trip.

And the following to complete the course:

  • Book
  • Computer
  • Maps
  • Compass

=== BOOK ====

Wilderness navigation, 3rd Edition  by Bob Burns and Mike Burns

===== COMPUTER =====

A computer, laptop, and/or tablet with quality screen, audio and video to be used for online activities. 

 ===== MAPS ======

USGS Baring map, Purchase from the USGS store or you may download and print yourself.

This map is also available for download under our Course Materials tab. 

If you choose to order this map from USGS please keep in mind it takes time to ship and arrive.  We recommend you download the map either from the USGS or the course materials tab and then have it printed.  It is acceptable to print this map on Ledger size paper(11x17) for the course.  If you choose to print full size it is best to have it printed somewhere like Office Depot as a blueprint to minimize the cost.  Keep in mind the full-size map is around 22x27 inches.   

Field trip map, available in the course materials tab.  Can be printed on a standard sheet of paper.  This map is used for the online course as well as for the field trip.  


Your compass needs to be purchased before the first activity, online Map & Compass module. Unfortunately, you cannot share a map or compass with a friend or 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 specific Mountaineers approved compasses will be accepted, so before purchasing a compass make sure to read our compass requirements. 

Mountaineers approved compass.

Course Materials

You must register for this course to see course materials.