Switch on!

Navigation is all about gathering evidence to prove where you are and having a strategy for getting to where you want to go. Being ‘switched on’ means checking your position regularly and is the most important tool in navigation.

Have the right kit

A compass with a long baseplate and a romer is best. Silva type 4 is a good example, although cheaper versions are ok. If possible use a laminated map with a permanent marker – this saves having to fold the map into the confines of a map case.

Practice plotting grid references

At the start of the event you get two minutes to plot the checkpoints using six figure grid references. Practice this with your groups beforehand; making it into a competition can help create some pressure, which you will definitely feel on the day of the event!

Know how to take a compass bearing

Keep checking you’re going in the right direction with a quick bearing. It only takes 10 seconds and is good evidence that you’re on the right track. County Mountaineering team events are a great place to learn how to do this.

Use tick off features

As you go along, keep asking yourself ‘what will I pass next?’ For example, if you think you should be in a wood and you’re not- stop and recheck!

Have a method of measuring distances

There are various methods of doing this. A simple one is to work out roughly how fast you walk (a practice hike is a good time to do this). For example, if you walk at 4km an hour and you need to go 1km until a checkpoint, then if you can’t see the checkpoint after 1ti minutes-stop and recheck.

Have a reliable Timing Device

This could be a phone – so long as its battery will last the whole day – better still a watch. Keep checking on time – because it’s no good knowing what speed you walk at if you don’t know when you started.

Know what map symbols mean

This is easy to do as they are shown in the key on OS maps. The OS website is also a good resource for all things to do with navigation.

Don’t spend ages at checkpoints

This is a simple way to really cut your finish time. Spending ten minutes at six checkpoints will add an extra hour to your time. That could be the difference between coming 1st or 21st!!


From the above think about each navigational ‘leg’ in terms of "The 3 D’s": Description (What are you going to see), Distance (How long will it take) Direction (What is the basic direction of travel).

The County Activities Team run navigation events specifically designed for the Chiltern 20/ Southern 50. Contact us at or see our ads in North Circular.

Help on The Internet

Check out these websites for assistance and use the videos as part of your pre-event training:

Choosing a compass with Glenmore Lodge

Parts of a compass with Glenmore Lodge

The Steve Backshall OS Map Reading Series (although the music soundtrack tends to get on your nerves)

Click Here

Some other useful websites are:

Ordnance Survey

Click Here

The Ramblers

Click Here


Training for the event should involve some map reading and walking. Ideally this should be in the countryside but if this is not possible try navigating around your HQ, local park and neighbourhood. If you do not train it does not mean that you will not finish but it might mean that you get lost and end up walking twice as far as everyone else. The County Mountaineering Team is offering navigation training. As this is a navigation exercise it would help if all of the team could use a compass and understand a map.

Read the kit list well in advance and make sure all of your team is properly equipped. Check all kit well before; when you enter would be a good idea.

Boots or strong shoes. In the past we used to be very prescriptive and specified leather walking boots. Technology has changed and has introduced lighter materials. Please use common sense, the boots must be waterproof and designed for walking. There is a thorough kit check at the start and we will not allow you to take part in the event if your footwear is no good. NO Trainers, "designer" shoes or boots and avoid steel toe capped boots or you'll get big blisters. Do not try breaking in new boots or shoes on the event. It will hurt - a lot.

Spend some time brushing up on your mapping skills.

To be sure you are not missing anything important you need to know about map symbols, scale, direction and distance. Knowing about these will help you unlock the secrets of maps. Map Reading Made Easy Peasey is a leaflet from Ordnance Survey which explains the main things you need to understand, especially when using Ordnance Survey Explorer maps at 1:25000 scale. The County Mountaineering Team is offering navigation training so please make use of this facility.

Try to place your entry on-line well before the closing date to avoid disappointment - the event is so popular that we do have to turn late team entries away.

There is no food available at the start. In previous years Scout Groups have provided Bacon Butties for sale as part of a charity fund raising activity. If this is available this year, we will let you know.

You should bring with you and carry, your packed lunch and maybe a few chocolate or energy bars. Water and/or squash is provided at most checkpoints. There is no fixed time or place for lunch, and time is not allowed for any stop you may make.

You can enter with whatever team name you wish. However, two things to bear in mind:

  1. If you win a trophy would you rather have your Group or District name on it for posterity or something less meaningful like "Four Chaps in Yellow Coats"? It's up to you.
  2. If the name is inappropriate we will censor it in any publications. We will check names for inappropriate foreign translations as well.

We do not ban the use of GPS. But why would you feel the need for one?

Hopefully you have entered the event to test your navigation skills and endurance against nature. If you use additional aids you are only really cheating yourself.

We don't believe that a GPS will make a lot of difference to a good team, it may help a hopelessly lost team, but you've still got to be able to transfer the GPS data to the map to find out which way you need to go!

All teams must carry at least two mobile phones as it allows walk officials to call you if you are overdue at a checkpoint and find you if you are lost or in need of help.

You need to give us your mobile numbers at checking in when you arrive.

Please don't give us other family member’s mobile numbers as they may get worried if we give them a call to find out if you are lost and where you are!

Teams using mobile phones for support or assistance from team supporters will be disqualified.

Should one member of a team wish to retire, the remaining walkers may continue as long as at least three Scouts are still walking. If not, those wishing to continue must join up with other walkers to form a scratch team. Any incomplete team will not qualify for a trophy; the complete team that started must finish together to qualify for a trophy.

There is no excuse for dropping litter.

You have pockets so please hang on to your rubbish until you pass someone's bin or give it to the staff at the next checkpoint. Please keep the countryside tidy, you are representing Scouting. The locals know this is a Scout event. Litter gives us all bad publicity. Teams will be subject to disqualification if they are found to have dropped litter.