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How to Correctly Measure and Determine Your Own Pace Count for Land Navigation or Orienteering

By Edited Jun 8, 2016 1 1

Getting Lost is Easy


When confronted with the wilderness of your choice, there are many possible ways in which you can become lost or disoriented. Whether your land navigation playground consists of a densely green wooded area, or it is strikingly similar to a sandbox like military personnel encounter in Iraq or Afghanistan, it is of upmost importance for you to know how to measure, estimate, and ultimately determine your own pace count.

From boy scout, to hardcore survivalist, here are just a few ways that getting lost can directly impact your survival. This InfoBarrel article will teach you exactly what to do in order to counteract at least one of these possibilities.

  • The azimuth, or direction, that you "shoot" with your lensatic compass could be wrong. Bear in mind, if your azimuth is "off" by only 1 degree, this margin of error will become moreso pronounced over much greater distances. If you are traveling 100 meters, this may hardly impact you. However, if you are traveling for distances over 500-1,000 meters, you will notice a pronounced deviation from your original course if your azimuth is only 1 degree off.
  • Your map, compass, or protactor could become destroyed. In this case, it would be important to have a map case protector. Your protractor should be stored in a secure place whenever you aren't using it. Ultimately, getting lost in this manner can be easily thwarted by simply applying personal accountability and responsibility to ensure that your gear is not lost or damaged.
  • Even if your azimuth (direction) is corrected, and your gear is pristine, you can easily become lost if your "distance" is estimated inaccurately. You may be dead-on with your azimuth, however, if you fall 1,000 meters short of your objective, you will never find your goal, objective, or end point.

While entire InfoBarrel articles could be written about how to evade the possibility of the first two outcomes occuring to you during land navigation or orienteering, this InfoBarrel article will provide you with the tips and tools to ensure that the third possibility doesn't occur to you.

Step #1

Determine the Terrain

When setting out to measure and determine your own pace count, it is important that you take the time necessary to determine the terrain in which you will be traveling over. While some terrain may be perfectly level and fluid throughout, other terrain may consist of great variances in the upward and downward slope. In other words, there may be quite a few areas in which you will have to travel uphill or downhill. When you travel uphill, you can expect for your movement to be slower, with smaller intervals between each actual pace. When you travel downhill, your movement will naturally be faster, with greater intervals between each pace. Your pace count should reflect these deviations as best as possible.

Because of the greater deviations that can certainly occur, many land navigators or orienteers find it useful to obtain several separate pace counts over flat, downhill, and/or uphill terrain. Generally speaking, it is typically sufficient just to do one pace count on the terrain you will be traveling on, however, greater accuracy can be ensured for those who are traveling much greater distances by determining their pace count over several 'courses' that present with the expected variations in the terrain. When traveling, a land navigator can simply revert to a different pace count measurement if they have extended periods of walking uphill, downhill, or across flat land.

Step #2

Establish Your Pace Count Course

Before you actually decide to navigate your chosen terrain, you will need to achieve your pace count(s) on a 100-meter course that you establish. In this step, you can use the 100-meter or yard dash at your local high school because it will already have this distance pre-measured and established. Using a high school track, while convenient, will also assume that the terrain you will actually be traveling on will be completely flat. If you are intending on navigating over a very short distance, this will be suitable, however, for longer distances you will want to deviate from a flat high school track by creating your own pace count course.

In order to set up your own pace count course, you will simply need to go to the area in which you will navigating over, or an area that is similar to the area in which you will be navigating over. As mentioned, the your pace count course terrain should be as similar as possible to the real terrain you will be navigating over. You will now want to mark off a starting-point with an easily identifiable object or a piece of engineer tape. Be very sure that you can see this object because your starting point will become your end or finish point when you count your pace count a second time enroute back.

With a measuring tape in hand, you will now want to mark off 100-meters to a suitable end point. As you did with your starting point, you can mark that off with an easily identifable object, as well. When conducting your actual pace count, this is the area in which you will stop and mentally record your first pace count reading. If you deem that the terrain you are planning to travel on will have a great deal of variations in uphill and downhill slopes, you will want to consider repeating this process of pace count course construction over terrain that reflects those uphill and downhill slopes. All pace count values will be recorded differently for your own recollection and usage.

Step #3

Walk Your Course

With both feet on your pace count course starting line, you can either choose to step off on your left foot or step off on your right foot. Be sure that the foot you decide to step off with is one in which you are comfortable with mentally recording each pace. Typically, those who are right handed find it easiest to mentally record the landing of each left foot. From the beginning to the ending of your course, you will count each individual time that your designated pace count foot actually touches the ground. It is important that you not count one pace for each time either foot hits the ground. If you have designated your left foot to be the foot to count your paces off of, you will only count a single pace for each time that foot touches the ground.

Step #4

Re-Walk Your Course

Once you have walked from the starting point of your 100-meter pace count course, to the end point, you will now mentally record that number. If you feel that you cannot remember it, while counting paces for your trip back to the original starting point, you can record this number on a piece of notebook or loose-leaf paper. Because you must return to your starting point anyway, you will perform the same pace count measurement back in the same manner. Your pace count readings should be very similar, if not exact. Bear in mind that the greater number of times that you walk your pace count course, the greater accuracy and reliability in your reading that you will have.

For example, if you walk your pace count course a total of four times, you will record each separate value obtain as follows:

  1. Pace Count #1: 60 Paces
  2. Pace Count #2: 62 Paces
  3. Pace Count #3: 58 Paces
  4. Pace Count #4: 60 Paces

You will now want to gain the sum total of all these paces by adding them together as such:

60 + 62 + 58 + 60 = 240 Total Paces

You will then want to divide this value by the total number of tries, which would be 4.

240 / 4 = 60 Paces

This number will be your pace count average and will be recorded as your final value. As you can see, the more times you do your pace count, the more accuracy and reliability that you will ensure. Dependent on the nature of your course, you will mark this count down properly in order to distinguish it from the value you obtain if you choose to walk a more predominantly uphill or downhill course, as well.

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Mar 22, 2011 12:09am
I'll have to show my husband this. He's got this obsessive compusive step counting thing so it might entertain him. He normally only counts actual steps, like a stair step.
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