Fundamentals of Orienteering–The Pace Count part 2

I talked a little about pace count in the last orienteering post and I’d like to expand on that in this article. Pace count is the way you keep track of distance when you’re using a map and compass to navigate over land.  The more accurate your pace count the better you’ll be able to know where you are on a map. As noted earlier the best way to get your pace count is to find a tracsnowshoesk and walk 100 meters on it carefully counting each time your left foot strikes the deck.  Do this a number of times and take the average.  Most people fall in between 62 to 66 paces.  My pace count is 63 steps for 100 meters. However, what happens when you’re walking through the forest, or up a hill, or through a swamp?  That will absolutely affect your pace count.  If I count 63 steps and I’ve had to walk around trees, step over streams, and so forth chances are slim that 63 steps will actually equal 100 meters. Here’s a list of averages I found on the internet and it looks pretty close to how I was trained.  If I could remember where I found it I would link to it, but it’s one of those things I wrote down and moved on before thinking I might actually post it some day.   If you’re the originator of this information please contact me and I’ll post a link here. Here are the averages:
Flat easy terrain                100 meters    65 paces Rougher terrain with some slope                 100 meters     75 paces Steep hill terrain               100 meters     95 paces
This is some very good information to have in your arsenal.  I always keep a small notebook with me and I suggest you do the same.  This is exactly the kind of stuff I write in that book. Another good way is to find an area in the woods that’s about 500 meters long and walk through it time and again keeping track of your pace count as you go.  Average it out and that will give you a good realistic idea of what your pace count is for that distance in that terrain. Next post:  how to apply pace count to map reading. Questions?  Comments? Sound off below! -Jarhead Survivor
8 comments… add one
  • James NZ February 20, 2013, 3:36 pm

    another thing to try is walking the length of the feild with your eyes closer, see how far you drift to the left or right. it can be surprising where you drift to in the dark when your not aware of this one

    • Jarhead Survivor February 20, 2013, 4:38 pm

      I don’t even have to have my eyes closed to drift! You never walk an exact straight line. Look at your tracks in the snow or sand sometime and you’ll see you kind of walk in long graceful arcs.

  • Pineslayer February 20, 2013, 9:05 pm

    Well this has got me thinking about distance and time. This weekend or sooner, I am going to hit the trails with my GPS. Count my paces, see what the GPS says. Distance should be recorded. Many different trails with various terrain, start collecting data. I bought the dang thing because it was a killer deal and hardly have used it, but this seems like a great training device now. What do you think?

    P.S. I will put 30 lbs on my back too.

    • D'ja'c February 21, 2013, 6:59 am

      {P.S. I will put 30 lbs on my back too.} Not just pineslayer but winter fat slayer too! I like the idea for training. You do hear lotta stories about dead ends, cliffs and deep ravines etc that surprise people w/ GPS. Sound like my granpappy but I don’t trust that stuff

      • Pineslayer February 21, 2013, 12:01 pm

        D’ja’c, Don’t worry about me falling off a cliff, my eyesight is still pretty good. I have to agree with not trusting them to navigate, but it seems like a good device to accurately gauge distance traveled. One of my hiking buddies always brings his along and tells me how many miles we went in how much time. We tend to set a brisk pace and now it seems more like a competition we have with ourselves to best our last time. I have noticed that it takes some getting use to, when I pull out my compass to get a bearing and compare it to the GPS map, I have to remember that the GPS unit is not always pointing North, the top is North and if you are facing East you need to spin around to compare it to what you are looking at. A different animal for sure. I can see how people get turned around using them if they are not practiced.

    • Jarhead Survivor February 21, 2013, 11:48 am

      Pineslayer – I think using anything that will help you learn and get better is a great idea. If the GPS helps you get a more accurate pace count then hell yeah!

      I went snowshoeing the other day with about 25 lbs on my back and the pace count wasn’t that far off the same distance I did in the summer with a pack that weighed about the same.

      Good stuff to know.

  • Chuck Findlay February 22, 2013, 12:29 pm

    I recently bought n extremely good book relating to the outdoors and finding your way through the brush. This is without question one of the most informative books I have ever read. You can easily apply what’s in the book to find north and your way through any wild place. I can look at almost any picture, painting and out any window and tell you what direction is north. It’s a great book. It’s name is “Finding your Way Without a Map or Compass” by Harold Gatty It’s a Must Have book and Amazon sells it for $9.00 it’s a great price for a great book.

  • Eric March 3, 2013, 9:41 am

    On the topic of “drift”, maybe it needs to expressed that using a point of reference is vital. There are stories of people being lost in the woods and continually walking in circles. They have had that sinking feeling of “I’ve seen this before”, and instead of figuring out why it looks familiar, they follow their instinct to continue the “fight” and trudge onward. What they have failed to realize is that people tend to drift, usually to the right, and will continue to walk in an ever increasing spiral pattern


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