First things first…I know some of you are chomping at the bit to find out who won the Urban Skills Challenge giveaway slot. I actually did the names-in-a-hat (okay, I used a bowl) method. People who DID say they like the SHTFblog and the Prepared Associates Facebook pages got extra entries, and in this case, it paid off! Jacqueline won the free slot! So, Jacqueline, please shoot me an email at email@example.com so we can get the ball rolling and get you signed up.
I DID draw a backup name, just in case Jacqueline can’t make it..and that went to Allen. So Allen, if you could get in touch with me too as a just-in-case, it might just be worth your while! And to anyone else who entered the drawing, Prepared Associates still has a couple slots open! We’d love to see you come, too…and I’ll tell you: it’s going to be a lot of bang for the price of admission. If you’d like to come along, join up here. The price is just $50…a bargain when you think about that it’s information that may save your life…especially if you spend a lot of time in an urban environment.
Hell, if enough SHTFblog readers show up and take the course, (email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you do plan on coming!) maybe we’ll set up a little BBQ or tailgate party someplace afterwards to hang out a bit. A bit of coordination would be involved, so let us know!
Land Navigation meetup!
Stuart Thomas at Prepared Associates also coordinates a Prepper Skills Group at meetup.com. This is essentially an organized effort to get people of the prepping mindset together to learn a skillset or to network. Last week, on April 12, he hosted a Land Navigation meetup, for all to attend. It costs just a dollar, and it was pretty cool, I’m not gonna lie. My son Andy and I grabbed stuff to take notes and our compasses, and headed out to a park (that is actually a capped-over landfill…much nicer than it sounds!) to meet Stuart and the others who joined up.
We showed up a few minutes early to sit and chit-chat with Stuart, who is just a great guy, very approachable and intelligent to talk to. Two other couples showed up, making it six people for Stuart to herd around and teach. Once we got settled, Stuart introduced himself, and then had us go around and introduce ourselves and explain any land navigation skills we may have. It ranged all over, from a fella who was in the armed forces and lived with a compass in hand everyday back then, to my son, who had little experience other than what I’d shown him or he’d learned from hunter’s safety courses. It was a great mix, and everyone was helpful and friendly.
First, Stuart had us spread out so we wouldn’t bang into each other. He then had us look around the area for about 30 seconds or so, then told us to close our eyes so we couldn’t see each other, then asked us to point in the general direction we thought North was in. All of us got reasonably close, but he helped us narrow it down with some specific tactics. These ranged from methods that were pretty specific and accurate (using the sun and its position in the sky, or shadows from a stick in the ground) to pretty vague methods that would work only if you knew the general area (smell of a bean factory and you knew the prevailing winds, for example). But they were all taught to us so we could use a variety of methods, from specific to vague, all in concert to help us really pinpoint where you are in an area. I was surprised how accurate some of these methods were, to tell you the truth. This is why you shell out the bucks (or buck, in this case) for training from people who know what they are doing: you learn lots of cool stuff that actually works – and it’s almost all stuff you probably never thought of. (Who knew jet contrails in the Northeast could be used to find north?!?)
We then collected ourselves, and headed down the trail from the parking lot, to a spot where Stuart had marked a line in the ground, and planted a stick as a starting point marker. Here he explained the basics of a pace count, and how to use it. He showed us how to use “Ranger Beads”, a method used to measure distance based on pace count, and told us to get out there and figure out our pace in a variety of terrain (up hill, down hill, in fog, sand, snow, etc.)…and recommended that once we know these bits of information on our pace counts over a given terrain and distance, to write them down and place the information in our packs for quick reference. He also mentioned that when we’re figuring out these numbers, try it over a given distance several times and take an average, then he showed us why.
He had us start at his pre-planted stick marker, then showed us a path to travel down the trail to another marker that he’d set out, for a 50-meter distance. Stuart then had us check our pace count down to the marker, then come back while counting. I had 47 paces out, 48 returning. My son had 45, then 44. It’s not an exact science, but the more you do it, then more exact your pace numbers will be. And the longer the distance you test them over, the more accurate it will be. Stuart then gave us a few suggestions on how to measure out known distances, and we discussed using meters vs. yards/feet. (by the way, Stuart, at 6’5″ tall, said his pace count was “retarded”.)
We then walked up the landfill hill to find a wonderful open spot where we could see several natural and man-made landmarks, such as a quarry, church steeple, cellphone towers. We then dug out our compasses, and we were educated on baseplate vs. lensatic compasses (luckily a group member brought his military lensatic compass to show us all how they worked.) Stuart showed us how to use landmarks on a given heading to keep yourself moving in a straight line over a distance, and then had us pick a bearing and head out on that bearing, using our pace count. We were then instructed to use the reciprocal bearing (180 degrees off our initial bearing) and then return, using that same pace count, to see how close we came to our starting point. It was pretty cool to see how accurate the two in combination could be. Then we were told to go to a bearing of 120, walk out 30 paces, turn to a bearing of 240, walk 30 paces, then walk 30 paces using a bearing of 0 degrees. Essentially, we made a big equilateral triangle, and he showed us that it should have brought us back to our starting point (I was about 10 feet off). It was a great exercise, and I plan to try it out in the woods to get more experience with it.
We finished up with a discourse on true North versus magnetic North, and an explanation of declination. He explained that as of 2014, where we were in Maine had a declination of 15 degrees 38 minutes West, but if you go to Washington state, it’s about 15 degrees East. Or maybe you live in Mississippi, where angle of declination is about 0 degrees. He demonstrated that all topo maps were based on true North, and showed us how to mark our compasses to use them more easily for use with topographical maps. I actually went out and bought a Suunto M3 compass just like he had, because it has a dial where you can automatically adjust for declination. Pretty cool stuff.
We then milled around a bit, getting to know each other a bit better, and enjoying the beautiful spring day. We said our goodbyes from the group, and Stuart, my son, and I all went out and had a burger and discusses the Urban Skills Challenge, shooting, wives, prepping, his company, the blog, and all sorts of other great stuff. Stuart is a hell of a great guy, and if you join one of his Prepper Skills Group meetups, or the urban Skills Challenge, or use Prepared Associates for any of the services they provide, you can be assured of friendliness, knowledge, and experience….and a true bang for the buck.
So what are you waiting for? Join up for the Urban Skills Challenge and get some training under your belt, and meet up with some great people from the blog!
Have you taken any similar courses? Have you checked meetup.com for any prepper groups in your area? It’s a great way to get involved, off your ass, and learn some killer stuff. Win-win!
Have a great Wednesday – stay safe!