Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Directions from moss on a tree?

Moss on the North Side of a Tree? This topic has started to pop up in my land navigation classes.

by Blake Miller
Recently, one of my wilderness survival students told me about a Ray Mears' video on YouTube called the "Path Finder." The student asked my my opinion of Mears' methods.
According to my compass, the moss was on the west side of this stump. (Leon Pantenburg photo))
Moss on the west side of a stump!

This Altoid tin survival kit kit with knife is a useful addition to your survival gear, but is by means all you need to take along.c
Click here to buy survival kit

  1. By looking at the growth of tree limbs (larger limbs on the south side)
  2. Finding a cut tree stump and determining directions based on the growth rings
  3. Using the hour hand of a watch to determine direction, and;
  4. Using the sun, stick and shadow method to determine direction.
I'd comment that numbers one and two above depends upon your location and latitude. There are a lot of variables with this method that may or may not work in the Pacific Northwest.
My survival class tested the tree limb theory on the campus of a college in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. Though there were several deciduous trees, most were fairly young and none convincingly pointed south.
Number two, I've got to find a tree stump to check that out. Still, if you are on a north facing slope will you get that clear direction determination?
So, in my region of the Northwest, method one and two are not working for me. In June. I was able to link up with a friend (who has a doctorate in Forestry.) His sense was that trying to depend on the growth rings of a tree was risky and depended on too many variables to be of use.
Methods three and four have been illustrated in books for years. Do they work? Sure.

But I'd ask you to consider just how accurate these methods are. Rather than a specific heading such as 180 degrees (that is south) you will get a trend of direction; as in you are heading in a southerly direction. That may be all you need.
It might be hard to test out method three with a digital watch.
For more information about methods three and four take a look at the following references:
    1. Staying Found by June Fleming, Chapter 7; Camping & Wilderness Survival by Paul Tawrell, start on page 175 ( As an aside, I have enjoyed the few Ray Mears' videos that I have seen. If you are looking for a good video on backcountry survival in winter watch his BBC documentary, the Real Hero's of Telemark. It's is outstanding. To watch "The Pathfinder" video go here.)
Remember, no matter what you read or watch on TV, it has to work for you. Test it out at home.
To read the SurvivalCommonSense post on determining directions by tree moss, click on myth busted.
Blake Miller has made a career out of staying found and knowing where he is at all times. His formal navigation training began when he joined the U.S. Navy in 1973. He served as an officer aboard several Navy ships over his twenty-year career; many of those tours included the duty of Navigator. Blake began working with satellite navigation systems at sea in 1976, culminating with the then-new Global Positioning Systems aboard the Battleship WISCONSIN in early 1990.
In 1998 Blake started Outdoor Quest, a business dedicated to backcountry navigation and wilderness survival. Blake has taught classes to wild land firefighters, state agency staffs, Search and Rescue team members, hunters, hikers, skiers, fishermen and equestrians. He regularly teaches classes through the Community Education programs at Central Oregon (Bend) and Chemeketa (Salem, OR) Community Colleges.
As a volunteer, Blake teaches navigation and survival classes, to students in the local school district and conservation groups. He is a member of a Search and Rescue team.
Contact Information :
Website: www.outdoorquest.biz;
Phone: 541 280 0573;
Email: outdrquest@aol.com

Follow Me on Pinterest

Sign up for our Email Newsletter

Monday, July 18, 2011

GPS Setup: Map Datum and How to Use It

If two GPS users are set up for different datums, they won’t be able to accurately exchange waypoints, settings or locations.
It's not just a matter of convenience: In some instances, using identical coordinates, but with different datums, can result in accuracy variations of at least 100 yards.
Here’s some advice from land navigation expert Blake Miller on how to get everyone on the same page.
Listen to the SurvivalCommonSense.com Radio interview with Blake about choosing your first GPS and magnetic compass by clicking here.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Should You Trust Your GPS? Read This First!

Should you trust your GPS to keep you found in the wilderness?

OutdoorQuest's Blake Miller knows more about navigation than anybody I know - he sent this article from Discovery.com.
Read this article to add to your survival knowledge!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Lost in the Backcountry: How to Keep That From Happening!

Always test your gear and skills before you get in the field and need them!
Test your equipment before you go afield. In my Wilderness Survival class I emphasize the phrase “it has to work for you.” Friends enjoy providing input and helpful suggestions. But don’t blindly assume these are sound recommendations.
To read the complete Blake Miller story, click here.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Baseline Navigation: A Simple Way to Stay Found in Difficult Terrain

Returning to a baseline is a pretty straight forward concept. My recommendation is to first purchase a reliable compass that can be adjusted for declination.  A solid compass made by Suunto, Brunton (the 8010G) and Silva  are great choices.  Learn how to adjust the compass for the declination or your location.  (Note: declination is the difference between true north and magnetic north.)
Then, follow the recommendations in this story - you can wander in safety, without really paying too much attention to your compass. When it's time to get back to camp, you'll have no problem!
Click here to read the Blake Miller story!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Outdoor Quest: Backcountry Navigation

Outdoor Quest: Backcountry Navigation: "Compass and Direction Finding Part 1 and 2 by Dick Blust, Jr . , photographs by Mark Furman Before there was GPS, there was map and compass..."

Outdoor Quest: Stay Safe With Your Spot Locator

Outdoor Quest: Stay Safe With Your Spot Locator: "(AP news story) 'Sheriff's Lt. Jerry Moore says the 40-year-old Arlington man and some friends had snowshoed from the Granite Falls area on ..."

Join the APN Forum at www.AmericanPreppersNetwork.net
Visit the Oregon Forum at www.OregonPreppersNetwork.net

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

An Expert Explains What You Need in Map, Compass and GPS

What do you need for land navigation tools? (Bob Patterson photo)
When it comes to land navigation survival tools - just what bells and whistles, if any, do you need? In this Broadcast of SurvivalCommonSense.com Radio, veteran Search and Rescue wilderness trainer Blake Miller takes you through buying your first GPS, and what things to look for in a magnetic compass.
To listen to the show, click here

The Ten Essentials and Beyond

When the weather starts to get nasty, you'll be glad to have your land navigation gear and Ten Essentials!
Land navigation guru Blake Miller and I discussed map, compass and gps and the Ten Essentials on this edition of SurvivalCommonSense.com Radio on the Preparedness Radio network. To listen to the show, click here.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Scientists Reveal Reason People Walk in Circles When Lost

It has long been a staple of adventure stories: the hero, lost in the wilderness, painstakingly tries to find his way back to civilization only to stumble across his own tracks and discover that he has been walking in circles.
Now the popular belief that people in unfamiliar surroundings tend to walk round in circles has been confirmed by scientists.
To read the rest of the story, click here

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Outdoor Quest: HuntingGPSmaps

The Idaho backcountry is no place to end up lost!
Outdoor Quest: HuntingGPSmaps: "GPS software made specifically for the hunter! Are you looking for GPS map software specifically designed for the hunter? You need to..."

Join the APN Forum at www.AmericanPreppersNetwork.net
Visit the Oregon Forum at www.OregonPreppersNetwork.net

Monday, March 21, 2011

Outdoor Quest: Topographic Maps

Outdoor Quest: Topographic Maps: "A good topographic (topo) map is the hikers best companion on the trail. Unlike a road map, your topo will provide you elevation and altitu..."

Join the APN Forum at www.AmericanPreppersNetwork.net
Visit the Oregon Forum at www.OregonPreppersNetwork.net

Outdoor Quest: Map Reading Training For Children

Outdoor Quest: Map Reading Training For Children: "Map reading does not come instinctively - it is a learned skill First, let me say a big thank you to the Pineview Cub Scout troop for sendi..."

Join the APN Forum at www.AmericanPreppersNetwork.net
Visit the Oregon Forum at www.OregonPreppersNetwork.net

Monday, March 7, 2011

Outdoor Quest: A New GPS & Refresh Your GPS Skills

Outdoor Quest: A New GPS & Refresh Your GPS Skills: "For many, their outdoor season is over until spring. But right now many stores and online sites have some very good prices on GPS rece..."

Join the APN Forum at www.AmericanPreppersNetwork.net
Visit the Oregon Forum at www.OregonPreppersNetwork.net

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Outdoor Quest: It Has To Work For You

Outdoor Quest: It Has To Work For You: "During the course of teaching GPS classes for over 12 years and now wilderness survival I have become attached (so to speak) to a phrase, 'I..."

Join the APN Forum at www.AmericanPreppersNetwork.net
Visit the Oregon Forum at www.OregonPreppersNetwork.net

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Outdoor Quest: GPS Presentation

Outdoor Quest: GPS Presentation: "For those of you living in Central Oregon I will be hosting GPS seminars at the Central Oregon Sportsman Show, Deschutes County Fair Grounds..."

Join the APN Forum at www.AmericanPreppersNetwork.net
Visit the Oregon Forum at www.OregonPreppersNetwork.net

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Tune Up Your Magnetic Compass For Navigation Safety

Staying found can keep you from getting lost and in trouble!
There is no substitute for a good compass, and the ability to use it. Since getting lost is generally the causal factor in most wilderness emergencies, it just makes sense to stay found to stay out of trouble!
In this article, navigation expert Blake Miller tells you how to check out and make sure your magnetic compass is safe and ready to go. For more info, click here.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Death By GPS: Can Too Much Technology Kill You?

Any GPS can be wrong and provide inacurate information.
Can too much technology in the backcountry be dangerous? Can you depend on GPS and other electronic devices and technology  to the point of  it becoming deadly?
That seems to be an increasingly recurrent pattern of  behavior in some parts of the country, as the following story: “Death By GPS’  indicates.
Whenever I see a particularly interesting or, in this case, disturbing story related to land navigation, I forward it for comment and analysis to land navigation expert Blake Miller.
Here are Blake’s thoughts on  “Death By GPS” by Tom Knudson, and published in the Jan. 30, 2011 “Sacramento Bee.” (To read the rest of the story, click here.)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Survival Myth Busted! Finding Directions By the Moss on Trees

Moss grew on the west side of this stump.
One of the pervasive folk legends about finding directions  in the wilderness or woods, is that moss grows on a certain side of a tree or rock.
Just find your way by observing where the moss is,  according to this theory, and you won’t get lost. According to this traditional old “wisdom,” the moss is thickest on the north side of a tree in the northern hemisphere. In the southern hemisphere, the moss is thickest on the south side. Or so the story goes. I took my compass, and went to several different ecosystems; desert, rain forests, conifer forests and deciduous forests in the southeast to test this theory.
Here is what I found.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Three Maps You Should Carry

Great minds (apparently) think alike. I was working on a story about what maps to take into the wilderness to stay found, when Lucas from Survivalcache.com posted a related story.
The circumstances we’re writing  about are a little different, and so are our map choices, but I’ll weigh in later. (I will put my two cents’ worth: A map is just one part of the staying-found equation. Also have a compass along, and a GPS with spare batteries. None of these tools are worth anything if you don’t know how to use them!)
To read the story, click here.