Tag Archives: Wildernes Survival


Navigating with the Sun

desert_sun Navigating with the sun is a great skill to have. It doesn’t need any equipment, works anywhere and never breaks. As long as you understand how the sun interacts with the Earth you can identify the points of the compass and use this to set your route. It’s all based on a few simple facts. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. If you’re in the Northern Hemisphere the sun will be due south at noon, and if you’re in the southern hemisphere it will be due north. Remember those details and you’ll be able to work out directions from the Sun.

Of course the sun confuses things by constantly moving across the sky, so it is not a precise marker. In the Northern Hemisphere, if shadowyou’re walking East your shadow will always be on your left side, but it will only be pointing due north at noon. In the morning it will swing from West, through north-west to north. In the afternoon, as the sun sets, it moves on until at sunset it’s pointing east. If you know what time it is you can roughly guess what direction your shadow points. A handy tip is to remember that your shadow is shortest at noon. Now this is all backwards if you are in the Southern Hemisphere.

When you’ve moving across country the ground usually makes it difficult to travel in a straight line. That’s when confusion often sets in. If you don’t keep track of where your shadow should be pointing, and where the sun should be in the sky, you can quickly drift off your planned course. Memorize this checklist and use it to keep you on track:

  • The sun rises in the east and sets in the west
  • In the Northern Hemisphere the sun is due south at noon
  • In the Southern Hemisphere the sun is due north at noon
  • Your shadow is shortest at noon

No matter how good you are at celestial navigation, you’ll never be as precise as you would be with proper navigational equipment. A better solution is to get yourself a good topographical map of the area and combine that with a quality compass. If you really want the ultimate in accuracy choose a Global Positioning System (GPS) handset. Companies like Garmin and Magellan have a wide range to suit most budgets, and these make pinpoint navigation easy. They won’t just tell you exactly where you are; they can track and record your course, store way-points and display local information. They can be a lot of fun too!