Thursday, March 13, 2014


We all have a book like this. A little pocket-guide, crisply printed a while back, part of the back-to-nature movement, sized for a pocket because you sure as hell weren’t going to sit reading it at your kitchen table; you were going to take it into the wild outdoors and DO ALL THE THINGS therein.

I have several like this: A pocket French-English dictionary. A faux “visiting the natives” manual produced for the World War II British soldier liberating France, and this one: “Finding Your Way in the Outdoors,” by Robert L. Mooers, Jr. It’s a tidy, dainty little book meant to teach neophytes like me the odd ways of the compass, the topographical map, filled with phrases like “magnetic declination” and other such magical words.

I’m pretty sure I’ll do with it what its previous owner did with it: Read it once or twice, then put it back on the shelf where, another 42 years hence (the book is as old as I am) it’ll still be in pristine shape, ready to guide the modern traveler in the ways of technology long since outdated by the hand-held GPS.

Why did I pick this one up? Well, it was cheaper than a GPS, for one. And I’m a scoutmaster, one who should be savvy in the ways of poking about with maps and compasses.

It’s a good book. Crisp instructions quickly walk the reader through the use of compasses and maps, with the sage advice that reading the book was only one tenth of the battle, the rest has to be won by conquering the outdoors. It’s a book you could see Henry David Thoreau enjoying.

I liked it. Not only all things compass, but also a fair bit on making and updating trail maps, talking with the locals before you head out, some fieldcraft to use in crossing streams and a bit on the weather as well. Connecting us back to that whole nature thing. Which is good. May come in handy when the zombie apocalypse arrives.

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