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Let's talk navigation...

Firstly, everyone with a SmartPhone should download certain free apps. They could save your life:

Maps.Me: A free, non-topographic GPS application that can tell you where you are at all times. No one need get lost with this app.


Emergency+: A free, Emergency app that uses GPS functionality built into smart phones to help a Triple Zero (000) caller provide critical location details required to mobilise emergency services. Note: This does not replace a safety device such as a PLB or Satellite Phone, as it still requires mobile data to work.

Map & compass 3.jpg

For those who like structured courses

These online navigation courses are inexpensive and excellent: comprehensive, easy to do from the comfort of one's own home, go at your own pace and with engaging teaching techniques such as videos, pictures, text, quizzes & practical exercises.

[Note: They're American courses, however the content is 98% applicable to Australian hikers].


One can return to the teachings at any time to re-do anything they might need to refresh.

For those who prefer a real, live teacher and group exercises in the bush:

[Be aware: this course does not teach GPS navigation, only map & compass].

For those who prefer a real, live teacher and are prepared to travel to the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, plus pay a little more:

For those who want to teach themselves

Here is a book by Caro Ryan:

Also download 1-2 of these apps + their Australia topographical maps, which may mean upgrading to a Premium service in some cases. You'll pay a low price, which is totally worth it:

  • iOS - Memory Maps, Avenza, GAIA GPS, Pocket Earth & ViewRanger

  • Android - Memory Maps, Avenza, Backcountry Navigator, Gaia GPS & ViewRanger

Use these apps on your walks. They're EASY to use! Just by using them, you'll start to learn some basic but potentially life-saving navigation. Look for:

  • Creating routes / tracks

  • Dropping waypoints
  • Editing / sharing GPX tracks with others. You can also use GPX Editor to do this.

  • Checking one's current position using the given UTM or Lat/Long coordinates (depending on your settings) and then placing that position onto a larger paper map, to get an idea of where you are in a bigger map context.

If you start to really use these apps, a whole world of possibilities will open up...

Here are some documents that can teach you navigation:

  • Geoscience Australia Topographic Map Reading Guide

  • National Geographic Basic Map Reading & GPS Skills

Huonbrook Map.jpg

Topographic mapping resources

In most cases, you can download free PDF files of the state governments' official topographic maps - 1: 25,000 or 1: 50,000. In some other cases, you'll pay a small fee for digital maps. This is gold.

You can then upload the PDF topo map files onto your SmartPhone and you'll always have detailed topographic maps handy that you can zoom in and out of. Again, gold.

In this area, we tend to refer mostly to NSW: 9540-1N HUONBROOK & 9541-2S BURRINGBAR.

You'll always pay more for printed maps, though some states are no longer printing. You could take them to a printer shop to have them printed and if desired, laminated.​

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