Natural Navigation in Winter

Navigating using tools like a map, compass, and GPS is essential for anyone who wants to pursue outdoor activities. Any responsible Wayfinder will only brave the wilderness with navigational backups, too. For instance, they'll bring a compass, a GPS unit, and a spare compass in case their main one gets lost or malfunctions.

Using natural locational reference points is a traditional means of staying on track in the backcountry. The surest would be the celestial bodies, particularly the stars and the sun.

Celestial navigation is a method of finding your location using the sun, moon, and stars. This can be helpful for sailors and hikers, backpackers, and hunters who are out in the wilderness without any resources except themselves. In this post, Wild Life Outdoor Adventure will discuss how to navigate using the stars in such a situation.

The tips shared here are presented for somebody navigating north of the tropics, even though, in many cases, they can also be used in both equatorial and southern latitudes:

Take Clues from the Sun

The sun is a powerful tool that can be used to help determine direction. In the Northern Hemisphere, you should know that the sun will be in the southern sky during the day. This means that the south will be to your left if you are facing the sun. In the Southern Hemisphere, on the other hand, the sun will be in the northern sky, so if you are facing the sun, the north will be to your left.

Understand the Bearings of Sunrise and Sunset

In the northern hemisphere, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. However, the specific bearing of sunrise and sunset varies throughout the year. For instance, the sun rises and sets more to the north in summer, while in the winter, the sun tends to rise and set more to the south. By understanding the bearings of sunrise and sunset, you could better orient yourself in relation to the sun.

Finding North-South Using Shadows

In the northern hemisphere, the sun will always be in the south during the daytime. This means that your shadow will always be cast to the north if you are facing the sun. You can use this information to find the north-south by simply finding the direction of your shadow.

To do this, start by finding a clear, open area where you can see the sun and your shadow. Then, look at the position of your shadow and mentally draw a line from the base of your shadow up to the sun. This line will point directly north-south.

Way-finding Through Other Stars

In the Northern Hemisphere, Polaris, or the North Star, can be used to find your way at night. This star is located near the North Celestial Pole, making it easy to find if you know where to look.

There are different ways to spot Polaris. One way is to look for the constellation Ursa Minor, also known as the Little Dipper. Ursa Minor contains Polaris, so if you can find this constellation, you can find Polaris.

Another way to find Polaris is to look for the constellation Cassiopeia. Cassiopeia is found on the opposite side of the North Celestial Pole from Ursa Minor, so if you can find one, you can find the other.

Once you have found Polaris, you can use it to find your way. If you are lost, simply find Polaris and orient yourself in the direction that it is pointing. You will then be facing north and can use other landmarks to orient yourself.


If you love the wild outdoors, it's a good idea to familiarize yourself with natural navigation. This will help you find your way if you ever get lost, and it's a fun skill to have. You can use various techniques, such as finding your course by the stars or using the sun and shadows. Practice these techniques so you'll be prepared if you ever need to use them for real. When you are knowledgeable about natural navigation, you can enjoy your outdoor adventures more and worry less about getting lost.

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