How Do You Navigate in the Desert?

Luca Galuzzi/CC-BY-SA 2.0

Navigation through the use of GPS, map and compass is the best way to navigate through the desert, but if these tools aren’t available, the use of techniques such as orientation relative to landmarks or the sun and other stars may also be helpful. In some cases, landmarks may not be a suitable point of reference for desert navigation because dunes and other desert landforms can change shape on a regular basis.

If no relatively permanent landmarks are available as reference points, desert navigation can be accomplished through methods such as an inspection of changing landforms based on the direction of the prevailing winds. At night, finding known stars or constellations will help with navigation.

Polaris, or the North Star, can help you with positioning and direction because it is directly above the North Pole. The North Star, as its name implies, gives you an estimated northbound direction. In order to find the North Star, find the two stars at the outer edge of the Big Dipper. Those stars point in the direction of the next bright star, which is the North Star.