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Attackpoint - performance and training tools for orienteering athletes

Discussion: night navigation

in: Orienteering; News

Aug 19, 2021 4:43 AM # 
Is there any info on night navigation? I am looking on working on this skill.

Also interested in any events in California / Nevada / Arizona.
Aug 19, 2021 5:45 AM # 
pretty similar to day navigation except that you have a light on your head
Aug 19, 2021 10:18 AM # 
Depends on how you navigate in the daytime.

If you disregard everything outside of your 15-20m surrounding, then pretty similar to day navigation except that you have a light on your head.

If you use also more distant objects in the daytime, as most of us do, then you have to adjust.

Fewer visual clues mean easier loss of direction, more difficult estimate of distance, and very difficult relocation after a mistake. Once you lose Ariadne's thread, every path junction tends to look very similar ;-)

So for a beginner night navigator it is highly advisable to
- use your compass all the time, even to check whether you are running in the right direction on a road (no 180deg mistake).
- count your steps all the time, also on paths (do some calibration of your steps in the daytime for path, white forest and bush).
- use paths and linear features as much as you can (easy to get disorientated, especially in green areas).
- have a backup plan if you do not find the control, do not rely on sector search for a flag (you'll get disorientated in no time).
Aug 19, 2021 2:27 PM # 
I love orienteering at night. Some tips I've picked up over the years:

- always have a spare light
- be REALLY diligent with your compass/direction
- buy a really bright light, and use it like a beacon back and forth when you're within 400ft of the control (assuming night controls, which are reflective)
- keep a pace count going in the back of your head
- you might not notice small trails if you're crossing over them, because if you don't step directly on the trail you won't notice the difference in squishiness. So, don't count on those as attackpoints/catching features. You'll notice up vs down, though, so that's a reliable one. Water is also reliable.
- to carry the light battery, either wear a small waist-mounted wallet carrier, or a bike jersey
- some people like clear glasses to protect against sticks to the eyes. I find they fog at night

Have fun!
Aug 19, 2021 2:34 PM # 
I think it's worthwhile to do a bunch of just plain running in the dark (trails/woods) with your light(s). It can be difficult to assess how fast you're moving in the dark if you aren't used to it, and to know what the appropriate level of effort is.
Aug 19, 2021 3:25 PM # 
Be aware that your night pace count and your day pace count may not be equal. People tend to take smaller steps and stop short at night.
Aug 20, 2021 7:31 AM # 
Thanks for all the good advice.
Aug 20, 2021 8:13 AM # 
All those techniques they teach you to become a good orienteer in the daytime, and which you toss out the window; do them.
Aug 21, 2021 12:12 AM # 
Using only a headlamp is like running with one eye. I find that a second light, hand-carried at waist level, creates better shadows (more like normal binocular vision) - resulting in less tripping over roots and running face or chest into small branches.

Definitely heed the advice above (acjospe) to take a spare light, not just spare batteries, as many sources recommend. Have you ever tried to change your batteries in total darkness? What if you fell or hit a branch and the lens or bulb is broken? A complete, ready-to-turn-on, spare light is a must.
Aug 21, 2021 1:50 AM # 
If you should encounter fog (or dust/smoke, I imagine), get the light off your head and carry it as low as you can. Otherwise all you'll see is the beam reflected right back in your eyes.
Aug 21, 2021 4:52 AM # 
I tend to use very obvious attackpoints, often much further out of the way than I would consider in daylight. Navigation security is a premium condition.
Aug 21, 2021 7:25 PM # 
Yeah, it helps to imagine that you are a novice and need to find big handrails and obvious attackpoints.
Aug 22, 2021 12:01 AM # 
Mr Wonderful:
Sounds silly...but if you have a night even coming up, go out and practice a couple of times. Permanent course, your own line o..doesn't really matter...many of your competitors won't and you can beat people who beat you regularly in the day time.
Aug 22, 2021 5:22 AM # 
Get a good bright head torch Something like If you have a good one then it really helps you see further and just makes seeing your close surroundings easier. I'm amazed how how cheap people are, they'll pay $100+ for a pair of shoes that will wear out in a year but don't seem to want to spend money on a good head torch that will last for years and will really help improve their racing and enjoyment.

After that you can ignore everything on the map that's more than 300m away as you won't be able to see it.

Instead of pace counting you can use time, for example it's unlikely that you're going to go any faster than 6min/km (10km/hr) unless you're on a good track or very good. Also it's also likely that you're going faster than 20min/km (3km/hr). It's easy to work out roughly how fast you're going, 6min/km is proper running the whole time, 20min/km is walking through rougher terrain. If you've been running for the last 3mins then you've done about 500m, if you were only walking slowly then you've done about 150m.
Aug 22, 2021 9:44 AM # 
Night orienteering is good fun, but the brighter the light, the more you'll be blinded by it when you nod your head down to look at the map. So my tip is to cover the lower 10-15% of your lamp glass with the frosted non-transparent scotch tape - you know, the version that you can write on. Then, practise looking down with your eyes but not nodding your head, kind of like using reading glasses. Thus, the diffused light from the scotch tape will be enough to read the map and you won't be blinded so much.
Aug 22, 2021 2:30 PM # 
Yeah, you can spend $500+ on a killer headlamp if you want. But the Chinese stuff you can get on ebay for under $20 these days is good enough for most people. And in my estimation, that includes Sage (who I have met). It's good enough for me.
Aug 22, 2021 2:36 PM # 
I have a Petzl headlamp with an adaptable beam that I use at night during rogaines. It dims when I look at my map, brightens when I'm heads up. The current model is the Petzl Swift RL ($119 at REI), although I've had mine for probably 5 years. No loss of battery life, either - it's been a good investment.

I use a hand light that's even brighter to augment my understanding of the terrain around me and to hope for that distant glint from reflective tape on a control that pulls me in, sometimes from further out than I might see it during the daytime.
Aug 31, 2021 2:35 AM # 
Know your safety bearing. Good to know during daylight too, but I've only needed one once, at night. I ran off the map during an adventure race, solo, in a very remote area, just as the sun set. Primary light (L&M HID) shorted out in the rain. Walked a bearing for 3+ hours with a tiny backup light. I carry a bigger backup light now.
Aug 31, 2021 5:18 PM # 
Seconding what Bill said. I once dropped my map in thick vegetation during a night-event and had been so focused on the course that I had no idea where I was in relation to start/finish or any roads etc.

(I did find the map after a couple minutes of searching - realizing that it would be impossible to accurately back-track in the thick vegetation, I turned on my backup light, set it on the ground to mark the point where I first realized the map was missing, and was able to backtrack using the light as a fixed reference point to avoid wandering aimlessly.)

This discussion thread is closed.