Relocation – the art of getting unlost

Relocation is finding your position where you are lost. You can lose contact with the map through running too fast, inaccurate bearing work, lack of concentration on the map, or simply not having invested the time when you started in understanding the main features of the map (long map duration review – article 2011). As well as finding out where you are, you also want to do this in the quickest possible time.

Sometimes this will mean running to the nearest line feature you can find. Sometimes you will be some distance away from a distinct feature in a block of forest.

You need to keep calm and think clearly. Asking yourself these questions will help focus your attention on solving the problem of where you are, and not listening to the small voice saying ‘you have absolutely no idea where you are, do you?’ or running like a headless chicken in circles.

Relocation – the questions you should ask yourself as you stand in the forest!

  1. Which direction am I facing?
  2. What are the major features I can see? Rocks, cliffs, vegetation type, water features, fences
  3. What are the major contour features around me? Slope direction, visible gully/spurs, high points

This identifies the kind of area you are in and you can look at your map to see where that is likely to be

  1. Where was my last known position?
  2. Do I have any idea of how far from that point I am

This allows you to identify an arc of uncertainty taken from the last known point, with a bearing and distance to where you might currently be standing

If you still are too unsure of where you are, pick a catching feature which you cannot miss and which you will be able to relocate from easily such as a fence, path, crag line etc. This feature may be some distance away but the confidence you will get from knowing precisely where you are after a period of uncertainty or confusion will be worth the extra metres. Time spent relocating properly is almost always less than that wasted by wandering around hopefully!

Do not:

  • Follow other people
  • Run in circles without a plan


  • Know your safety bearing before you set out so that if you are defeated by the map detail you can still make it back comfortably to the finish in time for cakes at the Junior Squad catering stall!
  • Report to the finish even if you don’t complete your course
  • Respect out of bounds areas

Margaret Jones, Uringa Training Officer