Ack! You've lost yourself!

Aiming off is a navigation technique used in orienteering and hiking. Generally used when you have unreliable methods of finding your direction (a poorly made compass being the usual culprit) aiming off is a wasteful way of getting to your destination.

To aim off, you need the following conditions:

  • An idea of where you are going
  • A good line of reference
  • A boundary feature (a constant feature that intersects with the destination) that runs for a good distance to the side you aim off to
What to do
You know roughly where you have to go, but are unsure of the exact compass bearing to get there. You know that there is a decent boundary feature, like a road, cliff, power lines, mountain range, coast or river, that once you hit, you can travel along to your destination.
  1. Pick your direction to your destination as best you can
  2. Look to the left or right of where you should be going and pick a suitable landmark you can track to
  3. Try to map out additional landmarks
  4. Walk to landmark
  5. Repeat until you reach your boundary feature
  6. Follow boundary feature until you reach your destination
You've gained valuable experience! You need good orienteering writeups to reach your destination!

Neat, huh? Aiming off is inefficient and is generally only used in situations where you KNOW you have a boundary feature. Roads are good, but strong flowing rivers are better. You are effectively aiming to miss (sic) your destination and cheat your way back on track, but it is very effective for inexperienced navigators and the desperate.

Aside: I was once told "It takes one man 5 minutes with a bulldozer to make a road, but nature can erase that road in 5 years." I also managed to get myself lost following an old map that had a large river marked on it that I later found dried up 5 years earlier thanks to a dam. ALWAYS have access to accurate information.

2006-06-05@17:06 Bitriot says re aiming off: Shit yeah - I was researching my nav. w/u and came across this concept ... too lazy to include it though. :) Nice going.
2006-06-06@2:41 rootbeer277 says re aiming off: The idea here is that if you aim directly for your target and miss, you don't know whether you're off to the right or left. By following the instructions you at least know what direction you are compared to your destination, and can follow the boundary feature to your target. Kalon: Thanks!

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