Beading Marvellous

Recently we have been talking a lot about navigation.

Stu bought himself a right proper Gucci compass, and Paul has also recently bought himself an all-singing all-dancing compass. I’ve got a pretty standard Silva spotting compass.

I made myself some Ranger Beads. This is a string of beads on a piece of paracord, four or five on the bottom section with nine in the top section.

It works very simply. Firstly, you need to know how many strides you pace in 100m. This is easy to work it out – measure 100m and then walk that distance, using your normal walking pace, and count every time your right (or left, if you prefer) foot takes a step. Do it a few times, in case of variation, then average out the results. That is how many paces you do in 100m on a flat surface. Mine was average, at about 68 paces.

Then, as you walk, count out your paces. Everytime you have walked 68 (or whatever your pace count for 100m is) you move one of the top section beads along the cord. This is 100m. When you have done this nine times, all the top section beads will be down one end. At the end of the 10th time you move the nine beads back, and move one of the four (or five) beads down the line. You have done 1km!

The rule of thumb states that every terrain feature adds 10%. For example, going up (or down) hill adds 10% (which, for me, would mean about 75 paces). Going across rough terrain (e.g. woods) adds 10% (again, for me that’d be 75 paces). So going up hill in the woods would add 20% (to make about 82 paces for me). And so on.

I was very surprised how accurate this system was. Initially I walked about ½ km on path and then checked the map to compare with what the beads told me. I was within a few metres of where I should be (I chose a junction as an easily identifiable position)!

So then I moved on to passage through woodland. Again, I started from a point where I new I was, took a compass bearing to another easily identifiable point, checked distance, and set off.

 I let myself down here, because about half way I came to a pathway. I wasn’t sure if it was the one I was heading for on the map – I doubted it because the main path was quite big and this was little more than a track. But I assumed the beads had it wrong, followed the path and came out to the main trackway. I had been wrong!

Next time, I decided to have faith in the beads.

So I came to a point I knew where I was, took a bearing straight through the woods, checked distance (it would be ¾ km) and headed off.

The same thing happened again – I came to a path about 200m short of where the beads told me it should be. Should I assume the beads had been wrong again, or commit myself and carry on? I went for it. I decided that 200m was too much of a shortfall and continued.

Guess what? At exactly 750m (according to the beads) my right foot landed on the main pathway I’d been heading for! Time to reward myself with a mug of tea, a barbecue chicken sarnie and a manly Yorkie bar…

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1 Comment

  1. Paolo Invernetzi said,

    April 19, 2012 at 11:32 am

    Excellent stuff indeed. Been meaning to knock up a set of those beads for ages (I can’t believe people actually part with 5 or 6 quid to buy them) and great to hear that they worked so well for you. That gives me a lot of confidence to ‘Trust in the beads, man’.


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