Survival Navigation – Stick Shadow Method

The stick shadow method of navigation, sometimes called the shadow tip method, is another basic form of outdoor navigation. This method can be used in a survival situation or for getting general directions for travel.

No specialised equipment is required to use the shadow stick navigation method. You need the sun and a stick! I usually don’t wear a watch, as I mentioned in our post about using the watch method to navigate. Hence, this method is good to know if you don’t have any modern technology at your disposal.

How The Stick Shadow Navigation Method Works

Whether you are in the southern, or northern hemisphere, you will find that this method works equally well. You do not have to make any adjustments to the technique. The only difference you will notice is that in the southern hemisphere, the shadow moves anti-clockwise and clockwise in the northern hemisphere.

What You Will Need

You will need a few things when using the stick shadow navigation method:

  • A stick about 3 feet (1metre) long – the longer the stick, the easier it is to see the shadow movement
  • Trim any subsidiary branches or foliage from the stick
  • A clear piece of ground to be able to mark the shadow clearly
  • Sufficient sunshine to cast a shadow

The Method

You need to follow the next steps in order to determine the cardinal points.

  • Hammer the stick into the ground so that it is secure and wont be blown over by the wind – you can even place some rocks around the base in order to make it more secure.
  • Next, mark the the spot on the ground there the tip of the stick shadow ends. You can do this by drawing a mark on the ground with a stick, or placing a small stone at the position.
  • You need to wait 10 to 15 minutes before performing the next step. This gives sufficient time for the shadow to move to give a more accurate reading.
  • After the required time has elapsed, mark the tip of the new shadow in the same manner as the first.
  • Now, draw a line joining the two marks.

Stick Shadow Method

The first mark you placed will indicate West, and the second mark will indicate East. To find North and South, stand with your left shoulder towards the first mark (West) and your right shoulder towards the second mark (East). you will now be facing North, and your back will be towards the South.

As with any bushcraft or survival method for determining direction without a compass, this method is not pinpoint accurate. It does however, give you general directions, which is better than wandering aimlessly with no direction at all.




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