With GPS built into just about everything, most folks don’t put much effort into land nav anymore. I’m not saying you have to get uber-geek about it, but you should be able to read a map and figure out simple things like azimuths, bearings, etc, etc. Someday you might need to leave someone a message (ideally it would be encoded) saying something like “12 U 300015.6 539714.70″ or the more cumbersome “48 41 43.07377 N 113 43 3.95584 W”. (Who is gonna be first to leave a comment telling me whats at that location?) Without at least a background in basic land nav (and perhaps a small map overlay), you’d have a hell of a time finding that on a map. More importantly, when you hide something somewhere out in the boonies…a cache, a body, a bunker…you wanna be able to tell people how to get there and nothing conveys precise locations like grid coordinates.
Be Expert with Map and Compass – This is the classic book on the subject and, really, it’s very good. It is also probably a bit overkill and intimidating for many people. No mistake, it’s an awesome book and one that should be right there in your library. I like the thoroughness of it, but it can be kind of daunting…it’s the War and Peace of land nav. However, you should have it because you can always learn just what you need at the moment and then come back later and learn more.
Map Reading and Land Navigation: FM 3-25.26 – I don’t come across many military maps but it’s still good information to have. Much of the information is fairly dated, which means if you’re just planning on navigating with a simple magnetic compass and maybe a protractor, then this is a great book to have. I don’t know if there’s a more modern version that covers GPS systems, but still, this book is a good one to have as well.
Compass & Map Navigator – This is actually my favorite book, which is kinda odd since this book is sort of a ‘Fisher-Price’ version of the previous two. However, it is terrifically illustrated, concise, and explains things quite well.
Although these aren’t books, they sorta segue in there. There are plastic overlays for use with regular topo maps and UTM coordinates. This is the one I use: Improved Military UTM/MGRS Reader & Protractor “Super GTA”. These things are awesome. When using the UTM system it lets you locate positions on a map down to the meter, although I usually just go down to a 10m^2 level of detail. If you havent used the UTM system, it’s wonderfully simple and since it uses regular numbers instead of degrees, minutes, and seconds, it allows easier calculations. My favorite example is finding the distance between two points on a map – point A and point B. With UTM you find the difference between the two axes, slap on a little pythagorean theorem and – presto- theres your distance. Good luck doing that with longitude and lattitude.