CanoeSki Map and Compass

Wilderness Navigation and Orienteering Course 2024

CanoeSki orienteering course sign

(photo at Whitecap Park: Henry Eng)

This is a How-to Course on:

  • Using a compass to determine & follow bearings
  • Learning to adjust for declination
  • Interpreting topographical maps
  • Learning orienteering principles
  • Feeling confident using a map and compass to find your way

Why Take This Map and Compass Course?

  • Ever lost your way in the woods?
  • Wondered how you paddled up that blind bay?
  • Couldn’t see your way in a winter whiteout?
  • Discovered your GPS was malfunctioning!

Avoid these pitfalls by learning how to use a map and compass with confidence. Course taught by an instructor team experienced in wilderness navigation and orienteering. Optimum combination of classroom and field exercises in the course.

Who Should Take This Course?

  • Backcountry Canoeists, Kayakers, Hikers, Mountain bikers & Skiers
  • Outdoor Ed Teachers, Outdoor Leaders & Camp Counselors, Hunters & Fishers
  • Adventure Racers (and candidates for the Mantracker T.V. show!)
  • Anyone wanting to learn the fundamentals of map and compass or needing to refresh their skills

Roberge twin sisters in a Mantracker T.V. episode “We are back from our Mantracker adventure and WOW what a blast it was! We want to thank you again for your help before the show with the skills, so we didn’t get lost out in the bush. Without the compass and general knowledge of topo maps, we could have landed in a lot of trouble!”

– Amiee & Jennifer

Read Jennifer and Amiee’s full story on their attempt to outwit Mantracker, plus more Stories From the Field

Spring (Full Day) Course Details
Duration: 1 day
Scheduled Date: June 2, 2024  8:30 am – 4:30 pm
Location: Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Morning Map & Compass Classroom Session – Albert Community Centre in Saskatoon. Afternoon Outdoor Orienteering Session – Chief Whitecap Park (this is a natural park along the South Saskatchewan River on Saskatoon’s outskirts with no facilities)
Equipment Needed: Orienteering style compass. If you don’t have your own, a quality Silva orienteering compass (Ranger model) is included in the higher course fee. Bring running shoes & warm clothing for the outdoor session.
Price per Person: $120 or $155 (this price includes a quality Silva orienteering compass to take with you) + 5% GST
Registration: Complete the Registration Form and mail with the course fee plus 5% GST or email registration pdf & e-transfer the course fee (auto-deposit) to For more info on the course contact Cliff Speer at 306-653-5693. A detailed course info package will be sent to all registrants prior to course start date.

Click here for a print poster with all the details on both spring and fall courses.

Fall Evening Course Details
Duration: 2 evenings
Scheduled Dates: Aug 26, 28, 2024  6:00 pm – 8:30 pm
Location: Kinsmen Park & Whitecap Park, Saskatoon
Equipment Needed: Orienteering style compass. If you don’t have your own, a quality Silva orienteering compass (Ranger model) is included in the higher course fee. Bring running shoes & warm clothing for both sessions.
Price per Person: $95 or $130 (higher fee includes a quality Silva compass) + 5% GST
Registration: Same as Spring Course above.
Students on CanoeSki orienteering course

CanoeSki students pouring over their orienteering maps at Whitecap Park  (Photo: Henry Eng ©canoeski )

CanoeSki Map and Compass Wilderness Navigation Course
Slide Show June 3, 2012

An energetic, enthusiastic group of students and instructors met to work together on a full day wilderness navigation and orienteering course, starting with a classroom session learning about compasses and maps and ending with orienteering exercises in a natural park on the outskirts of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. The course was conducted by CanoeSki Discovery Co., an adventure training and tour company based out of Saskatoon. Photos by Henry Eng and Cliff Speer © CanoeSki (Mouse over Notes to get descriptions of each slide)

Get the flash player here:

CanoeSki Map & Compass Instructor Team

Kevin Ansdell

Kevin grew up orienteering in his native England and eventually became president of the Oxford University Orienteering Club. He has taught and competed in orienteering events worldwide and is presently a professor in the U. of S. Geology Department. Kevin originally lent his expertise to set up the orienteering component of the course at Chief Whitecap Park.

 Bert Weichel

Bert teaches environmental science and physical geography at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon. He has over 35 years experience in map use and navigation instruction as a surveyor, field researcher, wilderness canoe trip leader and lecturer. Bert has a Master’s Degree in physical geography and also works as an environmental consultant.

Henry Eng

Wilderness canoeing was the launching pad for Henry to get interested in map and compass. Since then he’s taken to the compass like a duck to water! Henry also hones his navigational skills volunteering as team leader with the Saskatoon Search and Rescue organization. He is noticeably patient in assisting students in the classroom and also doubles as class photographer.

Lawrie Stewart

A recent addition from Whitehorse, Lawrie taught map and compass skills while leading mountain hiking and coastal canoeing trips for B.C.’s Strathcona Outdoor Education Centre and outdoor programs for youth-at-risk with Ontario’s Social Services Ministry. Lawrie is presently on leave working with the Baha’i Centre in Israel.

Alda Behie

A Saskatoon resident who honed her orienteering prowess in Alberta Orienteering Association events, Alda brings her skills to the map and compass course from the competitive side of navigation. Alda is a hydro-geologist by trade and has a prospector’s instincts when searching for hidden control stations!

Nicole Neufeld

Nicole’s interest in navigation started as a teenager with flight training. But her flight eventually landed at the U of S, where she graduated in Geography with a GIS major. She now applies her mapping skills as an Environment Advisor in the Saskatchewan mining industry. Her experience creating maps and her love of the outdoors makes her the perfect addition to the CanoeSki team.

Cliff Speer

Cliff has been teaching wilderness navigation skills to canoeists for over 30 years through his eco-adventure company, CanoeSki Discovery Co. He also taught map and compass to Manitoba high school geography students in a former life. Cliff developed the navigation course curriculum and organizes the delivery. If you have questions or comments on the course, he is the guy to talk to.

CanoeSki orienteering course mapping component

Cliff introducing maps – part two of the classroom session  (Photo: Henry Eng  ©canoeski)

Student Comments on Past Map and Compass Courses


I learned the skills necessary to be more comfortable with the compass. Thanks for a great course, Cliff. – Karen, Saskatoon.
I feel comfortably confident to practice my own orienteering skills while going on trips with people who are very confident in their skills. So, it’s a good start.– Jennifer, Prince Albert.
Thanks, Cliff. It was really great. I’m sure I have a solid base to try my first adventure race! – Isobel, Saskatoon.
It was a great introductory course. It will definitely help me in my outdoor ed class. – Ed, Swift Current.

I feel way more confident in starting to use map and compass skills on outdoor trips. I would like to learn more. – Julie, Prince Albert.
I was uncertain about subtracting and calculating declination, but feel confident now. Definitely have more confidence in navigating with a compass. – Bob, Saskatoon.
The course made me feel confident enough to use these skills in the wilderness. – Trevor, Kyle.
It actually made me put the information to work, something other courses lacked. – Theresa, Saskatoon.
The course covered the basics to a perfect extent, allowing someone with no previous experience to feel confident going out into the field. – Dale, Saskatoon.
After completing this course I am confident in taking my children backpacking and using a topographical map accurately. – Calvin, Osler.
It has given me the necessary basics to proceed to the next level of learning navigation. – Andrew, Saskatoon.

Good course. – Dave, Saskatoon.
Had fun. – Francois, Saskatoon.
Great ratio of great leaders, one on one to students. – Kari, Saskatoon.

Much more comfortable with use of compass/bearings , etc. – Vicki, Saskatoon.
I went in not remembering the first thing about orienteering, and now I feel confident that I’ll be able to find my way through the bush, no problem! – Anna, Saskatoon.
Confident reading a map now – the final session helped put the classroom learning to use – unsigned.
We tended not to take bearings on the orienteering part – more just following trails and eyeballing it. – Honor, Saskatoon.
Feel much more confident to find my way on the water – Doug, Saskatoon.

Dear Cliff (and helpful assistants), I thoroughly appreciated the spring orienteering course. You managed to make compass reading and orienteering finally make sense to me! I especially appreciated the fun, practical tasks we were given. I’m looking forward to using my skills in various situations. Terry Harrison will still be leading our lady’s canoe trip for Meewasin Valley United Church this year but perhaps I will get an opportunity to try my hand at it when she is busy on her 6 month retirement canoe trip next year. Hope to see you on a hiking/ski trail, or on the water! Have a great summer!!! Sheryl Riis, Saskatoon.

CanoeSki orienteering course map exercise

Orienteering students working on a topo map exercise
(photo: Henry Eng  ©canoeski)