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How to Navigate using the stars

We live in a convenient time where technology like Siri and Google Maps have taken care of navigating us around. But what happens if your phone dies on the road, or you lose your compass on a backpacking trip, could you find your way? Chances are you don’t have printed maps in your possession. Luckily, there is a time-tested practice used to navigate since the earliest days of ocean exploration--all you have to do is look up.

Finding your way around using the stars is nothing new and can be easier to pick up than you think, you just have to know what to look for. It helps when you have a true dark sky. This doesn’t mean going out well after sunset but rather escaping a city’s light pollution. What’s light pollution? Light pollution is man-made, artificial light from industrial infrastructures like streetlights, commercial properties, factories and more that have its side effects to disrupt our view of the heavens above us.  

To see the best naked views of the cosmos, it helps to travel away from an urban area. A simple drive away from a city can help achieve this but organizations like the International Dark Sky Association have mapped out some of the best destinations in the world for a starry night.

Once you get a good view of a night sky, you can pinpoint the direction north by the help of surrounding asterisms, a group of stars part of a larger constellation, like the Big Dipper. Think of it as using landmarks to get around rather coordinates. The key to finding Polaris, also known as the North Star, is to locate either the Big Dipper or Little Dipper. From there you can have an idea where to look to locate Polaris and you have found which way is north. We came across this tutorial video by AlfieAesthetics to help provide a visual explanation in locating the north star.

For an unforgettable trip, try to plan a visit to some of the darkest places in a National Park! While you’re at it, be sure to record your best adventures in a journal, we dedicated an entire collection to the night sky in our new leather Zodiac Collection.