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Desert Navigator

If you want to combine the advanced use of map and compass with the art of low-impact wilderness travel, BOSS has a course just for you: the 14-Day Desert Navigator. Students who successfully master the skills on this course are given the ultimate final challenge: a 3-day navigation through the wilderness… alone.

About the Course

On all BOSS Field courses, students learn the basics of map reading, navigation and orienteering. Over the years, though, we’ve found that some people want even more time to focus on these skills, to truly master the craft of backcountry navigation. In 1998, to accommodate this interest, BOSS created the Navigator course specifically to help students master the use of maps and compasses on the trail.

The 14-Day Navigator course combines the low-tech wilderness travel of our Field courses with the challenge of mastering navigation and orienteering skills. The course begins with a crash course in primitive living skills, just so everyone is familiar with BOSS’s style of backcountry travel. Students learn (or relearn) how to make a blanketpack, how to make friction fire, how to walk lightly in the wilderness. We then dive into map and compass work for the remainder of the course. Our goal: each student will be proficient in all aspects of map reading, including map color & symbol significance, contour lines / intervals, scale, margins, and trail selection. You’ll learn declination, magnetic fields, and how maps and compasses should be used on the trail. You’ll learn UTM, Lat. & Long, and Township & Range coordinate systems, and how each offers different advantages and disadvantages when it comes to successful navigation.

Then the fun begins as the staff step back and give you only the coordinates to the next destination. From that point on, you will need to successfully navigate across the land to reach your food, water and the next cache’s coordinates.

The final challenge: a three-day solo expedition to test your hiking, navigation, and orienteering skills.

About BOSS

Since 1968, BOSS Courses have set the standard for low-technology camping and wilderness hiking techniques, where instruction is conducted with minimal intrusion of modern technology in environments that allow course content to be experienced first-hand. Our commitment to quality and to our core philosophies has earned BOSS its reputation as the survival school to go to when you want to learn from the best in the industry.

Less is More

In line with the BOSS Positive Impact Camping philosophy, the Navigator course has a decided emphasis on using renewable, natural resources. Tents, sleeping bags, stoves, backpacks and many other “required” pieces of outdoor equipment are replaced with their low-tech counterparts: a poncho, a blanket, a campfire. The motto here is “Know more, Carry less” and we’ll explore how traditional cultures lived comfortably without all the modern gadgets like watches, radios, cellphones, etc (which are not allowed). Come learn how back-country travel can be a less intrusive and more harmonious experience.

Course Content

Skills taught on the 14-Day Navigator course vary with each group’s needs and desires. However, we hope to teach everyone the basic and advanced skills of navigation, orienteering, and wilderness travel so that each person gains a level of comfort and competency to use these skills on his or her own. Fire construction, shelter construction, water procurement and purification, campsite selection and other skills taught on our Field courses will also be covered.
Orientation Welcome to BOSS, gear review & purchase.
Basecamp The next 3 days are spent in a basecamp so our staff can have a chance to evaluate each student’s skills and, when appropriate, move on to the next challenge of the course.
Group Expedition 3 days of instruction and acclimatizing to the landscape, eventually arriving at a camp/cache. Wilderness travel skills, fire construction, shelter, observation skills, navigation, orienteering, and water location are taught.
Student Expedition 3 days of instructor-free travel so students can put their newly-learned skills to use. Each group is responsible for arriving at the final destination using a predetermined route.
Skills Evaluation Students are given a chance prior to their Solo to review skills with the staff.
Solo Expedition Having successfully completed the student expedition and review/evaluation, each student will face the challenge of 3 days alone on a specific route through the wilderness.
Celebration/Graduation A celebratory graduation ceremony.

Course Location

This course takes place in the canyons, mesas, and mountains surrounding Boulder, Utah. All 14 days of the course are in the field, where students learn traditional living skills and the arts of orienteering.

The BOSS Challenge

On the BOSS Navigator course, students will likely hike long distances over the rugged terrain found in Southern Utah’s mountains and desert canyons – sometimes 10 or more miles in one day. The combination of high exertion and moderate rations usually leaves students 5 to 7 pounds leaner at the end of the course. However, please note that rations on the Navigator course will be larger than those on our Field courses, and there will be no Impact phase at the beginning of the course.

Health and Safety

BOSS requires that all Navigator course applicants undergo a complete physical examination and receive their physician’s approval in writing prior to final acceptance on the course.

Please keep in mind, despite your physician’s approval and BOSS’s acceptance of you on the course, there are no guarantees.  Health and participation risks (inherent and otherwise) remain. It’s up to you and your physician to determine if a BOSS course is an appropriate choice. All participants must be aware of these risks and embrace them. For more information, please review Health and Safety and Risk at BOSS.


Due to the Solo expedition on Navigator courses, you must be at least 18 to participate in this course.

Food and Diet

All students are provided with BOSS food packs that provide a student with approximately 1500-2000 calories per day — enough to keep you healthy and active for the duration of the course. Students who wish to supplement their diet with wild edibles may do so in a responsible manner and only with instructor permission. Students with allergies or dietary restrictions should contact us before applying.

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