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The 5 Major Terrain Features You Should Know

Reading topographical maps and understanding the actual terrain of any area you reside or travel through is crucial.

If you desire to navigate efficiently using landmarks and find essentially the most efficient and easiest route through any terrain, you’ll need to know major terrain features.

man hunting with bow and arrow

Understanding these features can be crucial for tactical proficiency in the sphere, as blundering around with no take care of the terrain is an amazing solution to get yourself lost… or worse.

I’ll be telling you all in regards to the five major terrain features that each prepper should know in the remainder of this text, and we’ll discuss the minor terrain features in a separate article.

1. Hills

Hills are essentially the most fundamental and immediately recognizable terrain feature, defined as points or areas of high ground.

Specifically, while you’re on a hill, the hilltop, the bottom should slope down away from you in all directions. It is distinct from a mesa, which is usually surrounded by sheer cliffs.

Hills are vital each because they’re generally dependable visual landmarks that could be seen from an amazing distance, but additionally because, when scaled, they permit you to see so much farther than you’d closer to the overall level of the region.

But hills could be problematic: they take so much more time and energy to cross in comparison with flat land.

And though they’ll offer commanding fields of fireside there are also highly visible and conspicuous targets and might greatly increase your visibility if you end up on them.

2. Valleys

Valleys are form of the counterpart to hills, being a stretch or section of level ground that’s bordered on either side by higher ground.

Contrary to popular conception, valleys don’t at all times contain streams or rivers.

Valleys could be extremely convenient for travel because they permit you to remain kind of on level ground as a substitute of going up and down hills.

However, your direction of travel might be constrained by the direction that the valley meanders in.

But valleys could be dangerous, also: they’re natural concourses for human travel, and likewise highly vulnerable to flooding, especially flash flood events.

Traveling through a valley can make it easier to stay concealed from remark, particularly for anyone who is likely to be in search of you to cross hills.

Still, anyone who’s in a position to gain a position of advantage above you on either side of the valley will literally be shooting fish in a barrel, and you might be the unlucky fish.

3. Ridges

Ridges are lines of high ground marked by height variations along the crest.

All points of a ridge crest are higher than the bottom on each side of it, making ridges distinct from cliffs and likewise not simply a line of hills.

Ridges are similarly vital terrain features because they’ll provide easier travel in a given direction going along their length in comparison with going up and down hills over and another time.

We’re just going to be commanding points from which to watch or shoot, but on this regard, they’re also much like hills in that they’re highly conspicuous and draw a lot of attention.

One of essentially the most fundamental mistakes soldiers make early of their profession is summiting a ridge and silhouetting themselves against the background of the open sky, something known as “skylining”.

This makes the form of an individual or the rest on a real ridge extremely easy to identify, especially when moving.

Accordingly, individuals who don’t need to be noticed will travel along the ridge on either side just far enough below the summit that they are going to not be visible against the open sky.

4. Saddles

A saddle is form of a companion feature to a ridge, being a dip or low area between two high points along the crest of the ridge.

Note that a saddle just isn’t necessarily the low ground between two hills, however it is as a substitute a break or marked dip between an otherwise level ridge.

Saddles are vital to notice for a few reasons, typically because it pertains to traversal of the region on foot or by vehicle.

Crossing a ridge perpendicularly, a saddle is likely to be the best place to achieve this, as they’re typically far less steep and easier to traverse in comparison with going up the steep sides of the hill resulting in the ridge proper.

However, for those who’re traveling along the road of the ridge itself, a saddle will form a spot of pronounced steepness, which could make it doubly difficult happening after which also going back up the far side to proceed along the ridge.

Saddles will also be highly vulnerable to avalanches and landslides, meaning you need to give them extra caution each time conditions are favorable for either event.

5. Depressions

Depressions, as you almost certainly guessed, are low points, even holes, within the terrain. Are defined by being surrounded on all sides by higher ground.

Depressions could be shallow or steep, and depending on their exact nature they’ll function obstacles to foot or vehicular movement, or potentially a welcome reprieve from remark or wind.

As expected, depressions are also highly vulnerable to flooding usually, and could be death traps within the case of a flash flood.

An Easy Mnemonic to Remember Them

One easy mnemonic to make it easier to remember the main terrain features comes from the United States Army, although I cannot make sure that they’re those that got here up with.

Remember this: Hidden Valley Ranch Salad Dressing – standing for hills, valleys, ridges, saddles, and depressions!

Easy enough, and also you’ve even got certainly one of the features, valley, right there within the name.

Learning to Identify These Major Terrain Features Will Help You Navigate and Travel Efficiently

Learning the best way to easily discover these major terrain features on a topographical map is crucial if you desire to find a way to navigate overland easily, and travel through a region efficiently.

You might think that a topographical, or topo, map is straightforward enough to read just by determining the symbols and contours, but imagine me, if you end up underway in unfamiliar territory and already stressed or drained, it might probably get very, very difficult.

Making Use of Major Terrain Features is Also Important Tactically

If you’re nervous about protecting yourself while bugging out or patrolling during a serious SHTF event, you’ve got to learn the best way to maximize the advantage these terrain features can provide you with while also minimizing how they’ll hurt you as you travel or patrol.

This is basic infantryman stuff, and way beyond the confines of this text, however it’s something to take into accout for those who need any more motivation to start out figuring it out.

Keep in Mind that Terrain Features are Relative to the Terrain Around Them!

Something else to take into accout that sometimes baffles beginners is that these terrain features are at all times relative to the terrain around them.

For instance, for those who live in Central Kentucky “hills” are really just going to be small, gently sloping mounds, but for those who live out west near the Rocky Mountains, a hill could be a real mountain, and saddles could be virtually impassable drops if traveling along a ridge.

Always filter your conception of those terrain features through your fundamental knowledge of the region. Failing to take that under consideration when planning could be disastrous!

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