The difficulty of navigating on the trail is one thing, but accurately keeping track of your distance is quite another. One way I have found which makes it easy to keep track of your distance is using Ranger Beads. Whether you are traveling on a trail, back country road or urban area in a SHTF situation judging distance when you’re rucking can become difficult. As you tire it will seem like you’ve gone further than you actually have. In mountaineering as well as with survival situations the three rules of mountaineering apply: “It’s always farther than it seems, It’s always taller than it seems, it’s always harder than it seems.”
When doing long hikes in the past we would do what we called zen hiking. We would count our paces to ourselves, I would count to 100 then start all over again. What we didn’t know is that we actually were coming close to utilizing an Army Ranger technique for measuring distance. First let’s start by looking at a picture of Ranger Beads:
As you can see there is a loop at the top which is used to attach the beads to some place easy for you to access, such as the shoulder or chest strap. The top section has 5 beads and 9 beads at the bottom half. The operation of the Ranger Beads is quite simple. It helps to measure out 100 meters in advance and figure out how many paces it takes to achieve that 100 meters counting the times your left foot touches the ground. It’s usually any where between 60-70 paces depending on your height. If you counted to 120 or 140 then you’re counting your footsteps and not your paces. Footsteps are every time each foot takes a step. A pace is counting only the times either your right foot or your left foot touches the ground.
Once you know it takes 65 paces to achieve 100 meters this will be your counting block. Start by pushing both sections of beads all the way up in each knotted section. There should be space below for you to move them. Count out 65 paces and pull down a bead from the lower section to the bottom knot, congratulations you just walked 100 meters. With each additional 100 meters paced out pull another bead down until there isn’t another bead to pull down, this will be your 1000th meter you’ve paced. Push the lower beads back up and pull one of the upper beads down.
The next 100 meters you pace out allows you to pull one of the lower beads down to the bottom knot. If you’re following the math this means you’ve paced out 1,100 meters. When all of the beads are pulled down this adds up to 4,900 meters. Pace out 100 more meters and then push them all back up to their starting position. Congratulations, you’ve just paced out 5,000 meters or 5 kilometers or 3.1 miles. Once you get a little practice you will become pretty accurate no matter what the terrain or day or night.
The best part of this device is that it can be made from anything. If you have cord you can make small sections of the rope into knots which can slide allowing the knots to be the beads. Here’s a great step by step article from the guys at ITS Tactical on how to do it.
If you have limited cord and don’t have enough to make 13 markers you can use anything… fishing weights synched onto the cord, or poke holes through acorns and use them, just make sure there’s enough friction to get them to hold in the upper part of the cord so they don’t accidentally slide down as you hike.