Your Inviſible Toolbag A Checkliſt to Get You Started Extracted from Tristan Gooley’s The Walker’s Guide to Outdoor Clues and Signs, 2014

Here are some things to look out for on your next walk.

First look for the sun, moon, stars or planets.

Next gauge what the wind and clouds are doing. Sniff the air.

Then turn your attention to the shape of the land around you and get ‘SORTED’. Shape, overall character, routes, tracks, edges, detail (p.14)

Þe Land

Notice how the colours get lighter the further away you look. (p.12)

Have rivers or glaciers done more to shape your area? What clues have they left behind? (p.17)

Are there any clues in the rocks or mud near you? Look for human or animal tracks and try to work out the characters and story. (p.25)

Look for clues in hedges, walls or fences. (p.40)

Use the rocks to predict the plants and trees you will see on your walk. (p.101)

At any road or path junctions, try to work out the way most people turn and therefore the likely direction of the nearest town or village. (p.25)

Look out for the ‘mud funnel’ on footpaths when the gradient gets steeper. (p.33)

Þe Sun

Use the time of year to work out roughly what direction the sun will rise and set. (p.193)

If the sun is out and high use your finger to check the air quality. (p.125)

Notice how shadows during the day are never totally black. (p.201)

If it is late in the day and the sun is low then predict how long to sunset. Next study its shape as it gets very low — is it squashed or stretched? How do the colours vary from top to bottom? Is there an inversion? Are the conditions good for a green flash? (p.196)

At the start of a lunch break, mark the end of a stick’s shadow and then make another mark, as precisely as possible, where you think the sun will be in twenty minutes. See how you did. This is a great way of getting to know the sun’s habits better. (p.196)

Þe Moon

Work out the phase of the moon, either by looking at its shape or using the date method. Will it co-operate with a night walk? (p.205)

If it is a crescent moon use this method to find south. If not, then test your eyesight by seeing which features you can recognise. (p.213)

Use your outstretched finger to prove that the moon is the same size at the horizon as it is when high up. (p.198)

Þe Sky and Weaðer

Try to identify the clouds you can see, study their shape and look for any change. (p.142)

Use the Cross-winds method to forecast any change. (p.141)

Remain sensitive to any shifts in wind direction. Notice how the wind’s direction and other weather conditions influence the things you can hear and smell. (p.5)

Look for contrails and use them to find direction. (p.147)

On a clear day notice how the blue of the sky above shifts to white near the horizon. (p.124)

If it rains, predict whether a rainbow will form and if so exactly where. If you do find a rainbow, forecast the imminent changes in weather and then use its colours to work out the size of the raindrops. (p.127)


Look for a big tree that stands on its own or in some space. Study the shape of the canopy and branches and see if you can see any effects from the wind or the sun and use these to find direction. Can you spot the ‘tick effect’? (p.54)

Are there any mosses, algae or lichens on the branches or bark? What do they reveal? (p.68 and p.108)

Look at the root collar. Is the tree being anchored by roots that spread out to the southwest? (p.65)

Look for exposed trees on the hills. Can you spot the ‘wedge’ or ‘wind tunnel’ effects? Or any ‘flagging’ or ‘lone stragglers’? (p.57)

Notice how the types of trees change if you move from wet to dry land and from the centre to the edge of woods or vice versa. (p.101)

Keep an eye out for fungi clues. (p.110)

Try to spot the ‘12 year sandwich’ in any freshly cut tree stumps and look to see if the heart is closer to the southern edge of the trunk. (p.74)

Look to the top of any high holly bushes to find the less prickly leaves. (p.51)


Find some daisies and notice how they map out the sunnier areas. Then get down low and see if you can find their stalks bending towards the south. (p.88)

Try to spot some of the six secrets of ivy. (p.93)

Use the grasses and wild flowers to map out the wet and dry areas. (p.102)

Keep an eye out for stinging nettles in unusual places and solve the mystery. Stinging nettles thrive in phosphate-rich places — usually a sign of human activity nearby. (p.80)

If you find a grassy bank, note how the wildflowers change with aspect. (p.88)


Notice how you get closer to animals when you walk very quietly into wind, than when the wind is on your back and you’re making lots of noise. (p.237)

Listen to the birds and get to know the normal ‘soundtrack’ for your area and time of year. Now stay tuned for any silences or alarm calls and use these to deduce the presence of other people or animals in the area. (p.233)

Try to spot how some animals will be alerted to your presence indirectly, by the alarm calls of other animals. (p.249)

During a rest, see if you can predict the arrival of other people from a pigeon plow. (p.231)

If you see a butterfly, try to identify it and then work out the plants it is associated with to see if there are any clues there. (p.244)

Use animal tracks to see if you can find their home. (p.25)

Towns and Cities

Work out how the town layout is influenced by rivers or high ground. (p.276)

Work out if the lowest building numbers are nearest the centre of town. (p.291)

Make sense of and use any road names you can to build a picture of your surroundings. (p.291)

Look for trends in major road directions, low aircraft or railway lines. (p.277)

Notice how every shop, café, restaurant and bar reflects the flow of people and try to decipher this. (p.278)

Look up for direction trends in chimneys, TV aerials and satellite dishes. Also look for mosses and lichens on roofs. (p.289)

Work out if someone is new to the area by how long they pause at a junction. (p.281)

Have a good look at any churches you find for the many natural navigation clues available. (p.292)


Look for the Black, Orange and Grey lichens (BOG) and then Check the Beach for Seaweed (CBS). (p.307)

Follow some tracks on the sand and try to decipher their story. (p.25)

Work out what the tide has been doing and make a prediction. (p.311)

Use the waves and patterns in the water to work out how steep the shoreline is underwater, what the wind is doing and look for any tracks of boats. (p.310)

Work out where on the beach the gold will be. (p.318)

At the end of the day, prove the Earth is not flat. (p.201)

Night Walk

Use the Purkinje effect to test when your night vision is kicking in. (p.188)

Find the Plough and use it to find the North Star. Then test your eyes by looking for the second star in the handle. (p.163)

Notice how moonlight changes the way the ground looks completely when looking into the moon or away from it. Also notice how shadows are pitch black. (p.213)

Try a method for finding south using the stars. (p.174)

Use light pollution to work out where the nearest towns and villages are and how big they are. (p.189)

Use the stars to work out the time and date. (p.176 and p.182)