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Review: ESEE Navigation Cards

ESEE makes a variety of navigation cards that are designed to help you use a map, compass, and GPS more effectively. These cards are all credit card sized and printed on 30 mil thick plastic for durability. In this review, I will look at 3 different products: the Emergency Navigation/Survival Card, the Map Card 1:24,000 Scale, and the Izula Gear Nav Card Set.

UTM tools help you keep your map, compass, and GPS in sync.

Before I look at the details of the specific cards, I should talk about what they have in common. All of the cards are credit card sized (3 3/8″ x 2 1/8″). This may seem like an insignificant thing but it really does set them apart from anything else on the market. Most map tools of this type are square in shape and are much larger. The ESEE navigation cards will fit inside something that you probably already carry every day – your wallet.

All three of the cards utilize the Universal Transverse Mercator coordinate system (UTM). UTM is basically just a grid based method of indicating a location on a map. Unlike the Latitude and Longitude system which consists of lines laid over a 3 dimensional globe, UTM is a 2 dimensional grid which makes it much easier to work with on maps. Most GPS units can be set to display UTM coordinates which makes UTM ideal for syncing your map, compass, and GPS.

The UTM system is useful for transferring points from your GPS to your map (and vice versa) and for precisely indicating points on your map so they can be navigated to or shared with others. Even if your map is not marked for use with UTM, the tools can still be used as metric measuring devices.

ESEE Emergency Navigation/Survival Card

ESEE Emergency Navigation/Survival Card

The Emergency Navigation/Survival Card is a jack of all trades, master of none. It is designed to be be extremely versatile across many map scales but this versatility comes at the expense of precision. This is exactly the type of tool that you would want stashed in your wallet for emergency use when you can’t be sure of what, if any, map you will have access to. It is a quick and dirty tool for those times that you can’t have your entire navigation kit with you.

The Emergency Navigation/Survival Card features UTM corners or map rules for 3 of the most common map scales: 1:24,000, 1:50,000, and 1:100,000. It also features a 10 acre square (1:24K), basic survival information, and a simple compass rose with 22.5 degree increments. The card comes with a Tyvek slip cover that protects it from wear while it is being carried in a pocket or pack.

I used the Emergency Navigation/Survival Card on an orienteering course to get the hang of how it would work. The imprecise compass rose made determining an azimuth difficult but this card was not meant for navigating to small 4″ wide posts in the woods. It is designed to navigate from area to area. It was in its element when I used it to navigate from the last point on the orienteering course to the parking area. I was able to find precise points by using the UTM corner and a GPS.

If you are just using a map and compass, this card will easily allow you to determine straight line distances and rough azimuths. If you have GPS unit on hand you can be much more precise.

ESEE Map Card 1:24,000 Scale

ESEE Map Card 1:24,000 Scale

The Map Card 1:24,000 Scale is a full featured map tool. It can be used in concert with a map, compass, and GPS unit to navigate in a very precise manner.

The Map Card 1:24,000 Scale features several different tools on the same card. There is a 1 mile map rule that is broken into 1/4 mile increments. It also has a compass rose with 2.5 degree increments and 1, 2.5, 10, and 40 acre squares. The card also has a full UTM grid with 10 meter increment hash marks on the top and right side of the grid. The provided Tyvek slip cover prevents the card from being scuffed when it is in a pocket or pouch.

This card works extremely well on an orienteering course. The compass rose is marked in 2.5 degree increments which is more than precise enough for most map and compass work. I found that I was able to accurately estimate the azimuth when it fell between hash marks. The 1 mile map rule worked very well to estimating distance but I usually just use the UTM grid as a meter map rule since that works better with my 100 meter pace count.

The UTM grid on this card is excellent. It is one of the few UTM grids that I have used that has 10 meter hash marks. This allows a very high level of precision that isn’t easily obtained with grids that lack these hash marks. Since the hash marks are located on the top and right side of the grid, it can also be used as a very precise UTM corner tool. This is accomplished by placing the upper right corner on a navigation point and then reading the easting and northing where the edges of the grid tool crosses the UTM lines on the map.

Izula Gear Nav Card Set packaging

Izula Gear Nav Card Set

The Izula Gear Nav Card Set is a complete navigation solution for many of the most common map scales. It contains 3 map cards and 2 informational cards. The map cards cover 5 different map scales: 1:24,000, 1:25,000, 1:50,000, 1:100,000, and 1:250,000. The information cards cover topics like map reading, declination, pace count, use of UTM, determining an azimuth, conversions and general survival information. This kit is compact and comprehensive. If you could only have one set of map tools, this would cover a lot of bases.

Each of the 3 map cards feature a compass rose with 2 degree increments around the perimeter of the cards. The 1:24,000 map card features 1, 2.5, and 10 acre squares, a 1/2 mile map rule, and UTM grid with 10 meter hash marks. The 1:25,000/1:250:000 card features a 3 mile map rule for the 1:250,000 scale and UTM corners for both scales. The 1:50,000/1:100,000 card features a 1/2 mile map rule for the 1:50,000 scale, a 1 mile map rule for the 1:100,000 map rule, and UTM corners for both.

The inner strand of a piece of para-cord can help you determine an azimuth.

The Izula Gear Nav Card Set information cards contain enough informationt to refresh you on the basics of map and compass work.

I took the whole kit to the orienteering course. However, the only maps that I had access to were 1:24,000 scale. The compass rose allowed for very good precision. I used the awl from a multi-tool to puncture the center of the card and then attached a short piece of inner strand from para-cord. This works as a pointer for finding the azimuth between two points. It was very easy to take precise azimuths using this method.

The UTM grid on the Izula Gear Nav Card Set 1:24,000 card works exactly the same as the one on the Map Card 1:24,000 Scale above. The hash marks really make this grid stand out from other UTM grids.

The best thing about this kit are the information cards. They aren’t going to teach someone with no experience how to navigate but they will very effectively refresh someone’s memory. Skills like navigation can be somewhat perishable. If you don’t use the skills often, you will lose them. These information cards offer just enough information to bring someone who already knows the basics back up to speed.

Izula Gear Nav Card Set 1:24K

Izula Gear Nav Card Set 1:25K/1:250K

Izula Gear Nav Card Set 1:50K/1:100K


All three of these items are extremely well thought out and functional tools in trained hands. There are similar tools available but these offer the ease of carry that comes with their credit card size. The Emergency Navigation/Survival Card is perfect for your wallet or E&E/survival kit. The Izula Gear Nav Card Set and Map Card 1:24,000 Scale are right at home with your dedicated navigation gear or in a bug out bag.

Available from ESEE:

Available from the ESEE Dealer Network:

Just Announced: The Izula-II from ESEE Knives


ESEE Knives introduced a new version of their excellent Izula. The Izula-II will have essentially the same blade as the original Izula but it will feature a handle that is 1/2″ longer. It will come with removeable, full coverage canvas micarta scales. I have found the micarta scales on the original Izula to be a must-have.

Artist renderings of the Izula-II. The product version may vary slightly.

The Izula II should be on dealer shelves in 6-8 weeks. You can read more about the Izula-II on the ESEE Knives Forum at Bladeforums.

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ESEE Knives Micarta Izula Scales

Here is the Izula with a simple cord wrap. Click to Englarge.

The ESEE Knives (formerly RAT Cutlery) Izula is already one of the finest small production fixed blades on the market. It is compact, yet usable, light weight, brute strong, and comes with one of the most versatile sheath systems you will ever find. How do you improve on something that is already so great?

Here is the Izula with the new bolt on Micarta scales. Click to Enlarge.

ESEE has released bolt on Micarta scales for the Izula. These scales offer a huge upgrade in grip on this pint size blade. With the scales in place the thickness of the Izula’s grip is quadrupled which makes the knife much easier to hold! The canvas Micarta also has a texture that further enhances grip. The scales are also designed to maintain the usefulness of the unique loop at the end of the Izula’s handle. This loop can be used for a number of things, including clipping the Izula to a backpack strap.

The kit comes with the screws and scales needed to install the scales on your Izula. It couldn’t be easier to install them. Simply snap the two scales in place and then affix both screws. I used blue Loc-tite on the screws to make sure that the screws wouldn’t loosen with use.

These are in stock now at many ESEE dealers.

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