Plotting UTM Coordinates

Are you curious about how to plot UTM coordinates? Check out this short video.

And as usual, if the video isn’t your thing a text version is below.

To help clarify how to use the UTM System I’m going to demonstrate how to plot points on a map.

First make sure you’ve drawn the 1,000 meter grid lines on the map. Without them it is so difficult to be accurate that your plotting could be useless.

Take a look at your grid coordinates. We are going to use 13T 0461138mE 4565191mN. For plotting purposes some of this information just gets in the way and it makes for a lot of numbers to try and remember. So first I’ll get rid of the zone identifier as well as the meters East and meters North markings, leaving us with 0461138 4565191.

The first two digits on the Easting and the Northing represent distances over 10,000 meters and aren’t relevant on our 1/24,000 scale map so we can get rid of those too, leaving us with 61138 65191.

The last digit on the Easting and the Northing (in this example anyway) represents the one meter distances. You really aren’t going to get this level of precision on a 1/24,000 scale map plotting by hand so we can get rid of this too, leaving us with 6113 6519. This is the grid we will plot.

The first two numbers remaining on the Easting and the Northing represent 1,000 meter distances. Where these two lines intersect on the map forms the corner of the 1,000 meter square where we’ll start plotting. Find this corner first and remember where it is or mark it or put your finger on it.

Using whatever coordinate tool you have line it up with the 61 65 corner. The next techniques vary depending on the tool you are using. I’ll demonstrate first with a note card I made using the km scale at the bottom of the map.

Plot the Easing first. Using the scale at the bottom find out where 13 would be. Then knowing that your second measurement is 19 estimate about how far up 19 will be and make a small line. Then rotate the card 90 degrees placing the zero end on the 65 Northing and line up the edge with the mark you made. Make a point at the 19 location. Remove the note card and you’ve plotted the point.

Another tool you can use is the plotting square. Line up the square so that zero’s on the square line up with the 61 65 intersection. Then slide the square to the right until the number 13 lines up with the 61 Easting. Then with your pencil mark the 19 position in the cut out portion of the square and you’ve plotted the point.

You can also use the 100 meter square tool but there is no cut out so you’d have to remove the square to make a mark losing a lot of precision in the process.

I hope this makes using the UTM system more clear. If not send any questions you have to me at al@justtrails.com

Also check out our last post in the Navigation Series: The UTM Coordinate System.

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