Use every viewpoint and topographic oddity (cliff, ravine, stream, avalanche chute, treeless patch) to plot your position.
Study local vegetation patterns to find the path of least resistance. If avalanche paths or north-facing slopes are usually brush-choked, avoid them. Oftenbut not alwaysyou'll find less brush under big trees and along streambeds, and thinner shrubbery at higher altitudes.
When the brush gets really thick, don't just plow ahead. Check your topo for alternative routeslike going up and aroundthat can save time and frustration even if the distance is longer. Take precautions to keep you on course: Note landmarks and take bearings on high, distant objects; if the brush level permits, scan ahead with binoculars for ravines and other terrain traps.
Before you enter
Wear eye protection and durable clothing (gloves, long sleeves, and long pants) to ward off thorns, snagging branches, and poison ivy. Don't wear your good raingearyou don't want to get holes, and leaks, in it.
Streamline your load. Remove or tighten everything on your pack that can snag. To increase stability, lower your pack's center of gravity by packing heavy objects in the bottom.
Carry whistles or two-way radios to maintain contact, plus signal mirrors, emergency strobes, or flares on extended bushwhacks.
In the thick of it
Be patient, because your top speed will rarely exceed one-quarter to one-half of your normal uphill pace. You'll only waste energy or get hurt trying to go faster.
Look for game trails, which often offer easier walking and sometimes take you to a critical junction, like a pass, a route through cliffs, or a stream crossing.
If you're in bear country, make lots of noise, stop often to look and listen, and change course if you spot fresh bruin sign.
Look for a creekbed: It might be the clearest path (see "Up The Creek" in sidebar at right).
Beware of terrain traps. Don't let easier going (to escape the brush) lead you into ravines or down the wrong sides of hills. Stick to ridgelines when possible.
Be flexible about how you attack obstacles. Sometimes contouring around a ravine is better than sliding downhill and scrambling back up the other side. It all depends on the density of the brush, steepness, the firmness of the terrain, and your scrambling abilities.
If you're hiking with a group, spread out so you'll have a better chance of stumbling across a game trail, but keep each other within sight or sound.
If you have to punch through an occasional wall of brush, back through pack-first to save your face.