When out in the wild, staying on the right track and being accurate about your destination is crucial. With modern technology, this has been made easier by GPS. However, devices are proven to fail at times and when you least expect them to. Knowing the basic use of the compass and a paper map is a must for you and your survival outdoors.
This article gives you an insight into the compass bearing, compass anatomy, and the uses of the compass in different scenarios.
The Compass Anatomy
All compasses generally have the same anatomy which is composed of the following:
This serves as the base panel that houses the compass and is often transparent to show the map when placed beneath it. The base plate should at least have one straight edge to connect points (your location and direction) on your map.
Rulers are in millimeters and inches and are used to scale the necessary distances.
- Direction-of-travel arrow
Point the direction of the travel arrow to which direction you want to go when you take or follow a bearing.
- Lanyard – can help find another landmark on the same axis but a different height.
- Mirror– enables you to point the compass to a landmark with a straight arm for more accurate angle measurement.
- Rotating bezel
This is also called an “azimuth ring” and surrounds the outer vial of your compass. It has markings from 0 up to 360° that have scales to orient your bearing.
- Orienteering lines
These are parallel lines used to correctly align your compass with the north and south lines of your map.
- Bearing Index line
Found just on top of the rotating bezel and where you take your reading from.
- Magnetic needle
It always points to the Magnetic North and is usually colored red.
Using a Compass
How to find your exact location on the map
To find out your exact location on a map, follow these steps:
- Find a landmark that you can identify on the map (peak, building, corner of a lake or car park…)
- Point your compass to the landmark, with the direction arrow facing the landmark, and rotate the bezel to put the red “in the shed”
- Capture the bearing
- Place your compass on the map so that the straight side of the base plate lines up with the landmark, making sure that the direction arrow points in the direction of the landmark
- Rotate the entire base plate until the orienteering lines are aligned with the map grid, making sure that N on the bezel aligns with N on the map
- Draw a line along the edge of the compass
- You are located somewhere along this line
- Repeat the above with another landmark (at least 60° away from the first one)
- You are located at the crossing of both lines
- Repeat the above with a third landmark to check the accuracy and adjust if you the third line crosses the others in a different location.
How to find your exact destination in the field
To find out the correct directions for your desired destination, follow these steps:
- Find your current location on the map
- Place your compass on the map so that the straight side of the base plate lines up with your position
- Form a line between your position and your destination, making sure that the direction arrow points in the direction of the destination
- Rotate the bezel until the orienteering lines are aligned with the map grid, making sure that N on the bezel aligns with N on the map
- Capture the bearing
- Hold the compass with the travel arrow pointing away from you
- Turn around until the red is “in the shed”
- You’re facing your direction
- To move towards your direction, follow the direction arrow in a straight line, making sure the red needles remain “in the shed” at all times.
Advantages of Using a Compass
Knowing how to use compasses and maps is undoubtedly important and handy especially if you love to explore the outdoors. And compared to its advantages, it isn’t too hard to learn how to use them too.
We make it all the more fun to learn navigation using these basic tools. Meet an amazing group of people while hiking or snowshoeing with us to our destination and teach you these amazing navigation skills. Check out our events page for the events we offer in summer and wintertime.