How to Use a Compass

 How to Use a Compass

Many people do not ever bother to learn how to use a compass. They seem to think that it is pointless in our age of technology. After all, we have GPS devices that can do the same work with less effort. If you spend any amount of time in the wilderness, learning how to correctly use a compass is anything but pointless. That fancy GPS or phone that you rely on could just as easily run out of batteries or break. Without a backup plan, it’s easy to get lost in the woods and hard to get out.

Disorientation is a major problem when your lost. You’re bound to get scared and stop thinking logically. It becomes much harder to distinguish between new landmarks and ones you’ve already seen. The longer you’re lost, the more confused you get, and the more likely you are to make poor decisions that can lead to disaster.

But by taking the time to learn how to properly use a compass, you can guard yourself against these dangers.

How To Maintain Direction Of An Object Using A Map Compass

There is a navigational technique that is known as ‘Dead Reckoning‘ in which you figure out the direction you need to travel and then ‘aim’ for certain landmarks that are visible along the path of travel.

However, when using this technique you may sometimes come across a situation in which you focus on a landmark but as you travel you lose sight of the object due to an obstruction of view from large trees, rocks, gullys, etc.

This would be a time when knowing how to use a map and compass would come in handy. It is very difficult to maintain a straight line without the use of a compass. Try it for yourself next time you are out on a hike. Those little degree differences make a big difference over time.

  • Before you begin traveling, hold your compass level and point the arrow in the direction of the object you wish to travel towards.
  • Now turn the rotating ring so that the ‘N’ on the rotating part is allign with the North end of the needle.
  • Now just travel in the direction that your map compass is pointing while keeping the ‘N’ and magnetic North end of the needle alligned.

How To Reach A Destination On A Map Using A Compass

Providing you know where you are on your map, with the use of your compass you should be able to reach your destination fairly easily.

  • Start off by locating where you are on your map, the direction of travel, and magnetic North using your compass.
  • Spread the map out and draw directional lines of magnetic North according to the variation given on the map.
  • Find your present location and your destination on the map and draw a straight line between those places. Place your compass on the map so as to point the ‘arrow mark’ or ‘index line’ (front of your map compass) to the destination. (Make sure map North and compass North are pointing the same way)
  • Turn the rotating ring and make the arrows in the compass capsule parallel to magnetic North.
  • Hold your compass and turn yourself slowly until the North end of the needle is parallel to the arrows in the compass capsule. Now you can travel in the direction your compass points as long as you keep the needle and arrow parallel with each other.

How To Find Your Location On A Map Using A Compass

If you are unsure as to your current location on your map you can follow the steps below to pinpoint your location and then navigate to where you want to be.

  • Locate yourself on a high point from where you can see 2 distinctive features that are labeled on the map. For example, suppose you can see a mountain on the left (point A) and a lake on the right (point B).
  • Point the ‘index line’ or ‘arrow’ (front of map compass) towards the mountain (point A) then align the ‘N’ of the rotating ring with magnetic North on your compass.
  • Set the compass on your map and align the North end of you needle with North direction indicated on your map.
  • Keeping the current alignment, slide your compass on the map so that one side of scale or straight edge of the compass points towards the point A (in this case the mountain) and draw a line down from the point along the compass edge.
  • Repeat the same procedure on point B (the lake) using the same side of the compass.
  • The point at which these 2 lines intersect is where you are located.

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