Campers that know how to use a compass are much less likely to get lost.

2007 Publications International, Ltd.

How to Use a Compass

Learning how to use a compass and a map reduces the chances of getting lost in the wilderness.

What You'll Need:
  • Orienteering-style compass with degree markings (such as a Silva compass)
  • Map of your local area or area of interest
How to Use a Compass:

Step 1: To align a compass, read the directions for the compass and learn which end of the needle points north.

Step 2: Turn the compass until the north arrow on the compass's face is aligned with the north end of the pointer. You are now aligned "north." Observe the letters on the compass: N is north, E is east, S is south, W is west.Northeast, southeast, southwest, and northwest will also be present.

Step 3: Next, look at the numbers. These are degrees, another form of measuring compass direction.

Step 4: Turn and face any direction. Hold one hand out flat and place the compass on your palm. Point the arrow on the baseplate in the direction you're facing.

Step 5: Turn the dial on the compass until the north-facing arrow is aligned with the pointer. Now read the degree mark that the index line crosses. This is your direction in degrees.

Step 6: To find your bearing, place the map on the ground and find where you want to start and end. Place the compass so that it matches both points. Turn the dial until "north" points the same direction as the north indicator on the map. The index on the baseplate should now line up with the correct bearing on the dial. Turn the compass in the correct direction.

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