So You're Trying to Use a Compass..

A informative PSA about compasses.

I have my compass, now how do I use it?

Unlike a GPS, a compass does not allow you to pinpoint your exact location, instead: it is an instrument containing a magnetized pointer that shows the direction of magnetic north and bearings from it (Merriam-Webster Online: Dictionary and Thesaurus). In order to use a compass you have to follow a series of steps:

1. Gather the materials needed: a compass, map, and pencil or marker.

2. Make marks. On the map, make a mark of your location, and where you want to go

3. Next, take the edge of the compass, draw a line from where you are to where you would like to go.

4. Once you've done this, hold the compass in front of your chest and let the red point travel towards the North.

5. Finally, use the map to figure out what direction you need to walk towards.

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Diagram of a Compass...

Baseplate: A hard, flat surface on which the rest of the compass is mounted.

Scales: Each edge of a compass has a different ruler and different map scales.

Direction-of-Travel Arrow: Point this the way you will be traveling.

Magnifier: Allows you to see smaller map features

Index Pointer: Very end of the direction-of-travel arrow

Dial: Ring around the housing that has degree markings engraved into it.

Declination Marks: use to orient the compass in an area with known Declination.

Orienting Arrow: Marked on the floor of the housing. It rotates with the housing when the dial is turned. You use it to orient a compass to a map.

Needle: Magnetized piece of metal that has one end painted red, this is to show which way is North. It will move freely when the compass is held level and steady.

Housing: This is the main part of the compass. It's a round plastic container filled with liquid, inside is the red needle.


*Note: Not every compass will have all of the things listed above.


If you still have questions...

How to Use a Compass & Map [Compass Navigation Tutorial]