How To Use A Compass

Featuring Information About Earth's Magnetic Field

Why Do YOU Need to Know About Compasses?

Compasses are what the world used before GPS. They may not tell you where to go but they do tell you where you're facing.


If you are given general directions (i.e 200 steps north) you could use a compass to get to that general area. Not only are they cool looking but they're also controlled by the Earth. There are tons of reasons why you should know about compasses. For an example, if you're outdoors hiking and you need to go 20 steps °15 degrees north, knowing how to use a compass would make it a lot easier.

How to use a compass

Using a compass is quite easy once you get the hang of it. The first thing you need to know are the directions. They are North, East, South, and West. Look at figure 1 below to get a look and understanding of where and what they are. (Depending on where you are and where you're facing, it might not line up but you can at least see what the compass rose looks like)
When you take a look at a compass (Figure 2) you can see that there is a needle looking thing. That is called the compass needle (original, right?). The red part of the needle always points NORTH. The grey end always points SOUTH. The most common mistake for someone who's learning how to use a compass is getting those mixed up.


When you are given a direction and you need to use your compass, you first need to lay it flat on your hand. Keeping your hand as still as you can, turn your body around until the red part of the needle is on/facing the N on the compass. If you need to go north, you can just walk forward. If you are wanting to go south, east, or west, you can look down and see where those directions are and where you need to face. You should always check every so often so you know you're facing the right way.

Earth's Magnetic Field

The Earth's Magnetic Field affects all compasses. You can think of it like the world has a big bar magnet buried inside of it. In order for the needle to point north, we have to assume that the south end of the magnet is facing the North Pole. Think of it like opposites attract. In the Southern Hemisphere the needle is almost repelled but the north always faces north and south, south. The same goes for the Northern Hemisphere.

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