Learn How to Read the Compass

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J.R.R. Tolkien once said, “Not all those who wander are lost.” Maybe, they just forgot to bring a compass.

Kidding aside, compass is very important for nomads who are willing to go into the wild and explore its hidden wonders with nothing to rely on but their thrill for adventure and wanderlust. Contrary to popular belief, the main purpose of a compass is not on knowing your bearings. Yes, it may seem essential for you need to know where precisely you are standing at a certain point but that is not the main reason. The ultimate function of a compass is to determine where the real north is. With this in mind, you can now properly set your coordinates towards the right track.

Knowing the compass

There are different types of compass depending on its functionality. Although it may come in different forms, all compasses share the same basic components. That is why it is also very important that you know the different parts of the compass in order for you to get easily acquainted with this device once you are in the wild.

Using the compass

The first step on learning how to read the compass is holding it correctly. It should be placed on your palm at chest level. If you happen to have a map, you may place the map on a flat surface with the compass on top of it for a more accurate reading.

Once you have positioned yourself correctly, next step would be to know where your general direction is. In doing this, it is crucial that you have to synchronize first the degree dial on your compass until the orienting and magnetic arrows are lined up together. If the direction of the arrow is between N and W, then you are facing northwest. If you want an accurate reading, you may refer on the degree markers lined up along the degree dial.

Learning about declination

In learning how to read the compass, you should also know the difference between True North and Magnetic North as this may affect with your interpretation as well.

As mentioned previously, you may use a map alongside with your compass to determine your accurate bearings. There are times that the North on your compass would differ from that on the map. This is what you call declination. Correcting the declination will pave way into an even more accurate reading and eventually lead you towards the right direction. In doing this, all you have to do is to add or subtract degrees from your map or from your compass for compensatory purposes. Declination will also vary depending on the location of your terrain as well. So, it is crucial that you know the general directions on where you are currently located at.

Avoiding getting lost

When you are all set for your trek into the wild, remember to check your bearings from time to time to avoid getting lost. You may have to adjust your degree dial along the way just to make sure that you are still heading towards the right direction.

Make sure that your body is turned towards a direction wherein the magnetic needle is aligned with the orienting needle. Once this is accomplished, simply continue on walking towards that direction.

Along the way, you will have to point your compass on certain landmarks. Choose something that is not too distant like mountains from afar as this will be more difficult for navigation.

Remember to plot your progress on your map so that you will have a general idea as to where you are heading at. All you have to do is to simply draw a line on the map with your compass as a guide. 

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In general, reading the compass can be really tricky. It involves mastery in knowing which way to turn the dial while keeping in mind which way North really is.  It entails presence of mind as well because a slight mistake can lead you off the right track. Hence, it is very important that you know its basic parts and using them to your advantage. Once you are confident with your compass reading skills, trust your compass. Landscapes may look the same as you move along with your adventure but the compass is constant and will serve as your ultimate reference no matter where you are in this world.

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