Selecting a Compass
The orienteering compass is a critical piece of equipment for outdoor travel.
A good orienteering compass has these features:
- Clear base plate that allows you to see the map underneath
- Straight sides for aligning two points or for drawing lines
- Liquid-filled needle housing that keeps the magnetic needle relatively steady when taking readings
- Two arrows: a direction arrow painted on the base plate (or you may use the edge of the compass) is used to point the compass from your starting point to your destination; an orienting arrow, located in the needle housing, is used to orient your compass to your map
Metal objects, such as knives, gun barrels, belt buckles, etc., will affect a magnetic needle.
Using a Map and Compass
- Mark your starting point and where you want to go on your topographic map. Draw a straight line between the two points.
- Lay the baseplate edge of the compass along that line, with direction-of-travel arrow pointing in the direction you want to go.
- Center the north arrow (the “N”) of the compass dial along a meridian of the map—a north/south line.
- Check the diagram at the bottom of the map that shows whether magnetic north is to the left or right of true north. Now turn the compass dial the correct number of degrees left or right as shown. You have now corrected for declination. The “N” is now pointing at magnetic north.
- Hold the compass level out in front of you. Rotate your body until the red tip of the compass needle lines up with the compass dial “N.” The direction of travel arrow now points in the direction you want to go.