Most preppers are familiar with this concept, but have you ever really tried to navigate to a point using only a compass and a topographic map? If your grand plan for some catastrophic disaster is to Bug Out into the woods, you had better have maps of your area for starters, but these won’t do you much good without a compass and more importantly, the know-how to use it along with a map to find out where you are and get you to where you want to go.
Before we start with the how-to’s let’s see the main parts a compass has:
- Index line: fixed within the outer edge of the compass housing as an extension of the direction of travel arrow. It marks the bearing you set by rotating the compass housing.
- Magnetized needle: floats on liquid so it can rotate freely, the red end should always point to magnetic north.
- Orienting arrow: fixed within the compass housing, aligned to north on the housing
- Orienting lines: fixed within the compass housing and designed to be aligned with the vertical grid lines on a map. Half the lines are colored red to indicate north.
Main uses for a compass:
- Heading: know the direction you are traveling in
- Map: align your map to match your surroundings
- Bearing: determine which direction or destination lies in relation to your location
- Follow a bearing: follow a straight line
How to find out your heading
- First, hold the compass in front of your chest with the direction of travel arrow pointing in the direction you’re heading.
- Then rotate the bezel so that N aligns with the red end of the compass needle
- The result is the number (in degrees) on the rim of the bezel at the index line is your heading.
Set the map with the compass
- Lay the map in front of you (the map should be flat)
- Put the compass anywhere on top of the map
- Turn the map and compass until the needle on the compass aligns with the north-south gridlines on the map. The red end of the needle must be pointing to the top of the map.
In this video, Krik of Black Owl Outdoors uses a Silva Ranger CL compass, explains the basic pieces of a compass, shows you how to orient the map to your location, determine the direction of travel you want to go and then navigate through the terrain to your destination. This is a great video that will introduce the concepts of orienteering to you.