How to use a compass (by Leonard Khoo Wei Quan)

A compass can help you navigate a forest, a sea, or even a city. If you have a compass and a map,read on for instructions on how to figure out where you’re currently heading, where you need to head, or where you already are.


  1. Place the compass flat on your palm and your palm in front of your chest. This is the proper compass stance.

2. Move the compass until the direction of travel arrow is pointing in the direction you wish to head. Unless you’re heading north, the magnetic needle will spin off to one side.

3.Twist the degree dial until the orienting arrow lines up with the north end of the magnetic needle. Once they are aligned, this will tell you where your direction of travel arrow is pointing.

4.Take off local magnetic variation by twisting the degree dial. This magnetic variation (i.e. the difference between magnetic and true north) is known as declination and is due to the fact that Earth’s magnetic field lines are constantly moving relative to the actual North Pole. Since our maps are all based off of true north, you must adjust the compass to compensate.

5.See where the direction of travel arrow lines up with the degree dial. This will tell you which direction you’re heading. For example, if the arrow is between the S and the W, you’re heading southwest.

6.Transpose the direction of travel onto your map. Place your map on a horizontal surface, then place the compass on the map so that the orienting arrow points to true north on the map. Then, slide your compass around so that its edge passes through your current position (but its orienting arrow continues to point north).

7.Draw a line along the compass’ edge and through your current position. If you maintain this bearing, your path from your current position will be along the line you just drew on your map.

8.Continue moving in this direction. To do so, simply hold the compass in the proper stance, turn your body until the north end of the magnetic needle once again aligns with the orienting needle, and follow the direction of travel arrow. Check your compass as often as you need to, but be sure not to accidentally twist the degree dial from its current position.


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