How to Adjust for Magnetic Declination

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What is Magnetic Declination? Technically speaking, the earth has two Norths: the magnetic north and true north. The true north, also known as the Geographic North, is the northern end of the axis in which the earth rotates. It is also the basis of your map’s orientation and the point where all the latitude lines meet. On the … Read more

How to Use a Map & Compass

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Compass Basics Let’s start with a little bit of trivia… Did you know that the compass is one of the “Four Great Inventions” of Ancient China? Early compasses from Ancient China were made using “lodestone”, a natural magnet that aligns itself with the Earth’s magnetic field. It was originally used as a device for divination, … Read more

How Does a Compass Work?

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The Origins of the Compass The first magnetic compasses were invented by the Chinese during the Han Dynasty or Tang Dynasty and were used for divination. One of the first forms of compasses came in the shape of spoons or ladles that were magnetized using lodestone, a type of naturally occurring magnet, and pointed south … Read more

How to Make a Compass

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To make a compass, you must first magnetize a needle by rubbing its endpoint with a magnet about fifty to a hundred times. Next, flip the magnet over and use the opposite side to magnetize the other end of the needle. Finally, push the needle into a piece of cork or cardboard, place it on water, and observe as your makeshift compass aligns itself with the Earth’s magnetic field.

How to Use a Watch as a Compass

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If you’re in the northern hemisphere, hold your wristwatch horizontally and point the hour hand directly towards the sun. The middle point between the hour hand and the twelve o’clock marker is true south. If you’re in the southern hemisphere, hold the twelve o’clock marker towards the sun instead. True north should be at the midpoint between the twelve o’clock marker and the hour hand.

True North vs. Magnetic North vs. Grid North

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The Three Different Norths If you’ve never explored the world of maps and the technical jargon that comes with the territory, you could be forgiven for being a little bit confused. “How can there be three different norths? Isn’t north just north?” You might ask. The short answer to this question is no. There are … Read more

How to Orient a Map

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Two Methods of Orienting a Map Map reading is a foundational skill of land navigation that allows you to use what you see on the map in front of you to navigate in the actual terrain in which you’re hiking. However, before you can do that correctly, you first need to learn how to orient … Read more

Bearing vs Heading vs Azimuth vs Course

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What Do They Mean? As mentioned above, the terms azimuth, bearing, heading, and course are often—and incorrectly—used interchangeably. Below, we’ve included a short definition of each term that should highlight their differences.  Azimuth The word azimuth originated from the Arabic word “as-sumut”, the plural of “as-samt”, which was used to refer to “the way” or … Read more

How to Tell Direction Without a Compass

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Losing your way while hiking in unfamiliar terrain is no joke. And yet, every year, it’s something that happens to thousands of hikers while out on their wanders in the wilderness and even in more established hiking areas.  One of the main factors contributing to this figure is a lack of navigational equipment. Compasses get … Read more