Knowing how to take compass bearings is one of the most vital skills every backcountry adventurer should learn. Doing so allows you to establish your whereabouts, plot a course, and navigate with accuracy in any terrain. We all know that compasses display the four cardinal directions: north, south, west, and east. But using such vague indicators to … Read more
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
If there’s one must-have skill every hiker and camper should learn, it’s how to read a map. Arming yourself with this knowledge not only reduces the risk of getting lost, but also makes navigating from A to B much safer, stress-free… …and much less likely to land you at point Z somewhere between the two! … Read more
Navigating without a map is a real pain. A pain that many of us—the author included—have endured at some point in our hiking careers. If you suffered a similar lapse of memory or thoroughness when packing for your hike, would you be able to navigate to safety? If the answer is “no”, never fear—we’re here … Read more
How to Triangulate Your Position Triangulating your position is relatively easy. It mainly requires a good pair of eyes, a reliable map, a trusty compass, and basic arithmetic. Once you master it, you’ll never even want to use a GPS again. Step 1: Prepare your Map and Compass The first step is to prepare the … Read more
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
Finding your way through the wilderness is an essential backpacking skill requiring reliable tools and knowledge of how to use them. And while getting off the beaten path is part of the reason many people hit the trail, finding the trail again is something that you eventually want to do. Plus, it’s embarrassing if the … Read more