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The compass has been used for hundreds of years. The first compass was likely a needle on a cork, floating in a pan of water. Our modern compass has numbers, letters, and red pointer.

The needle on a compass always points North. That is it points magnetic North. Magnetic North isn't really north. Isn't it  great, all this time you thought the one thing you could count on is, the needle points North. The drawing shows why.  

The heavy line points to true north. True North is where the North Pole is.

 All maps are made with true north at the top.  The difference between True North and Magnetic North, is called the angle of declination. There is a type of compass which has an adjustment for declination. They are expensive so forget the angle of declination for now. You will only need to understand declination when using a map and compass together. Even then it isn't necessary for hiking.

  A compass is a circle divided into 360 degrees. North is 0 or 360. East, 90 - South, 180 - West, 270.

No need to memorize,  it's on the compass. Half way between each direction also have names, as well as numbers. Northeast, 45 - Southeast, 135 - Southwest, 225  and  Northwest, 315 degrees. They are divided  again. North Northeast, East Northeast,  East Southeast, South Southeast, South Southwest, West Southwest, West Northwest, and North Northwest.  The illustration shows compass position.

Any place you stand, except North and South Pole, you have a chose of any of these directions. If you stand on the North Pole you can only go South, South Pole, only North.

You are always the center of the compass. Going to the picnic table? 315 degrees is the way to go. Now you want to go back? Of course you go the opposite direction, but how many degrees is that? To go the opposite direction, add or subtract 180 from the original direction, less than 180, add, over 180, subtract.

If you already know the direction you want to go, turn the center dial until the direction is at the top of the case.

West or 270. Then  turn  the  entire compass until needle points to 0 or North. If you  don't  know  which direction you want to go, you just want to go "that way" then point the compass in the direction of "that  way", and  turn the center until the needle is pointing at North. The reading at the top is the direction you are to go.


We already know maps are made so North is at the top.
It really doesn't matter if your compass has a setting to consider the angle of declination or not. Map orientation to your compass is the goal.


Orient Map

To orient the map, lay it on a flat surface, put the compass on the edge of the map, and turn the map and compass until the compass is lined up on North.



You know the general area, but you want to pin point it. Look on the map and find a couple of landmarks you think you should see. Sight in on B, 40, then C, 80. Reverse direction, or azimuth, is needed to plot a position. Now orient the map. knock off watches You are 220 from point B. Put the edge of the compass on point B and pivot it until it reads 220. Do the same with point C. Where they cross, A, is where you are.


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