A Beginner’s Guide to the Compass

Whether you are out walking or cycling or simply driving somewhere new, being able to use a compass is an great skill that will always come in handy. Rather than just showing north, modern compasses have many features to assist in planning and navigation.

Without a compass, you can still use your map by relying on visible features, but a compass allows you to be more accurate and navigate where there are few obvious landscape features.

There are loads of magnetic compasses available, from those attached to penknives or whistles, to huge, expensive ship’s compasses. Here’s some of the most common:

Basic compass: This will tell you which way is north, but without a rotating bezel or an easy way of alignment, it will never be very accurate. They are inexpensive, but very cheap ones can be of poor quality. Best for driving and road cycling where you only need the approximate direction, or as an emergency spare.

Sighting compass: This compass is designed to make it easy to take a bearing from a distant object, and are still often used by the military. They don’t have all the features you may want, but can be very accurate. Best for people who know how to use them.

Baseplate or orienteering compass: This is probably the most flexible type, as it can be used for taking bearings, setting a heading and measuring distances. The clear base allows it to be laid on top of a map. Best for accurate navigation with a map.

Learn how to use a compass…

 

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