How to use a map and compass

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Long before GPS, people were using maps and compasses to find their way around. You may be surprised at what you can do with these two important tools.




  • This is what a map is when we talk about a map in this article
  • And this is what it isn't


  • Clear this up too.


Following a Bearing

Generally, your compass will have two needles built into it:

  • One that you can rotate and set to a specific position (the bearing needle)
  • One that rotates by itself acording to the earth's magnetic field. (the magnetic needle)

When you know the direction that you want to travel, point your compass in that direction, and then align your bearing needle with the magnetic needle. Sight through your compass at a landmark in the distance that you can walk to. Once you have identified your landmark, walk to it. When you get there, sight through your compass again, making sure to hold it so that the magnetic needle lines up with the bearing needle. Choose another landmark in the distance that your compass is pointing to

Aligning your map and compass


Determining your location on a map

Yes, it can be done without a GPS

Figure distance



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