Survival Guides – Compass Basics

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Survival Guides - Compass Basics

It’s very simple to get lost while in the woods, or for that matter just about anyplace. I actually have been lost many times and am not ashamed to admit it. Getting lost is that the simple part and may be accomplished through complacency, certainty or just poor dumb luck. There have been times where i was one hundred and tenth sure that as shortly as I crested alittle hill, passed through a tree line, came out of a swamp, that I might be specifically in the place I had planned to go, only to finish up standing there confused and wondering wherever the heck I was at. Throughout all of my adventures one essential tool remained at my side and that was the compass. I should note here that the compass never made a mistake or miscalculation, of course anything that had to do with me getting lost can be attributed to human error.

What I would prefer to address today are some very basic uses and tips for utilizing a compass. None of those are beyond day one JROTC instruction. In addition there’s no requirement to own a military style topographical map to follow on. I select to do it this way because the reality is while most preppers do have a compass in their job they might be lucky to own a road atlas in there too, much less a 1:50,000 MGRS topo map. You’ve got to crawl before you can walk and walk before you can run. Think about this the crawl phase of compass basics.

What a compass is: A compass is a navigational instrument that measures directions during a frame of reference that’s stationary relative to the surface of the earth. The frame of reference defines the four cardinal directions, or points – north, south, east, and west. Intermediate directions also are defined. North corresponds to zero degrees, and the angles increase clockwise, so east is ninety degrees, south is one hundred eighty, and west is 270. These numbers enable the compass to show azimuths or bearings, which are usually stated in this notation.

Translation: A compass will tell you which direction you’re going and pretty accurately too. It doesn’t need batteries, is cheap to get, is durable and will fit in your pocket.

Basic uses for a compass

  • Calculate Cardinal Direction. It’s pretty easy, the compass knows which way is north. If you don’t have a military style compass pull out your iPhone and open up your Compass utility just to get a basic idea of what I’m talking about. If you change one spot and slowly turn you will see that the needle continuously points towards north, I’ll get into the different kinds of north in a bit. This matters as a result of having a compass will assist you to keep up your directional heading while in the woods. You might suppose you’ll be ready to track the sun, the North Star or find moss growing on a certain aspect of a tree however a compass will prove a lot of accurate in just regarding each circumstance.
  • Orient a Map. In most instances the top of a map is north, be it a military map or a road atlas. This is vital as a result of combining the map together with your compass can assist you to establish which direction you’re facing relative to the map. Let’s say you lay your road atlas down on the ground and then your compass on top of it. If you switch the map so that the top of the map is aligned with the north seeking arrow on your compass you’re good to go. Now you’ll look at the map and easily differentiate which way you need to travel as a result of it is calibrated in line with your physical location. If you see that you need to get to a road and it’s on the correct side of the map, that’s east. You now understand that you can walk, using your compass, at a heading of ninety degrees and eventually you will come to that road.
  • Assist in maintaining course heading. Now that you know the direction you need to travel you’ll be able to utilize your compass to remain on track. At first you would possibly believe that it’s simple to walk in a desired direction and you’ll have no issues. Nothing could be further from the reality, particularly when traveling over uneven terrain or through swamps and especially in the dark. If you need to go at a ninety degree heading a compass can assist you to remain on track the entire time.

Compass tips

  • Know the difference between true vs magnetic north.  A compass doesn’t point to the North Pole, or the precise center of the earth somewhere up there in the arctic. That indeed is true north. The compass points towards magnetic north, or a point on the earth’s northern hemisphere wherever the planet’s magnetic field points vertically downward. The distinction between these two north’s is mentioned as magnetic declination. For basic navigation and usually searching for where you’re at over short, a few miles, distances it really isn’t all that huge of a deal. However you must realize that there’s a distinction between where the arrow on your compass points and the actual top of the earth.
  • Do not use a compass near any metal objects.  Using a compass inside your vehicle, in a building or next to a metal fence could throw off your heading. Attempt to use your compass out in the open some paces away from any metallic surfaces.
  • How to hold a compass.  For simple use I prefer to cup the compass within the palm of my hand and hold in next to my chest. I then look down at the compass and rotate my body, not the compass, when trying attempting to shoot an azimuth. That’s fancy talk for making certain I’m facing the direction i want to be facing. Let’s say that I know and I need to travel east and that i know east = ninety degrees on the compass. I will hold the compass in the manner I previously described and rotate my body till I’m facing east. I will then look up and establish an object hilltop, tree, large rock, telephone pole, that’s in my direction of travel. I can then put the compass away and start walking in that direction towards my destination. Upon reaching that 1st object I simply repeat the exercise and continue walking.
  • Alternate points of reference.  I would avoid attempting to glance down at the compass whereas on the move. Rather shoot your azimuth, find your point of reference and walk to it. Shoot another azimuth, put away the compass, walk thereto and repeat. If you’re using trees and telephone poles I would alternate which side of the point of reference you finish up on each time you arrive. this may assist you to remain on the right track, almost like a self correcting technique.
  • Use the bezel ring. This portion is somewhat advanced however will be a true time saver. Military style compasses have what’s known as a bezel ring on the outside, just like those that can be found on several watches. This bezel ring usually as a tick mark thereon, quite often it also illuminates at nighttime. If you know that you need to go east, or ninety degrees, you’ll be able to set the tick mark on your compass to ninety degrees once you align yourself in the right direction. basically before you set out you align the tick mark on the bezel ring with the arrow on the compass. Once you’re moving along to visualize your heading all you’ve got to do is ensure that the arrow and tick mark are still aligned and move on, no waiting to check the correct degree every single time. This can be especially useful in low visibility situations.
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