How To Use A Compass

How to use a compass

Knowing how to use a compass can be valuable, whether navigating the wilderness or just trying to find your way around a city. Here’s a basic level step-by-step guide on how to use a compass.

6 Basic Steps On How To Use A Compass

  1. Familiarize yourself with the parts of the compass. A typical compass has a rotating bezel (the outer ring), a magnetized needle that points north, a stationary indicator (usually a small black line or dot), and a base with a transparent cover. Remember that there are many different types of compasses. We’ll cover those later.
  2. Hold the compass in your hand. The clear cover faces up, and the magnetized needle points toward the bottom of the compass. The north end of the needle should be aligned with the north indicator on the bezel.
  3. Determine your direction. To do this, you’ll need to orient the compass to the ground. Hold the compass flat in your hand and turn the bezel so that the north indicator aligns with the magnetized needle. This will give you a general sense of which direction you’re facing.
  4. Find your destination. Once you have a general sense of which direction you’re facing, you can use the compass to find your destination. To do this, rotate the bezel until the magnetized needle aligns with the north indicator. The direction of the travel indicator (usually a small arrow on the base of the compass) points toward your destination.
  5. Follow the direction of the travel indicator. Once the direction of the travel indicator is pointing toward your destination, walk in that direction. As you walk, periodically check the compass to ensure you’re still on track.
  6. Adjust for magnetic declination. In some areas, the Earth’s magnetic field does not align with true north. This phenomenon is known as magnetic declination. To account for this, you’ll need to adjust the compass. To do this, look up the magnetic declination for your location and add or subtract the appropriate number of degrees from the bezel. We have a helpful article (linked above) that will help you understand the difference between true north and declination.


By observing these steps, you should be able to use a compass to navigate to your destination confidently. Just remember to periodically check the compass and make any necessary adjustments to ensure you stay on track. Want to experience the outdoors but don’t feel ready to venture out on your own? Follow Pack & Paddle Expedition Co here as we schedule outdoor adventures for 2023!

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