How To Use A Compass

Today I’d like to teach you how to use a basic compass.

Step #1 -HoldThe Compass Properly

Hold it with the palm up, direction of travel arrow facing forward, and your arms fixed. Keeping it away from all metal because any metal near the needle or any magnets can throw off your bearings or your directions. That is the proper way to hold a compass.

Let’s say that before you head out into the wilderness you study your map and determine that there is a road to the West and, no matter where I am , if I head west I will always find that road.

Here is how you would find this “Safety Bearing” in the wild.

Step #2 -Dial It In

Take the dial on your compass and rotate it until West, the West on the dial is lined up with the index line.

Turn the dial until the “W” is lined up at the index line.

Now that you’re dialed in rotate your body until the red is in the shed.

Remember that little rhyme. What that means is that the red needle, the red magnetic needle, is lined up with this red looking shed.

You want that red arrow and that red shed lined up. Put the red in the shed.

Here are the steps again:

  1. Hold the compass properly
  2. Dial It In
  3. Rotate your body, turning in a circle, until the Red Is In The Shed

Now remember, do not move your arm but you want to move your entire body. So I am going to slowly turn and turn until the red lines up in the shed. And remember because my direction of travel arrow is pointed forward, now I know that I am facing West. So when you go out into the woods and you’re lost, pull out your compass.

Now in my directions I dialed it in to West. Well you could use numbers or degress. If you notice on most compasses they have 360 degrees around the dial here. Well if before I went out I’m studying my map, let’s say that West just or a letter direction because there’s only four of them on mine. If it didn’t line up with those you could use a number, so instead of lining it up to west let’s say I did 240 degrees. Same steps still apply. So number, one hold your compass properly number two dial it in to 240, step number three rotate my body until the red is in the shed.

And there I go. That is 240 degrees. So I hope that you can practice those three steps. Hold your compass properly, dial it in, rotate your body until the red is in the shed, and then you will be facing your desired direction or bearing. So that is how to use a compass when given a bearing or direction.