How to Use a Compass
Geocachers can also turn to compasses when engaging in Geocaching.
The compass is one of the widely used instruments for navigation. It will direct you as you go through a forest, sea or the city. A compass will tell you your current location and where you are headed. It is important to learn how to use a compass when you are engaged in outdoor activity.
Some people find it hard to use a compass. But familiarizing yourself with its main features will make it easier for you to learn how to use it.
1. The baseplate is the plastic base of the compass
2. Compass housing or compass wheel- with a mark on every 2 degrees covering 360 degrees and the cardinal points – NSEW
3. Magnetic needle (red end for north and white end for south)
4. Compass lines or orienting lines, which is found at the bottom of the baseplate
5. Orienting arrow, which is fixed and aligned to north within the compass housing
6. Index line- extension of the direction of the travel arrow
7. Travel arrow is the big arrow at the end of the baseplate
8. Map scales and metric measurer
Using a compass
When using a compass, you must know how to hold it properly. When you hold the compass poorly it will give you bad reading and you will be lost. Place the compass flat on your palm, and your palm should be in front of your chest. Move the compass until the direction of the travel arrow is pointing to your desired direction. When you have done this, twist the degree dial until the orienting arrow is aligned with the north end of the magnetic needle. Once aligned, it will tell you the direction of where your travel arrow is pointing. Take off the local magnetic variation by twisting the degree dial. Check where the direction of travel arrow lines up with the degree dial. This will tell you where you are heading. Then, transfer the direction of travel onto your map, if you have one. The map should be placed on a horizontal surface, place the compass on the map so that the orienting arrow points to true north on the map. Then on your map, draw a line along the edge of the compass and through your current position. Now, continue moving in this direction.
To avoid going to the opposite direction, you must look for the sun, which is roughly in the south when its noon. When you are heading north and find the sun directly at your face, it means you are going the wrong way.
Remember that a compass takes its readings from magnetic energy and as such, metal objects nearby can affect it. Also, be aware of high tension power lines. You must be at least 50 yards away from them when taking a bearing. Ensure that your compass dial is moving freely and it doesn’t have any damage that can interfere with your readings.
It is also a good idea to undergo proper training in using a compass. There are books available online and at the bookstore.