Backpacker Explains How to Use a Compass

800px Military Compass of J. Lindsay Brough

Being able to navigate properly is one of the most important skills that any outdoor adventurer can have, yet many of are completely inept at finding our way in the backcountry. Thankfully, Backpacker magazine in here to help with some handy tips on just how to use a compass.

The surprisingly extensive piece starts off by explaining exactly why we should all know how to use a compass, which is an essential tool for navigating. The article points out that yes indeed, GPS does exist, but devices are prone to error and have to remain charged to be of any use. A compass on the other hand rarely ever fails and doesn’t have a battery.

From there, the article recommends getting to know your compass well and offers information on how to correct for declination –– which is the difference between magnetic north and true north, which can sometimes throw off your way finding. Backpacker also takes a look at the various types of compasses that are available, how to find your location and bearing using a compass, and how to use your smartphone as a compass in a pinch.

All in all, this is a handy article for anyone looking to learn how to use a compass in the field. Of course, nothing beats actual real-world experience, so after reading and absorbing all of the information here, be sure to grab you compass and head out on the trail. Put your new skills into practice and you’ll soon find that your navigational abilities will improve dramatically.

Kraig Becker