How To Read A Compass
Knowing how to read a compass is a basic outdoor skill. A compass points to the magnetic north pole of the Earth. The four cardinal directions are north, south, east, and west. A compass is also divided into degrees. There are 360 degrees in a full rotation of a compass. North is aligned with 360 (or 0) degrees, east is at 90 degrees, south is at 180 degrees, and west is at 270 degrees. The points between may be referred to like SE for south east or NW for north west, indicating a point exactly half way between south and east or north and west.
- Hold the compass flat or place it on a flat surface. Make sure the compass needle or dial can move freely. If the compass is tilted it can restrict the movement of the needle.
- Keep the compass away from metal objects. Since the compass reads the magnetic pole a metal object can alter the magnetic fields around the compass and produce an error in the indicator.
- Let the compass settle. The compass needle should now be pointing north. For work with a map rotate the compass outer dial, if it has one, or rotate the compass so that N shows where the dial is pointing, this aligns the degree readings to the proper location.
When you learn how to read a compass you have a basic survival skill that helps you camp in the woods or mountains, where even today you might have a problem getting GPS signals.