How to use a compass

How to use a compass

Your iPhone has a built-in magnometer. That’s a fancy way of saying ‘digital compass’ and, what it means, is that your iPhone tell which direction it — and by extension, you — are pointing. Most of the time you’ll use this feature for maps and turn-by-turn navigation, but Apple also bundles a Compass app onto every iPhone. You can also do more with it than checking direction — you can use it as a handy level!

How to set up and calibrate the Compass app on iPhone

Digital compasses need calibration. If you’re walking, they can typically use location to figure out which way you’re going. If you’re standing still, though, you may need to play a little game for before they can get going.

    Launch Compass from your Home screen.

Hold your iPhone flat in your palm and follow the on-screen instructions when prompted to calibrate. You’ll have to tilt your iPhone to roll the ball around the on-screen circle.

How to use a compass

After you get the ball all the way around the circle, the compass will be calibrated and you’ll be able to start using it right away!

How to use the Compass on iPhone

The Compass app on iPhone isn’t as accurate as the real thing, but it’ll help you follow basic directions and bearings in a pinch.

  1. Launch the Compass app from your Home screen.
  2. Hold your iPhone flat in the palm of your hand.
  3. Spin around, holding your iPhone in your hand until you hit the bearing (degrees) you want to follow. For example, 30 degrees north-northeast.

Tap the compass face once to lock in that bearing.

How to use a compass

Now when you stray from that path, you’ll see the beginnings of a red circle inside the compass. Spin around so that your white pointer is pointed back on the bearing of your choice.

How to switch to true north in the Compass app for iPhone

You can choose to use true north or magnetic north when navigating with your iPhone. Here’s how to turn on true north:

  1. Launch Settings from your Home screen.
  2. Tap Compass.

Tap the switch next to Use True North.

How to use a compass

How to use the level in the Compass app on iPhone

The level in the Compass app on your iPhone is a bit of a doozy to work with, especially if you’re fighting off a hoard of zombies whilst trying to build a barricade to keep them out. And that barricade has to be perfectly level.

    Launch the Compass app from your Home screen.

Swipe left on the compass face. If you’re holding your iPhone flat in your palm, you should see white bubbles around a number in black, the horizontal level. If you tilt your phone so that the screen is parallel to your face, you’ll get the vertical level.

How to use a compass

Horizontal level

  1. Place your iPhone flat on the surface of the object you’re trying to level off.
  2. Tilt your iPhone in all directions until you hit 0 degrees and the screen turns green.

You can tap once to turn the black screen red, and it will stay that way until your iPhone is level, at which point it’ll turn green.

How to use a compass

Vertical level

  1. Hold your iPhone against the object that you’re trying to vertically level.
  2. Tilt your iPhone in all directions until your hit 0 degrees and the bottom half of the screen turns green.

If you want to then take another measurement off of that angle, tap the level once. You’ll then see red as you stray away from the angle you were on. This can help you measure 90-degree and 45-degree angles.

General Directions

There are four cardinal points on a compass – North, South, East, and West. When reading a compass, and telling other people directions, you need to wipe “right” and “left” out of your vocabulary. Right and Left are relative directions and differ depending on your location and direction, but the cardinal points are constant.

How to use a compass

The direction halfway between North and East is an intercardinal point and is called NorthEast. The other three intercardinal points are SouthEast, SouthWest, and NorthWest.

Finally, there are secondary intercardinal points halfway between each cardinal point and intercardinal point. These are North-NorthEast, East-NorthEast, East-SouthEast, South-SouthEast, . and so on. With these directions, you can give someone a fairly good idea of what direction they need to go. We could add additional points, continueing to break each section in half over and over, but telling someone to go East-EastEastNorthEast-EastNorthEast would not be fun.

Since there IS a need for more precise directions, the circle of a compass face is split into 360 marks called degrees. For rough directions, go ahead and use North or NorthWest. But, for finding your way or locating destinations in the wild, use degrees as you’ll see in a bit.

Two Types of Compasses

You’ve seen compasses in cars or toy compasses – neither of these have a noticable needle and are called “Card Compasses”. Actually, there is a magnetic piece like a needle, but it has a paper disk (card) glued to it or has a plastic ball around it that is free to rotate. As the vehicle turns, the card (or ball) remains fixed so the part you see changes. These are fine for general directions, but not helpful for what we want to do.

Basic Compass Reading

Become familiar with Parts of the Compass before learning to read your compass.

To read your compass,

  • Hold your compass steadily in your hand so the baseplate is level and the direction-of-travel arrow is pointing straight away from you.
  • Hold it about halfway between your face and waist in a comfortable arm position with your elbow bent and compass held close to your stomache.
  • Look down at the compass and see where the needle points.

This compass is pointing due North (also 0 degrees)
How to use a compass

  • Turn your body while keeping the compass in front of you.
  • Notice that as the compass rotates, the needle stays pointing the same direction.
  • Keep turning until the needle points to East on the compass like the picture below, keeping the direction-of-travel arrow and N orth mark facing straight in front of you.

    The needle on this compass is pointing East (90 degrees)
    How to use a compass

    Important: This is a very common mistake! The compass needle is pointing towards East so I must be pointing East, right? No, no, no!
    To find my direction, I must turn the compass dial until the N orth mark and the “Orienting Arrow” are lined up with the North end of the needle. Then I can read the heading that is at the Index Pointer spot (the butt of the direction-of-travel arrow).
    Since the Orienting Arrow is usually two parallel lines on the floor of the compass housing, a good thing to memorize is:
    RED IN THE SHED

    Now we know we are really heading West (270 degrees)
    How to use a compass

    Take a Bearing

    How to use a compass

    When you need to find your way from one particular place to another, you need to use these numbers to find out the bearing to that remote place. The direction you are going is called your heading. Heading and Bearing are pretty much the same thing. The image above is a heading of about 250 degrees.

    Using your compass, take a few bearings. Move your body until the direction-of-travel arrow points at the following items and then turn the dial until “RED is in the Shed”. Then, read the bearing at the Index Pointer:

    • You computer screen: ____________ degrees
    • Your window: ____________ degrees
    • Your door: ____________ degrees
    • A lightswitch: ____________ degrees

    Posted on October 25, 2018

    There are so many different kinds of compasses, it can be hard to keep up. But it’s important to understand the different types of navigational tools—including a lensatic compass.

    Navigation has taken on many forms over the years. From the compass, to GPS, to now even your mobile device—there’s no shortage of navigational tools. Though GPS and smartphones are reliable, it’s still vital to carry a compass, and know how to use it, as a backup or lifesaving form of navigation.

    Here at Brunton, we manufacture a variety of different compasses for varying needs in the field. A lensatic compass is just one of the many navigational tools we have built.

    What is a Lensatic Compass?

    A lensatic compass is often referred to as a military compass, and is typically used by the U.S. Military. The lensatic compass is comprised of different parts compared to a baseplate compass. The term “lensatic” comes from the fact that there is a lens on the rear side of the compass that aids in the orienteering process.

    How to use a compass

    Lensatic compasses are made up of three parts: cover, base, and reading lens. The cover is used to protect the compass and also incorporates the sighting wire—which helps you determine direction. The base is the compass dial, bezel, and the thumb loop—the thumb loop is used for stability to garner a more accurate reading. Lastly, the reading lens also helps cover the compass and folds out; this is where the term “lensatic” comes from.

    While some elements of the navigation process are similar to using a baseplate compass, there are also slight differences—including how you hold a lensatic compass. In this video below, the user walks through the elements of a USGI lensatic compass, and how to properly use one.

    If you are interested in trying your hand at navigation with a lensatic compass, check out our Brunton 9077 Compass , and follow along with this video:

    Many people use their mobile phones and satnavs to get around, but it’s also good to know how a compass works, just in case you’re somewhere remote with no signal or if your battery’s low. Plus, it’s more fun.

    Here are our top tips on how to read a compass, taken from our book, Go Wild in the Woods, by Goldie Hawk and Rachel Saunders.

    Useful things to know

    There are a few important things you should know about how a compass works before using one in the wild.

    There are four main points on your compass: north, south, east and west. Around the whole compass, there are little measurements, called degrees.

    The most important part on the compass is the magnetic needle. It swings around the compass as you move, but the red end will always point in the direction of north and the white (or sometimes black) end will always point in the direction of south. There’s also an arrow on the housing – see the diagram below – known as the ‘orientation arrow’ and an arrow on the baseplate called the ‘direction of travel arrow’.

    How to use a compass

    How to follow a compass

    If you want to walk in an exact direction, you can ‘follow a bearing’. To follow a bearing, all you need to do is:

    1. Place the compass flat on your palm, with the direction of travel arrow pointing towards where you want to go.
    2. Twist your compass dial so that the orienting arrow lines up with the red end of the magnetic needle.
    3. The direction of travel arrow should line up with your ‘bearing’ (this is the angle you want to walk in) – now you can begin your walk by following this arrow.
    4. If you’re worried that you’re going off track, line up your orienting arrow with the needle. Whenever you do this your direction of travel arrow will point to where you want to go (remember to keep your compass dial in the same position, though).

    More how to guides

    Looking to find a new skill or pick up a hobby? We’ve got lots of how to guides, from how to make a bird feeder to gardening tips for the green-fingered.

    How to use a compass

    Have you ever heard someone say they need to find their bearings? It dates back to the Age of Discovery and refers to the bearings inside a compass that move the directional needle. That saying has lived on and so has the simple compass! Let’s learn about the military’s preferred version, the lensatic compass. It’s incredibly precise, affordably priced at just a couple of dollars, and easy to find in your local big box or sporting goods store.

    What you’ll need

    Enough room to rotate in a circle

    Step 1

    How to use a compass

    ● Hold the compass in the hand that you write with.

    ● Make sure the side facing up has the open slot in the cover.

    Step 2

    How to use a compass

    ● Use your thumb to pull the thumb ring back about halfway.

    ● Flip up the lid to a 90-degree angle.

    ● Flip up the small magnifying glass.

    ● Pull the ring underneath the compass and put your thumb through.

    ● Wrap your middle, ring and pinky finger around your thumb for support. Use your index finger to steady the front of the compass.

    Step 3

    How to use a compass

    ● Notice the slot in the lid has a sight wire running down the middle.

    ● Turn the dial until the larger line aligns with the sight wire.

    ● Notice the second line of numbers surrounding the outside of the dial goes from 0 to 360 degrees to represent a full circle. That provides a more accurate direction. Saying an object is at 340 degrees Northwest is more accurate than saying it is Northwest.

    Step 4

    How to use a compass

    ● Hold the compass in front of your nose with the lid facing out.

    ● Pick an object, rotate your entire body (not just the compass), and align the object with the sight wire.

    ● Look through the magnifying glass and find the green line that we matched to the sight wire.

    ● Locate the number on the inner dial. You will also see the directions North, South, East, and West. Congratulations, you found your bearings!

    ● Pretend your compass is a cool space laser and say “Zzzap!” as you pretend to fire away at your landmark….OK that last part isn’t necessary, but might be fun!

    Fun Fact

    The lensatic compass is very versatile. You can also use it as you would a standard compass by pulling back the lid and magnifying glass to fully show directions North, South, East, and West. Hold your elbows tight against your body and the compass near your waist to get your bearings and find out which direction you are facing!

    How to use a compass

    “There’s an app for that”

    True, but learning how to read a compass can come in handy.

    Do you have a phone or tablet? Look down and check the battery life. How about the WiFi and cellular service? Remember, batteries lose their charge and service can be unreliable in some areas.

    Learn this skill in familiar territory like your backyard or a local park.

    That way, if you need to use it in unfamiliar territory, you will be ready.

    Can you com-pass this text? Give it a try!

    Now that you know how to use the compass, let’s put your knowledge to the test! Head into your yard or an outdoors area to begin. Ready? Set? Go!

    Locate North. What do you see? _______________

    Rotate to the East. What do you see? _______________

    Now West. What do you see? _______________

    Find South. What do you see? _______________

    Great job so far! Let’s make things a little more challenging by incorporating the degrees.

    Locate 340 degrees Northwest. What do you see? _______________

    Now turn to 120 degrees Southeast. What do you see? _______________

    You are now part of a group of navigators that goes back hundreds of years. Research dates the use of the magnetized mineral lodestone as a compass all the way back to the year 1,000. Ancient Chinese explorers learned that they could float the stone on a small piece of wood in a cup of water and the stone would always point to the north pole. Sailors later discovered that rubbing a needle against a piece of lodestone made the needle magnetic and the evolution of the modern compass began, along with superstitions. Prior to the scientific explanation, sailors thought the compass was a magical object that could tell fortunes and cure illness. They also thought that onions and garlic could block the magnetic force, so those ingredients never boarded their ships.

    Luckily, we know that compasses today are useful tools that help us find our bearings – no magic required. Congratulations on joining the club of compass navigators!

    How to use a compassThe ancient Chinese are believed to have created the first compass. This version was used on a ship around 1760.

    Blog post by Eddie Phillips. Graphics by Megan Jones.

    Good compasses have a fluid-filled housing; the fluid dampens the motion of the needle, so that you can use the compass without holding it perfectly still. Avoid inexpensive compasses that do not have fluid-filled housings. The compass needle is painted in two colors. Assuming that the compass is held flat, the red end points to north, and the white end to south. An interesting detail is that there are northern- and southern-hemisphere compasses. This has to do with the fact that the magnetic field lines, to which a compass needle aligns, point into the earth at the north and south magnetic poles. In the northern hemisphere the north end of the needle is pulled downwards, and the south end is counterweighted to balance the needle. When you use a northern hemisphere compass in, say, Australia, the south end of the magnet is pulled downwards by the magnetic field, and is also heavier than the north end – resulting in a needle that catches and drags on the bottom of the compass housing when the compass is held horizontal.
    A good compass will last a long time. However, some things can go wrong with a compass: the plastic components can break, or the housing can develop a leak. Over time, the fluid within the housing may turn an opaque blue-green. And, very rarely, the magnetization of the compass needle may reverse, so that the south end now points to north.

    There are two main types of orienteering compasses:

    The baseplate or protractor compass

    This type of compass was invented by the Kjellstrom brothers during the World War II era and consists of a rectangular baseplate, which is marked with a red arrow pointing along the long axis, and a rotating compass housing marked in degrees (360 degrees for the full circle in most of the world, but 400 on some European compasses). Marked on the floor of the rotating compass housing are an arrow and a set of lines parallel to that arrow. Additional features may include a lanyard for attaching the compass to the wrist, scale bars for measuring map distances along one or more edges of the baseplate, a magnifying glass for reading fine map detail, and templates of a circle and triangle for marking orienteering courses on the map.

    The thumb compass

    In the mid 1980s, a top Swedish orienteer developed an alternative to the baseplate compass by reshaping the baseplate and adding a strap for attaching the compass to his thumb. This compass is then placed on the thumb of the left hand, which holds it on the map. The advantage of this system is that the map and compass are always read as a unit, the map is aligned more easily and quickly, plus one hand is left free; the disadvantage is that running very accurately on a bearing is more difficult. Personal preference usually determines the type of compass that is used; world championships have been won using both types.

    Using either type of compass, there are two basic skills an orienteer needs: orienting the map taking a bearing.

    Using a compass for orienting the map

    Taking a bearing

    How important is the compass?

    The compass is the only legal navigational aid that can be used in orienteering. Altimeters are specifically prohibited and GPS units are implicitly prohibited by the rules. It has been stated that GPS units could be very useful and helpful aids, but when the question of how an everyday orienteer would use a GPS unit to defeat the reigning US champion in a race was raised, the only valid reply was: “I would wait at the first control for him, use the GPS unit to knock him out, and then proceed on to victory”. Technology, however powerful, is no match for basic navigational ability – even in the hands of a good orienteer who is also a technological wizard. Beginning orienteers should learn basic compass skills and work on mastering map reading.

    Good compasses have a fluid-filled housing; the fluid dampens the motion of the needle, so that you can use the compass without holding it perfectly still. Avoid inexpensive compasses that do not have fluid-filled housings. The compass needle is painted in two colors. Assuming that the compass is held flat, the red end points to north, and the white end to south. An interesting detail is that there are northern- and southern-hemisphere compasses. This has to do with the fact that the magnetic field lines, to which a compass needle aligns, point into the earth at the north and south magnetic poles. In the northern hemisphere the north end of the needle is pulled downwards, and the south end is counterweighted to balance the needle. When you use a northern hemisphere compass in, say, Australia, the south end of the magnet is pulled downwards by the magnetic field, and is also heavier than the north end – resulting in a needle that catches and drags on the bottom of the compass housing when the compass is held horizontal.
    A good compass will last a long time. However, some things can go wrong with a compass: the plastic components can break, or the housing can develop a leak. Over time, the fluid within the housing may turn an opaque blue-green. And, very rarely, the magnetization of the compass needle may reverse, so that the south end now points to north.

    There are two main types of orienteering compasses:

    The baseplate or protractor compass

    This type of compass was invented by the Kjellstrom brothers during the World War II era and consists of a rectangular baseplate, which is marked with a red arrow pointing along the long axis, and a rotating compass housing marked in degrees (360 degrees for the full circle in most of the world, but 400 on some European compasses). Marked on the floor of the rotating compass housing are an arrow and a set of lines parallel to that arrow. Additional features may include a lanyard for attaching the compass to the wrist, scale bars for measuring map distances along one or more edges of the baseplate, a magnifying glass for reading fine map detail, and templates of a circle and triangle for marking orienteering courses on the map.

    The thumb compass

    In the mid 1980s, a top Swedish orienteer developed an alternative to the baseplate compass by reshaping the baseplate and adding a strap for attaching the compass to his thumb. This compass is then placed on the thumb of the left hand, which holds it on the map. The advantage of this system is that the map and compass are always read as a unit, the map is aligned more easily and quickly, plus one hand is left free; the disadvantage is that running very accurately on a bearing is more difficult. Personal preference usually determines the type of compass that is used; world championships have been won using both types.

    Using either type of compass, there are two basic skills an orienteer needs: orienting the map taking a bearing.

    Using a compass for orienting the map

    Taking a bearing

    How important is the compass?

    The compass is the only legal navigational aid that can be used in orienteering. Altimeters are specifically prohibited and GPS units are implicitly prohibited by the rules. It has been stated that GPS units could be very useful and helpful aids, but when the question of how an everyday orienteer would use a GPS unit to defeat the reigning US champion in a race was raised, the only valid reply was: “I would wait at the first control for him, use the GPS unit to knock him out, and then proceed on to victory”. Technology, however powerful, is no match for basic navigational ability – even in the hands of a good orienteer who is also a technological wizard. Beginning orienteers should learn basic compass skills and work on mastering map reading.

    How to use a compass

    Whether you are stranded on an island or lost on the road, a compass is an old-fashioned way to locate your position and find direction towards a destination. An interesting example of the use of a compass is Robert Peary. He made it to the North Pole using a compass. In this article, we will guide you through the process of using a compass without a map. If modern-day technology fails and you only have a compass to guide you, then you will surely be less stressed and more thrilled about the adventure!

    What Is a Compass?

    How to use a compass

    A compass is a small device that people use to find directions. A magnetic compass has a needle that attracts other magnets following the basic principles of magnetism. Every magnet has two poles; a south and a north pole. The north pole of one magnet is attracted to the south pole of another magnet.

    Types of Compasses

    There are two main types of compasses available:

    1. The Gyro Compass having a rapidly spinning wheel
    2. The Magnetic Compass having a magnetic needle
    3. With a jiggling needle and a mostly plastic exterior
    4. A liquid-filled compass with a stable needle

    Components of a Compass

    A compass has three main parts:

    • A magnetic needle
    • A dial with printed directions
    • A casing to secure all the parts

    How Does a Magnetic Compass Work?

    For the sake of simplicity, let’s stick to the magnetic compass for this article. Our planet Earth has a magnetic field and has two magnetic poles like any other magnet. The compass has a needle, and the north pole of that magnetic needle is attracted to the south pole of the Earth, and the south pole of the compass is attracted to the north pole of Earth. Pointing towards the North Pole, the compass helps us find directions as we can then determine other directions with the help of the Earth’s North Pole.

    Earth’s Shifting Poles

    The working of a compass seems simple, but it is not quite the case. You see, the Earth’s true North Pole (magnetically) is actually Earth’s South Pole (Geographically). And even that’s not it! The Earth’s magnetic poles are shifting, changing locations slightly each year. The last century has seen a shift of 620 miles in the North Pole. This shows how dynamic our planet is. Currently, the geographic North Pole or the magnetic South Pole is shifting towards Russia.

    Using a Compass for Navigation

    For navigation, a stable needle is essential. We recommend using a liquid-filled one, but if you don’t have one and don’t even have a map, then even a simple one will work. It is important to know the declination of your area, which is the angle between the true north and the north on your compass. With a compass, you should know your final destination and how far away it is, so if you wish to come back, you can easily do that.

    Below are the steps to take to navigate using a simple compass.

    1. Finding directions: If you have a single needle, then it would point towards the north, and if you have a double-ended needle, then the red end points towards the North Pole of the Earth.
    2. Moving towards a destination: If you have a place to go to, which is on the south-west, then with the compass pointing north, you should have the south-west on your right side.
    3. Considering the declination: With a declination of 12 degrees, if you are in Sydney, Australia, the needle should point closer to your neck than pointing to the tip of your right shoulder.
    4. Walking mindfully: Keep walking in the direction you want to reach but keep checking for any possible deviations that might drive you off course.

    Pacing and Timing Your Way

    If you wish to keep track of the time and pace of your journey, then pacing and timing are important. Pacing is mainly calculating your steps and making a mental distance map with the help of each step you take. For example, if you can take 30 paces twice, that will be equal to 50 meters distance. That way, you know how far you have come. An average person walks 65 double paces for every 100 meters. But considering your pace, you need to know how much you can walk for how long and how far.

    With timing, you calculate the time to cover a fixed distance. An average person can travel 4km in an hour, thus taking ½ a minute to complete a 100-meter distance, which is 65 paces. Again it depends on the area and your health, age, and other conditions. Making your own guides for timing and pacing is important when you set out to travel. Both pacing and timing with the help of a compass can help you reach your goal, and a personal guide for pacing helps avoid deviations.

    Conclusion

    In the modern era, everything helps to provide ease and convenience to man. With GPS (Geographic Positioning System) on our cell phones, we can easily locate places. However, many areas in the world don’t have internet access, and many remote locations don’t even offer cellphone signals; thus, it is very important to know how to use a compass.

    If you are lost in a forest, desert, or any other area, then instead of waiting for help, it is vital you know how to survive on your own. Using a compass isn’t very easy, and it requires practice. However, it is sure to work as long as the Earth has its magnetic field.

    It is important to note that experience and practice are crucial for navigation, and going out for travel without any back up just with a compass is a poor choice. Thus, if you have confidence and have all the plans laid out in case things go wrong, then only should you consider entering the wilderness untrained.