Compasses are no longer used as much as there were at one point in history. Even so, they are a still a very handy tool to carry and as long as you understand how to use a compass it can be very effective when needed. A compass can allow you to work out where you are, help you navigate and also learn where you have come from through the use of back bearings.

A compass has a very simple design. It is usually a circular device which has a magnetic needle which spins around a point in the middle. The needle is made to always point North, allowing you to know what direction you are travelling in at all times.

You need a map to use bearings. You initially need to know exactly where you stand on the map and exactly where you would like to go. You can learn by getting any old map that you own.

Select two points on the map, a starting point and an ending point. You want them to be quite close together and if you plan on making a long journey its best to split each bearing into a small section. You need to put the compass on the map using the long edge to draw a line between the two locations you have chosen.

Now you need to hold the map and the compass level, it is important that you keep it as level as possible as if you don’t you could miscalculate the bearing. You can then use the maps grid squares for the next part. The compass will often have some lines drawn on it itself, these lines draw a red arrow which will usually point at the northern point of the compass. You can use these lines to line up the two points. As you turn the compass towards the second point on your map the arrow should continue to point to the top (As long as you manage to keep it in north alignment). A common problem here is that the compass is 180 degree outs, if this is so your arrow will point at the bottom of the map rather than the top.

Make sure you double check that your lines are accurate. Even if you are a degree out if you walk for a few hours you will end up quite far from your desired destination. Magnetic variation will have a slight effect on your compasses accuracy. This information is usually included on most maps however if not you will need to do some research before you start. This will give you a number of degree by which the magnetic needle of your compass will be off due to natural magnetic variation. Be sure to research this before you start moving to make sure you are completely accurate.

For example if the variation is currently 7.5 degree and you have a bearing of 80 degrees to your next location, you need to set your compass to 87.5 degrees to be accurate.

You can now put away the map, hold the compass directly in front of you and start your journey. Keep the compass as level as possible and following it directly as it states. Keep the red needle lined up with the red arrow and you will have the direction to go in to get to your destination.