Eastern Washington Orienteering Club

Using A Compass With A Map

A shortcut…

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With a little bit of practice, the method you just learned is easy and reliable. On this page I'll describe how experienced orienteers combine steps to save a few seconds every time they check their compass.

Start by folding your map down to a size you can easily manage in one hand along with your compass on top.

Line your compass edge up with the direction you want to go on the map (just like in step 1). Now turn your body till the north lines on the map are aligned with the magnetic compass needle. That's it — you and your map are facing the direction you want to travel.

Now that you know how to use a baseplate compass, click through the steps for using a thumb compass — especially if you like the shortcut you just learned on this page.

Bonus Details

  • Above, I said that this method saves you seconds every time you check your compass — but the practical application is actually that it allows you to check your compass more often without it costing you much time.
  • Another way that this shortcut saves you time is that it is one-handed, which makes running easier. Keeping your compass held tight to the part of the map you're navigating also saves you time every time you refer to it.
  • Whenever you're unsure of your location on the map it's handy to just line up map-north with magnetic north. That makes it easier to find places on the map that agree with what you see in the world around you.