Eastern Washington Orienteering Club

Using A Compass With A Map

Now, learn a shortcut …

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The process you've learned for taking a compass bearing from a map and following it is very reliable. Now that you know it though, we can move on to a shortcut that works especially well with thumb compasses.

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.

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.