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May 2013 Issue
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How to take a compass bearing

Taking a bearing on a topo map with the magnetic north lines drawn on. Photo: File

Taking a bearing with your compass is as easy done as said

The best way to use a compass is in conjunction with a map. Top navigators are rarely seen without a map and compass in hand while making their way through the terrain. Compass bearings may seem complicated but they don’t have to be pin point accurate to work, in fact you’re probably never going to be 100% accurate on a bearing anyway.

To take a bearing with a base plate compass:

  • Hold the map in front of you with the compass on top.
  • Make sure you are standing behind the compass. I like to think that there is an imaginary line coming perpendicularly from my stomach, and match this line with the centre line of the base of the compass.
  • Align the long edge of the compass between your current location and the point you want to go.
  • Turn the bezel to align it with magnetic north on the map (Magnetic north offset is found in the legend).
  • The next and most important step is to turn your entire body with the map until the magnetic north needle aligns with the north lines on the bezel.
  • Travel in the direction the base plate points to (or line coming out of your stomach!).

Tip: to avoid having to apply a magnetic offset to the grid on a topo map, you can mark up your own magnetic north lines with a marker pen for quick and easy bearings!