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Why orienteering is different

Map and compass

The seven point plan

At a control

Between controls

At the Start

Compass bearings

Getting lost .... and found again

Punching at the wrong control

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Compass bearings

Your compass is a key navigational aid, but people often get confused by talk about things like "a bearing of 270 degrees" and suchlike.  I'm not going to go into great complicated details about compass use.  Instead, I'm going to describe one very simple technique that is extremely useful at all levels of orienteering.

The question is this.  You know the direction that you want to go on the map.  How can you take that direction off the map and apply it on the ground?

Here's what you do.

(1) Put your compass on the map and turn it until the lines on the base-plate point in the direction that you want to go.  (Don't worry about which way the map is facing.  Just make sure that the lines on the compass base-plate are pointing in the right direction on the map.)
(2) Holding the base-plate in place, turn the compass bezel so that the lines on the bezel are lined up with the north-south lines on the map.  Make sure that the 360 degree marking on the bezel is towards the north end of the lines.
(3) Take the compass off the map.  Hold the compass so that the arrow at the top of the base-plate is pointing straight out in front of you.
(4) Keeping the compass pointing straight in front of yourself, turn yourself until the compass needle is parallel to the lines on the bezel.  Make sure that the north end of the needle is pointing at the 360 degree marking on the bezel.
(5) You are now facing in the desired direction.  You have used your compass to take a direction on the map and translate it into a direction on the ground.
That's really all that there is to it.  Honest!  You'll need to practice a bit to be able to do it quickly and accurately, but that's the basic technique.

Once you're comfortable with taking a direction off the map in this way you can use it to follow compass bearings across moors or through blocks of forest.  You still need to watch out for other features, since there will be a certain margin of error in any bearing.  Also, you have to watch out for a tendency to turn the compass rather than yourself to keep the needle lined up with the lines as you run.

Note:   The technique of using your compass to translate a direction on the map into a direction on the ground is easier to demonstrate than to describe in words.  If the description on this page isn't entirely clear then go along to an orienteering event and ask an experienced orienteer to demonstrate how to run on a compass bearing.

I'll try to get some photographs added to this page within the next couple of weeks.  That should make things a bit clearer.

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