For more information, click on one of the following
Why orienteering is different
Map and compass
The seven point plan
At a control
At the Start
Getting lost .... and found again
Punching at the wrong control
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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
Here's what you do.
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
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.)
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Go back to the main About Orienteering page.