From our friends at Survive2balive thanks for the info GA!
Here’s a quick scenario. There is a grid-down event that has rendered your smart phone and GPS useless. The situation is deteriorating quickly and has become life-threatening. You make a decision that it is time to get out of Dodge and head to your secondary location. You have driven the route several times in the past, but the spotty intel you’re getting is advising that the main highways between home and your retreat is impassable. You grab your gear and the few paper maps you have and head out. How are you going to find your way?
As I was watching the most recent episode of Revolution I thought to myself, “How are these people navigating around?” There’s no power, but yet I have not seen anybody pull out a map and compass to find their way through wilderness and towns. This got me thinking about basic land nav. As a society we have become far too dependant on our electronic conveniences. Most families nowadays rely on GPS service to direct them to where they need to go. Unless a person has been in the military or is an experienced outdoorsman, most Americans can barely read a road map, let alone successfully navigate to a pre-determined location using a map and compass. The intent of this series of articles is to give readers a quick introduction to land navigation tools and techniques. There really is far too much involved in learning land navigation to sum it all up in one article, so hopefully, through a series of several articles, I will convey to readers enough information to spark interest that will motivate them to learn more and practice this valuable survival skill.
Check out our earlier article regarding redundancy in navigation here:
Overview of the Compass:
The compass is a tool with several different applications. The compass is a fairly simple instrument that uses a magnet mounted on a pivot that rotates directly in response to Earth’s magnetic field. The magnetic needle within the compass points to the magnetic north pole (this is different than the geographical north pole). A compass bearing refers to the horizontal direction to or from a particular point. Bearings are expressed as angles or degrees. The word bearing is used interchangeably with the word azimuth. Most service members will refer to a bearing as an azimuth.
Orienting a map
Plotting routes of travel on a map
Plotting targets or points on a map
Determining direction to a destination or geographical point
Remaining on a straight course while traveling to a destination, even when you can’t see it
Returning to a starting point
Help interpret what you are looking at on a map
Pinpoint locations on a map or in the field
Many of us in the preparedness community probably already have some type of compass in the bug out gear and hopefully within their home preps. There are a number of different types of compasses available to consumers. The important aspect of any compass is that whatever type you decide to use, make sure you fully understand how it functions and that you are comfortable in its use.
Base Plate Compass:
We have all seen the little ball compasses that are attached on D-ring clips or key chains. These are not the types of compasses I am referring to. If I am in a survival situation I do not want to have to rely on a $3.00 trinket from the local super store. The minimum I would suggest to use is a base plate
compass. Base plate compasses are ideal for beginners in the land navigation arena. The base plate compass is the type of compass used by Boy Scouts and other organizations. It consists of a rectangular base plate that has an arrow pointing along the long axis and the compass housing rotates 360 degrees. The plate normally has a magnifying glass in order to focus on details of the map and scale bars to measure distance on a map. This type of compass can keep the navigator on a general path oriented towards a desired target. The base plate compass is very common,
inexpensive, easy to use, and does not require batteries. They are available in most major stores where camping gear is sold. My opinion…buy two.
I prefer a lensatic compass for land navigation, but for the purpose of keeping things as manageable as possible, I will discuss basic navigation utilizing the base plate compass.
The Three Norths:
A lot of people don’t know this, but there are actually three different “norths” and it is important to understand this when using a compass. A navigator must be aware of these variations to take accurate bearings. If you have an adjustable compass, such as the base plate, and know the
extent to which it and your map deviates from true north, you can match them all up to take accurate bearings. The three norths are outlined below:
True north – the celestial north that is gained from accurate sun readings or from the stars.
Grid north – the north from which map grid lines are in alignment, and from which map bearings are taken.
Magnetic north –the north to which a compass points, and from which all magnetic land bearings are taken.
Here is a list of tips on how to get accurate compass readings:
When using a compass, the smallest mistake can subsequently lead to really large errors in the field. The greater distance traveled multiplies negative results exponentially. Here are some pointers that will help you become proficient in the use of the compass.
When you follow a compass course, turn your entire body with the compass held out in front of you, so that you and the directional arrow on the compass are both facing on the same bearing.
Hold the compass level and steady so the needle moves freely.
Hold the compass at waist-high, in front of you.
When taking a bearing, raise and lower your eyes. Do not move your head. Always use the same eye when doing this.
Stand and directly face the object you are measuring.
Magnetic fields can adversely affect an accurate reading. Make sure you avoid areas with large amounts of steel, vehicles, and power lines.
Always take your bearing twice!
Adjust for magnetic declination when appropriate (will discuss this in a later article)
Always follow the compass direction of travel arrow and not the compass needle.
Shoot and use back azimuths (back bearings) to ensure you are on the right track (this too will be discussed in a later
As I mentioned earlier, there truly is a lot of information to cover on the subject of land navigation. The next article in the series will cover how to use the compass with maps. If you have a compass, take it out and fiddle around with it.
Acquaint yourself to the different parts. Practice holding it and applying some of the tips listed above.
Spe Labor Levis