Compass: The Guide You Need For Outdoor Safety

With the advancement of information and technology, the use of GPS is increasingly common. They can basically tell you where you are and guide you to where you want to be, even in the woods! With technology like this, many will scoff at the idea of relying on a legit compass and map to get to where they want to be. Of course, when you just want to get around town, GPS is ideal, but what we are talking about here is when you are camping in the wilderness. Are you going to rely solely on your electrical devices? There, this has got you thinking right? Well, as GPS is powered by batteries, the power will surely exhaust eventually if not recharged. Furthermore, electrical devices might fail out of nowhere and leave you unprepared. Therefore, it is always best to have something more conventional such as a compass and a map as a backup plan in case anything goes wrong with your electrical gadgets.

In fact, compass and map are both listed as one of the ten most essential items for a camping or trip. Other than telling you where you are and how to get to where you want to go, the duo can tell you what is around you as well. The capability of using a map and a compass to navigate is also deemed important for survival, especially if you are going off-the- road, you can get lost pretty easily in dense woods. The compass will help you to position yourself in the map, and see in which direction you should go. At the end of the day, you might not use your compass most of the time if you are camping at familiar ground, but it is always best to be prepared for a rainy day.

Now you know you should get a compass, but do you know which type of compass to get? First thing first, you should get a legit compass, not the cute compass keychain or those on a wristband. Even the compass on your advance multifunction watch isn’t too promising. So do look for good quality needle-style compass with a baseplate or a lensatic liquid compass. Also look for foldable compass so that the compass itself can be protected when not in used.

Next let us look at some of the basic features a compass must have. While some compasses have more features than the others (and usually cost more), here are some fundamental features of a compass:

  • Magnetized needle: is usually in red and points to the North. The needle floats in liquid allowing it to move freely. Sometimes there might be bubbles present in the fluid, but it is harmless and won’t affect the working of the compass.
  • Rotating bezel/azimuth ring: the outermost ring of the compass that houses the needle and has a degree of 0 to 360 marked all around it. The slighter the degree of interval, the more simple it is to navigate accurately.
  • Baseplate: a flat base that the compass is mounted on, it is usually transparent. It has rulers marked on it for measuring distances on a map.
  • Orienting arrow and lines: orienting lines are vertical parallel lines marked in red on the base plate, while the orienting arrow is marked in red as well. Both of them are used for fundamental navigation.

Other than the basic features mentioned above, some compasses have more advanced features. Most of the time a basic compass will do, but take a look at the advance features below and determine whether you need them:

  • Declination adjustment: declination is the degree variance between the actual north and the magnetic north the compass needle points to. This variation is subjected to your physical location, so when you move to another region, the value changes. Thus, if you camp from region to region, a compass with adjustable declination is particularly useful. Once you are in a new region, you adjust it until the next time you are in another region.
  • Sighting mirror: is usually an extension of the baseplate and can be folded up to see the reflection of the compass. It is used to line up the locations on the map to your compass more accurately. In a case of emergency, the mirror can be used as a signaling device as well.
  • Clinometer: if you are camping on hilly grounds, a compass with clinometer will be useful. This feature enables you to assess the degree of inclination of a slope. It is also useful for assessing an object’s height.
  • Global needle: is needed if you camp at different parts of the world. This is because, there will be magnetic variances between the north half and south half of the earth. The global needle will balance up the variances and enable the compass to work precise to location.

To make your compass even better, you can look for some extra features such as magnifying lens on the baseplate to make reading the details on the map easier. Also, if you often camp in the dark, compasses with glow-in- the-dark indicators is very worthwhile as well.

After you had purchased your compass, be sure to learn how to use it before your camping trip. There are lots of articles and videos on the web that provide good guidance. Besides, in order for your compass to work accurately, make sure there are no metal objects nearby. Metal especially those that contains iron can affect the compass’ readings. Even a running car engine can generate electrical fields which can sway the readings. It is also crucial that the compass is not kept near magnets or electrical fields such as mobile phones, as eventually the magnetic field of the compass itself will diminish.