Using a Compass and Map to Take a Bearing
If you know your current location on the map and want to travel to another mapped location:
- Lay out the map on a flat surface and remove any metal objects from the area.
- Place the flat edge of the compass (the side parallel to the direction-of-travel arrow) along the line between the two points. Be sure the direction-of-travel arrow points toward your destination.
- Orient the map to north.
- Without moving the compass, rotate the azimuth ring until the orienting arrow (indicated by N) and the orienting lines point northward on the map, as indicated by the map’s north arrow or vertical lines.
- Turn the map and compass together until the magnetic needle lines up with the orienting arrow.
- Correct for east or west declination.
- Rotate the azimuth ring left or right using the direction and the number of degrees given on the map.
- Do not rotate the compass itself. It’s okay if the magnetic needle does not line up with the orienting arrow.
- Find where the degree marking around the azimuth ring lines up with the direction-of-travel arrow. That’s the bearing to your destination.
“Red Fred in the Shed”: Using a Compass
Think of the rhyme “Red Fred in the Shed” to remember how to use a compass. As you perform the steps below, remember the following.
- Move your body—not the compass.
- Think of the red magnetic needle as “red Fred.”
- Think of the orienting arrow as the “shed.”
- To use the compass to follow a specific bearing, put “red Fred in the shed.” For example, if you want to travel at a bearing of 240°, follow these steps.
- Turn the azimuth ring until the 240° mark is lined up with the direction-of-travel arrow.
- Keep the compass level as you point the direction-of-travel arrow directly away from your waist.
- Keeping the compass in the same position with your body, turn your body until the red needle lines up inside the orienting arrow (think of it as putting “red Fred in the shed”). You now are facing a bearing of 240°.
- Move in the same direction that the direction-of-travel arrow points. Be sure to keep red Fred in the shed as you go.