More Skills

Compass Navigation


Name the parts of a compass

How to get a bearing on an object that you can see

Let's say that are outdoors and you see a tall tower from where you are standing. You want to know the bearing so that you can use your compass to walk towards it. How do you get the bearing?

Here are the steps to follow.

  1. Stand and turn to face the tall tower.
  2. Hold the compass flat in your hand with the direction-of-travel arrow pointing to the tall tower.
  3. Turn the compass housing until the north end of the needle (colored red) rests inside the orienting arrow. Remember, “Red Fred In The Shed”.
  4. Read the degree marking on the rotating dial that lines up with the index pointer. You now have a bearing on the tall tower.


How to follow a bearing that you are given

Let’s say we are given a bearing that says to stand at a certain spot and take 25 paces at 225 degrees.

Here are the steps to follow.

  1. Hold the compass flat in your hand.
  2. Turn the rotating dial until the 225 degree marking on the rotating dial matches up with the index pointer.
  3. Point the compass so that the direction-of-travel arrow points directly away from you.
  4. Turn your entire body until the north end of the needle (colored red) rests inside the orienting arrow. Remember, “Red Fred In The Shed”.
  5. You are now facing at 225 degrees. Take 25 paces forward and you are exactly where you want to go.


How to orient a map

Orienting a map allows you to match what you see on the map with what you see around you.

Follow these steps to orient your map.

  1. Place your compass on the map with the direction of travel arrow pointing toward the top of the map.
  2. Turn the rotating dial so that the N (or zero on some compasses) is lined up with the index pointer.
  3. Slide the entire compass so that the edge of the base plate lines up with the edge of your map.
  4. Turn the entire map, without moving the compass, so that the north end of the needle (colored red) rests inside in the orienting arrow. Remember, “Red Fred In The Shed”.


Following a general direction to get to a road, trail, stream, or river

Use this method to travel safely in unfamiliar terrain when you don't have a map. Let’s say you don't know exactly where you are but you know that there is a road, trail, stream, river or something long and big that you can't miss if you go in the right direction, and you know in what direction you must go to get there, at least approximately.

Let’s say you know that if you go northwest you will eventually get to the road, trail, stream, or river. Here are the five easy steps to follow:

  1. Identify the northwest tic mark on the compass housing. (the compass housing is the thing that turns)
  2. Rotate the compass housing so that the northwest tic mark lines up with the direction of travel arrow on the base plate.
  3. Hold the compass in your hand very flat and turn your body until the red part of the compass needle is aligned with the northwest tic mark on the compass housing.
  4. Look at where the direction of travel arrow is pointing. That’s the direction you want to walk.
  5. Aim with your eyes on some point in the distance and start walking. If walking long distances, do the aim and walk method quite frequently, say every 50-100 ft.

How to use a compass with a map

Using a compass and a map together lets you navigate safely and accurately. The best way to learn how to do this is by giving an example.

Let’s say you have a map and you know where you are on the map. We’ll call that Point A. You also know where you want to travel to. We’ll call that Point B. To travel from Point A to Point B on the map, follow these steps.

  1. Draw a line between Point A and Point B.
  2. Line up the edge of the base plate with the line you just drew. Make sure that the direction of travel arrow is pointing in the direction you will travel.
  3. Turn the compass housing so that the orienting lines are aligned with the meridian lines on the map. (Ignore what happens to the compass needle while you do this. All you’re doing here is aligning north and south on the compass housing with north and south on the map.)
  4. Carefully lift the compass off the map and hold it flat in the palm of your hand.
  5. Turn your body so that the north end of the needle (colored red) rests inside in the orienting arrow. Remember, “Red Fred In The Shed”.
  6. Look at where the direction of travel arrow is pointing. That’s the direction you want to travel.

Here is a link to a very good Boy's Life video on this: https://youtu.be/NRegjmtXq3g


How to use your compass while walking around obstacles

When you reach an obstacle while hiking with a compass, the best method for maintaining your course is to hike a rectangle around the object. Here's how to do it -

  1. Set a new bearing 90 degrees from your original heading and walk that until you have cleared the obstacle along that axis. You can chose either left or right. Just turn 90 degreesFor example, if you original bearing was 30 degrees, hike a new bearing of 120 degrees (30 + 90). While walking, maintain a count of paces.
  2. Go back onto your original bearing, parallel to your original course until you clear the obstacle along that axis.
  3. Set a bearing 90 degrees back to your original bearing. 300. and walk the same number of paces.
  4. Now turn back to your original bearing. You will be along your original line of travel.

How to measure your distance per pace

A good way to measure ground distance is by using the pace count. A pace is equal to two natural steps, but can very according to your height and stride. The idea is to know the distance of your pace so that you can accurately determine distance while walking. For example, if you walk 10 paces and know that your pace distance is 3 feet, you can safely assume that you have traveled 30 feet, or at least close to it.

This can come in handy when completing an orienteering course. To complete the course you may be provided with a series of bearings along with a distance. You can determine the direction of travel by using your compass but would have no idea how long to keep walking unless you knew your pace distance.

Here is how to calculate your pace distance.

Materials you will need:

  • Notepad
  • Pencil
  • A small calculator would help


  1. Choose a level area where you can walk straight between two markers.
  2. Measure a set distance from one marker to the other. Using a measuring tape is good for this. It doesn't matter what distance you measure out but keep in mind that the longer the distance, the more accurate your pace distance will be. A suggested distance is 50 feet.
  3. While standing at one marker, step out with your left foot then walk in a straight line toward the other marker.
  4. Each time your right foot hits the ground, count that as 1 pace. (That means you'll take two steps to count one pace).
  5. Keep counting paces until you reach the farther marker.
  6. Now, divide the distance you measured by the number of paces that you counted to come up with your pace distance. For example, if you’ve measured out 50 feet and you've taken 25 paces, your pace distance is 2 feet.

My pace distance: ______________

Tip: Remember that the longer the distance, the more accurate your pace measurement will be. If you want a much more accurate pace measurement, walk the distance two more times then add the numbers together and divide by three. That will average out some of the variances in your steps.

Now that you know your pace distance, you can estimate how far you walk. All you need to do is keep track of the number of paces that you travel and multiply that number by your calculated pace distance.


How to practice your bearing accuracy using the 3-leg compass walk

The 3-leg compass walk will help you improve your accuracy of taking bearings.

Here's how to do it.

  1. Stand in a large open area where you can walk 25 paces in any direction.
  2. Mark the location on the ground you are standing with a bright colored marker of some sort.
  3. Next, set a bearing for 0°/360° (due North) and point your body toward that direction.
  4. Hold your compass up to your line of sight in the direction your body is pointing and locate a landmark off in the distance.
  5. Follow this bearing for exactly 25 paces, always walking toward the landmark, and then stop.
  6. Now, set a bearing of 120° on your compass and find another landmark that falls along it.
  7. Travel along this 120° bearing for another 25 paces, always walking toward the landmark, and then stop again.
  8. Finally, set a bearing of 240° on your compass, sight a landmark, and follow this bearing for 25 paces.

If you've done everything correctly, you should have returned to the spot where you set the bright colored marker. The closer you are to your marker, the more accurate your navigation. Do this three times and try to become more and more proficient.

Next, increase the challenge by doubling the number of paces to 50.

Pioneering

Instructor Guide for Lashing

First Aid

American Red Cross Emergency Test (1990)

The American Red Cross Emergency Test was a TV special produced in coordination with Proctor & Gamble and aired on ABC on June 7, 1990. The format involved a 20-question interactive test that offered viewers to test their knowledge involving various accidents and emergencies. Click here for the video.

First Aid for sprained ankle

A sprained ankle is an injury that occurs when you roll, twist or turn your ankle in an awkward way. This can stretch or tear the tough bands of tissue (ligaments) that help hold your ankle bones together.Click here to watch a video that will teach you how to apply first aid for a sprained ankle.


How to tie a sling for arm or collar bone injury

The collarbone is a long, thin bone between your breastbone (sternum) and your shoulder. It is also called the clavicle. You have 2 collarbones, 1 on each side of your breastbone. They help to keep your shoulders in line. A broken collarbone is a common injury in young children and teenagers. This is because these bones DO NOT become hard until adulthood. Click here to watch a video that will teach you how to apply first aid for a sprained ankle. The most important thing to do if a collar bone injury is suspected is to immobilize your arm and shoulder with a sling. Click here and here to watch a video on how to tie a sling.


Bandaging techniques for a head injury

Head injuries can be mild or sometimes serious. Oftentimes a bandage is required. Click here for a demonstration of the correct head bandaging technique for both scalp and head wounds.