North Carolina Hunter Safety Course


Using a map and compass together

Having a compass on your person is utterly useless unless you understand how to use it, and using a compass takes a lot of practice. Here's how you use an orienteering compass, along with a map, to determine your bearing.

  • First, find your current location on the topographic map, and the location you want to go. Trace a straight line between these tow points.
  • Next, set your compass down on the map, with the edge of the baseplate following that line, and the direction of traven arrow pointing in the direction of your destination.
  • Rotate the bezel until the north arrow lines up with the meridians (north-to-south lines) on the map, and is pointing toward the north end of the map.
  • Though the meridians on a map line up with "true north", the direction of "magnetic north" (where your compass needle points) can be off by quite a few degrees. The legend on a map will tell you how to rotate your bezel to compensate for this. Follow these instructions and rotate the bezel accordingly.
  • Now that the declination is set on your compass, hold it level with the direction of travel arrow pointing in front of you, and turn your body until the magnetic north needle is aligned with the north arrow on your compass.
  • While keeping the north arrow and magnetic north needle lined up, move in the direction indicated by the direction of travel arrow until you reach your destination.