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A compass is a fascinating little tool that can keep people from ever getting lost, even when their phone loses a signal or their GPS device loses power. Those who want to take advantage of this helpful tool need to know how to use it. Here are some essential things to know about navigating with a compass.

Understanding How Declination Works
An important thing to remember when trying to get one’s bearings with a compass is that it points to magnetic north, not true north. There is a slight difference between these two directions due to shifting tectonic plates. Fortunately, it is easy to figure out how to read a compass while taking declination into account. Maps will usually have an angle of declination. If the angle of declination includes the direction west, subtract it from the compass. If it is east, add the number to the compass.

Learning How to Orient a Map Properly
Start by putting the compass on top of the map, with the direction-of-travel arrow pointed towards the top of the map. Then adjust the rotating bezel until the north is lined up with the direction-of-travel arrow. Finally, finish positioning the hiking compass on the map by placing the base plate of the compass to line up with the left or right edge on the map. Then hikers can rotate their body until the magnetized needle is inside the orienting arrow.

Knowing How to Find One’s Bearings With a Compass
After the map is oriented to true north, it is possible to take one’s bearings and find the right direction to hike in. All a hiker needs to do is put the corner of the compass’s baseplate on their location and rotate the compass until the straight-edge creates a line from the hiker’s current position to their destination. Then the hiker should rotate the bezel until the base plate’s and the map’s grid lines match up. Reading the number by the index line will give the person their bearing. Then they can turn their body until the north arrows on the bezel, and the needle line up. This will cause the direction of travel arrow to point in one’s intended direction.