Wilderness Survival Skills Training – How to Use a Compass

If you love the outdoors and love to spend time exploring the woods, then it is wise to learn some basic wilderness survival skills.  No one expects to ever be in a survival situation, but knowing how to navigate with a compass can be a real lifesaver.  A basic compass (even when used without a map) can help to guide you in the right direction and bring you home safely.

Learning to properly use a compass is easy, but as with most things, practice makes perfect.  The next time you are out hunting, hiking, or playing in the woods with friends, bring a compass and practice the navigation techniques below.  To make it as easy as possible, begin your practice in an area you are already familiar with.  Try navigating both with and without a map so you can learn both techniques.  Familiarize yourself with the parts of your compass before you head out so the directions below make sense to you. Pretty soon, you’ll be a navigational genius!

Find Your Way Without a Map

1. Select a landmark along the route you want to travel. Hold the compass level and point the Direction of Travel Arrow at the landmark.

2. Find your heading to the landmark by turning the compass dial until the “N” aligns with the red end of the Needle. Read your heading in degrees at the Index Line.

3. Keep the Needle aligned with the “N”; look up; sight on your landmark and walk to it. Repeat this procedure until you reach your destination.

Find Your Way With a Map

STEP 1.  Place your compass on the area map with the Base Plate edge connecting where you are with where you want to go.
STEP 1. Place your compass on the area map with the Base Plate edge connecting where you are with where you want to go.
2. Set the compass heading by turning the compass Dial until the “N” on your compass aligns with Magnetic North on the map.
2. Set the compass heading by turning the compass Dial until the “N” on your compass aligns with Magnetic North on the map.
3. Remove the compass from the map and hold it level in front of you with the Direction of Travel Arrow pointing straight ahead. Turn your body until the red end of the Needle is directly over the Orienting Arrow, pointing to the “N” on the dial.
3. Remove the compass from the map and hold it level in front of you with the Direction of Travel Arrow pointing straight ahead. Turn your body until the red end of the Needle is directly over the Orienting Arrow, pointing to the “N” on the dial.

That’s it! The Direction of Travel Arrow now points precisely to your destination. Look up, sight on a landmark and walk to it. Repeat this procedure until you reach your destination.

The techniques and instructions listed above are included FREE with the purchase of any Silva compass.  JM Cremps carries several different compass models, but one of our favorites is the Silva Guide 426 Model Compass.  It is durable, accurate, and is a proven favorite amongst outdoorsmen, geologists, and foresters.  It is also the perfect addition to the list of items in our original Survival Basics for your Survival Bag.

To see these techniques demonstrated and explained, check out this video:

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8 thoughts on “Wilderness Survival Skills Training – How to Use a Compass

  1. Thanks! I’ve never used a compass before, watching your video helped me to realize that it is more then just knowing where North is on a compass!

  2. Orienteering really is a lost art. Most people probably keep the compass and their bug out bag but I would wager that probably less than 1% of them actually know how to use it with a map to navigate correctly.

    If you were to ask me that same question, I’d have to raise my hand and say that I don’t really know how to use it either. I understand the basics but I don’t practice this skill near enough.

    Because of the modern convenience is that handheld GPS devices provide, I’ve become reliant on mine. This article is a good reminder that I need to practice my map reading and orienteering skills.

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