What Do All Good Orienteering Compasses Have: Expert Insight

For people that spend a lot of time on outdoor adventures, a compass is an essential tool that makes navigating a lot easier, and orienteering compasses are among the best of the bunch. Choosing an orienteering compass involves knowing what features constitute a good orienteering compass.

What Do All Good Orienteering Compasses Have? All good orienteering compasses should have features that make them easy to use with a map. For instance, a baseplate compass has scale bars to help calculate map distances.

In a paper on Orienteering by Williams College, it is mentioned that the two main types of orienteering compasses are the baseplate compass and the thumb compass. Both compasses are effective, and choices are made based on individual preference.

What Are The Different Kinds Of Compasses?

Some of the main kinds of compasses are GPS compass, Magnetic compass, Liquid-damped compass, Gyrocompass, and Card compass. Two other compass types – Baseplate and Thumb compass – are used in orienteering.

Orienteering is often the navigation of different locations using a map and compass. It’s usually referred to as the thinking sport because it requires qualitative thinking and solving to read maps correctly.

Orienteering compasses are used alongside orienteering maps to show boulders, ditches, fences, and cliffs, as well as marking elevations and vegetations.

Apart from its use as an orienteering compass, the baseplate compass is one of the most flexible types of compasses.

The baseplate compass is a liquid-filled compass that’s simple to use and features a red arrow that points along the long axis and a rotating compass that measures in degrees. It can be used for taking bearings, setting a heading, and also measuring distances.

The baseplate compass has a lot of features that make it very functional. They include a clinometer, compass needle, scales, magnifying lens, orienting lines, graduation rings, index lines, and so on.

The compass needle points upward because it aligns with the earth’s main magnetic field created by the flow of electrical currents in the earth’s core.

It’s needed to rotate in horizontal planes until it comes to rest in the plane of the magnetic meridian with the north. The baseplate compass classifies as one of the first scientific instruments to employ needles that moved over a graduated scale.

The liquid-filled capsule is filled with an anti-static liquid to improve reading, fast timing, perfect dampening, and accuracy of the needle.

Also, the baseplate compass works anywhere in the world, as long as you tilt it in the right direction and mark the required bearing carefully.

Like the baseplate compass, the thumb compass includes the needle that indicates both south and north directions. However, the thumb compass is known for its speed, whereas the baseplate is popular for taking accurate bearings in any stable setting.

When using a thumb compass, the user can place the compass on the map just once and let it find the required direction without any hassle.

Thumb compasses come in various designs for both left-handed and right-handed people. This way, it feels natural and makes reading easy when anyone holds onto the compass while in use.

A great technique applied when using the thumb compass is to thumb the map as you walk continuously. That is, moving your thumb along the map of your location for faster identification of where you are on the map and preventing missing checkpoints.

Why Compass Is Important In Orienteering

The use of a compass in orienteering is extremely important because it helps in navigating areas, making it easy to take bearings and travel a course with minimal difficulty.

There are a lot of reasons why the orienteering compass continues to scale higher and is always in high demand. A compass is deemed important for survival because it helps to determine users’ route to their destination and helps to find bearings from north to notable landmarks.

For hikers and explorers, the orienteering compass helps to orient the map in order to identify various land features and locate necessary positions.

Furthermore, the orienteering compass is not limited to land alone. It also helps sailors to steer their ships on a fixed course to prevent them from going off course or having major blocks on the sea.

The orienteering compass works easily with maps to simply navigate ways and directions when needed.

Orienteering compasses earlier originated in the late 1800s in Sweden for training members of the military. It has now become a piece of needed equipment for traveling and navigational competitions.

Using orienteering as a sport in navigation allows participants to use their maps and compasses to find specific checkpoints, usually placed in unfamiliar terrains.

This outdoor activity encourages strategizing and creates a solitary experience for participants.

The compass is relatively a low-cost investment, as it only costs you the amount spent for purchase. The compass requires no form of battery usage and can be easily carried around during movement.

The orienteering compass diverts people from the use of GPS units and cell phones equipped to help people find their way. It creates a dynamic needed to open people to new adventures and also helps when these gadgets can’t be used.

Using a compass also provides people with valuable skills, as it is a practical way to have fun while learning outdoor navigation.

Orienteering is also said to play a solid part in building high self-esteem. This is because it helps to build the courage needed to forge through unfamiliar locations when exploring.

How Do You Read An Orienteering Compass?

To read an orienteering compass, you need to hold your map in a horizontal position, place the compass on the map, and align the compass needle with the North line on the map.

The orienteering compass is regarded as an essential tool needed for survival in unknown locations. However, how does one use an orienteering compass to take accurate readings?

Using an orienteering compass requires understanding certain basic principles. This includes knowing that a compass needle should always be fixated to the magnetic North and a circle that completely reads through 360 degrees is used to determine the directions.

When orienteering, there are two basic skills an orienteer needs;

●        To orient the map and

●        To take necessary bearings

Orienting the map is usually the most important use of the orienteering compass.

Before marking the necessary positions, you need to orient your map with your surroundings and landscape.

Here’s a detailed guide to orienting a compass and correctly taking bearings;

  • Set your compass declination.
  • Place your compass on a flat surface.
  • Locate a landmark on your map.
  • Turn the degree dial until the orienting arrow lines up with the magnetic arrow in your compass.
  • Find the direction of your orienting arrow and where it intersects with your degree dial, and read your measurements.

You must know that reading compass directly under power lines or any metallic item would influence the magnetic reading and falter the reading. Therefore, aim to read your compass without any altercation.

Once you’re done reading, you’d need to use your compass with a map to correctly get your present location.

To do this, read the following steps;

  • Place the map on a flat level surface
  • Place your compass flat on your starting position already noted on the map
  • Rotate the compass case until the orientation lines align with your map grid lines
  • Hold both your map and compass steady and rotate until the compass needle is steady with the arrow of the base of the compass

Now, you’re good to go.

How Do You Know If Your Orienteering Compass Is Working?

You can check if your orienteering compass is working by ensuring that the magnetic needle is not too stiff or too loose. The needle must also always point towards the north magnetic pole.

When opting for compasses, there are many characteristics to look out for to ensure effective use of the orienteering compass.

For the greatest accuracy and precision, observe the stability of the compass needle. Firstly, it is extremely normal for a compass needle to dip slightly. This is a result of the magnetic inclination as an unbalanced needle should only be perfectly leveled only near the magnetic equator.

The orienteering compass should also have a bezel – commonly referred to as a twisting compass dial that’s firm but won’t intentionally twist on its own.

The fineness of the compass dial markings should have its ten-degree markings and should be as clear as possible.

To test your compass accuracy, ensure you stay away from magnetic objects and keep your compass away from obstacles that might cause it to fall and deviate.

If you’re wondering whether or not to choose a needle or dial compass because of its accuracy, there are certain things you should know.

First, reading a bearing from a dial compass is much easier than using a needle. However, most dial compasses do not have bezels with north indicators. Thus making needle compasses popular in orienteering as they’re able to measure map angles and all other bearings required.

Do Compasses Need To Be Calibrated?

Yes, sometimes, compasses need to be calibrated because of sources of error that might develop. Calibration helps to ensure the accuracy of the compass when taking required measurements.

Calibration is the process of configuring instruments to provide the required result of an acceptable range. It helps to eliminate or minimize factors that cause errors in your compass and that could affect the instrument reading and cause inaccuracy.

Calibration is described as a primary process needed to maintain instrument accuracy. While many industries adopt the use of calibration at certain periods, it’s important to regularly calibrate the orienteering compass to aid good precision while reading.

The orienteering compass needs to be calibrated carefully before use and if used for a long period at a stretch.

To calibrate the compass, avoid tilting the compass in any direction. Rotate the device clockwise until the compass is activated.

Ensure to always recalibrate each time you notice deviations in your compass. This would result in having the best possible accuracy when taking bearings or finding locations.

Rather than recalibrate your compass regularly, you can also reset your declination on the compass.

Since the declination is dependent on your location, you must first find the declination of that area and reset your compass declination.

To reset your compass declination, turn your compass over and insert the metal key that had earlier been provided with your compass into the adjustment screw.

Rotate the key until the declination indicator of your compass is in the required number of degrees east or west that you’re going for.

Insert the metal key (provided with your compass) into the adjustment screw.

Having an adjustable compass declination saves time and makes navigation easier when looking to get the general impression of the North, South, West, and East.

This helps orienteering easier and far less prone to mental errors.

Is A Compass Useless Without A Map?

No, a compass isn’t useless without a map. However, to use any compass without a map, you must be sure of your geographical location and be familiar with the area.

It’s imperative to use a compass with maps when on tours, hikes, or competitions. However, if you’re without a map, you need to know the magnetic declination for the area you’re located as it indicates the difference between the Magnetic North and True North on your compass.

The Magnetic North is the direction that an orienteering compass points to as it aligns with the earth’s magnetic field.

The True North, on the other hand, is a fixed point on the globe that points directly towards the geographic North Pole.

The magnetic point isn’t fixed. Hence it shifts and changes over time to respond to every current location and the earth’s magnetic core.

When using a compass without a map, take note of your pace number and azimuth.

The azimuth is an imaginary line followed to find a certain direction with the use of only an orienteering compass.

Point your compass in this direction and follow the azimuth for a while.

Ensure you take note of your azimuth and reshoot these lines frequently.

This is because people vary in strides and can easily veer off their azimuth lines because of one dominant stride or the other.

Also, ensure to mark your pace counts as you move to easily calculate your direction and move freely without getting lost.

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