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“If you do not want to get lost, stay found”

“If you do not want to get lost, stay found”




The world we live in is a very organised and simple place to know and find our way around. We easily move from one place to another using the pre paved routes provided for us by others. This builds confidence in a system laid out for us. The routes paved with signs and markers that clearly state our location and which direction we need to travel to arrive at our destination. We have Global Positioning Systems (GPS) in our cars, on our telephones, and watches. We can , using Satellites that circle the world 24/7, find where we are located anywhere on earth.


But it wasn’t always like this. There was a time when we had to use a map and a compass to find our location. And before any of that was developed, we made our own maps, and used the position of the Sun, and the Stars to find where we were on Earth. We as a people have come a very long way. Navigation has been lost to many. Without today’s technology, many people couldn’t tell you anything more about where they are, then what they can see around them.


Navigation is more than looking at a map and compass, it’s about understanding and being able to read the landscape, to tell direction from visible landmarks. Look at a map and visualize how the map will appear in real life. Visualize the land and picture it shown on the map. Being able to picture the route you will take across the actual land surface with it’s geographical features, and using those features as points of reference to help guide you to your destination.


With practice reading a map and reading the lay of the land will become second nature. As time goes by,  you will be able to always know roughly, where you are on the map, in conjunction with the land you are travelling through. Understanding the features on the map, always knowing where North is to where you are, and using the geographical features around you to help you know your position.  You can’t walk around with only your eyes on the map. You have to lift your head and read the lay of the land.


Always remember, “If you do not want to get lost, Stay found.” That means, always know where you are.


The Compass.


Using a compass isn’t difficult. Just understand a few rules. If you hold your compass level. The red nettle will always point north.


Understanding how a compass works is the easy part. But it’s important to have confidence in the compass you are using. With confidence, your compass can guide you anywhere you wish to go. And in any direction.




How it works

A compass points north because all magnets have two poles , a north pole and a south pole, and the north pole of one magnet is attracted to the south pole of another magnet. (You may have seen this while in Science Class in school.)

The Earth is a magnet that can interact with other magnets in this way, so the north end of a compass magnet is drawn to align with the Earth's magnetic field. Because the Earth's magnetic North Pole attracts the "north" ends of other magnets, it is technically the "South Pole" of our planet's magnetic field.


True north

While a compass is a great tool for navigation, it doesn't always point exactly north. This is because the Earth's magnetic North Pole is not the same as "true north," or the Earth's geographic North Pole. The magnetic North Pole lies about 1,000 miles south of true north, in Canada.

And making things even more difficult for the compass-wielding navigator, the magnetic North Pole isn't even a stationary point. As the Earth's magnetic field changes, the magnetic North Pole moves. Over the last century, it has shifted more than 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) toward Siberia, according to scientists at Oregon State University.

This difference between true north and the north heading on a compass is an angle called declination. Declination varies from place to place because the Earth's magnetic field is not uniform it dips and undulates.

These local disturbances in the field can cause a compass needle to point away from both the geographic North Pole and the magnetic North Pole. According to the United States Geological Survey, at very high latitudes, a compass needle can even point south.

By using charts of declination or local calibrations, compass users can compensate for these differences and point themselves in the right direction.


There are many compasses out there on the market. My suggestion would to be to buy a compass from a reputable brand. And find a compass with a Mirror on it.





Cammenga (Military.Grade)



Of course there are other brands, but these are the better if not the best quality brands. Last thing you want to happen is discover that your saving money on your purchase has presented you with a broken or unusable compass. A good compass will cost you between 60.- to 100.- chf.



How to use a Compass.




Understand the basic layout of the compass. Although compass designs are different, all compasses have a needle that is magnetized and orients itself to the magnetic north of the Earth. The basic field compass or  baseplate compass, has the following simple components you should know and understand:

  • The baseplateis the clear, plastic plate on which the compass is mounted on.
  • The direction of travel arrow(Orienting Arrow) is the arrow in the baseplate pointing away from the compass.
  • The compass housingis the clear, plastic circle that houses the magnetized compass needle.
  • The degree dialor bezel is the turnable dial surrounding the compass housing that displays all 360 degrees of the circle.
  • The magnetic needleis the spinning needle within the compass housing.
  • The orienting arrowis the non-magnetic arrow within the compass housing.
  • The orienting linesare the lines within the compass housing that run parallel to the orienting arrow.



Hold the compass correctly. Hold the compass flat on your palm and your palm in front of your chest with your finger pointing in the direction of travel. This is the proper compass stance, when traveling.  If you're consulting a map, place the map on a flat surface and place the compass on the map orientating the compass with the horizonal lines to get a more accurate reading.



Determine  where you're facing. Orientate yourself in any direction , it's good to find out which direction you're currently facing or traveling. Look at the magnetic needle. By spinning your body it should turn off to one side or another, unless you're facing North.

  • Turn the degree dial or bezel until the orienting arrow lines up with the magnetic arrow, pointing them both North, and then find the general direction you're facing by looking at the direction of travel arrow. If the direction of travel arrow is now between the N and the E, say, you're facing Northeast.
  • Find where the direction of travel arrow intersects with the degree dial or bezel. To take a more accurate reading, look closely at the degree markers on the compass. If it points at 23, you're facing 23 degrees Northeast.



Understand the difference between "true" North and "magnetic" North and Grid North. Although you may not understand the difference between True and Magnetic North. You can learn quickly, and find it's an important part to learn to use a compass properly.

  • True North refers to the point at which all longitudinal lines meet on the map, at the North Pole. All maps are laid out the same, with True North at the top of the map. Do to slight variations in the magnetic field, your compass won't point to True North, it'll point to Magnetic North.
  • Magnetic Northrefers to the tilt of the magnetic field, about eleven degrees from the tilt of the Earth's axis, making the difference between True North and Magnetic North different by as many as 20 degrees in some places. Depending where you are on the surface of the Earth, you'll have to account for the Magnetic shift to get an accurate reading.


Grid North is the north that mapmakers put on a map, dependent of the map projection used. It is shown in the marginal information by the letters GN or an arrow on a vertical line.

  • While the difference may seem small, traveling just one degree off for the distance of a kilometer will have you about 30.5 meters off track. Now imagine travelling 100 kms and the difference you’d be by such an error.



Learn to correct for declination. Declination refers to the amount by which North on your map and North on your compass differ at any given point, given the Earth's magnetic field. To make using the compass much easier, you can correct for declination by either adding or subtracting the declination amount from your bearing in degrees, depending on whether you're taking a bearing from a map or from your compass, and whether or not you're in an area with East declination or West declination.


Example. In Switzerland, the change of declination is zero (0). This means that not change in declination is needed. But in another location or country, you will need to refer to a topographic map, or go on-line to find that location’s declination before starting out on your journey.




Using your compass.


Finding your bearings to determine which direction you want to travel. When you're hiking around in the woods or in the field, it's good to do a check of your bearings to make sure you're going in the direction you want to travel. To do this, hold your compass in front of you, turn your body until the direction of travel arrow is pointing in the direction you are traveling and will continue traveling. Unless you’re heading north, the magnetic needle will spin off to one side.

  • Turn the bezel until the orienting arrow lines up with the north end of the magnetic needle. After they are aligned, you will have your direction of travel and the arrow is pointing.
  • Then add or subtract the declination. Realign the arrows and now you have your corrected direction.


To continue moving in this direction.  Continue holding the compass in front of you and maintain the direction you want to travel. Check your bearings from time to time to insure you are heading in the correct direction.




Find a fixed point in the distance.
 Another trick you can do is focus on a point in the distance that aligns with your azimuth or bearing. Example. A large tree, or mountain. At night don’t use lights or stars. Those can move with the rotation of the earth or be a moving vehicle.

  • IF you can’t see that well or in low visibility. Have a friend with you to move ahead, and using hand or voice signals have them move to align with your direction of travel and stand fixed until you arrive to them.



Transferring Magnetic Direction to Grid or onto your map. Lay your map on a flat surface, then place the compass on the map so that it is oriented  to true north on the map. If you know your current position on the map, place the compass edge through your current position, but its orienting arrow continues to point north.

  • You can then using a pencil draw a line along the compass edge and through your current position. This will give to a quick reference on your map that you can use to follow in the direction of travel.




How to find the azimuth from your map.
 Lay your map on a flat surface, then orientating your compass on the map using the horizonal lines rotate your map north.

  • Insure that the compasses arrow is pointing north. By spinning the dial.
  • Once you have gotten the map orientated, you can then add or subtract for declination.



Once you have this information, you can realign your body using the compass in the direction you want too travel.




Finding where you are when you are lost. (Unfound)




Choose three fixed landmarks that you can both see and find on your map. One of the most difficult and advanced things you can do with a compass, but one of the most important, is finding out where you are when you don't know your exact location on the map. By locating distinctive landmarks you can see on your map, ideally as widely spread around your field of view as possible, you can get yourself re-oriented.



Aim the direction of travel arrow at the first landmark. Unless the landmark is north of you, the magnetic needle will spin off to one side. Twist the degree dial until the orienting arrow lines up with the north end of the magnetic needle. Once they are aligned, this will tell you where your direction of travel arrow is pointing. Correct for declination, depending on your area.




Transfer the azimuth of the landmark onto your map. Lay your map on a flat surface and then orientate your map to north. Then, move your compass around so that its edge passes through the landmark on the map, while the orienting arrow continues to point north. Using a pencil you can draw a line through the edge of your compass edge.



To triangulate your position. Draw a line along the compass' edge and through your approximate position. This is the first of three lines you will draw to find your position by forming a triangle with the other two landmarks.

  • Repeat this process for the other two landmarks. When you’re done, you will have three lines that form a triangle on your map. Your position is inside this triangle, the size of which depends on the accuracy of your bearings. More accurate bearings reduce the size of the triangle and, with lots of practice, you may get the lines to intersect at one point.


Map Reading Basics


Maps are a two-dimensional representation of a three-dimensional world shrunk down to a size you can carry in your pocket. With practice, you will be able to visualize the terrain by examining a map. It won’t show you how rough a trail is but you will get an idea of the peaks and valleys, elevation, and general layout.




Orientate your Map



The top of the map is north. From there moving clockwise the right side is east, the bottom south, and the left is west. The parallel vertical lines on the map are there for you to line up your compass to orient everything in the right direction.



Terrain Features


Contour Lines. Since a map is only two-dimensional, contour lines are used to show changes in elevation. The space between two lines represents a grade. The closer the lines are together the steep the slope.

There are 7 major Terrain features found on all Topographic Maps.


Hill: is a point or small area of high ground. When you are on a hilltop, the ground slopes down in all directions.

Ridgelines: A line of high ground with height variations along it’s crest. The ridge is not simply a line of hills; all points of the ridge crest are higher than the ground on both sides of the ridge.

Saddles: A dip or low point along the crest of a ridge. A saddle is not necessarily the lower ground between two hilltops; it may be a break along an otherwise level ridge crest.

Spurs: is a usually short, continuously sloping line of higher ground, normally jutting out from the side of a ridge. A spur is often formed by two thoroughly parallel streams cutting draws down the side of a ridge.


Draw: is similar to a valley, except that it normally is a less developed stream course in which there is generally no level ground and, therefore, little or no maneuver room. The ground slopes upward on each side and toward the head of the draw.


Cliff:  Is a vertical or near-vertical slope. A cliff may be shown on a map by contour lines being close together, touching, or by a ticked "carrying" contour line. The ticks always point toward lower ground.


Depression: Is a low point or hole in the ground, surrounded on all sides by higher ground.

Valley: Is reasonably level ground bordered on the sides by higher ground. A valley may or may not contain a stream course. Contour lines indicating a valley are U-shaped and tend to parallel a stream before crossing it.

Water (water is always a Blue line or object. These should be considered danger zones)

Note: But often enough these are manly taught for military use. I suggest learning them.



Using your fists together, this technique can help in remembering the terrain features found on a topographic map.

These major along with minor features can be found on the Map Sheet in the Key.

Along with the Features there is other information usually found on Topographic maps.

                  Declination. This is the difference between the Magnetic North and True North.

Map Sheet name. Usually found at the top of the map sheet. This also varies from Country to Country.

Scale of the Map Sheet. This can also vary, but is very important. Maps can vary in scale from 1:100,000 scale, 1:50,000 scale, 1:25,000 scale down to 1:10,000 scale. The smaller the number the larger the scale. Most often you will find and use 1:25,000 scale maps.

Dangerous our forbidden areas. Usually marked on military maps. It’s very important where you can and shouldn’t travel through.

The Date of the Map. This is very important. Due to the fact that maps should be updated yearly. And often objects, roads, buildings and other structures change.

Map Colors


A topographic map uses certain colors to help tell you what a graphic or symbol is. The colors on a topo map are:

Black - on a map is the work of humans: buildings, railroads, bridges, boundaries, names … Blue - always means water: lakes, ponds, rivers, streams, water well, marshes …

Brown - symbols are used for relief features - contour lines and elevation …

Green - indicates forest, woodlands, orchards, and other areas of heavy vegetation.

Red - is used for larger, more important roads and surveying lines.

Purple - is for overprinting: Revisions added from aerial photographs but not yet field-      checked, or planned additions.

White - is mostly clear of trees: fields, meadows, rocky slopes, and other open country.



Grid Coordinates.


Grid lines are a series of straight lines intersecting at right angles forming squares on a topographic map. Horizontal grid lines are numbered west to east. Vertical lines are numbered south to north. The basic rule about reading grid coordinates is to read right on the vertical grid lines, then up on the horizontal grid lines, or “Read Right then Up”


The map has vertical lines (top to bottom) and horizontal lines (left to right). These lines form small squares 1,000 meters on each side called grid squares. The lines that form grid squares are numbered along the outside edge of the map picture. No two grid squares have the same number. A grid square’s coordinates are found by combining the identities of the horizontal and vertical grid lines that intersect at the lower left hand corner of the grid. Your address is grid square 601 180. How do you know this? Start from the left and read right until you come to 601, the first half of your address. Then read up to 180, the other half. Your address is somewhere in grid square 601 180. Grid square 601 180 gives your general neighborhood, but there is a lot of ground inside that grid square. To make your address more accurate, just add another 3 more numbers to the first half and another number to the second half - so your address has 12 numbers instead of six. To get those extra numbers, pretend that each grid square has ten lines inside it running north and south, and another 10 running east and west. This makes 100 smaller squares. You can estimate where these imaginary lines are. Suppose you are halfway between grid line 601 and grid line 602. Then the next number is 500 and the first half of your address is 601 500. Now suppose you are also 3/10 of the way between grid line 180 and grid line 181. Then the second half of your address is 181 300. Your address is 601 500 180 300. The most accurate way to determine the coordinates of a point on a map is to use a coordinate scale. You do not have to use imaginary lines; you can find the exact coordinates using a Coordinate Scale and Protractor.





To find the grid coordinate of a point: *Determine the scale of your map. (1:25,000) Find the correct scale to use on your protractor. *Determine the grid square the point is in. This gives 6 digits: 601 180601. *Next, using the correct scale on your protractor, align the bottom right corner of the protractor scale to the bottom right corner of the grid square. ▪ Slide the protractor to the left until the line forming the right edge of the scale intersects the point. ▪ Read off the horizontal and vertical position:  (601 500 180 300)


Note: In some countries, you will have to add the Map Sheet name. But here in Switzerland this isn’t needed as this information in found in the Grid Square.


The Protractor. There are several types of protractors – circular, half-circle, square, and rectangular. All have a scale around the outer edge and an index mark in the middle. On military protractors, you read the inner of the two scales because it is broken into degrees from 0 to 360. Each tick mark on the degree scale represents one degree. You have several coordinate scales for measuring grid coordinates, one for each of the most common map scales you might use. Index – where the N/S and E/W lines cross in the middle. It’s the central point from which you measure an azimuth. 360 Degrees - usually the inner of two types of direction marks



Angle of Declination:


If you’re going to use a map and compass together, you must know how to make the information compatible. The map shows Grid North. The compass shows Magnetic North. The Declination Diagram on the marginal information shows the relationship between the three norths, and how to determine the G-M Angle. The Declination Diagram: • Shows the 3 norths • Tells you the G-M Angle (21° in this case) • Tells you how to convert: East G-M Angle: *Magnetic to Grid – ADD  *Grid to Magnetic – SUBTRACT West G-M Angle: * Magnetic to Grid – SUBTRACT * Grid to Magnetic – ADD


This example is an EAST G-M Angle (the Magnetic North is east of Grid North)




Why does every map need a declination diagram? Because different parts of the globe have different declinations (and they also change over time). For example, the declination varies from 16 degrees west in Maine, to 6 in Florida, to 0 degrees in Louisiana, to 4 degrees east in Texas. Without knowing the G-M Angle, you can’t really use a map and compass together. If Magnetic North (MN) is West of Grid North (GN), you subtract when going from magnetic to grid. If MN is East of GN, you add when going from magnetic to grid. And going from grid to magnetic you do the opposite!


Navigation at Night:


Man has used the stars to navigate since the beginning of time. We can also use a few simple methods to also find where we want to go by using the stars at night. Now the first this to do is find the North Star or Polaris. It’s the only star in the Sky at night that remains in it’s position. Remember this. Every other object in the night sky moves. So be very careful when navigating at night. Following the wrong star can get you far off track.

Normally we don’t travel in the back country at night. Normally we settle down in camp, make a fire, eat some food, and get some rest. But if you find yourself in a survival situation and you don’t have your compass. Then knowing this simple method could save you.


Finding the North Star /Polaris


The easiest method for finding the North Star is by finding the ‘Big Dipper’, an easy to identify group of seven stars. It is known as the ‘Plough’ in the UK and the ‘saucepan’ to many others. Next you find the ‘pointer’ stars, these are the two stars that a liquid would run off if you tipped up your ‘saucepan’. The North Star will always be five times the distance between these two pointers in the direction that they point (up away from the pan). True north lies directly under this star. See the animated illustration above.


The ‘Big Dipper’ rotates anti-clockwise about the North Star, so it will sometimes appear on its side or even upside down. However its relationship with the North Star never changes and it will always dependably point the way to it.

The reason the North Star is so important for natural navigation is that it sits directly over the North Pole. Something that people often forget is that whenever you are trying to find true north, you are actually trying to find the direction of the North Pole from wherever you are – even if you are only heading a few hundred meters on a gentle walk – ‘north’ is still just an abbreviation for ‘towards the North Pole’.


Having found the North Star, there is something about its height above the horizon that is well worth knowing. Wherever you are in the northern hemisphere, the North Star will be the same angle above the horizon as your latitude. This can be measured accurately using a sextant, but an estimate can be made using an outstretched fist. We are all different shapes and sizes, but we share proportions. An outstretched fist makes an angle of close to 10 degrees for most people. In an under a minute and with just your bare hands you can now find north and estimate your latitude.

Orion’s Belt

The constellation, Orion, rises in the east and sets in the west. Orion’s belt, the only three bright stars that form a short straight line in the whole night sky rise very close to due east and set very close to due west. If you want to be really accurate then the first star in the belt to rise and set, called Mintaka, will always rise and set within one degree of true east and west wherever you are in the world.

I would suggest you study this information on an astrological Map of the Ski.

Using the Sun.

Due to our being the  Northern Hemisphere. We can always rest assure that the sun travels from East to West across the southern ski. This makes it easy to determine direction from east to west. Along with south and north. It only takes a few objects. First you will need a few sticks. Plant the first one into the ground where it is exposed to the Sun. Using a rock make the spot where the sun casts it’s shadow at the end. Wait 10-15 mins and mark where the sun’s shadow rests again with another Rock. Then using your other stick, lay the stick between the two rocks touching the ends of the stick. Now you have your east and west directions.  Either using another longer stick or by drawing a line you can lay the stick on the grown 90º of the east west lines and find North. You can continue this on the southern end if you like. Now you have a 360º compass. Using this information you can determine the direction you need to travel. Easy? In fact it is very easy. And is a known survival method. There are other methods using the sun, from the Vikings and this Water Compass. That took bearings to help them maintain an East to West bearing so they could travel the seas. You can use a similar method when in the wild. First you find north, and of you want to continue travelling North, make sure the Sun is always against your back. But check from time to time. As the Sun travels across the Sky. This works in any direction you want to travel. Just maintain the position of the sun on your body. Travelling West, keep the sun on your Left Shoulder.


Determining Time

The Shadow-Tip Method, can also be used to find the approximate time of day, as follows:

Move the stick to the intersection of the east-west line and the north-south line, and set it vertically in the ground. The west part of the line indicates 0600 hours, and the east part is 1800, ANYWHERE on earth, because the basic rule, described in 1c in “Finding Direction by Day” above always applies.

The north-south line now becomes the noon line. The shadow of the stick is an hour hand in the shadow-clock and with it you can estimate the time using the noon line and the 6 o’clock line as your guides.

Depending on your location and the season, the shadow may move either clockwise or counterclockwise, but this does not alter your manner of reading the shadow-clock.

The shadow-clock is not a timepiece in the ordinary sense. It makes every day 12 unequal “hours” long, and always reads 0600 at sunrise and 1800 at sunset. However, it does provide a satisfactory means of telling time in the absence of watches (which is the usual case with escaped prisoners of war) or properly set watches.

Being able to establish time of day is important for such purposes as keeping a rendezvous, pre-arranged concerted action by separated persons or groups, estimating the remaining duration of daylight, and so forth. Twelve o’clock shadow-clock time is always true midday, but the spacing of the other hours, compared to conventional time, varies somewhat with the locality and the date.

The watch method can be in error, especially in the lower latitudes, and may cause “circling.” To avoid this, set your watch to shadow-clock time and then use the watch method. This eliminates the 10-minute wait required to complete a shadow-tip reading for direction and thereby permits you to take as many instantaneous readings as necessary to avoid “circling.” After traveling for an hour or so, take a check shadow-clock reading and reset your watch if necessary.

The direction obtained by this modified watch method is the same as that of the regular shadow-tip method using a stick. That is, the degree of accuracy of both methods is identical.


Using Nature


Nature can tell us a lot about direction. Tress usually have more limbs on the Southern side in the Northern hemisphere . Moss grows thinker on the Northern Side of Trees. Water Runs down hill. During winter snow melt, the snow will melts faster on the southern side of a tree or large rock.



So, as you walk around in Nature, pay close attention to your surroundings. And remember.


“If you do not want to get lost, stay found”

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