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Using a Western Compass

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If you do not already have a magnetic compass and need to purchase one. The best one on the market is probably a Silva, this is similar to the one illustrated here. You can get from a camping store for about GB£10.00.

Compass diagram

The first thing you will notice about a compass is that it has a free turning needle and which ever direction you turn the compass the red pointer will always find north. The compass housing is the ring marked with either numbers or N.E.S.W and sometimes the intercardinal points such as SE. NE. NW and SW. It will also have an orienting arrow. Simply turn the ring (housing) so the arrow is aligned perfectly with the pointer, this is north. Just in front of the housing at the top there is a long arrow, sometimes coloured red; this tells you that you are facing this direction; to find out which direction simply note the number or letter on top of the housing. It's as simple as that. Once you have correctly aligned the compass to north, just read off the bearing. One word of warning though, compasses are subject to magnetic fields. If you stand next to a large metal object, you may obtain a false reading, so when you take your reading make sure that there is no metal close by.

Professional Consultants and Masters use a highly accurate Chinese compass called a Luo Pan or sometimes Lo Pan. See our Luo Pan page for what one looks like.

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