NWP105A: Use maps, plans and drawings

Compass bearings

Compass parts

Before you start using your compass to take and follow bearings, you will need to know what the different features on the compass are. Click on the hotspots to find out more.

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Base plate: the mounting of the compass, with a ruler for measuring scale.

Travel arrow: shows the bearing you are taking. Fixed parallel to the sides of the base plate.

Compass housing: contains the magnetic needle and has points of compass printed on a circular rotating bezel.

Compass needle: floats on liquid so it can rotate freely. The red end should always point to magnetic north.

Orienting lines: fixed in the compass housing, and made to be aligned with the eastings on a map.

Orienting arrow: fixed in the compass housing, aligned to north on the housing.

Index line: fixed in outer edge of compass housing, extending the travel arrow.

Compass scale: on edge of base plate so you can measure distances on maps.

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Compass bearings

A compass with degrees marked

Compass bearings are a more accurate way of describing direction and are measured using degrees.

There are 360 degrees (°) in a circle. Beginning in the north and moving around in a clockwise direction gives you the degrees for each direction on the compass. If north is 0°, then east is 90°, south is 180° and west is 270°.


Take a bearing

Let's say you need to get from one point to another but you don't have a map. You can take a bearing using a compass to find out which direction to travel.

View the demonstration below to find out how to do this.

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  • Hold the compass flat and point the directional arrow at your destination.
  • Turn the dial so that magnetic north and north on the dial are lined up.
  • Read the bearing from the base of directional arrow.

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Follow a bearing

Sometimes you might be given a bearing to follow. When you don't have a map you can do this with a compass.

View the demonstration below to find out how to do this.

You're asked to travel at 60 degrees.

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  • Step 1: Put the compass dial to 60 degrees.
  • Step 2: Turn yourself so that the two norths line up.
  • Step 3: Look at the directional arrow to see the direction you need to go in. Choose a point in the distance that lines up with the arrow and walk towards it.

If you don't have a map, here's what to do:

  • Step 1: Turn the dial so that 60 degrees lines up with the directional arrow.
  • Step 2: Turn the whole compass so that north on the dial lines up with grid north at point A.
  • Step 3: Draw a line. The directional arrow shows the direction to go towards.

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