No matter where you stand on Earth, you can hold a compass in your hand and it will point toward the North Pole.

A compass is an extremely simple device. A magnetic compass consists of a small, lightweight magnet balanced on a nearly frictionless pivot point. The magnet is generally called a needle. One end of the needle is often marked "N," for north, or colored in some way to indicate that it points toward north. That's all there is to a compass.

Compass ABC

  1. On the map find the direction you wish to travel and place the edge of the compass baseplate along the route. The direction of the travel arrow should point in the direction you want to go on the map.

  2. Rotate the bezel (the round dial) until the lines and the N on the compass are parallel with the grid lines or are pointing to north on the map.

  3. Hold the compass in front of you horizontally and turn yourself until the red end of the needle points to N on the compass. Remove 22.5 degrees for magnetic variation.

The direction of the travel arrow now points to your destination. Look up, sight on a land mark and move towards it. Repeat this until you reach your destination.

Quick compass reminders:

  • The red end of the needle is the one that points north.
  • Read compasses away from iron objects which can deflect the needle.
  • Remember to account for magnetic variation when taking a bearing - in NZ it is approx 21-22 degrees.