How to use a compass like a pro?

Discover our advice to find your way and your bearings thanks to a very useful tool: a compass.


Going from point A to point B with a compass

The hiker's must-have tool, a compass, should always be in your bag. Prefer a baseplate compass to use it with a map. It has a turning base that will enable you to record directions. Tie your compass' cord (if you have one) to your bag, to avoid losing it.


Find a clear view point

If you at point A and want to go to point B. Find a clearing from which you can easily see notable features such as summits, buildings or streams. If they are too far from point A, try to find unusual features around you, that may be visible on the map.



Place the compass on the map

Start by unfolding your map nice and flat, and not necessarily in full. Indeed, you will then place your compass on the map. If it isn't flat, the needle may get stuck in the compass and no longer show the north. Place your compass on a line, which you have drawn or not, joining point A to point B. Turn the sight arrow, on the tip of your compass, towards your destination.



Set the compass

Now that your compass is placed flat, turn the dial to match up the north on the dial with the north of the map. Reminder, the north is always to the top of the map. You can not calculate your Azimut. It is the angle between the north of the map and your direction. It will be between 0° to 360° degrees. Your azimut is the number that appears where the dial and sight line cross.



Turn the compass

Leave the compass on the map or hold it flat in your hand. Turn it until the north of the dial matches the north shown by the needle. Congratulations, now all you need to do is follow your sight arrow, always making sure that your red needle marches the north of the dial.


If you aren't used to following a compass bearing yet, start with small half-day or shorter hikes, that you already know. Even if you make a few mistakes at first, you will easily find your way if you know the area.

Good to know: keep all electronic appliances away from the compass to not disrupt it. Indeed, mobile phones or other electronic objects can modify the magnetic field and attract your needle away from the north.