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Need The Idiot's Guide To Using A Compass....

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So I'm looking at a cache that says to go somewhere and "project a bearing of xx degrees." I have no idea how to do that.... Logically, I'm kind of thinking that if it said 90 degrees, you would head east, but I'm just guessing. (And it's not like it would be that easy--the actual number is more like 57 degrees, or some odd number like that.) And I don't know if this is something I can do with my GPSr (have the yellow Garmin eTrex), or I just need my basic compass. Also, some caches or cache logs have referred to magnetic north v. true north? :)


I've previously skipped doing caches that have this sort of thing in them, but am now feeling like branching out. How can I learn more about this so I know what I'm doing???

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It can be done with your GPS. I just line up the arrow with my GPS to the approx. degree direction and away I go. Look ahead, count your paces (measure first - 10 paces=30 feet).


I have also searched a bit harder and ignored the directions and still had success

Edited by bogleman
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Use your GPS


Mark your current waypoint - start to edit it - bring up the menu on the mark page and select project waypoint - input distance and bearing and hit goto. (a bit over simplified but look in your manual - should be something along those lines.)

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Okay I need help with this too, but I have to say (without offending anyone) that the above tips were of no benefit to me whatsoever! HA! I have NO idea what you are talking about and I have been geocaching since October. I just need to know how to even find the degrees on the compass on the GPS - I know, I am pathetic, but at least I am trying to learn! Thanks for your help.

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orienteering with a compass is actually quite easy. On the GPS, there isnt a compass rose with any numbers on it (not on the model you have, anyway), but, you should be able to find a "bearing" by scrolling through the menus on the pages on the GPS. the bearing can also be called heading, and, it will be read in degrees.

A little hint on cheating using bearings; if you know the bearing, and it is between two cardinal points, you can rough guess it just using the compass rose. 57* would be about 2/3 the way towards E (off the top of my head). For cahing, thats close enough. Hell, you dont even need a compass with tickmarks on it, just a generic walmart one would work fine.

As for me, I always carry my old Army compass, I've had since I enlisted in 88. Orienteering and mapreading are excellent outdoor skills to learn, and there are several good books on the subject. Good luck!

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I'm still kind of with lonesumdove, but at least now I have some better direction (pun intended!). At least I feel better knowing that 90 degrees does=east, and a search for where I could find the Boy Scout handbook lead me to Amazon (guess they do have everything, don't they...), where I found a couple of other books that also look like they might be helpful. I think I'll try "Land Navigation Handbook : The Sierra Club Guide to Map, Compass & GPS" and "Be Expert with Map and Compass" and see how those are. If anyone else has a better recommendation, feel free to chime in.... (I guess if I don't learn anything from those, I can try "Start Orienteering 1: With 6-8 Year Olds"--sounds like it might be just about my speed!)

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Some basics that may help. It really is not as hard as you think. All the caches I have found that required the use of the compass were less than 500 feet from a specific point - not a difficult challenge but if you dont have a compass just look ahead for a likely spot and check it out.


Stop off at a sport store and look at a compass to give you an idea, the really basic ones can be found for less than $10.

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From Page 24 of your Units user guide.....


Using the Project feature, the eTrex can create a new waypoint at a specified distance and

bearing using an existing waypoint as a reference. You can change the name, symbol, and

elevation of the new waypoint on this page.

To project a waypoint:

1. Select a waypoint on the WAYPOINT PAGE and press ENTER.

2. Press the UP or DOWN button to highlight ‘PROJECT’, then press ENTER. The PROJECT

WAYPOINT Page is displayed and a numeric name is assigned to the new waypoint.

3. The distance field is highlighted by default. Press ENTER to display the EDIT NUMBER


4. With the EDIT NUMBER Page displayed, press the DOWN button to move the highlight to

the next number in the field. With the desired digit selected, press ENTER to activate the

drop down number list.

5. Press the UP or DOWN button to select the correct number, then press ENTER. When all

numbers are entered correctly, highlight ‘OK’ and press ENTER.

6. With the PROJECT WAYPOINT page displayed, press the DOWN button to highlight the

bearing field, then press ENTER to display the EDIT ANGLE Page.

7. With the EDIT ANGLE Page displayed, press the DOWN button to move the highlight to

the next number in the field. With the desired digit selected, press ENTER to activate the

drop down number list.

8. Press the UP or DOWN button to select the correct number, then press ENTER. When all

numbers are entered correctly, highlight ‘OK’ and press ENTER.

9. The name, symbol, and elevation can be changed on this page as well. When all changes

have been made, highlight ‘OK’ and press ENTER to save the waypoint. Highlight ‘GOTO’

and press ENTER to save the waypoint and begin direct navigation to the point.

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I think it is imortant to be able to use the map and compass when Geocaching in the woods. I always have a topograpic map of the caching area with me!


I have read two books and both are pretty good. The first is "Be Expert with Map and Compass" by Björn Kjellström. It has been around a while, last update in 1994. However, it provides basic map an compass navigation in a clear manner. The second book I read is "Land Navigation Handbook" by W.S. Kals. It has more up to date information including GPS and using altimeters.



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You'll want to know about true north and magnetic north for sure. Don't ask me how I know. :rolleyes:


As far as bearing and heading, the are different. The bearing is the straight line to the waypoint and heading is the direction you are traveling. As you might guess these are often the same when traveling straight to a waypoint. Sometimes though you might be going around various obstacles, then your heading and bearing are different, frequently the case when I'm in the woods.


Think of a plane in the air or a boat on the ocean, winds and currents, I bet they rarely have the same bearing and heading.

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Ok, I'll put some info where my smart-mouth started :P


Here is a couple of links I dug up:






Both have some good introductory map and compass info. Might even have helped rural_cdn with M and T :P .


I know I never messed up variation, deviation, declination, wind correction, etc in my early years of flying and Naval Science classes :(;)



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