Jump to content

Do You Use A Manual Compass?


Recommended Posts

Do I have one? Yes. Do I ever use it? No.


For me, this is one of those 'just in case' items that remains in my pack but is never used unless there is an emergency. In my experience, most caches do not really require the use of a compass. If I start making a lot of twists and turns during my cache hunt, I find that marking waypoints is the best way to backtrack and you won't get lost.


However, I cache in areas with little or no tree coverage. I can definitely appreciate the importance of a compass in wilderness areas.


BTW, make sure you actually know how to use a compass. It does you no good just to have it in your backpack if you don't have a clue as to how to use it. You'd be amazed as to how many people carry compasses even though they have no idea how it works. :unsure:

Link to comment
A quicker, rough way to find your bearings is merely that the sun is always somewhat south of us, because of the tilt of the Earth and because of our 40-deg latitude. It is always straight south at noon. (Watch out for daylight savings time.) Since the sun is moving about 15 degrees per hour, you can first estimate how many hours you are before or after noon, then south is 15 deg west of the sun for each hour it is before noon, and 15 deg east of the sun for each hour it is after noon.


somewhat true, but you must consider that time zones are not accurate. For instance, I live in Ohio, eastern time is corrected to Boston, so at 1200 hrs the sun is due south of boston, It is not due south of my location until about 1228 or 1229 hrs.

Link to comment
eastern time is corrected to Boston


Good point. I'm surprised it's as far east as Boston. Seems it ought to be more toward the center of the time zone. Western Michigan (in eastern time zone) is nearly straight north of St Louis. In summer, it's still twilight at 10:00 pm. About drove drive-in theatres out of business. I suppose a person ought to find out and keep in mind just how far off his local sun time is from his standard time.

Edited by Don&Betty
Link to comment

Don't have a compass yet but plan on getting one. Let me see if I have this right because I am usually caching where signal gets spotty at times. If I get a compass that has a pointer that I can move all I have to do is when I have a clear signal with my Gpsr align the pointer on the compass with the direction that the Gpsr is telling me where the cache is. Then if I lose signal just keep following the pointer on the compass. Did I simplify it too much?

Link to comment

A few years ago, while vacationing in Colorado, I picked up a pretty aspen branch and carved it into a walking stick. I seated a compass in the top of the staff, and use it often when the GPSr is bouncing around due to dense canopy, electrical power trees, sunspots or for no friggin reason at all. I do have a tendancy to get turned around sometimes, especially if I am intent on a search that is frustratingly unfruitful. After an hour of looking close at hand, sometimes I look up and find myself disoriented. The compass helps the woods behave around me when the GPSr is not. And for those D'oh! moments when you are ready to head back and realize you forgot to waypoint your car, the compass helps alot along with the GPSr's retracking feature.

Link to comment

I never used to use a compass. I found my first 200+ caches without anything other than my little yellow e-trex; following that inconsistant and often inaccurate arrow. :D


The first time I was caching with Mopar I saw him using the compass. Whatever! :lol: I thought it was silly and akin to using a crutch. Then he bought me one and now I use it often. If I am getting a lot of signal bounce or the GPS won't settle in, I'll resort to using the compass.


So that is the long of it. The short of it is . . . yes, I use a manual compass.


Resistance is futile!




Happy caching and stuff!

Link to comment

:lol: Use to Geocache all the time in the Army with a military linsetic compass, map and a plotter. Actually it was called Land Navigation. We were given a map, the coordinates, and 3 hours to find 4 points that were located somewhere in the general area.


:P Your probably asking "WHAT THE HECK IS A PLOTTER" It's a piece of plastic with triangles cut out. Based on the map scale, you aligned the plotter to the appropriate grid on the map. You would then use the tick marks on the side of the appropriate triangle to determine the resting place of the cache, which was useually a human sillouette with numbers RED / Yellow / Green or Blue. You wrote down the colored numbers based on your lane designation. I.e. if my lane designation was red, then I was to write down the red numbers.


:D On to the next question -- How close do you get with a Plotter? Useally within 2 - 3 feet. So in short it is possible to do this the old fashioned way, using maps, a compass, plotter, and magnetic variation. However, I find the compass on the GPSR a lot easier to use. I do carry a small compass just in case my gpsr batteries die, but generally I check out the terrain maps before I hit a cache so there really is no need of a compass.

Link to comment

To save batteries I turn my GPS off while hiking any distance. The manual compass keeps me heading in the right general direction. As I near my destination I turn the GPS back on.


Compasses never have dead batteries and still work under heavy tree canopy in canyon bottoms.


True, there are areas where compass signals are erratic, but there are areas where GPS is erratic also. Having both covers all your bases.

Link to comment
[quote name=


"couldn't you watch the sun' date=' over 10 minute period to determine which way is east and west?"


Yes, an accurate technique to determine N-S if you're lost without a compass is to stick a 2-3 foot stick into the ground, then mark where the shadow of its tip is at two times, 20-30 minutes apart. A line sighted from the first point to the second point is looking precisely east.


A quicker, rough way to find your bearings is merely that the sun is always somewhat south of us, because of the tilt of the Earth and because of our 40-deg latitude. It is always straight south at noon. (Watch out for daylight savings time.) Since the sun is moving about 15 degrees per hour, you can first estimate how many hours you are before or after noon, then south is 15 deg west of the sun for each hour it is before noon, and 15 deg east of the sun for each hour it is after noon. [/quote]

Thanks for teaching me that. Shadows. Now if I can only remember it when I need, (God forbid!)



Link to comment

I carry at all times a swiss knife and magnetic compass. Even if I just go outside with my girlfriend to get into some Paris shop while going throught the tube. Having the knife and compass with me at all times is an habit, so when I go out for some wilderness trek, I feel it's missing immediatly before going out B)

Link to comment

We carry one or two compasses with us on most of our "woodsy" caches. We do a lot in the Big Thicket of East Texas, where dense tree cover can make you lose satellite reception for several minutes at a time. And it's always nice to know which way is which when you slow down and the arrow starts jumping around like the proverbial Whirling Dervish...

Link to comment

Yeah, I definitely use my compass. It's a big help for staying oriented while bushwhacking in the wilds of North Idaho. I use a Silva mirror compass with a magnetic declination adjustment. I can synchronize my GPSr and my compass. Up here magnetic declination is about 17 degrees. That's a big difference, so it is pretty important to have them both pointing in the same direction.

Link to comment

Iv'e used a compass on just about every cache hunt Iv'e been on. At about 75' from the cache I stop, wait for the bearing reading to stabilize, and then use my "hockey puck" to sight a bearing to the cache and head for that location. This compass is pricey, but it's the absolute best hand bearing compass you can buy. You have to use it to appreciate it. When you sight across it, you can easily see the magnified degree marks and whatever objects are in the distance simultaneously.

Link to comment

Like many others, I found that using a compass was extremely helpful, especially with my bottom of the line eTrex from 1999, and particularly when I got near the cache site and wasn't moving much. However, since I have upgraded to a better unit, I find myself using it a lot less. I know that some units, like the Garmin "Vista" have a built in compass too.


Having said that, I think that there is something super rewarding about good old fashioned orienteering. In the future I am planning some caches that might require a little use of finding bearing, but I'm not sure how. Any good ideas out there?

Link to comment

I use the compas built-in on my MeriPlat. It works independently from the GPS functions. I have put its responsiveness up against a magnetic compas and they match. Sure, every now and then, I recalibrate the compas in the GPSr, but you have to do that to almost any electric compas.


It's one of the reasons I bought the Meridian Platinum.


This comes in especially handy when polar aligning my telescope. The GPS give me the correct long/lat for my location setting and then when pointing tube north, I can literally get to 000 degrees north. Being a GOTO scope with over 45000 objects in its database, precise alignment is required, especially when photographing the heavens. :D

Edited by Deckyon
Link to comment

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...