Friday, January 24, 2014

Taking and following a bearing on a map

Animated GIF of taking and following a bearing
Animated GIF of taking and following a bearing
A key technique in orienteering is the ability to take a bearing off of a map and follow it. You want to do this when you know specifically where you are and specifically where you want to go and you want to follow a straight line to get there. Sometimes you might just want to get a general indication if the trail that you are following is heading in the right direction.

Here are the steps:

  1. Know where you are on the map and where you want to go on the map.
  2. Place the edge of your compass between the start location and the end location.
  3. Turn the face of the compass so that the north mark on the face is aligned with north on the map. The grid lines are useful for this alignment.
  4. Hold your compass flat in front of you and turn your body until the red end of the needle and the red arrow on your compass face are lined up.
  5. Follow the direction. 
The best way to follow a bearing accurately is to look for an object in the distance that is in the right direction and travel towards that object. Do not walk and watch your compass the whole time or you will introduce errors in your direction. Walking to a distant object also allows you to traverse poor terrain more easily because you can go around obstacles instead of through them. 

Do not trust yourself to walk in a particular direction without a reference point in the distance, it isn't possible.