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Nature's Guide: No Compass

Long before the compass was invented, people learned to navigate and find their way with nature’s help. While it is still best to always have a compass that you could use when finding your way, it doesn’t hurt to know how to navigate using nature as your guide. Take note though that these tips apply in the Northern Hemisphere.


Track the Sun With a Stick. This method is most accurate around noon.

1. Plant a stick vertically in the ground.
2. Place a mark at the tip of its shadow.
3. After 30 minutes, place another mark at the tip of the shadow.
A line drawn between the marks points approximately East and West.

The North Star

1. You should at least know the simplest of the constellations and be able to identify the Big Dipper.
2. Identify the two stars at the “pouring end” of the ladle.
3. Mark the distance between them.
4. Draw a line between the two stars at the pouring end of the ladle and extend it 5 times — you’ll find Polaris at the end of that line. Polaris is the tip of the Little Dipper’s handle.

Drier Hillsides Face South.

1. This method works well in dry mountainous regions. North-facing slopes get the least sun and have more water-loving vegetation. South-facing slopes will have less vegetation, or more drought-tolerant vegetation like cacti.

Use the Crescent Moon. This method is most accurate when the moon is at its highest point in the sky.

1. Draw an imaginary line between the horns of the crescent.
2. Extend that line down to the horizon — where it touches the ground is approximately South.

As stated above, it is still best to always carry a compass with you. After all, the compass has proven itself time and time again for many years and led many men and women to where they want to go. Amp up your compass skills and learn the modern days’ compass added features. Keep safe and happy camping!

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