In order to read a compass, first you must study its dial or face. Second, you must know how to find magnetic north. Then you must be able to apply your compass readings to a map.
- Get to know your compass
Although there are different styles of compasses, their dials are designed to give you the same basic information at a glance. All have a needle. All are marked with at least the cardinal directions, and all have a marking to remind you where you’re facing.
- Find magnetic north
Ensure that you’re not standing close to magnets or metal structures, under power lines or near any objects that can interfere with the compass. Hold your compass level in front of you, and wait for the needle to settle. Turn in place until the needle and the marking for north line up. You are now facing magnetic north.
- Get your bearings
Depending on design, either the compass needle or another indicator on the dial always points to magnetic north. As you turn your compass, north is not always at the top. Take a minute to figure out which direction you’re facing. Some compasses even have a rotating ring that you can turn so that the needle and the marking for north always stay together.
- Apply your reading
Once you know your compass’s face, you can use it and a map (or directions) to navigate to a specific place.