When you are out on a mountain expedition, it is essential that you know some basic skills related to navigation. It is important to understand the process of navigating your way through the mountains. One of the easiest ways to understand where you are or where you are headed is by taking a bearing. Here are ways to understand the compass and how to take a bearing.

  1. Get Familiar with Types of Compasses

While embarking on an adventure, you need to make sure what type of compass would suit your needs. Markets are full of compasses in different shapes and sizes. However, I prefer one that is lightweight and easy to carry. You also need to make sure that your compass has a big base plate, which makes taking bearing from the map a bit easier. It is not necessary that you have to use the same compass that I use (the Silva Type 4 Expedition compass) and most of the tips I will be sharing can be applied to other compasses or the ones you might already have.

  1. The Right Time to Use Your Compass

While navigating your way through the great outdoors or the mountains, you may not necessarily need to use the compass at every navigation point. There are usually some paths, a wall, a stream or a fence that can help you keep in line using the compass bearing. However, there are times when you are not entirely sure and those are the times when you can use the compass to give you an approximated sense of direction.

 A compass bearing is to be used when there are no such markers available on the path as mentioned above and you need to find your way. For instance, in case of poor visibility during the descent or on plateaus with no markers to keep track of the way.  Here, I have put together some simple steps to help you take a bearing if you are new to this.

  • The first step is to approximate the direction you would be heading to and mark it on your map, so it is easier for you to understand where you are and which direction you are headed to
  • The second step is to line-up with your charted course. This is where the base plate of the compass comes in and helps you mark the way you are heading. However, it is essential that the direction you are heading to lines up with the direction the compass is pointing towards
  • The third step is to match the North of the compass with the North marked on the map. This is the easiest part; you just need to twist the bezel to align the north of the map with the north of you compass and you are good to go
  • The final step is to follow the bearing you have marked. For this, you need to take your compass away from your map and rotate it until the Fred (the red needle) is aligned with the Fred’s Shed (the red arrow). This is the direction you need to head towards as per your approximation from the first step


Once you understand how easy it is to take a bearing and get on your path with no problems, you can also use your compass for other purposes. These may include measuring the distance from one point to the other using the roamer scale, you can work out the details of grid references, measure the slope, or even look for new peaks nearby to explore.