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The Ultimate Step-by-Step Guide on How to Use a Compass

The Ultimate Step-by-Step Guide on How to Use a Compass

Since the GPS was invented using a compass is rare, but it is actually a handy skill - especially if you are out in nature with no signal or internet. And since we love outdoor adventures, we have made a guide to help you learn how to use a compass.

How to use a compass

Using a compass

Using a compass is quite easy when you know how to do it, but it can seem rather complicated if you don’t. So, to help you be prepared for your next outdoor adventure, we have made a step-by-step guide for how to use a compass so you can be safe in nature and find your way around - even when you can’t use your GPS. All you will need is a map of the area you are visiting and a compass. 


  1. First you need to know where you are and where you are going. You then imagine that there is a straight line from your location and to your destination, if this route is too long it can be a good idea to draw an actual line. Then you take your compass and lay it on top of your map, so the long edge of the compass is parallel with your line (imagined or not).

  2. Next you must turn the compass display so the arrow inside it points towards north on the map. Maps usually have a compass printed on them in a corner so you can check it on your map’s compass. The grid lines visible on a map are usually also drawn from north to south so you can ensure that they are parallel with the grid lines in the compass display with the arrow pointing north. 

  3. When you have completed these steps, the compass will be set for your route and then the compass needle should lie on top of the arrow in the compass display. 

  4. All you have to do then is to follow the direction of travel arrow to reach your destination. 

using a compass during travel

How to use the compass on your iPhone

Owning a compass might not be as normal today as it has been, and if you own a compass, you might not have it on you when you need it. What do you do then? No worries, your iPhone can actually be useful for finding your way even without signal or internet because you have a compass app on your iPhone! You might have an iPhone, but do you know how to use the compass app? Many don’t so of course we also want to help you learn how to use the compass on your iPhone. It is much like using a regular compass, just with a few other things to be aware of as well, but it is just as easy, if not easier! Just follow the steps below: 


  1. First find your location on the map and the destination you want to reach and imagine a straight line from point A to point B or draw it on the map.

  2. Then you open the compass app on your iPhone.

  3. You then lay the map down on a flat surface and lay your iPhone on top of the map, so the long edge of your iPhone is parallel with your straight line (imagined or drawn). When doing this, make sure that the little cross is directly on top of the big cross in the compass display; this happens when the iPhone is laying down flat, which is why a flat surface is good to use ;) 

  4. When the little cross is directly on top of the big cross in the compass display you press on the screen. 

  5. Your phone will then add a direction arrow that shows the direction you should follow to reach your destination. 

  6. Follow this direction arrow. If you deviate from the route that your direction arrow indicates your compass will show a red area between the direction arrow that you should follow and the needle showing which direction you are actually going in. If this happens adjust your direction so you will be walking in the right direction indicated by the direction arrow. 


If you don’t know where you are, but you remember a road, a lake or something then walk to that and navigate from there. 

using a compass during a hike

Now you know how to use a regular compass and how to use the compass on your iPhone! If you want to test your newfound skills, why not do this on a forest adventure

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