Is it stil worth carrying a compass?

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Robson Valley

Full Member
Nov 24, 2014
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McBride, BC
Of course it points to magnetic north! Next , we learn something of the earth's structure. Then we can adjust the declination to offset so the compass needle appears to indicate true north. How much is the offset you ask? That's just another bit of information on Canadian maps. We own the north magnetic pole but we allow free usage for everybody.
 

henchy3rd

Full Member
Apr 16, 2012
390
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Derby
Of course it points to magnetic north! Next , we learn something of the earth's structure. Then we can adjust the declination to offset so the compass needle appears to indicate true north. How much is the offset you ask? That's just another bit of information on Canadian maps. We own the north magnetic pole but we allow free usage for everybody.
A few of years ago the Siberian’s owned it as it moved corse due to the pull off liquid iron in the earth.
It basically wobbles around but mainly in Canada.
Think of the implications for travel if it did move for a long period of time?
 

Paul_B

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Jul 14, 2008
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Lancashire
If magnetic current around the earth, a big magnet, simply loops around from one pole to the other then there simply isn't a pole to own only magnetism which will be owned by whoever owns the south pole eventually, surely?

Also pole refers to the pole of a magnet probably related to the term dipole. I'm sure others know more, especially RV I think. I only know how to use a compass not the intricacies of global magnetic flow. I don't need much more than that.
 

Broch

Full Member
Jan 18, 2009
4,529
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Mid Wales
The line represents the approximate path of where magnetic north currently equals grid north

So you Canadians just keep that magnetic North exactly where it is!

Note that it is Grid North not true north; in the UK we have to deal with true north, grid north and magnetic north although, as I only use OS maps in the UK, I only bother with grid north and magnetic north :)
 

Robson Valley

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Nov 24, 2014
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Our federal government never worries about the important things. Dwell on the trivia for publicity. Pay attention to the Canadian Broadcorping Castration news.
We won't shed a tear until the pole is safely back in Warsaw.

I guess that GPS is supposed to have put an end to the need for a compass.
Bulltweet.
I have spend less than $1,000.00 on GPS units which eat batteries and die in less than a year.
My Brunton Eclipse was $100 decades ago. Wonderful to play with, all sorts of instructions materials attached.
 

henchy3rd

Full Member
Apr 16, 2012
390
249
Derby
Our federal government never worries about the important things. Dwell on the trivia for publicity. Pay attention to the Canadian Broadcorping Castration news.
We won't shed a tear until the pole is safely back in Warsaw.

I guess that GPS is supposed to have put an end to the need for a compass.
Bulltweet.
I have spend less than $1,000.00 on GPS units which eat batteries and die in less than a year.
My Brunton Eclipse was $100 decades ago. Wonderful to play with, all sorts of instructions materials attached.
Can’t beat a map & compass.
A friend of mine drew a map of the five sisters of kintail,Scotland..when we sat down for lunch,just by observing the terrain.
I’d love to have those skills.
 
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Robson Valley

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Henchy: you can do it. It's the difference between just looking at something and really "seeing it." Paper and pencil. Draw without looking at your work and draw without stopping. See your subject. Your mind will tell you when you are finished.
 

henchy3rd

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Apr 16, 2012
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I, too, am sorry to have cut-and-pasted your full response but it does afford me a chance to discuss your observations.

I remember when I did both my ML and Winter ML courses and assessments, the navigation instructors at The Lodge were very careful to point out the hazards of a cross-wind and the effect that it can have on your walking and navigation, particularly when on rough terrain. When visibility is compromised, as it obviously was in the case of the two about which you speak, it is even more important to pay very close attention, particularly if you know that there are drops nearby.

I'm not sure that a GPS could have saved them. Although my experience of the GPS technology is very limited, I am aware that, in poor weather, the devices struggle to latch on to satellite signals, thus compromising the accuracy of their locating abilities. Would such a device steered them away from the cornice? Possibly...

Like any skill that we use in the outdoors, time spent honing it and perfecting it is an integral part of the pleasure these activities afford us. We will probably never be 'perfect' but the joy of improving is most definitely worthwhile. I would love to get hold of a good GPS and learn how to use it properly and effectively; as you say, learning about both the trad. and modern systems gives us many more options in the outdoors and narrows the chances of our making mistakes. When time and cash permit...

Yes, there are also occasions when 'luck' has been a lifesaver but I would hate to rely on it. For all the shortcomings of any navigational system - think, here, about a compass's weird behaviour when on gabbro on Skye... - they do have the effect of rationalising your thinking at a time when conditions and stress may blur your judgement.
I’ve been in this situation when in low visibility with howling winds & driving sleet with a friend with a stiff leg due to the cold?
We were relying on the compass & map & making good way until Dave said he couldn’t go on any more, so we stopped to warm him up & had a brew. Pete & Ade said they think we are on the wrong path..so we got our heads together to pin point where we were without success due to the weather.
So I pulled out my new Garmin E-Trex GPS( it was that long ago)to get a grid reference as we didn’t want it to escalate.Bingo we was way of course & now knew where we were.
That’s when things could of got worse..Turns out I hadn’t calibrated it & non of us had ever used one before as it was new technology, so we all started making wild guesses( it’s a man thing)we thought we should of been on the other track running kind of parallel to ours.. different valley different mountain?
It was only a chance clearing in the clouds that we could see the mountain top & realised the map & compass was right all along.
When I got home I sold it & never looked at one since.
Maybe things have got cleverer since then but I forever remain old school.
 
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henchy3rd

Full Member
Apr 16, 2012
390
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Derby
Henchy: you can do it. It's the difference between just looking at something and really "seeing it." Paper and pencil. Draw without looking at your work and draw without stopping. See your subject. Your mind will tell you when you are finished.
Strange you should say that?
It’s pretty much what my mate said who was taught in the forces.
If I get lost can I blame you, lol
 
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Robson Valley

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Nov 24, 2014
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My absolute worst had to be hunting in a narrow mountain valley and a sudden snow storm blew in. I had been using the landscape as a visual reference but it was all gone now. I'll say tree shapes disappeared 50 yards away.

Stashed both my rifle and my pack under a spruce tree to keep dry. Walked 25 paces out into an open clearing with the compass. Snowing like Hello.

My "sense of North" was off by almost exactly 90 degrees. It's easy to remember the mental shock to see the needle swing. I knew that I was well above the parked truck. Walked out to the road, walk down hill, drive home.
Never would have made it if I had used my head.
 

TLM

Native
Nov 16, 2019
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700
Vantaa, Finland
I still wonder why many people compare a Satnav with compass, they do not give the same information and cannot be used in the same way. Some of units have a fluxgate compass included and some do calculate north but is not that reliable because it makes assumptions how you hold the gizmo.

Anyway both are tools that one has to know how to use.
 

BrewkitAndBasha

Full Member
Feb 4, 2021
54
54
Far East
Hi all..just been catching up on this thread and it's good to see it here. I have 'met' so many folks in the hills who do not have a compass, a map or quite frankly any idea of where they are and where they are going. They seem to be well-equipped with full packs but always ask "where is the bothy?" or "is there a bridge nearby?" When I politely suggest that they refer to their map, they look at me like I have 3 green heads and probably think I am old-fashioned (guilty as charged, I suppose).

There are also some internet hill-walkers who often say things like "I cannot remember the name of that mountain over there but I think it's a Munro - I will put its name in the video later". This leaves me muttering "if you had a pherkin map you might be able to tell us now" Honk honk mutter mutter!

As some comments have rightly said, it's about how to teach or how to learn and practise navigation - getting it right and embedded correctly early on makes it a fun skill to adopt and preferably at a young age. I was lucky to have good teachers and the confidence they instilled has remained with me.

For me a compass is another fundamental item of kit for every journey and a map is better than a book to read. Being able to use both gives me a strong sense of connection to the land I am visiting and to read into it, plan different routes and adventures - a GPS just doesn't do that for me.

Where I live, good maps are hard to find so the compass is essential for maintaining an orientation to the geography. I sometimes take a GPS as a back-up but my main tool in the forests is to maintain a sense of the lay of the land and combine that with the usual timings, bearings etc.

I carry a Silva Type 4 if I am in the UK mountains with an OS map, as well as a smaller Type 23 "Huntsman" for a backup. I do wear a small compass on my watchstrap as it helps me in cities, especially when the sun is hidden by smog!

So for me, a compass will always be with me and as the years rush by, will continue to clutter my bookshelves amidst the pile of old maps.
 

Paul_B

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Jul 14, 2008
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Lancashire
So many anecdotes, so little understanding! Sorry but if a GPS was as useless as people say then pretty much the majority of navigation carried out in the world would never use it. Similarly a lot of professional users have GPS and maps (called charts) with compass too.

Why do professional navigators use such poor pieces of equipment that doesn't work? The simple reason is its not the kit that doesn't work but the user! If it doesn't work for you then it's more likely the case that you can't be bothered learning. Fair enough but tools can make tools of us all if we don't learn how to use them. How many newbies with carving need good first aid kits too?
 
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BrewkitAndBasha

Full Member
Feb 4, 2021
54
54
Far East
So many anecdotes, so little understanding! Sorry but if a GPS was as useless as people say then pretty much the majority of navigation carried out in the world would never use it. Similarly a lot of professional users have GPS and maps (called charts) with compass too.

Why do professional navigators use such poor pieces of equipment that doesn't work? The simple reason is its not the kit that doesn't work but the user! If it doesn't work for you then it's more likely the case that you can't be bothered learning. Fair enough but tools can make tools of us all if we don't learn how to use them. How many newbies with carving need good first aid kits too?
I certainly don't think GPS is useless and agree with your POV that users need to learn how to use it. I am not a fan of tech in the outdoors and just prefer the old-school map and compass. I use a small Garmin GPS here in the FE but it has to cope with very thick and high forest canopy and often 'blanks out'. Also, as soon as I stop walking, the compass freezes. Not good in places where the undergrowth is really too thick to move smoothly. So it's a back up really, especially as I must 'make' my own maps on the screen and in my head as I go along.

In Eire many years ago, I used a Garmin 12 GPS and took Ordnance Survey maps with me to compare the accuracy - the GPS positions indicated were up to 1km away from my location on the map/in reality!

So, yes GPS is an excellent tool and continues to improve but I just prefer a compass and a map. Like I prefer a Wilky knife to a chainsaw I guess.
 

TLM

Native
Nov 16, 2019
1,599
700
Vantaa, Finland
Also, as soon as I stop walking, the compass freezes.
That is an indication that it is not a true compass but a calculated one from your movement.
the GPS positions indicated were up to 1km away from my location on the map/in reality!
A few possibilities:
- Your unit had still not reached the final position just a preliminary one, depends on the way the position is calculated.
- You had the wrong datum in map.
- Uncle Sam was playful with his satellite signals.

There are four satnav systems circling around the globe and better new units can use all of them or just the chosen one, GPS is just one them.

Something like almost all stories of satnav not working are based on user error. When it was new I made a few funnies myself and decided to learn to use it correctly with limitations known.

So if a satnav receiver has a compass it might be a magnetic one but it also might be a "synthetic" one.
 

BrewkitAndBasha

Full Member
Feb 4, 2021
54
54
Far East
That is an indication that it is not a true compass but a calculated one from your movement.

A few possibilities:
- Your unit had still not reached the final position just a preliminary one, depends on the way the position is calculated.
- You had the wrong datum in map.
- Uncle Sam was playful with his satellite signals.

There are four satnav systems circling around the globe and better new units can use all of them or just the chosen one, GPS is just one them.

Something like almost all stories of satnav not working are based on user error. When it was new I made a few funnies myself and decided to learn to use it correctly with limitations known.

So if a satnav receiver has a compass it might be a magnetic one but it also might be a "synthetic" one.
TLM, thanks and roger that. I humbly concur - more training required for sure. Sadly, now a case of "Old dog, new tricks"! But I appreciate the input and clarification.
 

TLM

Native
Nov 16, 2019
1,599
700
Vantaa, Finland
Sadly, now a case of "Old dog, new tricks"!
Not a youngster myself but I decided long time ago that I am not too old until I stop learning. ;)

Now you used a Garmin and its native maps? One can drop datum error away. (To check for various things I try to check my position to a known one before going bushy)

After all rational explanations there is still left a small amount of gremlin caused ones.
 
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