Compass Basics – Back Bearings to check progress

Knowing that you are still on the right bearing once you have set off along it is kind of important, we're sure you’ll agree! So here’s how to do it simply, and quickly.

You’ve got your bearing set perfectly on your compass, and you’ve walked for a short while in what you think is the right direction.

Here's how:

  • Before you lose sight of where you set off from when you originally set the bearing, stop and turn around and face the exact location.
  • Take your compass out (still set on your intended bearing) and hold it level with the direction of travel arrow pointing directly at the spot you came from.
  • If you are still on the right bearing, the red compass needle will be sitting perfectly within the north arrow on the bezel.
  • If not, you’ll need to adjust either your position, or your bearing to correct your progress. You can do this by walking either to the left or right to put the needle back inside the north arrow.
  • Once you’ve done this, just turn around again and continue to your intended destination – repeating the process frequently to ensure that you don’t stray too far from your bearing. 

Naturally, in poor visibility you will need to take far greater care to use this method more frequently so that you don’t lose sight of the spot that you have come from.

As with all of our Navigation Basics we strongly recommend you practice these skills in a well known area, such as a valley bottom before you rely on them in less familiar surroundings.