Compass Basics – Locating yourself using a visible and identifiable feature

If you are walking along a linear feature such as a path, or a ridge, or maybe a stream/river it is possible to use a distant feature to your left or right to work out exactly where you are on that linear feature (we’ll call it a ridge for the purposes of this tutorial).

You can do this by taking a bearing using your compass and transferring it back to your map and making a note of the point where it crosses your linear feature.
Here’s how:

  • Locate a feature on the horizon which is to your left or right, which is easily identifiable on your map, such as a summit or trig point, or some other geographical feature that you are certain of.
  • Keeping your compass level, point the direction of travel arrow at the feature.
  • Rotate the bezel so that the north indicator matches the needle of the compass.
  • Take the compass and place it on the map so that the feature you have chosen is directly underneath the very edge of your base plate towards the end where the direction of travel arrow points.
  • Move the baseplate of the compass (don’t touch the bezel) until the north arrow and the lines in the bezel match the north/south grid lines on the map.
  • Check that the edge of the baseplate is still on top of the identifiable feature.
  • Look at the other end of the baseplate (it may help to mark a line with a pencil) where its edge crosses the ridge that you are on and this will be your location on the ridge. 

That’s it – that’s how to locate your position along a ridge using another identifiable feature in the landscape.