Orienting a Compass (Lat/Lon)

There are two different ways to orient a compass – to magnetic north or geographic north. The purpose of orienting a compass is so you know your location in relation to north. Orienting a compass to north is also called “boxing the needle” because it refers to aligning the north seeking end of the magnetic needle over the orienting arrow.

Orient to Magnetic North

One method for orienting the compass to magnetic north is described below and illustrated in the image below.

Steps to orient a compass to Magnetic North.

  1. Set 360 degrees or 0 degrees on the compass dial in line with the index line
  2. Hold the base plate and turn your body until the North seeking end of the magnetic needle lines up with the orienting arrow. The direction you are facing is magnetic north.

navigation_pms4-4

Orient to Geographic North

If you are going to use your compass with a map, then orient the compass to geographic north.

Steps to orient a compass to Geographic North.

  1. Adjust the compass for magnetic declination
  2. Set 360 degrees or 0 degrees on the compass dial in line with the index line
  3. Hold the base plate and turn your body until the North seeking end of the magnetic needle lines up with the orienting arrow. The direction you are facing is magnetic north.

 

[Continue to Take Bearings (Direct and Back)]

**Information adapted from the National Interagency
Incident Management System Basic Land Navigation
Manual, PMS 475 dated June 2007.