Tips on getting accurate Compass Readings (Lat/Lon)

A small error when using a compass can result in a significant error in measurement on the ground. To obtain accurate readings when using a compass:

  • Hold the compass level and steady so the needle swings freely.
  • Hold the compass about waist high in front of the body, except when using a compass with a sighting mirror or a sighting type compass.
  • Raise and lower eyes when taking a bearing, do not move your head. Always use the same eye when taking bearings.
  • Directly face object that is being measured.
  • Magnetic fields will give incorrect compass readings. Avoid taking readings near magnetic fields such as steel, iron (ferrous metals), vehicles, rebar, and clipboards. Even belt buckles, glasses, and rings can interfere with the compass reading.
  • Take bearing twice.
  • Adjust for magnetic declination as appropriate.
  • Follow the direction of travel arrow, not the compass needle, when walking a bearing. Always follow the line indicated by the compass rather than relying on judgment as to the direction.
  • Use back bearings to ensure you are on track when navigating.

 

[Continue to Adjusting a Compass for Magnetic Declination]

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