Finding Your Direction Without a Compass

Finding Your Direction Without a Compass

( – In today’s world, people rely heavily on technology, but technology isn’t always helpful or accessible. GPS has changed the way people travel, using satellites to pinpoint your location on a global scale. But using GPS isn’t always reliable – it requires an external power source to keep it charged, remembering to charge it, and for the satellites to be able to get a signal to it. Those are a lot of conditions to be met… and they don’t always come together.

How do you find your way in the woods without a GPS? Believe it or not, there are many ways to gather your bearings without looking at a screen. People did it for centuries. See how to find your way in the woods without a GPS or even a compass.

Making your own compass– This is actually quite simple. All you need is a leaf, a needle, a puddle of water (a cup or bowl would help), and a piece of wool or silk. Now the hard part is magnetizing the needle, because it’s a bit tedious. (Maybe a great way to relax around the campfire though)

Take the piece of silk or wool and rub the needle in the same direction at least 100 times. In a pinch, you can use your hair if no silk or wool is available. Next, take the leaf and gently put it on the water to make sure it floats. Then you simply put the needle on the leaf, trying to align it with the center as best you can. The thicker end of the needle will point north.

Look to the stars– In the Northern hemisphere, you can use the North Star to find, well… north. While it isn’t very bright, the North Star stays fixed in the sky and does not move. The two constellations you need to help you find the North Star are the Big Dipper and the ‘W’ shaped Cassiopeia. Once you’ve found the Big Dipper, follow the “cup,” 5 or 6 times its length to a star of medium brightness. This is the North Star. To be sure that it’s the North Star, find Cassiopeia. The North Star is midway between The Big Dipper and Cassiopeia. In the Southern hemisphere, you need to look for the Southern Cross constellation to find south.

Sun and shadow stick method– This one takes a little more time, but is effective. You’ll need a stick at least 8 inches long, and something to use as a marker like a small rock. You just stab the stick into the ground enough for it to stand on its own. Then put your marker at the tip of the shadow.

Once this is completed wait 15-30 minutes. The shadow will have moved, now draw a line between the two markers (your marker and the tip of the shadow). This is your east/west line. Now, observe which side the formed shadow is pointing over on your east/west line.

The shadow will favor north, if the sun is favoring the south-side of the sky. Now obviously the sun needs to be out for this method to work, so if it’s cloudy or the tree coverage is too thick, try another method.

There is a myth that moss only grows on the north-side of trees in the Northern hemisphere and on the south-side in the Southern hemisphere. This is not true. Moss grows mostly in these areas — but isn’t limited to them.

Be sure you have the right information before heading out on your journey. These are just a few simple ways to find your way without technology and maybe even help you take in the beauty of Earth and the wonder that nature is.

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