Orientation without a compass in the Northern Hemisphere

Orientation without a compass in Northern Hemisphere

Orientation without a compass in the Northern Hemisphere

Going out for a trip in the wild can be a great way to connect with nature and recharge your energy. However, that energy can quickly fade if you happen to get lost in the wild. Orientation without a compass can be tricky and it’s necessary sometimes. It could easily happen that your phone runs out of juice. Maybe it falls down on a rock, or maybe some other method of your usual orientation fails you.

Orientation without a compass in nature Northern Hemisphere

We consulted our survival guides and nature experts which take you to the most amazing hiking and trekking activities in nature, to find out what are the best ways to orientate yourself without a compass in the Northern Hemisphere.

The easiest way for orientation without a compass

For a total outdoors novice the easiest way to orient yourself without a compass would be to use a map. You may be thinking, what if my battery runs out? No, not the digital kind, but a paper maš. Look for specific locations: hills, trails, if there is a river that would be great because it is much easier to orientate yourself following a river. Also look for man-made structures: roads, pipelines or a fire tower.

Use your wrist watch

The first thing in order for ensuring the success of this method is that your watch must be accurate. Also, both hands have to be working, and moving as they usually do.  

When you are positive that your watch is working properly you need to level it with the ground. The best way to do this is to take it of your wrist and place it on your hand, so that it is resting flat against the palm of your hand. Hold it in front of you as you would a compass.

Take your free hand and support the other one holding the watch and you will have more stability.

Now look at the time, point the hour hand towards the Sun, find the midway between the hour hand that is pointing towards the Sun and the ’12’ position on your watch. That midway direction would be pointing south, and the opposite direction would be pointing north.

Orientation in nature without a compass and equipment for expedition

Navigate by using shadow

Find land surface where there is direct sunlight. Take a stick and stick it in the ground, mark where the tip of its shadow falls on the ground. You will need to wait 30 minutes and then repeat the marking process. Draw a line connecting the two marks, now you can approximately determine where east and west are.

But what to do on a cloudy day?

Just like it’s harder to start a campfire during a rainy cloudy day, it is harder to orient yourself during these weather conditions too. Previous methods rely mostly on the Sun. While you can get some shadow on a cloudy day, it can be tricky to put it to use. Your safe bet would be to look for moss. One of the first methods for orientation without a compass, that we all learned. Moss usually grows on the northern side of plants and rocks. Do not make conclusions from looking at just one case. Check multiple sources to determine for sure.

It can be tricky if you are in a generally shaded and/or wet environment because the moss could grow evenly. But, if you so happen to find a tree that gets constant sunlight, you have a good way of determining north. You can also look at the hillsides. If there are multiple hills (and you can see them), drier side with less vegetation would be facing south.

How to navigate during nighttime

How to orientate at night - Northern star orientation

Find the Northstar, duh. Okay, there is more to that, because it is not the brightest star in the sky. You will need a clear night sky and a good pair of eyes. Or just one good eye, we dont discriminate pirates.

Locate the Big Dipper which is comprised of not just one, but seven of the brightest stars in the sky. You will find it higher or lower in the northern sky, it differs based on the season. It is important to find it because it will point you to the North Star.

It doesn't matter what season it is. The two stars at the edge of the Big Dipper’s bowl will always be pointing at the North Star. Now take your finger or just imagine a line from these two stars pointing across the sky in the same direction to the brightest star, you have yourself a North Star.

Fun fact about Northern Star

Why is the North Star called that? Because of its fixed location in the sky. It is never more than 1 degree from the imaginery Earth’s axis that pierce through the Northern pole. Which means that if you identify it, you have definitively found north. Look left - that’s west, look right – that’s east. Turn around – that’s south, of course. If your view is obstructed by mountains or trees, get to a high point.

Don’t get too brave now and head out to test your newly learned knowledge, bring a compass and a map with you, and stay safe out there. Here are some useful tricks for camping.

If however you decide to visit Tarasport adventure club you’ll stay safe all the time, in daring but controlled environment. Our survival adventures are perfect for you! See you!

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