A good compass can keep you from becoming a statistic on the National Park Service search-and-rescue charts. While some rescuers assist hikers that are injured or ill, others are sent out to find lost hikers. Grand Canyon National Park, Lake Mead, and Yosemite are three of the most popular camping and hiking spots. In 2014, these parks also had the largest number of rescues. Below are three ways a compass can keep you from getting lost.
Three Ways a Compass Helps Keeps You on the Right Trail
Find Basic Directions
Compasses are magnetized, and this allows you to always find magnetic North. With the needle pointing North, you'll be able to figure out which trail will take you West, East, or South. This really comes in handy in the back country when trails are marked intermittently or sometimes not at all except at trailheads and trail intersections.
Use to Orient a Map
If you are in unfamiliar territory, it's sometimes difficult to match the topography you're looking at with what's drawn on a map. While GPS devices often have their own maps and orient their screens to the natural landscape, if you're carrying a paper or plastic-board map, doing this is up to you. Most maps have a compass symbol to help, usually somewhere near the borders. By moving the compass and the map together, you'll make sure the map is pointing in the right direction. No more hiking South instead of North because the map was upside down.
Plot a Course to Your Destination
Measurements between two objects or points on a map are called bearings. They are made up of various angles to account for the twists and turns of a hiking trail. If you know your position on a map and know your destination, a compass can help you calculate your bearing. For example, Half Dome at Yosemite is visible from many places within the park. Take a bearing from your position to Half Dome. This gives you a target bearing. As you hike the trails toward the mountain, keep taking bearings from different positions to keep from getting lost. Some bearings are a bit more complicated to figure out than others. The trail to the back side of Half Dome is one example. It curves around in a half circle as it climbs up the mountain. It is connected to a few other trails. Plotting that bearing can keep you from possibly hiking along the Merced River for miles.