Those of you who’ve read my posts for awhile now may have picked up on the fact that I’m not a big fan of technological gizmos that you take into the great outdoors. I’ve been in situations, both in the military and in civilian life, where technology failed and it took skill and knowledge in manual systems in order to overcome the problem.
A compass is a prime example of something everybody should have in their BOB, hiking pack, or hanging from their necklace. And yes, you should know how to use it! Brunton was kind enough to send me this compass awhile ago and I managed to put it to use on my winter hiking trip.
Like most of you I’ve tried a whole bunch of different compasses in the field. It got to the point where it didn’t really matter what I used, although I did start out with a lensatic compass and protractor while in the military.
This is their Adventure Racing Model and I’ve got to say that I really like it. You can read what they have to say about it at the site, but here’s why I enjoyed using it:
First of all, it’s got a nice smooth action to it. The azimuth wheel is tight, so you don’t have to worry about it slipping a couple of degrees when using it and the baseplate is nice and thick giving you something non-flimsy to hold on to.
Another thing I like about this compass is the ability to set the declination constant on the compass and not have to worry about LARS (left add right subtract), which is a great feature! As you can see in the picture below I flipped the compass over and set the declination to 18 degrees west. No more Left Add Right Subtract when using this compass.
I’ve always used lensatic compasses that needed to have the declination done mathematically, so using this was a real treat.
In the picture above you can see the various features of the compass. If you click the image you should get a bigger view of it. (Incidentally, my winter camp was set up right around 1 3/4 inches on the bottom scale.)
Not quite trusting the declination scale at first I figured out my bearing the old fashioned way, by adding 18 degrees to the compass after I had the grid bearing. I took a couple of bearings like that noting where the compass pointed, then set the declination scale and tried it that way and voila! It worked!
The only downside I could see about this was the compass sensitivity. The needle itself is a fairly powerful magnet and it was easily pulled off course by small amounts of metal. If you’re aware of that fact it’s not a big deal.
If you don’t have any knowledge about how to use a map and compass don’t despair! I am currently working on putting something together for those unfamiliar with them. If you know how to use a GPS, but can’t take a bearing using a compass you might want to tune in when I finally finish the post.
BTW: Have you ever relied on a piece of technology only to have it fail at the worst possible moment? Tell me about in the comments section below. I’m not a Luddite, but I do like hearing how people overcome adversity using a little Yankee ingenuity.
Or conversely, is there one piece of technology you wouldn’t be caught dead in the field without? Let me know!