Land Nav – Taking an Azimuth Off the Map and Applying It To the Compass

Ok folks, back to the dreaded land navigation today.  In this final video, which I’ve been trying to shoot forever, I tell you how to survival_compass_gps_shtf_bug_out_bagmeasure an azimuth off a map and translate that information onto your compass.  As you’re (hopefully) aware north on a map doesn’t necessarily mean north on your compass.  Grid or map north is a product of the way the maps are made and magnetic north is where your compass points.  The difference between the two is called magnetic deviation or magnetic declination.  The trick is to know the declination in your area.  Click here to figure out what the declination is in your area.

Here in Maine it’s now about 16 degrees.  In the examples I use 18 degrees because that’s what’s on the map, but I know if I go out to use 16 degrees so I don’t get lost.

Check out the video here for a more detailed explanation.



Questions?  Comments?

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Jarhead Survivor

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10 comments… add one
  • Leon Pantenburg May 2, 2014, 9:25 am

    Land nav skills are incredibly important. Most wilderness survival situations occur, according to members of the local Search and Rescue team, when people get lost. Keep up the good work!


    • Jarhead Survivor May 3, 2014, 6:26 pm

      Thanks Leon. That’s an interesting statistic that I don’t find hard to believe.

  • Road Warrior May 2, 2014, 12:52 pm

    I just took a brief Land nav course, and bought a Suunto M-3 compass with a built-in declination adjustment as a result. pretty cool piece of gear.

    • irishdutchuncle May 4, 2014, 2:50 am

      I’ll expect a full report here on its performance, by monday…
      along with an after action report on the urban skills challenge.

  • ArmyVet May 2, 2014, 9:12 pm

    I haven’t used my land nav training in years. I need to get practice at getting around using the skills taught me way, way back.

    As a side bar, I was just up in Maine. Delivered in So. Portland, and picked up in Medway. I swear that is some of the most beautiful country up there. I could actually live there, if you didn’t have to go thru NY and the rest of New England to get there.

  • Steve suffering in NJ May 3, 2014, 9:28 am

    Thanks Jarhead well done.

  • irishdutchuncle May 3, 2014, 12:37 pm

    looking forward to watching the complete land nav series again, after I fix my computer. (my older version of Firefox is missing a few plug-ins) in the mean time I better get some topo maps while they are still on paper…

  • Chuck Findlay May 3, 2014, 10:47 pm

    Not to buck the map compass thing (I usually have both with me) but I don’t fly (it’s been over 25-years since I have been on a plane and I don’t see myself getting in one for the rest of my life) so it’s very unlikely I will ever find myself in a situation where a compass will save me in some unknown to me wild place. I really don’t travel in any remote areas, I always instinctively know what way is north (confirmed by the compass) and because I know roughly where I am I know what direction to go to get to civilization. And when I do travel it’s by the interstate highway system and on it I always know where I am.

    I also have a cell phone, Ham radio and CB radio with me at all times.

    Years ago I read that there is almost no place in the USA that is not more then 10-miles from a road.. This may not be the case in Mane or in the Southwest, but here in Ohio I would bet it’s more like only a mile at most.

    This is going to bring out the “I’m a fool responses” and that it is BAD advice to tell anyone to not take a compass and or map with them. And that is not what I said above. What I said is that I personally find them not as useful as people say they must be.

    I’m 55-years old and have been a Boy Scout, an outdoor enthusiast and primitive camper since 5-years old. And in all that time I never really needed a compass. I learned how to use them because that is what is taught to the outdoors person as a lifesaver.

    Yes a map is handy. But a compass, not so much as you can look at nature around you and it will show you the direction. And nature only knows true north, not magnetic north so you get the true direction, not so much with a compass.


    • irishdutchuncle May 4, 2014, 3:47 am

      I’m a couple years older than you, and recently my innate sense of direction has failed me a few times. (just sayin)
      the compass isn’t foolproof, but it’s quick. I want to orient the map to my heading, right now. I don’t want to walk (or drive) in circles. (which is exactly what I did the other day, trying to detour around the flooding, and the tied-up traffic)

    • Jarhead Survivor May 7, 2014, 10:36 am

      If someone doesn’t have that gift of knowing where north is – and nobody I know does – then going without some way to tell where you are could get you in trouble.

      A map and compass and GPS units are used for so much more than just not getting lost though. They are used to help you navigate in an unknown place. Moving from point A to point B on a map through the wilderness is nearly impossible without a map, compass, and pace count (or GPS) to guide you.

      I don’t know if your ability to sense north would work in a situation like that. I would guess it doesn’t because the ability to sense north would be different from the ability to travel at 216 degrees. Maybe I’m wrong! I’ve always had to rely on the compass.

      This winter I was hiking in an area that I know fairly well, but at one point I got into underbrush so dense I couldn’t tell where north was and I couldn’t see the sun. Out came the compass to guide me through it until I hit a trail I knew was there.

      The ability to sense north in humans is called magnetoception and is controversial.

      I’d love to experiment with you sometime. :-)

      Don’t worry, I wouldn’t take anything out of your head.


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