Compasses do more than just point north! Here are some skills that are easy to learn but will really help you on the mountainside.
Important: Some areas such as parts of the Skye Cuillin have rocks that have magnetic properties so be careful when using a compass in these areas.
Below is an interactive image of a compass to show you which parts are what - hover your mouse over it to get started.
Note - the blue points are the parts that are essential to know when you take a look at how to take a bearing on the opposite side of this page
Some compasses have an additional arrow - the inclination arrow. This is used to measure how steep a slope is.
To do this, line the East or West mark on the housing up with the index arrow. Tilt the compass so that it is aligned with steepness of the slope and read off of the markings (sometimes from the reverse of the compass).
When reading bearings make sure you are looking from directly above the compass as this will prevent errors.
How to Take a bearing from the map
Taking a bearing from a map is a good reliable way of getting to a certain location when it is out of sight.
How to take a Direct Bearing
By using this simple technique you can navigate to a feature you are able to see at an earlier point in a walk even if fog falls or if you go down into a valley and are unable to see it later on in the walk.
1. Aim the direction of travel arrow at the feature you want to get to.
2. Line up the orienting arrow underneath the magnetic needle of the compass.
3. Look back up at your feature and make sure the direction of travel arrow is pointing precisely at the feature and then check the magnetic needle and orienting arrow are aligned.
4. Proceed in the direction of travel, making sure the needle and orienting arrow are aligned as you walk, if they are not aligned you have gone of course and need to change direction slightly.
Taking a back bearing
A back bearing is used to see where you have come from and can be used to check you are at the same height as it.
All you have to do is alight the south needle with the orienting arrow and you will have turned around 180 degrees.