30 May

Racing Tips – Orienteering Part 2 – Taking a Bearing

Over the coming weeks we will be posting information that we hope will help you improve your adventure racing skills. If you have topics or questions you would like us to cover, send us an email at flatfeats(at)gmail(dot)com and we’ll try to address them in the near future.

In the previous post we talked about the basics of orienteering by following terrain objects like hills, paths and man-made objects to move through your route. If you get to a spot where there are no terrain objects in front of you, it’s time to take a bearing .

Taking a bearing is an easy 3-step process: find your direction of travel, line up the north/south lines and point yourself in the right direction.

1. Finding your direction of travel

Lay the long edge of the compass along the points of your current destination and where you wish to go on the map. The base plate of your compass should have a large black arrow that will point to where you wish to go on the map. This is known as your direction of travel.

2. Lining up the north/south lines

Once you have established the direction of travel, turn the dial on the compass so the N on the ring points north. To be more precise in your reading, turn the dial so the orienting lines in the dial are parallel with the meridian lines on your map.  Here’s a link to a drawing that shows the compass properly set-up.

3. Pointing yourself in the right direction

Once you have established your direction of travel according to the map, turn yourself (with your map and compass) until the red part of the compass’s needle aligns with the N on the ring. Some people say they are putting “the red in the shed” as the N arrow on the ring looks like a little shed. The black direction of travel arrow on the base plate of the compass now points to where you need to go. Look up, select a landmark that corresponds to your direction of travel and walk toward it.

Repeat this 3 step process until you find a terrain object or your destination.

Note: It’s best to stop moving if you wish to get an accurate bearing.

If you’re more of a visual learner, check out this 6 minute video. It shows you how to take a bearing and briefly touches on the topic of our next post: judging distance.