Compass and Map reading tips

Share navigation tips, discuss map-reading, compass use etc.

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Nik - KOTM
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Compass and Map reading tips

#1 Postby Nik - KOTM » Sat Sep 09, 2006 8:34 pm

This started as a thread on one of the other sections - as this is meant to highlight saftey and other things.

To the matter in hand.

Getting the right Compass

Personally I am of the belief - one essential thing you need out on the moor is a good quality compass, get one you are comfortable with!

Silva make very good compasses and I believe one around the £50 mark is what is required.

Having one with individual marks for the degrees and being a sighting compass is probably more beneficial.

However, having said that I used a basic compass for many years before getting my sighting compass, with great success. Though the latter does make life so much easier.

Maps

As for a map.
A water proof map is also essential, I managed to get one where you can draw on it with pencil and wash it off.
Replace your map regularly as they are constantly updated with more accurate information being added all the time, persoanlly I recommend at least every five years - if it hasn't worn out first.

Yes I can show the difference between maps - I collect stupid things like that - the oldest one I have is a 1933 map of Dartmoor in comparison with todays map.

On one occasion I was doing a navigation exercise using only maps and no compass where I missed a point on the exercise because my point had worn out due to excessive folds in the paper - :lol:

Navigating with the Map alone

As the map is marked out in Kilometres try to work out how many steps you take to walk 100 metres (for myself I walk 116.5 steps).
Why do I say this? It is possible to lose your compass and end up with only a map to navigate with.

OK I can hear some of you saying "How do I navigate with only a map?"
Well put simply... you have to orientate your map to the landmarks around you and then choose a direction you need to go in (this is where the numer of paces comes in) then walk from there to your destination following the map. Ok I admit that is the simplistic thing to say - but practice makes perfect.

Practice your exercises - do it in the garden - do it in your local park.

Navigating with a compass and coming across a BOG

The answer is simple if you really think about you want to go from A to C you know how far it is so you pace it out... but B is in the way so what do you do - you go around it obviously - and the most common thing on the moor is either a huge rock/tor or a bog.
But i the event of fog - you lose sight of the target - or the target is on the map and you have gone after it after you have plotted it on the map.
The trick is to turn 90 degrees (in this case we have turned to the right) and count the number of paces you go to one side then turn back onto your base course until you have passed the obstacle then you turn left 90 degrees again and count back the number of paces you counted earlier the turn back onto your base course again, theoretically you should now be back on course again and continue your number of paces.
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#2 Postby Dizzy » Sun Sep 10, 2006 9:52 am

Excellent thread Nik, this is going to help many people with their search for boxes on the moor.

Mentioning compasses, the one I prefer to use is the Silva Landranger Type 54 shown below. This compass is an excellent sighting compass and retails around the £60 mark.
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This compass has a little window within the dial that you can look through and see the degrees, it gives you an accurate bearing right down to the 1/2 degree!

Shop around on the internet or check out your local camping/hiking shop.

Interference with compass bearings.
Remember that any matallic object i.e. spectacles, your car, even your zip on your coat can interfer with the compass readings.
If you wear glasses place them near the compass and see if it alters the dial.

Laminated Maps
Purchasing a laminated map is a good idea as Nik above has mentioned. The only problem I have with these is trying to fold them and squeeze them into your map case! :x
My personal choice is to buy a normal Dartmoor OS map and cover it with that clear, sticky fablon type stuff that you can buy from places like Wollies to cover school books. Remember though, if you use this the second it touches your map it sticks! You will not be able to peal it off afterwards without damaging your map. Get you map flat and start from one corner peeling the clear plastic back as you go along. Leave plenty of excess around the edges.
By using this clear sticky plastic it make your map waterproof, easier to fold and get into your map case, plus you can use a fine permanent marker pen on it to plot your boxes prior to venturing out on the moors. I clean the marker pen off with a little turps or even cream cleaner.

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#3 Postby Nik - KOTM » Sun Sep 10, 2006 3:09 pm

Laminated map and map case? Why?

Just stuff it in your bag, thats what I do....

Maybe I should have mentioned that the Landranger maps come in three forms
1 just paper - ideal for looking at and plotting courses at home or in the pub

2 The heavy duty laminate which is clear and almost impossible to draw on and

3 The matt finish laminate (my preferred choice) which is lighter and able to take a 2B pencil

Incidently - if you decide to plot courses on a map draw them in pencil and use a 2B pencil, this is easily removed by a decent rubber as anything harder leaves marks and anything softer will smudge


As I mentioned up there in my previous post I found yet another map dated September 1955 today - at a boot fair in Kent!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :shock:
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#4 Postby Dizzy » Sun Sep 10, 2006 10:12 pm

Another map for your collection hey Nik! Well done, I will keep my eyes open for some for you.

Oh, I tend to laminate my map and put it into a map case because my last map used to get wet inside my 'cheap' case. Maybe one day I will save my pocket money and buy a better one. :)
I've always got into the habit of carrying my map case around my neck so I can refer to the crosses I've placed onto it.

I'm please to say we all have our own ways of doing things, if anyone has different ways to ours then please let us know.

When time allows Nik (Tuesday off) I will draw a diagram on how to 'get your bearings' from landmarks, wind swept trees, funny looking rocks and so on, plus pictoral diagrams that show how to plot your walk onto a map before heading out.

This is going to take a lot of scanning and drawing but hopefully it should be some use to some of the new letterboxers here.

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#5 Postby The Sly Fox » Mon Sep 11, 2006 7:22 pm

I have a terrible habit guys ...

I always take my map and compass with me when I go on the moors. However, the map never leaves my bag once I get there. Anyone who has been out walking with me will tell you. I have this (some call it weird) knack of knowing my around. I always know which direction I am facing. And, as long as I have been to a place once, I know every single nook, cranny and place name, and where it is within my or out of my sight (including the horizon).

But I have not been everywhere on Dartmoor yet so the map tags along.
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#6 Postby Dizzy » Wed Sep 13, 2006 9:50 pm

Hey Sly, I wish I had a memory like you! :cry:

I remember when I first got into letterboxing and a friend of mine that sadly passed away on Fur Tor when I wasn't with him took me up to Cut Hill. The fog came down in one big blanket and we couldn't see for no more than say 15 yards ahead of us.
We decided enough was enough and headed back to Postbridge, the only thing is how?

My friend had been walking on Dartmoor for many years letterboxing and had found over 6000 boxes so he knew what to do, and this is how we did it.

Walking on a fog line.

We knew where we were on the map as all letterboxers who venture further afield should know, so we set our compasses using our maps in line with where our car is parked, some 5 miles away. Making sure that we added 3 degrees onto our compasses (check the other thread in this forum on Map Reading Techniques).
He then said to me "right Paul start walking on that bearing until I shout stop". Errm, ok I thought. When he shouted for me to stop he walked up to me, we then did this time and time again and ended up close to the car! :D


So that's what we did with walking on a fog line, so remember, even though the fog can be a little disturbing to be in, there's always a way back. Still, watch out for any bogs on the way though! :roll:

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#7 Postby Nik - KOTM » Sat Sep 23, 2006 9:09 am

I know every single nook, cranny and place name, and where it is within my or out of my sight (including the horizon).


I am so envious of you - I cant remember sod all!

But good advice on the fog line the more people you have the easier it gets.
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One eye open

#8 Postby Ki Adi Mundi » Tue Oct 10, 2006 5:55 pm

Do you keep both eyes open when looking through your sighting compasses, i always have and have never had a problem with bearings but recently i seem to find that either i or the bearings are wrong. I've spoken to specsavers they say i'm fine.... any body have any ideas?

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Re: One eye open

#9 Postby Dizzy » Tue Oct 10, 2006 6:12 pm

Ki Adi Mundi wrote:Do you keep both eyes open when looking through your sighting compasses, i always have and have never had a problem with bearings but recently i seem to find that either i or the bearings are wrong. I've spoken to specsavers they say i'm fine.... any body have any ideas?

The Dartmoor Jedi


I had similar problems last week. I did find that the more popular boxes were excellent bearings like the Curried Letterbox Series, but others like some one off stamps were miles off and most of these I couldn't find! The bearing wouldn't cross and one would have put me two miles out from the grid reference supplied! :shock:

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Dodgy compass

#10 Postby Ki Adi Mundi » Tue Oct 10, 2006 7:02 pm

some of them are strange, i was on leeden tor sunday trying to do a charity walk (that i think has been taken in! but got no reply from my call) 2 bearings matched and found a dead box, but the tree by the car park would have put me miles off nr ingra somewhere!

needless to stay we retired early for the day and went to the pub instead...
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#11 Postby Nik - KOTM » Fri Oct 27, 2006 6:11 am

I don't know if anyone else has come across some Magnetic anominalies on the moor - in the early days of boxing when I had my cheap compass (£40) whenever I walked from North Hessary Southwards my compass used to swing upto 20 degrees out :shock:
It was weird knowing I may have to rely upon this thing one day to help me out of a jam.

But I do know there are some magnetic rocks on the moor which could give an odd reading
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#12 Postby foxy » Tue Nov 27, 2007 9:03 pm

Peat cott is nortorious! In my Dartmoor Rescue days compasses would sometimes swing wildly around and the radios would refuse to work. weird.........

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Re: One eye open

#13 Postby NUMBER 70 » Wed Nov 28, 2007 12:22 pm

Ki Adi Mundi wrote:Do you keep both eyes open when looking through your sighting compasses, i always have and have never had a problem with bearings but recently i seem to find that either i or the bearings are wrong. I've spoken to specsavers they say i'm fine.... any body have any ideas?

The Dartmoor Jedi


I may be stating the obvious but are you wearing steel rimmed glasses check it with you compass.

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Re: One eye open

#14 Postby Jones family on tor » Thu Nov 29, 2007 12:52 am

Ki Adi Mundi wrote:Do you keep both eyes open when looking through your sighting compasses, i always have and have never had a problem with bearings but recently i seem to find that either i or the bearings are wrong. I've spoken to specsavers they say i'm fine.... any body have any ideas?

The Dartmoor Jedi


Another reason could be do you put a GPS/mobile phone in your top pocket or close to your head as this can effect your compass. If you do you will probably find that the reading are always approx the same amount wrong each time. I had this happen one time while carrying a mobile phone

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#15 Postby John » Sun Dec 02, 2007 11:16 pm

foxy wrote:Peat cott is nortorious! In my Dartmoor Rescue days compasses would sometimes swing wildly around and the radios would refuse to work. weird.........


Interesting. Could you be a bit more precise as to where? Actually at the peat cott chapel, the path leading to it, or the land between peat cott and whiteworks?


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