How to Walk a Compass Bearing

If you're out in the wild and the cloud/mist/fog closes in, you can walk with safety, if you have a map and compass. Who knows? This might just come in handy one day.


  1. Image titled Walk a Compass Bearing Step 1
    Align your map using the compass.
  2. Image titled Walk a Compass Bearing Step 2
    Decide the direction & distance you need to walk before changing to a new direction. Make sure to note the required direction as a compass bearing.
  3. Image titled Walk a Compass Bearing Step 3
    Place an easily-seen item (things such as a rucksack or coat) on the ground.
  4. Image titled Walk a Compass Bearing Step 4
    Walk the compass bearing, checking behind you to ensure you can still see the item.
  5. Image titled Walk a Compass Bearing Step 5
    Stop when the item is starting to disappear in the mist. Verify that you are still on the proper bearing, and place a second item.
  6. Image titled Walk a Compass Bearing Step 6
    Walk back and retrieve the first item, then return to the second item.
  7. Image titled Walk a Compass Bearing Step 7
    Leave the second item on the ground and repeat the procedure from step 5.


  • It is assumed that you know how to align your map with the compass, otherwise why did you bring them!
  • Be sure not to stumble about looking down at your compass, but rather to select a visible object along your course, even if it's a rock or clump a grass a meter or two away, and walk to it. This prevents you from moving unwittingly right or left of your intending heading, and thus parallel to it, but not on it.
  • A simple way to verify that you are on the proper heading is to reverse your compass and take a bearing back to the first object. By reversing your compass (making the direction of travel arrow face you, rather than away from you), you needn't reset your compass, and potentially introduce an error. Just make sure you turn your compass around when proceeding forward.
  • Before you set out, make sure you know how to pace a measured length, i.e. 1 meter (3.3 ft) or half-a-metre. That's how you check your distance walked.


  • You must always know where you are on the map, before the weather closes down. Otherwise, you don't know where to start from. Check your position constantly.
  • Never walk alone in the wild - this procedure is much easier with two people. One stands and directs the other to walk the bearing and calls "stop" when the mist envelops him - then walks and joins him, and repeats the procedure.

Article Info

Categories: Map and Orienteering Skills