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Old 09-29-2016, 12:33 PM   #1
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Help Getting Started With Compassing

Looking to move on up to an Adult compass, lol. Currently I just carry a basic crappy cheapo that does me good enough because I am generally following well marked trails in areas I am familiar with. As I have been branching out into newer and deeper territories, I am looking to upgrade my compass and learn how to properly use it. I think I understand the basic skills, but want to upgrade my gear and really hone it in.

Product selection.I have found a few selections but I would like to hear opinions on these or other products. I don't want to break the bank, but I also want to make sure that I purchase a quality product...I have heard talk about Silvas..I have found two, the Lensatic 360
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B000EQ81QK...I3CUW1ZK28DRE4

and the Explorer,
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B000K6F3ZQ...I1V23302NG5Q7C
both right around $20...

Currently massdrop is offering a Suunto MC-2 for $37.00 https://www.massdrop.com/buy/suunto-mc-2-compass ...

Seeing as this is new territory for me, any help or direction (no pun intended) on which products I should be looking at and any material to start reading to learn how to properly use a map and compass would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance.
-GP
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Old 09-29-2016, 02:29 PM   #2
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I don't recommend the lensatic style at all. I do recommend the orienteering style, flat rectangular baseplate type of compass. (sighting mirror is optional)

I have more than a dozen Suunto M3D or M3G compasses

https://www.amazon.com/Suunto-SS0213...ass&th=1&psc=1

The mirrored MC2 is good, overkilll IMO, but $37 is an excellent price.


or if you don't want to spend that much, the Suunto A-30L is just as accurate, but without declination adjustment ( go for the MC2 or M3, as better in the long run)
https://www.amazon.com/Suunto-SS0121...suunto+compass

Silva makes several equivalent models, including the Explorer that you reference.

there are a confusing number of good books to choose from, , but the one most like the way I teach to SAR and L.E. is:
The Essential Wilderness Navigator: How to Find Your Way in the Great Outdoors, Second Edition
https://www.amazon.com/Essential-Wil...ass+navigation
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Old 09-29-2016, 07:59 PM   #3
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When this guy talks about maps and compass's.......I listen. That's about all I can add to this thread. Other than that I prefer the clear baseplate models too.
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Old 09-30-2016, 08:33 AM   #4
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Thanks! I will be placing my order for the book you mentioned so I can begin studying.

How important is having the declination adjustment? I read that it is the difference between true North and Magnetic North. Is it just a reference point you set on the compass face to compare/adjust against the map? Would I be at a disadvantage without it?

One more question, will I be Ok with a Northern hemisphere compass (I don't travel out of the country to Australia or anything like that) or should I pay the up charge and go with the global style compass. From what I read, the advantage would be that the global compass is more forgiving with not being level etc, whereas the hemispheric coordinated compasses need to be completely still and flat to be accurate. Is it worth the extra cash is my basic question.

Thanks again!
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Old 09-30-2016, 09:14 AM   #5
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I prefer not to have the declination adjustment on my compass. Others swear by it. I agree with getting the simple base plate model compass. Simple = better IMO. You might want to purchase several and carry at least two in case you lose one.

Forget about the world compass unless you have plans to travel and bushwhack south of the equator.

To get you started on the road to mastery of "analog" navigation take a compass and a map on any trailed hike. Note drainages, direction changes, variations in the slope of the land, compass bearings (and estimated distances) to visible landmarks etc. Use that data and keep track of elapsed time to keep track of your position as much as possible.

Remember that a compass is nothing more than a 360 degree protractor with a needle that always points in the same direction. The most important skill to develop is associating what you see all around you with what is printed on your map. That info is used in conjunction with the needle/protractor to determine your position.

Btw, I started using an altimeter last year and have found that to be a very valuable adjunct to the M&C.
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Old 09-30-2016, 11:18 AM   #6
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I agree with Neil that a declination adjustment is not critical to have. I navigated for most of my life with an old Silva Ranger, which does have a dec adjustment, but I never used it until recent years. I do use the adjustment now, because during SAR, many Rangers prefer to use true north reference. Besides, it eliminates any math conversion errors if the compass reads relative to TN directly. But you do have to remember to re-adjust if you travel very far between uses (~50+ miles)

No, you don't need the global version of the compass, if you remain in the northern hemisphere, but I don't think you can get the non-global Suunto M3D compass anymore at a reasonable price from the usual suppliers, the M3D is my previous favorite compass. The new m3nh (nh=northern hemisphere) model may have taken he place of the old M3DL. I brought both on a trip to Australia as a test, but diid not notice any real difference in function. I always carry at least two compasses (sometimes 3), it is ok if the second backup is a cheapo.
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Old 10-01-2016, 07:45 AM   #7
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I agree that a cheap base-plate compass (along with a detailed topo map) is all you need for off trail navigation in the Adirondacks. This Book helped me learn the basics, but you really need to just go out there & practice, practice, practice. Start with something easy, then progress from there and gain your experience & confidence. As Neil mentioned, an altimeter can also be a very helpful tool. Some people also even like to print out aerial images in addition to having a topo map.
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Old 10-03-2016, 07:19 AM   #8
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Thanks for the input everyone. I ordered the Suunto A-30L, based on recommendations from all to keep it simple. I also ordered a copy of the book Wldrns recommended, The Essential Wilderness Navigator. Both arrived yesterday and I started into it last night. Once I get through that a few times I will check out your recommendation Justin, I just put it on my wish list on Amazon so I don't lose sight of it.

As far as detailed Topos, are the NatGeo maps the preferred go to, or is there another set I should be looking at?

Thanks for all of the insight,

-GP
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Old 10-03-2016, 07:34 AM   #9
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Nat geo are not detailed topos. They show general topography only and hiking trails. Not really usable for backcountry navigation. You can download complete USGS topographic maps for free from USGS

http://viewer.nationalmap.gov/basic/

the NY GIS database offers NY topos for download here:
http://gis.ny.gov/gisdata/quads/drg24/index.htm

or, perhaps better and easier to get started, go to caltopo.com. on that website you can download custom size segments of topographic maps, place locationmarkers of your choice, and perform measurements directly on the web page, tutorials here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zjUo6PwHmAQ
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oT6CTaac0Hw

Other choices:

Want older editions of USGS topo maps, useful for locating old trails and structures:
http://docs.unh.edu/nhtopos/NewYork.htm

others:
https://mappingsupport.com/p/gmap4.php

http://nyfalls.com/maps/ny-maps-topo-24000/#Bigelow

Canada:
http://www.canmaps.com
http://www.jeffstopos.com
http://geomag.nrcan.gc.ca/calc/mdcal-en.php

For a fee you can get seamless custom maps, centered wherever you like (avoiding the inevitable need to carry multiple maps of a region when you are locted near a map edge) printed and laminated
http://www.mytopo.com/maps/

http://www.topozone.com/new-york/


http://adirondack-park.net/topo/

NYSDEC:
http://www.dec.ny.gov/pubs/42978.html

find magnetic declination anywhere:
http://www.magnetic-declination.com


http://ngmdb.usgs.gov/maps/topoview/.../40.01/-100.06
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Old 10-03-2016, 08:04 AM   #10
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I've been using CalTopo for a while and print to an 8.5"x11" sheet using a black and white laser printer. One option is to go to a paid membership which will allow you to increase the map size you can print. Let's say I did that and could print a 2' x 3' colored map to a .PDF file on a thumb drive.

What commercial store/business could I bring the .PDF where I could then print a colored 2' x 3' map? Does Kinko's have the equipment to do that?
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Old 10-03-2016, 08:17 AM   #11
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Check with your local book stores for USGS quads.
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Old 10-03-2016, 08:35 AM   #12
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some of the larger outfitter shops I have been to in recent years no longer carry USGS paper maps (Hoss's in Long lake is an exception, as is Mountanman and the old Forge hardware store in Old Forge). Instead, for hefty fee, they will print a fresh map of your choice from an online commercial source,such as mytopo.
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Old 10-04-2016, 07:23 AM   #13
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Wldrns,
Those youtube tutorials on using Caltopo are excellent! Many thanks!
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Old 10-04-2016, 06:50 PM   #14
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Wldrns, I am going to start from point "A" and head straight to point "B" exactly 1 mile away. I forget to figure the 13% declination. After walking a mile by how my yards did I miss my target. Is there a simple mathematical equation or do you need a Trig. equation?
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Old 10-04-2016, 06:56 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by geogymn View Post
Wldrns, I am going to start from point "A" and head straight to point "B" exactly 1 mile away. I forget to figure the 13% declination. After walking a mile by how my yards did I miss my target. Is there a simple mathematical equation or do you need a Trig. equation?
Technically it is a trigonometric problem, But for an easy rule of thumb(for relatively small angle errors), you will have approximately a 1 in 60 cross course distance displacement error for each degree of heading error. In other words, consider traveling 1 nautical mile (about 6,000 feet). one part in 60 of 6000 is 100, therefore you will be displaced from your goal by 100x13=1300 feet missing your target. in your case ( in this region of the country) you will be that much too far to the left of target if you have ignored magnetic declination.
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Old 10-05-2016, 07:37 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wldrns View Post
Technically it is a trigonometric problem, But for an easy rule of thumb(for relatively small angle errors), you will have approximately a 1 in 60 cross course distance displacement error for each degree of heading error. In other words, consider traveling 1 nautical mile (about 6,000 feet). one part in 60 of 6000 is 100, therefore you will be displaced from your goal by 100x13=1300 feet missing your target. in your case ( in this region of the country) you will be that much too far to the left of target if you have ignored magnetic declination.
Using graph paper and a protractor I came up with 387 yds, albeit I was using a 5280 ft. mile. Not to mention a ragged protractor my son used probably as a Frisbee whilst in grade school 20 years ago.
Still 1300 ft. in the forest is quite the distance. I am sure that simple is the best way to start someone with a compass as long as they realize the limitations.
Thanks for your response and help, much obliged.
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Old 10-05-2016, 08:06 AM   #17
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Quote:
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Using graph paper and a protractor I came up with 387 yds, albeit I was using a 5280 ft. mile. Not to mention a ragged protractor my son used probably as a Frisbee whilst in grade school 20 years ago.
Of course your compass is really just a protractor, so you could just as well use that on the graph paper(or a map), probably more accurately than using a frisbee. Note the approximation trick I gave you is fairly accurate only for truly small angles. the actual formula is S=r*theta, where S is the cross track error distance, R is the distance traveled, and theta is the error angle in radian measure. The real number is 57.3 degrees, not 60 as the number of degrees in a radian(mental math is easier when using 60 than with 57.3) The first term from the Taylor series small angle expansion for the trigonometric sine angle gives the shortcut. 13 degrees may be a bit large for the approximation to accurately hold.
(BTW - Using the acccurate form of the trig sine formula gives 399.3 yards as the answer over 1 statute mile of travel.)

Don't neglect magnetic declination. it is depicted on every topo map.
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Old 10-05-2016, 05:08 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wldrns View Post
Of course your compass is really just a protractor, so you could just as well use that on the graph paper(or a map), probably more accurately than using a frisbee. Note the approximation trick I gave you is fairly accurate only for truly small angles. the actual formula is S=r*theta, where S is the cross track error distance, R is the distance traveled, and theta is the error angle in radian measure. The real number is 57.3 degrees, not 60 as the number of degrees in a radian(mental math is easier when using 60 than with 57.3) The first term from the Taylor series small angle expansion for the trigonometric sine angle gives the shortcut. 13 degrees may be a bit large for the approximation to accurately hold.
(BTW - Using the acccurate form of the trig sine formula gives 399.3 yards as the answer over 1 statute mile of travel.)

Don't neglect magnetic declination. it is depicted on every topo map.
Yeah, That Trig stuff is beyond my comprehension. I am glad someone has it figured out. I guess I was trying to make a point that a simple compass has limitations that a newbie should be aware of. If a newbie is targeting a lake a mile away, make sure that lake is 2600' wide and aim for the middle if you choose not to use declination.

Again thanks for your help!
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