Base Plate Compass

BASEPLATE COMPASS are typically used in scouting. It looks like the pictures below. It has a clear plastic flat plate with a capsule filled with liquid and a directional needle. The capsule should have degree markings (numbers from 0 to 359 on it). You need to be able to rotate the capsule in the baseplate. You should be able to place the compass on the map and see through the compass to the map. Its also nice to have one edge of the compass have a straight edge. The compass should have an arrow indicating the direction of travel.

These compass will cost about $10. You can find some for $5, but it may not be worth it. Some good simple baseplate compass include: Silva Polaris, Silva Starter 1-2-3, Suunto A-10, Brunton Classic, Brunton Star. You can get these at The Scout Shop, Sport Chalet, Sport Authority, and Sometimes Target and Walmart. If you want to spend a few more dollars ($20 to $30) on a hybrid baseplate-sighting compass that will provide better sighting, consider the following: Brunton 16DLU Mirror Compass, Brunton Safari, Silva Trekker Sighting Compass, Suunto Challenger (picture below).

DO NOT BRING any of the following types of compasses: Lensatic, pocket, surveyor's, digital, sighting. Some of these are pictured below. If in doubt, please ask.

These compass types can be used in addition to a baseplate compass to enhance accuracy, or to make measurements easier, but they are hard to use with a map.

An interesting compass that is used by British forces is the Brunton/Silva 54lu Combi, or the Alpin PRO. These compasses are ideal for map work and sighting objects without the use of a mirror. However they cost well above $70. These have an optical prism integrated into the baseplate, and allow you to precisely sight in an object while looking at the heading.

Working Surface and Other Tools

You will need a stiff cardboard, wood, plastic, aluminum, sheet (not steel) - nonmagnetic. A typical clipboard will NOT work because it typically has a metal clip or spring. This will throw off your compass! The rubber bands or all plastic clips are to hold you papers securely to the board, so you map and instructions will not fly away.

Below is an example of a work surface. It is a masonite board - it was a clipboard ($1.50) with the metal clip removed - with two large rubberbands ($1 for 25) to hold the map.

You will need something to write with (pencils are best), an eraser, as well as a plastic or wooden ruler - make sure to test them with a magnet to ensure they are not magnetic.

If you are not good with adding, subtracting, and multiplying 3 digit numbers - you may want to bring a simple pocket calculator.

Two things

…you need to know. Which way is North? Where are you going? (or which way are you going?) These are serious questions.

  1. Which way is North? For a map, how many north directions are there? How can you tell which direction is north - magnetic, true,others? What is the difference? How does the compass tell you which way is North? How do you align the compass North with the Map North? Which North?
  2. Where are you going?? For the map, how can you tell where are you going? Where are you? Where do you want to go? How do you align the compass so its telling you where you are going (or which way you are going)?

Confused? Well, you may want to read the handbook again. If you did, and need help, please ask your fellow scouts or leaders.

If you know how to answer these two questions, then you will have no trouble with the outing.

Other Information

Basic Use of a Map and Compass

Good Summary from Suunto

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