Find cardinal direction north star Polaris

Finding Direction with No Compass

There are lots of fun ways to find directions if you've lost or forgotten your compass. They are great exercises to do just to learn them and have handy just in case or to impress your city-slicker friends. These methods can be used to map cardinal directions and better, but remember that they are not nearly as good as a compass.

Polaris the North Star

This is my favorite and the easiest one to do. All you need is a fairly clear night and knowledge of a couple constellations.
find north star
  All the stars in the sky appear to circle around Polaris. It is nearly right on the axis of the world which is true north, not magnetic north.
polaris north star

Watch Method

In the days of digital watches, this one is fading away.
find direction

If you have no watch, use your imagination.
map direction


Sun Shadow Method

The sun moves across the sky from east to west and its shadow gradually changes in length which is what makes this direction finding method work.
cardinal direction

A cool variation on this is that it works well at night with a bright moon too!

There is a similar version that is more precise if you have a few hours to wait, but the difference in precision is not worth the wait - its mostly just for fun and takes two people.

Star Method

If you can't find the Big Dipper because it is behind a mountain, or behind clouds this method can help if you can see some stars in the sky:

How to Make a Compass

If you happen to be out on a trek and realize that you forgot your compass but happen to have a magnet and a needle or nail in your pocket, I'll tell you how to make a compass. Chances of this ever being used in a real situation are slim, but it's a fun thing to do just so you know how to do it. And that is how to make a compass - it's actually a quick history lesson in how the earliest compasses came about as well.

This is the last page in my map and compass tutorial. If you've started at the beginning and gone through the whole thing, you should have a good idea about how compasses work and how maps help us along the way. I hope you've enjoyed your trek. I also hope you take a shot at finding cardinal directions and Polaris the north star and let me know what worked for you.
Now, you just need to go practice and plan your next excursion out of your cubicle, away from your computer screen, and into the real world that's waiting out there!

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