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How to use a 16 point compass made SIMPLE

    Are you wondering how to use a 16 point compass? Then you have come to the right place! By the end of this article you will know all about the 16 point compass and how to use it… ready to learn more? Then read on!

    Navigating the great outdoors can be an exhilarating experience, whether you’re hiking through vast forests or exploring unfamiliar terrain. To ensure you stay on the right path and reach your destination with confidence, a reliable navigation tool is essential. One such tool that has stood the test of time is the 16-point compass.

    In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the intricacies of using a 16 point compass and unlock the skills needed to navigate like a seasoned explorer. Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, hiker, or adventurer, understanding how to effectively utilise this valuable tool can make all the difference in your outdoor excursions.

    So, what sets the 16 point compass apart? Unlike its more commonly known counterpart, the 8-point compass, the 16 point compass offers greater precision and accuracy. By dividing the compass dial into 16 equal divisions, it provides a more detailed representation of direction, allowing for more precise navigation in challenging environments.

    Throughout this guide, we will explore the cardinal points and intermediate points, explain the process of orienting the compass, teach you how to take accurate bearings, and provide practical tips for using the compass in various outdoor scenarios. By the end, you’ll have the knowledge and confidence to venture forth, knowing you possess a valuable tool for finding your way in the wilderness.

    Whether you’re embarking on a backcountry hike, planning a trek through uncharted territory, or simply seeking to enhance your navigational skills, understanding how to use a 16 point compass is a valuable asset. So, let’s dive in and unlock the secrets of this remarkable navigation tool that has guided adventurers for generations.

    16 point compass

    Understanding the Basics of a 16 Point Compass

    Before diving into the intricacies of using a 16 point compass, it’s essential to grasp the fundamental components and concepts. Let’s explore the basics of this navigation tool:

    1. What is a 16-Point Compass?
      • A 16-point compass is a navigational instrument used to determine direction accurately. It consists of a rotating dial, marked with 16 equally spaced divisions, representing different azimuths or bearings.
    2. Cardinal Points:
      • The four cardinal points are the primary points on the compass: north (N), east (E), south (S), and west (W). These points represent the four main directions on the compass.
    3. Intermediate Points:
      • In addition to the cardinal points, a 16-point compass includes eight intermediate points. These are located between the cardinal points and provide more precise direction indicators. The intermediate points are northeast (NE), southeast (SE), southwest (SW), and northwest (NW).
    4. The Compass Dial:
      • The compass dial is the circular component of the compass that rotates. It features the cardinal and intermediate points, marked with their respective abbreviations.
    5. Azimuths and Bearings:
      • Azimuths are angles measured clockwise from north, ranging from 0° to 360°. Bearings, on the other hand, are typically expressed in the format of three digits (e.g., 045° or 315°) and indicate a specific direction relative to north.
    6. Magnetic Needle and Orienting Arrow:
      • A 16-point compass has a magnetic needle that aligns itself with the Earth’s magnetic field, pointing towards magnetic north. The orienting arrow is a fixed indicator on the compass housing that helps align the compass accurately.

    Getting Familiar with Cardinal Points

    To effectively navigate with a 16 point compass, it’s crucial to have a solid understanding of the cardinal points—the four main directions on the compass. Let’s explore each cardinal point in detail:

    • North (N):
      • North is the most fundamental cardinal point. It represents the direction towards the Earth’s geographic North Pole. On a 16-point compass, North is usually indicated by the letter “N” or a symbol resembling an arrow pointing up.
    • East (E):
      • East represents the direction 90 degrees clockwise from North. It is the direction of the Earth’s rotation. On a 16-point compass, East is typically denoted by the letter “E” or an arrow pointing to the right.
    • South (S):
      • South is the opposite direction to North and represents the Earth’s geographic South Pole. It is 180 degrees from North. On a 16-point compass, South is usually marked with the letter “S” or an arrow pointing down.
    • West (W):
      • West is 90 degrees counter-clockwise from North and is perpendicular to East. It represents the direction of the Earth’s rotation opposite to the East. On a 16-point compass, West is commonly indicated by the letter “W” or an arrow pointing to the left.

    Exploring Intermediate Points

    In addition to the cardinal points, a 16 point compass offers eight intermediate points that provide more detailed directional indications. Let’s explore these intermediate points and their positions on the compass:

    • Northeast (NE):
      • Northeast is the direction located between North and East, halfway between the two cardinal points. On a 16-point compass, Northeast is typically denoted as “NE” or represented by an arrow pointing diagonally towards the upper right.
    • Southeast (SE):
      • Southeast lies between South and East, forming a right angle with the cardinal points. On the compass, Southeast is often marked as “SE” or represented by an arrow pointing diagonally towards the lower right.
    • Southwest (SW):
      • Southwest is positioned between South and West, also forming a right angle. On a 16-point compass, Southwest is commonly indicated as “SW” or represented by an arrow pointing diagonally towards the lower left.
    • Northwest (NW):
      • Northwest lies between North and West, forming a right angle with the cardinal points. It is opposite to Southeast. On the compass, Northwest is typically marked as “NW” or represented by an arrow pointing diagonally towards the upper left.

    These intermediate points provide finer direction indications, enabling greater precision in navigation. They are particularly useful when you need to navigate between the primary cardinal points or when you want to describe a direction that falls between two cardinal points.

    16 point compass

    Orienting the Compass

    Orienting the compass is a crucial step in using a 16 point compass effectively. Proper orientation ensures that the compass aligns with the Earth’s magnetic field, allowing you to accurately determine the cardinal and intermediate directions. Follow these steps to orient your compass:

    1. Hold the Compass Correctly:
      • Hold the compass flat in the palm of your hand, with the direction-of-travel arrow (usually marked on the baseplate) pointing away from your body. Ensure that the rotating dial with the cardinal and intermediate points is facing up and readable.
    2. Find a Level Surface:
      • Locate a level surface away from any magnetic or ferrous objects that could interfere with the compass needle. Avoid standing near vehicles, large metal structures, or electronic devices, as they can disrupt the compass readings.
    3. Determine Magnetic Declination:
      • Magnetic declination refers to the angular difference between true north (geographic north) and magnetic north (where the compass needle points). It varies depending on your location. Find the magnetic declination value specific to your area by referring to maps, online resources, or compass adjustment tools.
    4. Rotate the Compass Dial:
      • Rotate the compass dial until the orienting arrow is aligned with the magnetic needle. Ensure that the arrow points in the same direction as the needle, and they are both parallel.
    5. Hold the Compass Level:
      • While keeping the compass dial aligned with the magnetic needle, hold the compass level in front of you. Look down at the compass, making sure you can see the cardinal and intermediate points clearly.
    6. Identify True North:
      • Once the compass is level, find the north-seeking arrow or indicator on the compass baseplate. This arrow points towards true north. By aligning the compass properly, you are now able to determine the other cardinal and intermediate directions accurately.

    By orienting your compass correctly, you establish a reliable reference for navigation. It allows you to interpret the compass readings accurately and find your way with confidence in the outdoors. Remember to periodically recheck the orientation during your journey, especially if you suspect any interference or changes in the magnetic field.

    Taking Bearings

    Taking accurate bearings with a 16 point compass is an essential skill for precise navigation. A bearing represents a specific direction or azimuth relative to the cardinal points. Follow these steps to take bearings effectively:

    1. Determine your Starting Point:
      • Stand at your current location and identify the object, landmark, or destination you want to navigate towards.
    2. Hold the Compass Properly:
      • Ensure you are holding the compass level in your hand, with the direction-of-travel arrow pointing away from your body. Keep your fingers clear of the rotating dial to prevent accidental movement.
    3. Align the Compass with the Object:
      • Point the compass in the direction of the object you wish to navigate towards. Make sure the front edge of the compass baseplate aligns with the object.
    4. Read the Bearing:
      • Look down at the compass and note the direction indicated by the rotating dial. Read the bearing by identifying the nearest cardinal or intermediate point to which the direction arrow aligns.
    5. Convert to a Three-Digit Bearing (Optional):
      • If desired, convert the bearing to a three-digit format for easier communication and map use. For example, a bearing of northeast (NE) would be converted to 045°, southeast (SE) to 135°, southwest (SW) to 225°, and northwest (NW) to 315°.
    6. Follow the Bearing:
      • Once you have determined the bearing, you can proceed in the indicated direction. Keep the compass level and use the object you sighted as a reference while navigating. Continuously check your bearing as you progress to maintain accuracy.

    Navigating with a 16-Point Compass

    Navigating with a 16 point compass allows you to confidently explore the outdoors and find your way in unfamiliar terrain. Here are some practical techniques and tips to help you navigate effectively:

    Setting a Course

    Before setting off on your journey, determine your desired course by identifying the cardinal or intermediate point that aligns with your destination. Visualize the direction and make a mental note of it.

    Following a Bearing

    When navigating, keep the compass level and the direction-of-travel arrow pointing in the desired direction. Continuously refer to the compass to ensure you’re maintaining the correct bearing. Adjust your path as needed to stay on course.

    Using Landmarks

    Familiarise yourself with prominent landmarks along your route. Use them as reference points to verify your progress and ensure you’re on track. By comparing your position relative to known landmarks, you can make necessary adjustments to your course.

    Dead Reckoning

    Dead reckoning involves estimating your position based on a previously known position, your direction, and the distance traveled. Combine your compass readings with estimated distances to approximate your location on a map or in the field.

    Orienting with Maps

    Use your 16 point compass in conjunction with a map to enhance your navigational accuracy. Orient the map to align with the cardinal points, and then align your compass with the map to ensure consistent reference between the two.


    Triangulation involves using the compass to determine your position by taking bearings to two or more known landmarks. By intersecting the bearings on the map, you can pinpoint your location with greater precision.

    Pacing and Timing

    Use pacing and timing techniques to estimate distances traveled. By knowing your average pace length and timing, you can calculate distances covered and better gauge your progress along a route.

    16 point compass

    Adjusting for Magnetic Declination

    One important consideration when using a 16 point compass is accounting for magnetic declination. Magnetic declination is the angular difference between true north (geographic north) and magnetic north (where the compass needle points). Failing to adjust for this difference can result in navigational errors. Here’s how to adjust for magnetic declination:

    1. Determine the Magnetic Declination:
      • Find the specific magnetic declination value for your location. This information can be obtained from maps, online resources, or compass adjustment tools. Magnetic declination varies depending on your geographic location.
    2. Determine the Type of Declination:
      • Magnetic declination can be either east or west, depending on whether magnetic north is east or west of true north in your location.
    3. Adjust the Bearing:
      • To compensate for magnetic declination, you need to adjust your bearings or directions. If the declination is east, subtract the declination value from the bearing. If it’s west, add the declination value to the bearing.
    4. Mark Your Compass:
      • To make quick adjustments in the field, consider marking your compass with the magnetic declination value. This way, you can easily apply the appropriate correction when taking bearings or following directions.

    Adjusting for magnetic declination ensures that your compass readings align with the true geographic directions, enabling accurate navigation. Failure to account for this discrepancy can lead to errors, especially when covering long distances or navigating in remote areas.

    It’s important to periodically check and update your magnetic declination values, as they can change over time due to the shifting of the Earth’s magnetic field. Stay informed about the most up-to-date declination information for your location.

    By adjusting for magnetic declination, you can confidently navigate with your 16 point compass, knowing that your readings are aligned with true north and providing you with reliable direction-finding capabilities.

    Practice Exercises and Tips

    To become proficient in using a 16 point compass for navigation, regular practice and honing your skills are essential. Here are some practice exercises and tips to help you improve your navigational abilities:

    Start with Simple Routes

    Begin by navigating on straightforward routes, such as well-marked trails or paths. Practice taking bearings, following them, and confirming your progress using landmarks or map references.

    Gradually Increase Difficulty

    Challenge yourself by tackling more complex routes with varying terrain and fewer visual cues. This will enhance your ability to interpret compass readings and navigate without solely relying on obvious landmarks.

    Practice Triangulation

    Select two or more known landmarks on a map and practice taking bearings to determine your position. Use triangulation techniques to pinpoint your location accurately. This exercise will sharpen your map-reading and compass skills.

    Nighttime Navigation

    Practice using your compass in low-light conditions or at night. Familiarise yourself with techniques such as using a flashlight to illuminate the compass and taking bearings in darkness. This exercise will enhance your navigational confidence during nighttime adventures.

    Take Group Navigation Challenges

    Coordinate with friends or fellow adventurers and take turns leading navigation exercises. Each person can choose a route, set bearings, and guide the group using a 16 point compass. This collaborative exercise will promote teamwork and improve everyone’s navigation skills.

    Keep a Navigation Journal

    Maintain a navigation journal to record your practice sessions, routes taken, challenges encountered, and lessons learned. Reflecting on your experiences and reviewing your journal will help you identify areas for improvement and track your progress over time.

    Carry Backup Navigation Tools

    While a 16 point compass is reliable, it’s wise to carry backup navigation tools, such as a map, a GPS device, or a smartphone with a compass app. Familiarise yourself with these tools and know how to use them as a backup or supplementary resource.

    Remember, navigation skills require practice and hands-on experience. The more you immerse yourself in real-world navigation scenarios, the more confident and proficient you’ll become in using a 16 point compass.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Here are some frequently asked questions (FAQs) and their answers regarding the use of a 16-point compass for navigation:

    What is the purpose of a 16-point compass?

    A 16-point compass provides more precise directional indications compared to a basic 4-point compass. It allows you to navigate using cardinal points (N, S, E, W) as well as intermediate points (NE, SE, SW, NW) for greater accuracy.

    How do I determine the correct bearing using a 16-point compass?

    To determine a bearing, point the compass in the desired direction and read the nearest cardinal or intermediate point on the compass dial. That point represents the bearing you should follow.

    How can I adjust for magnetic declination when using a 16-point compass?

    To adjust for magnetic declination, subtract the declination value if it is east, or add the declination value if it is west, from the bearing you’ve obtained with your compass. This adjustment ensures your readings align with true geographic directions.

    Can I use a 16-point compass for night navigation?

    Yes, a 16-point compass can be used for nighttime navigation. Ensure you have a reliable light source, such as a flashlight, to illuminate the compass and take accurate readings.

    How do I know if I’m holding the compass correctly?

    Hold the compass flat in the palm of your hand, with the direction-of-travel arrow pointing away from your body. Keep it level and stable to obtain accurate readings.

    Should I rely solely on a 16-point compass for navigation?

    While a 16-point compass is a valuable tool, it’s advisable to carry backup navigation tools like a map, GPS device, or smartphone with a compass app. These supplementary resources can provide additional information and verification.

    Can a 16-point compass help me navigate off-trail or in challenging terrains?

    Yes, a 16-point compass is useful in off-trail navigation and challenging terrains. By taking bearings, using landmarks, and referencing maps, you can navigate confidently in diverse environments.

    How can I practice and improve my navigation skills with a 16-point compass?

    Practice regularly by taking on various routes, practicing triangulation, and navigating at night. Keep a navigation journal to track your progress, and consider group navigation exercises to enhance teamwork and skills.

    Are there any specific safety precautions to keep in mind while using a 16-point compass?

    Always be aware of your surroundings, carry essential gear, and inform others about your planned route. Familiarise yourself with local regulations and environmental hazards to ensure a safe and enjoyable navigation experience.

    Key Takeaways

    Lets finish this article about the 16 point compass by highlighting the key points.

    1. A 16 point compass provides more precise directional indications than a basic 4-point compass, allowing for greater accuracy in navigation.
    2. Understanding cardinal points (N, S, E, W) and intermediate points (NE, SE, SW, NW) is essential for interpreting compass readings and determining bearings.
    3. Adjusting for magnetic declination is important to align compass readings with true geographic directions, ensuring accurate navigation.
    4. Regular practice and real-world application are crucial for mastering the use of a 16 point compass and developing confident navigational skills.
    5. Backup navigation tools, such as maps, GPS devices, or smartphone compass apps, should be carried as supplementary resources.
    6. Navigating with a 16 point compass involves setting courses, following bearings, using landmarks, practicing dead reckoning, and employing techniques like triangulation for accurate route finding.
    7. Nighttime navigation with a 16 point compass is possible with proper illumination and technique.
    8. Safety precautions, such as being aware of surroundings, carrying essential gear, and informing others of your plans, should be followed during outdoor navigation.
    9. Regularly update your knowledge of magnetic declination values as they can change over time.
    10. Keeping a navigation journal and participating in group navigation exercises can enhance your skills and track your progress.

    To Conclude

    You should now be comfortable with how to use a 16 point compass and what they are used for. If you enjoyed this article, I am sure you will enjoy these too: