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    Silva is a well-known quality brand used by the Boy Scouts to teach orienteering. If you really want a lensatic compass, Cammenga is one of the best brands around. But does this matter for simple survival? If you drew two lines from your position to both poles, the degree of difference between those two lines is called the magnetic variation, a. For most of America the difference is around 5 degrees. On the west coast and in Alaska, the difference can be degrees. If you travel just a few miles, even small differences of a few degrees between True and Magnetic can take you way off course.

    Because the Earth is a large magnet with a complex magnetic field, these forces are moving all the time. Because of those variations, maps are drawn to True North, not Magnetic North. So you have to reconcile for this difference when using a compass and map together, depending on where you are. Some example results around the US:. From that point of view, the Magnetic Pole is going to be on either the west or east side of your line of sight to True North. If your declination is east, you subtract the number. If west, add. If you look west, add the number.

    How To Orienteer: Basic Orienteering

    So you would actually want to follow degrees on your compass. We know this can be a little tricky to read, so visualize it a few times.

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    We have an amazing gift in modern maps. Maps obviously come in different shapes and sizes. Two different maps on the same sized sheet of paper might only cover your town or the whole state. The scale is one of the first things I look at when I pick up a map.


    The scale tells you two very important things with one set of numbers: about how much area does the map show, and how much detail of that area will it show? The numbers are set up like a ratio. Map scale is important in survival scenarios. If you want to err on the side of caution, get multiple large scale i. Every decent map should have some kind of legend. The legend explains everything you need to know about how the map was built, like what the different symbols, colors, and textures mean.

    If the map has grid lines or topographic contour lines, the measurements will be explained in the legend.

    For example, it might specify that one of the grid blocks overlaid on the map is equal to one mile and that the elevation contour lines are for every feet. Does it give you the right information, like map scale, symbol charts, and magnetic declination? Was it published in and likely inaccurate today? Topographic maps are typically more useful than plain road maps because they show the lay of the land and other geographical features in addition to the normal manmade features and roads. They do this by turning a two dimensional map into a three dimensional one, typically by using contour lines to show terrain features.

    A contour line is a line of equal elevation, meaning everywhere a single contour line touches is the same elevation. The little numbers in the lines, like the , , and shown shown above, are the elevation at that line.

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    Imagine sitting in a bathtub and slowly bringing your closed fist up out of the water, knuckles up. Then you lift your fist another quarter inch and make another line right wherever water and air meet. Do this several times until your fist is out of the water. Your fist now has multiple parallel lines each a quarter inch from the other. Now open your hand and lay it flat, palm down. On very large scale maps , that show a lot of detail, this interval may be anywhere from 20 to 80 feet.

    It acts the same as any other contour line, but gives you a way to count up elevation quickly.