Bringing more precision to your direction.


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Learning by degrees

Often, the mention of bearings strikes fear into many a hiker, and yet it is as simple as knowing your cardinal points of North, South, East and West.

The difference is that where there are just Four Cardinal points, there are 360 bearings … you may know them as degrees.

There are 360 degrees in a circle and 4 cardinal points … so simply divide our 360 degrees by 4 and if everything goes to plan … we should get 90.

This means that every 90 degrees of a compass relates to cardinal point … North = 0 degrees, East = 90 degrees, South = 180 degrees and West = 270 degrees.

Using that same logic, North East = 45 degrees, South East = 135 degrees, South West =225 degrees and North West = 315 degrees.


What's in a name?

Imagine if we had to learn a name for every bearing … it’s easy enough when we only have four (North, East, South and West) but imagine having to learn another 356 special names to refer to a direction!

Of course, it would be silly to give every direction a name when it already has a number, not only that, but each number relates to its neighbouring numbers (89 is right next to 90 which in turn is right next to 91).

So rather than say “We need to head East”, let’s say “We need to head on a bearing of 90 degrees”.

We use words because they are more general, not so precise … after all who wants to be a part of Greater Manchester 270° Scouts?

Aligning our compass

In the learning module on Compass Basics, we referred to aligning our compass (putting the Red in the Shed) … in other words, we make sure that the red end of the needle is aligned to the N (North) on the Compass Housing or Bezel. Using bearings doesn’t change this, we still need to align our compass to 0° but we can now give a much more accurate direction of travel (E.g. “From our current location, we will head along a bearing of 338° (or what we used to call  ‘approximately North-North West’)“).

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