Navigating Without a Compass - Part 2

Navigating Without a Compass - Part 2


Using an Analog Watch to Find South
This is the second part of a three part series describing easy to remember and reliable ways to accurately navigate without the use of a compass. In part one I described how you can use easily identifiable constellations to locate the north star, Polaris. In this second part I will show how you can use an analog watch and the sun to quickly determine North and South.

If you have an analog wrist watch, you can use the hands to navigate. I find it easier if I remove my watch and hold it in the palm of my hand in front of me. Holding your watch in front of you, turn around until the shorter hour hand is pointing directly toward the sun, you can ignore the minute hand as it is not needed for this method.

While holding your watch with the hour hand pointing towards the sun, imagine a line bisecting the angle between the hour hand and the 12 o'clock marker on the dial of your watch (not the minute hand) as represented by the red dashed line in the illustration below. This angle is your North/South line with the bisecting angle pointing toward South.

The above method will only work in the northern hemisphere. To navigate with an analog watch in the southern hemisphere you will need to modify this method slightly, but the principle is pretty much the same. In the southern hemisphere point the 12 o'clock marker on the dial of your watch at the sun and imagine a line bisecting that and the hour hand, that is your North/South line.

Using a Digital Watch
Many people wear digital watches these days, I'm a huge fan of Casio G-Shocks and wear one most of the time when I go hiking, but how do you use a digital watch which has no hands to navigate using the method described above? Well, it's actually easier than you think.

If you have a piece of paper and a pencil or pen with you simply draw a blank analog watch face on a piece of paper and then mark the position of the hour hand using your digital watch as reference. Now use the drawing of the analog watch with the method described above.  If you don't have a pen and paper you can use a stick to mark out a watch dial and position of the hour hand on the ground.  I've done this too many times to keep track and it works great every time.

In part three of this series I'll explain how to use the shadow stick method to navigate.  These are my three favorite methods of navigating without a compass, but of course there are many more.  What methods do you use as a back up to your compass?

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