How to make a compass in the wild

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Bush Compass

Did you know that you can use a needle and a little bit of water to make a compass?

Here’s How:

Option 1 – You can take a magnet and touch the south pole of the magnet to the point of your needle and touch the north pole of the magnet to the eye of the needle. You can also do this with a bit of wire.

Float it in a puddle of water on a leaf and you have yourself a compass

Option 2 – Chances are you are not going to have a magnet out in the wilderness, so instead use a little bit of silk or wool from your clothing to magnetize the needle. Rub the needle from eye to point around 100 times and the needle will now be magnetized.

Now float the needle on a leaf or piece of paper.

Have any other outdoors tips? Let us know.

Comments

23 Responses to " How to make a compass in the wild " Please share your thoughts...

  1. tom says:

    which part of the needle points north?

    • damian says:

      The eye

      • Gary says:

        Furthermore, how do you know which side of the magnet is the south pole?

  2. Robert says:

    It will give you a good north south line, you will have to use the sun to determine which way is north….. Once you know it you can mark the tip on the needle that points north for future reference.

    • mish says:

      good advice

    • mish says:

      is there anyway u could use a pencil

  3. kel says:

    We could include a magnet it to our bags.
    They aren’t very heavy and shouldnt take up to much space..

    • Guest says:

      Or you could just add a compass.

  4. Thom says:

    Neodynium magnets are currently the strongest known magnets and can usually be purchased readily.
    A neodynium magnet of about 1cm square(~1/2inch) can have a carrying force of a few kg and can magnetise a pin for a compass in seconds.

  5. D'gar says:

    If you gonna take a magnet, why not simply take a compass?

    • Off Grid Survival says:

      No doubt! We are just showing how this can be done if for some reason you did not have a compass…. By the way you don’t need a magnet to magnetize the needle.

      • NO! The idea of rubbing silk on a needle making it a compass is incorrect, a myth. The bad thing is this information has spread all over the internet and it is incorrect. This is mixing up static electricity with electric and magnetic field properties.

        Most any needle is already somewhat magnetized from being around electrical wiring or devices in the home. As power is turned on and off, electric fields present from switching electricity nearby magnetize the needle.
        So somewhere along the way, from someone who remembered STATIC ELECTRICITY in school, (where rubbing silk on a PLASTIC rod or comb made it pick up bits of paper..) somehow the notion came along that rubbing a needle with silk would make it magnetic and usable as a compass.
        No one ever checked before they rubbed the needle, so they assumed it worked.
        It takes an electric or magnetic field to do this, NOT static electricity!

        This myth has spread to outdoor websites, survival websites, all over the place, they teach it in books, like “The Dangerous Book for Boys” but it is totally incorrect. I wrote the author of that book too, explaining it to him and advised him to check with an electrical professor at any college.
        It is difficult to disprove something so drummed into every persons’ mind. The movie, “The Edge” even had it.
        It is just wrong to keep spreading the myth, we need to get this set right.
        Gary Hartman (retired Electrical Engineer)
        P.S. see my book, “Kids’ Book of Adventure Projects” the compass Chapter, Silk Does Not Make a Compass.

        • Charles fairey says:

          Thanks Gary what a pest that is ‘ just thinking of trying to correct the situation psounds near imposible i suppose the consulation is the teckno that allowed miff to spreed aĺlso gives us gps ph ect ghopefully misinformd and misfortune dont come across a flat battery. speaking of witch you wouĺd explain be tter than me how to magnatise from copper wire coild around pin conected to a current id be interested in any ways moff yousing static ellectricty rather than a battery . once a magnet has been made im wondering could the magnet and copper wire be yoused to generate power to charge a battery by hand . thank you . and allso thanks for barering with my speling

  6. Imagine you are in your home, you have picked up a needle and are rubbing it with silk. The refrigerator kicks off behind you, you turn on the light over the sink to float your needle on a cork in the sink.. and it does SEEM to work!!
    NO, NO, the needle was already magnetized from the influence of electric fields in the electrical devices in your house! Static electricity IS NOT electromagnetic energy, and it only is a demostration for rubbing a plastic comb or rod, to pick up bits of paper. Do not get confused, this myth is running all over the internet and is WRONG!!

    • Bob the hiker says:

      Thanks Gary for this valuable info, much appreciated.

  7. Matthew says:

    Always can try the shadow tip method

    Step 1. Place a stick or branch into the ground at a level spot where a distinctive shadow will be cast. Mark the shadow tip with a stone, twig, or other means. This first shadow mark is always the west direction.

    Step 2. Wait 10 to 15 minutes until the shadow tip moves a few inches. Mark the new position of the shadow tip in the same way as the first.

    Step 3. Draw a straight line through the two marks to obtain an approximate eastwest line.

    Step 4. Standing with the first mark (west) to your left, the other directions are simple; north is to the front, east is to the right, and south is behind you.

    (1) A line drawn perpendicular to the east-west line at any point is the approximate north-south line. If you are uncertain which direction is east and which is west, observe this simple rule-the first shadow-tip mark is always in the west direction, everywhere on earth.

    (2) The shadow-tip method can also be used as a shadow clock to find the approximate time of day.

    (a) To find the time of day, move the stick to the intersection of the east-west line and the north-south line, and set it vertically in the ground. The west part of the east-west line indicates 0600 hours, and the east part is 1800 hours, anywhere on earth, because the basic rule always applies.

    (b) The north-south line now becomes the noon line. The shadow of the stick is an hour hand in the shadow clock, and with it you can estimate the time using the noon line and the 6 o’clock line as your guides. Depending on your location and the season, the shadow may move either clockwise or counterclockwise, but this does not alter your manner of reading the shadow clock.

    (c) The shadow clock is not a timepiece in the ordinary sense. It makes every day 12 unequal hours long, and always reads 0600 hours at sunrise and 1800 hours at sunset. The shadow clock time is closest to conventional clock time at midday, but the spacing of the other hours compared to conventional time varies somewhat with the locality and the date. However, it does provide a satisfactory means of telling time in the absence of properly set watches.

    (d) The shadow-tip system is not intended for use in polar regions, which the Department of Defense defines as being above 60 degrees latitude in either hemisphere. Distressed persons in these areas are advised to stay in one place so that search/rescue teams can easily find them. The presence and location of all aircraft and ground parties in polar regions are reported to and checked regularly by governmental or other agencies, and any need for help becomes quickly known.

    • Charles fairey says:

      Mathew the stick compass I would trust has perfect strait stick strait up and down into deed center of circle so long as the sun apex’s( miday may be not 12/ but litrally middle of day ) if you can get a mark either side of the circle a line will give you a east west start. any how in the sourthen hemis mos mold growth will be found on surface’s faceing south if you arnt at see and its deed flat no rock clump of any thing and cloudy wind is very yousfull

      • Charles Fairey says:

        Mark on circle

      • Charles Fairey says:

        Thanks mathew Iiked your information iv reread and noticed aprox ‘ as with a compas allso . good map and landmarks or some points of refrence are allways wellcom especlly after time moving with out

  8. Jerick Tancinco says:

    About the needle rubbing thing…

    I first saw it in the Tarzan cartoon series.
    The needle is rubbed against another metal(in their case, an axe). I tried it too but with a fork. The needle was magnetized. Try it for yourself.

    • Charles Fairey says:

      Tarzan’s axe was magnatised your nedle and or fork would have been to

  9. Brock says:

    If you have an nail, some wire, and a small battery you can magnetize the nail by winding the wire around the battery in a coil. Place one end of the wire on one side of the battery and the other on the other end of the battery. This will create an electromagnet and the nail will retain some of its magnetic properties permanently, ready to be floated on something in water. It will point north/south.

  10. Brock says:

    By the way. The wire must be insulated except for the ends.

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