Orienting is hard even in the best of times—and, when you’re out and about camping or hiking in the wilderness, that makes knowing where you are even harder. Of course, as a good camper, hiker or backpacker, you probably already bring tools for location with you, whether that entails a compass, a map, or even a GPS system. However, it might sometimes happen that you get stuck. Maybe, for whatever reason, you get stranded out there in the forest or the tundra; maybe your things get stolen. No matter how it might happen, the possibility of being separated from our tools is something we must all be prepared for.
In particular, what are you going to do without a compass? Fortunately, if you find yourself in such a situation, you can make a compass with materials around you. It’s not exactly easy, but then it’s not very difficult, either. If you get yourself prepared before you go on your trip (such as by reading articles like this one, for instance), then you’ll do quite well, should you ever happen to be in a situation where you don’t have access to your compass.
You can make a compass with other tools that might already be in your survival backpack—things like needles, wire, and magnets.
1- First method: begin by orienting your magnet or piece of wire to the needle’s south pole.
The first step is to take your magnet and touch its south pole to the point of a sewing needle.
2- Touch the north pole of the magnet to the needle’s eye.
The procedure of the first two steps can also be done with the two ends of a piece of wire.
3- Put the needle or wire on top of a leaf.
Instead of a leaf, you can also use something else that will float, like a piece of paper or fabric.
4- Float the needle or fabric on a water puddle.
5- Find out where north is.
This will depend on what time of day it is. If you’re in the northeastern hemisphere and it’s daytime, for example, then the shadows will help you know where you are. If they point west at dawn, north at noon, and eastward at sunset as the sun moves in the south, then those same shadows will fall on the northern side more generally. Your needle is north whenever it’s pointing closest to the direction of the shadows.
6- Find out where you are.
Find an object or landmark on your horizon that’s aligned with north is. Farther points of reference are more effective; mountains are a good example. This will let you know which specific direction you’re facing.
7- Second method: rub the needle (or wire) on your clothes.
Use clothing made of silk or wool. Rub the needle on the fabric all over both ends, from the point to the eye, about 100 times in all.
8- Next, float the needle on a paper or a leaf in a puddle.
The device will start pointing north, guiding your way through the wilderness. Success!
All in all, these can be useful methods to employ in case you ever get stuck in the wilderness. But, by all means, don’t rely on them exclusively—always make sure you have a backup plan. That’s the most important part of being a prepper!