Picture of 3 Ways to Find North Without a Compass
This will probably come in handy some day...

Step 1: Using an Analog Watch:

Picture of Using an Analog Watch:
- First off, you need an analog watch set to the correct time; if it has been adjusted for Daylight Savings set it back an hour

- In the Northern Hemisphere:
  • Point the hour hand (the little one) at the sun 
  • Imagine there is a line down the middle of the angle between the hour hand and the 12 o clock mark
  • The line down the middle of the angle is pointing South; so the opposite direction is North
- In the Southern Hemisphere:
  • Point the 12 o clock mark at the sun
  • Imagine there is a line down the middle of the angle between the 12 o clock mark and the hour hand
  • The line down the middle of the angle is pointing North
Ploopy2 months ago


Now there is no excuse for getting lost. :P

tonytran20153 months ago

I just made public my improvement to the watch method (survivaltricks.wordpress.com by tonytran2015). Basically i use a watch tilted from vertical position rather than a horizontal watch. I found the method accurate and has relied on it for 10 years. I would appreciate if author M3G and readers can read it and give comments.

alex001 year ago

I use the North Star method at night. Here is how to find the North Star. http://earthsky.org/tonight/use-big-dipper-to-find...

Once you have that, follow M3G's notes to line up 2 sticks and that will create your North South line. Make sure to mark the N/S line it on the ground so you will have it in the morning. I compared the star, vs shadow-tip, vs watch methods on a campout and they all lined up reasonably accurately to the reading of the compass.

Nice Instructable!

M3G (author)  alex001 year ago
Thanks for the comment!
texdanl1 year ago

Even with a digital watch the watch method works just fine. The important thing is that the watch gives you an accurate time to work with. Everyone, even in this digital age, KNOWS what a clock looks like. I can visualize it in my mind and find north OR draw a circle on the ground mark the place where the small hand should be then where the 12 should be and the line that bisects between these points is the north south line. The watch is just a handy tool but the INFORMATION it gives you is the thing that counts.

GREAT Ible by the way. The third one was especially good I thought.

M3G (author)  texdanl1 year ago
Thanks for the comment! You are quite right; the information given by the watch is what's important.
MartijnD2 years ago
And if it is cloudy and no sun, moon or stars can be seen, you can also look at moss on the base of trees, stones or buildings, this grows where the sun does not shine, so northern hemisphere north, southern south.

Hmm I was taught the moss one
differently. As far as I know it grows best on the damp side of the tree; and
because rain falls straight down if not pushed sideways by the wind the
trees should be damp on the side the wind comes from. The moss should
then grow on the side where the wind comes from most often over time, for us
(middle europe) that should be the west side.

I think I have to go outside and check this right now ^^

moss does grow in the sun somewhat so this is not always accurate- I'd use the watch way or with the sticks, probably more accurate

12010041 year ago

These are all very good ways but another way is to use where the sun rises. It rises in the east and sets in the west so this is another way to find directions.

crazyzebb2 years ago
or just ask your G.U.
Saitu2 years ago
Dude, this is frickin brilliant, man! Love it!!!
M3G (author)  Saitu2 years ago
frosty8652 years ago
Wow haven't seen those in years! They used to teach that in Army Basic. Good one!
M3G (author)  frosty8652 years ago
This is wonderful, I am going to use this information in my classroom, thank you!
M3G (author)  EducationSmellsSweet2 years ago
You're welcome!
Northern Hemisphere, US or CA, urban or suburban environment, look to the satellite dishes.
zomfibame2 years ago
I like the 3rd one, using two sticks to track the movement of a star. Very cool.
M3G (author)  zomfibame2 years ago
WriterChick2 years ago
This is really, really clever. Anything which creates independence from gadgets (allowing that a pair of sticks doesn't constitute a "gadget") is always good. Thank you for sharing.
M3G (author)  WriterChick2 years ago
Thank you!
jaypauldini2 years ago
i always know which way is north. no matter where i am, wierd.
nailuj2 years ago

What about finding the North Star? It seem to me that it would be much easier.
M3G (author)  nailuj2 years ago
That would be easy, but not everyone knows where it is or what it looks like, and you can't see it in the Southern Hemisphere.
nailuj M3G2 years ago
Hmmmm. Good point.
XPinG nailuj2 years ago
Well in the southern hemisphere you can find the south using the Southern Cross please read http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crux
oud252 years ago
would this work with the moon as well?
M3G (author)  oud252 years ago
Good question! I'm not sure, ill have to try it and let you know.
In my opinion (I haven't tested) this would not work, as the moon does not orbit based on our time, or rather our time is not based on it's orbit. The reason that the sun works for this, is that our time has been based around its position in our sky. The sun, at noon, is always in the same place (close), while the moon can rise, fall or be at its peak at any time of day or night, depending on its current phase.
M3G (author)  GhettoEngineer2 years ago
Makes sense.
manuka2 years ago
I recently quizzed a bunch of 11-12 yo. boys about direction finding, & very few appreciated the sun's rise & set compass positions... Sure - they knew where it got up locally, but when well away from home they were confused !
This is great, excellent for night hikes. This is the simplest way I have seen to correlate direction to star movement.
M3G (author)  audreyobscura2 years ago
Thank you!