3 Ways to Find North Without a Compass




Introduction: 3 Ways to Find North Without a Compass

This will probably come in handy some day...

Step 1: 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

Step 2: Using the Shadow Tip Method:

- Take a stick and place it upright so you can see its shadow; the taller the stick the better
- Make sure the shadow is on clear, level ground
- Mark the ground at the edge of the shadow with something small like a pebble
- Wait 10 or 15 minutes then mark the edge of the shadow again
- Make a straight line between the two marks; this is a rough East-West line
- The first mark is the West mark and the second mark is the East mark

Step 3: Using Two Sticks at Night:

- Lie down and drive one stick into the ground at eye level
- Drive a second, taller stick into the ground behind it so that the tips of the sticks line up with a bright star
- Watch the star for a few minutes; if it seems to move...
  • Up you are facing East
  • Down you are facing West
  • Right you are facing South
  • Left you are facing North




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    50 Discussions


    2 years ago

    why not go after anthills or moss on treetrunks? easiest way ever to find direction in woods since they are the same everywhere no matter wich hemisphere you're in

    5 replies

    moss method is not reliable


    The moss method is so not usefull. I remember seeing an episode of Desperate Housewives where Susan gets lost. She finds a tree and that tree is covered in moss... everywhere. That is how the nature is. Moss is everywhere. Not just on 1/4 of the trunk...

    The moss method isn't always reliable, I believe it has something to do with wind direction, which I would imagine is to do with wind erosion, so for moss to face north the wind would mostly have to come from the south. I'm hypothesising so don't take it as gospel, but it would make sense that the moss would not grow in the face of strong wind.

    How does the anthill method work? I've never heard of that before.

    the third one is cool i would like to know how long would it take to get results

    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.

    You can use the moon for direction finding by using another method. If moon rise is before midnight then west is in the direction indicated by the (imaginary) line drawn through the central point of the outer edge of the moons crescent to the moons "centre".

    If moon rise is after midnight then the line indicates east.

    This method works because moonlight is just reflected sunlight. So if it moonrise is before midnight the moonlight you are seeing is being reflected from the sun setting in the west. Moonrise after midnight is lit by the sun rising in the east.

    The only times you cannot use this method is on a full moon (full reflection) or new moon (no reflection).

    I didn't know that, thanks for sharing!

    I like trains


    2 years ago

    this didnt help...


    2 years ago

    How is it "possible", that your words (NH "...The line DOWN the middle of the angle is pointing South; so the OPPOSITE direction is North..."
    and vice versus) in step 1 (Using an analog watch) is from my point of
    understanding, actually contridicting the facts of your drawing...?!?

    1 reply

    Hmm, I suppose the word "down" wasn't very clear. What I meant to say was that the line between/in the middle of the angle points south.


    Now there is no excuse for getting lost. :P

    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.

    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!