In addition to the instructions below, here are two simple one-page PDF documents that will show you how to use a basic compass:
Using your compass relative to Magnetic North
Using your compass relative to True North

First, you need to determine your bearing (the direction you need to travel). Use the following procedure to obtain an exact travel direction towards your desired destination. The procedure will work if the magnetic North-South lines are drawn on the map.

1 a) Place the compass on the map so that the long edge connects the starting point with the desired destination.
b) Make sure that the direction arrows are pointing from the starting point to the place of destination (and not the opposite way).
c) At this point, you may want to use the scales on your compass (if available) to determine the distance you need to travel.

2 a) Hold the compass firm on the map in order to keep the base plate steady.
b)Turn the rotating capsule until the North-South lines on the bottom of the capsule are parallel with the North-South lines on the map.
c) Be sure that the North-South arrow on the bottom of the capsulepoints to the same direction as North on the map. It is here you will make adjustments for declination, if necessary.

3 a) Hold the compass in your hand in front of you.  Makesure that the base plate is in horizontal position, and that the direction arrows are pointing straight ahead.
b) Rotate your body until the North-South arrow on the bottom of the capsule lines up with the magnetic needle, and the red end of the needle points in the same direction as the arrow.
c) The directional arrows on the baseplate now show your desired travel direction.

Now that you have determined your necessary bearing, you need to make sure you maintain an accurate bearing. First, you should find a suitable target in the terrain (e.g., a tree, boulder or a bush) towards which the direction arrows point. Walk towards the chosen object without looking at your compass. When you reach your target, find a new object that is aligned with your bearing, and repeat the process.

Tip 2: Sometimes the compass capsule may get turned accidentally while you are walking. Remember to check from time to time that the capsule has not deviated from the direction that had been set on the compass.

Tip 3: Remember the difference between the magnetic needle that always points to the magnetic North Pole and the direction arrows that show the travel direction.

A special thanks to Suunto for providing the content for this useful page.
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