A magnetic bearing is a direction from one point to another, taken with a magnetic compass.
How to take a bearing
- Hold the compass in the palm of your hand with the direction-of-travel arrow pointing directly at the object on which you are taking a bearing.
- Unless your compass has a sighting device, hold the compass at about waist level, parallel to the ground.
- Make sure that no metal object (such as belt buckle) or electric current is close enough to deflect the needle.
- Let the compass needle reach a stationary position, then turn the compass housing until the North-seeking end of the compass needle (usually painted red) points to North (N) on the housing.
- Check to ensure that the direction-of-travel arrow is still aimed at the target (bearing) object.
- Now, simply read your bearing in degrees where the base of the direction-of-travel arrow meets the compass housing.
- Check to make sure the North end of the compass needle is aligned with North.
How to follow a bearing
If you wanted to travel a route on a bearing of 200˚, here's how you would do it.
- Start by turning the compass housing until the 200˚ mark is over the base of the direction-of-travel arrow.
- Now, hold the compass in the palm of your hand at waist level and in a horizontal position, with the direction-of-travel arrow pointing straight in front of your body. Turn your whole body (not just the compass) around slowly until the North-seeking end of the compass needle is aligned with North on the compass housing.
- To follow a bearing of 200˚, just walk in the direction indicated by the direction-of-travel arrow. (Do not travel in the direction of the compass needle, except when you want to go North.)
When following a bearing it's safer and more accurate to look ahead and pick out a landmark (e.g. a tree, rock, etc.) along your route. Then lower the compass and walk to the landmark. Repeat this procedure until you have reached your destination.