How to Use Your Wristwatch as a Compass

In a not so uncommon scenario, you find yourself truly lost deep in the backcountry. Did you come prepared enough to get yourself out? Or maybe you didn’t. Or maybe even your bag with your phone and compass is now floating down the river after an unfortunate stumble. Now what?

First things first, stay cool. Panicking will get you nowhere. Even without a compass, it can be easy to reorient yourself and find your way home as long as you know a few simple tricks. You can use the Shadow-Stick Method, Equal Length Shadow Method, a Magnetized needle, Stars or a watch.

Using a watch to find North is a simple process. All you need is the sun and watch with hands (analog).

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.
watch as compass - BUCKFISH

*In the event the watch is set to Daylight Savings Time, use the 1 o’clock mark instead of the 12.
**Keep in mind that this method is not super accurate. But it should get you going in the basic general direction.
***If you find yourself lost in the southern hemisphere, you can use the same process. The only difference is to point the watch’s 12 o’clock mark toward the sun. The center angle between 12 and the hour hand will give you the north-south line.

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