Navigate without a compass

Knowing how to find your way around without a compass can be a useful survival skill for your child to learn. In the wilderness, these simple techniques can prevent you both from getting hopelessly, stomach-sinking-ly lost.

It’s easier than you might think. Once you have the knowledge, all you have to do is to take full advantage of the everyday items around you.


Navigating using a shadow stick (daytime)

Creating a shadow stick on a sunny day will allow you to map out North, South, East and West.

  1. Take a trip to a wide open space with your child.
  2. Find a spot on the ground that is out of the shade. You will need direct sunlight in order to create a shadow.
  3. Look for a suitable stick to create the shadow together. For the best results, it should be at least 3ft tall. It also helps if it’s sturdy and thick, as this will create a more distinct shadow line.
  4. Help your child to push the stick into the ground, so it stands up vertically. Can your child see the shadow this creates yet?
  5. Once the shadow is clearly visible, place a rock on the tip of that shadow, marking the point where the tip of the shadow ends.
  6. After about thirty minutes have passed, check the movement of the shadow. Has it got longer or shorter as the sun moves across the sky?
  7. Place a new rock on the ground each time to shadow moves, marking each new ‘tip’.
  8. Once you have marked at least three shadow ‘tips’, draw a line connecting the rocks. This line points east and west. The first tip of the shadow that was marked is always west, and the last tip that was marked is always east.
  9. Draw a perpendicular line through the first line. This will point out north and south.


Navigating using two starry sticks (nighttime)

This works in the same way as the shadow stick, but instead relies on starry skies for pointers.

  1. On a cloudless night, drive a stick into the ground until the tip of it is at your eye level.
  2. Behind it, plant a taller stick together.
  3. The tips of the sticks should line up with a bright star, as you look at them. Get your child to squint and concentrate very hard to check this so.
  4. After a few minutes, you may notice that the star will appear to have moved.
  5. Explain to your child that stars don’t move; it’s Earth that’s rotating. If the star seems to move upwards, you are facing east. If it moves downwards, you are facing west. If they move to the right, you are facing south. If they move to the left, you are facing north.