Setting the Map

Setting the Map

Setting the map allows you to more easily relate map to land features, and vice versa

Setting the Map 

Setting the Map

Relating the features of a map to the same features on the ground is a skill that you need to learn to become proficient at map reading and navigation. It’s much easier to relate features if the map is pointing, or oriented, in the same direction as the land. This is called setting or orienting the map.

With a bit of practice and on a clear day, you will be able to set the map by identifying equivalent maps and land features. But, to start with, the easiest way to get the map set is by using a compass.

Steps to Set the Map

  • ensure that there are no metallic or other objects on you, or close by around you, that could interfere with compass operation

  • turn the compass housing so that the 0° mark on the housing is level with the index mark on the base plate

  • place the map on a flat surface, or if walking, bend down onto one knee and rest the map on the other thigh 

  • place the compass onto the map

  • align one of the orienting lines of the compass housing (or side of base plate, as compass set to 0°) to one of the vertical grid lines of the map. 

  • now turn the map until the red needle is inside the orienting arrow of the compass housing. NOTE: do not turn the bezel to achieve alignment; you must move the map

  • once the red needle is inside the orienting arrow, the map is set to north

Note: the absolutely correct way of aligning the map would also be to take account of magnetic variation too. However, the purpose of aligning the map is simply to make it easier to relate map to land features and vice versa, so the alignment does not have to be precise.

In time you may become so proficient at orienting the map that you’ll be able to do it in your head without the need to set it with a compass or align to land features. Even if you become so proficient, you will probably need to do the physical orientation, as above, from time to time when the landscape is confusing, lacking in features or poor visibility.