How to Tell Direction Without a Compass by Using a Watch

Written by matthew ferguson
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How to Tell Direction Without a Compass by Using a Watch
An analogue watch can tell more than just date and time. (Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

No one plans on getting lost. In the woods, disorientation can result from a missed trail sign or lapse in attention. Knowing general direction can mean the difference between finding the trail again and searching fruitlessly for hours. With no compass available, the canny hiker relies on his analogue watch to determine direction. The procedure for determining direction differs depending on the hemisphere.

Skill level:
Easy

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Things you need

  • Analogue watch

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Instructions

    Northern Hemisphere

  1. 1

    Hold the watch face parallel to the ground.

  2. 2

    Point the hour hand of the present time in the direction of the sun.

  3. 3

    Mark the point halfway between the hour hand and 12. This position indicates south. For instance, if the watch registers a current time of 4 p.m., the 2 o'clock position would indicate south. To find north, rotate 180 degrees from the south position.

    Southern Hemisphere

  1. 1

    Hold the watch face parallel to the ground.

  2. 2

    Point the watch's 12 o'clock position in the direction of the sun.

  3. 3

    Mark the point halfway between 12 and the hour hand. This position indicates north. For example, if the watch registers a present time of 8 a.m., the 10 o'clock position would indicate north. To find south, rotate 180 degrees from the north position.

Tips and warnings

  • To compensate for Daylight Savings Time, use the 1 o'clock -- rather than the 12 o'clock -- position on the watch for a more accurate bearing.

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