What is the Compass on a Map Called: A Guide to Navigation

Have you ever looked at a map and wondered how you could possibly navigate your way around without getting lost? Fear not, my friends! The solution lies in a small yet powerful tool called the compass. This device has been essential for travelers, hikers, and adventurers for centuries. While it may seem like a simple gadget, the compass has the power to guide you through even the most treacherous terrains. But what is the compass on a map called, you ask?

The answer is a magnetic compass. This tiny yet mighty tool uses the earth’s magnetic field to guide you in the right direction. The concept behind the compass is relatively straightforward – the needle in the compass always points North. By knowing which direction is North, you can navigate your way through unknown territory with ease. It might seem like magic, but the magnetic compass is a vital tool for anyone who wants to travel off the beaten path.

So, whether you’re exploring the great outdoors, planning your next road trip, or just trying to find your way around a new city, the magnetic compass is your new best friend. It’s compact, easy to use, and can help you find your way no matter where you are. With the magnetic compass in your toolkit, you’ll find yourself navigating with confidence and getting lost will be a thing of the past.

Parts of a Traditional Map

Traditional maps have been used for many years to help people navigate and understand their surroundings. They are an essential tool for anyone who needs to find their way around, whether they are hiking in the wilderness or trying to navigate a new city. A traditional map is made up of several key parts, including the compass, legend, and scale.

One of the most critical components of a traditional map is the compass. A compass is a navigational instrument that helps users determine the direction in which they are traveling. On a map, the compass is typically represented by a circle with an arrow in the center. The circle is divided into 360 degrees, and the arrow points towards the north. The compass is essential for orienting oneself and understanding the directions represented on the map.


  • The legend, also known as the key, is another critical component of a traditional map. It is typically found in a small box on the map and contains important information about the symbols and colors used on the map.
  • The legend helps users understand the meaning of different symbols, such as a tree or a building, and the significance of the colors used to represent them.
  • Without the legend, a map would be almost impossible to read and interpret accurately.


The scale is another essential component of a traditional map. It represents the ratio between the distance on the map and the actual distance on the ground. For example, a scale of 1:10,000 means that one unit of measurement on the map represents 10,000 units of measurement on the ground.

The scale helps users understand the relative distances between different points on the map and plan their route accordingly. Maps with larger scales, such as 1:1000, are used for more detailed mapping of small areas, such as a city block, while maps with smaller scales, such as 1:1,000,000, are used for broader overviews of large areas, such as a state or country.


Finally, a traditional map is the result of the cartographer’s work, who uses various techniques and skills to create a visual representation of an area. Cartographers use various tools such as aerial photography, satellite imagery, and survey data to ensure the accuracy of the map, and they use software and drawing tools to create the final product that is published. Maps play a vital role in our daily lives, and understanding their key components is key to using them correctly.

Key Components Description
Compass A navigational instrument that helps users determine the direction in which they are traveling.
Legend A small box on the map that contains important information about the symbols and colors used on the map.
Scale Represents the ratio between the distance on the map and the actual distance on the ground.
Cartography The process of creating a visual representation of an area using various tools and techniques.

Whether you are planning a hiking trip or exploring a new city, a traditional map is an essential tool to have on hand. Understanding the different parts of a traditional map can help you use it accurately and make the most of the information it contains.

Geographical Direction Indicators

When you’re out exploring the wilderness, being able to read a map and understand the geographical direction indicators is essential. The compass rose, a navigational tool that displays the cardinal directions, is an essential component of any map.

  • The four cardinal directions
  • The four intermediate directions
  • The sixteen points of the compass

The four cardinal directions are the most basic direction indicators used in a compass. They are North, East, South, and West. When navigating with a compass, these directions are referenced as N, E, S, and W. They’re normally indicated on a map with a simple compass rose that displays north as the point at the top and south at the bottom of the circle.

The four intermediate directions, or ordinal directions, are Northeast, Southeast, Southwest, and Northwest. These directions are located in between the four cardinal directions. When using a compass to navigate, intermediate directions are shown with a combination of the cardinal directions, such as NNE, ENE, ESE, SSE, etc.

The sixteen points of the compass combine the four cardinal and intermediate directions. They’re used for more detailed mapping and navigation. For example, if you’re looking at a map and you want to go in a direction that’s halfway between North and Northeast, you would use the compass direction of North-Northeast (NNE).

Types of Compass Roses

While the compass rose is a basic tool, it can appear in different forms on maps. Some compass roses show only the four cardinal directions, while others show the eight major directions, yet others show all sixteen directions. A compass rose can also feature additional navigational information, such as a declination diagram or magnetic north indicator.

Points on Compass Rose Name Abbreviation
1 North N
2 North by east NbE
3 Northeast by North NEbN
4 Northeast NE
5 Northeast by East NEbE
6 East by North EbN
7 East E
8 East by South EbS
9 Southeast by East SEbE
10 Southeast SE
11 Southeast by South SEbS
12 South S
13 South by West SbW
14 Southwest by South SWbS
15 Southwest SW
16 Southwest by West SWbW
17 West by South WbS
18 West W
19 West by North WbN
20 Northwest by West NWbW
21 Northwest NW
22 Northwest by North NWbN
23 North by West NbW

Knowing how to read a compass and a map with geographical direction indicators will help you navigate more efficiently and safely on your next adventure.

Understanding Cartography

Cartography is the science and art of creating maps. It involves a combination of disciplines, including geography, geology, surveying, and mathematics. Cartographers use various techniques to produce maps, including aerial photography, satellite images, and field observations. Understanding cartography is essential to interpreting maps accurately.

The Compass on a Map

The compass on a map is an essential tool for navigation. It shows the direction of North, South, East, and West and helps to orient the map. The compass rose is typically found in the corner of a map and is often adorned with a decorative design. The compass rose is essential to understanding which direction you’re heading.

  • The cardinal directions are North, South, East, and West.
  • The intermediate directions are Northeast, Southeast, Southwest, and Northwest.
  • The compass rose is typically oriented with North at the top of the map.

Map Symbols and Legends

Maps use symbols and legends to represent different features of the landscape. Some commonly used symbols include mountains, rivers, roads, buildings, and bodies of water. A map legend explains the meaning of each symbol and provides essential information for the viewer. Understanding the symbols and legends on a map is crucial for reading and interpreting maps accurately.

Symbols and colors are essential to interpreting maps accurately. The following is an example of commonly used symbols and their meanings:

Symbol Meaning
Mountain Usually shown with a brown color.
Water Typically blue or light blue.
Highway Depicted in black.
Building Shown in gray or black.

Understanding cartography is essential to reading and interpreting maps accurately. By understanding symbols, legends, and the compass rose, you can navigate maps with ease and gain a deeper understanding of the terrain they represent.

How to Read a Map

Maps are essential tools in navigation, travel, and exploration. However, if you don’t know how to read a map, it can be a confusing and frustrating experience. In this article, we’ll teach you the basics of map reading and help you understand the compass on a map and what it’s called.

The Compass on a Map

  • Every map has a compass on it, which shows the cardinal directions: north, south, east, and west.
  • The compass on a map is called a compass rose, and it’s usually located in the bottom right-hand corner of the map.
  • The compass rose has a series of lines radiating from a central point, with the north/south line extending upward and downward and the east/west line extending horizontally.
  • Compass roses can vary in style and design, but they all serve the same purpose of indicating the directions on the map.

Map Reading Basics

Before we dive into how to read a compass on a map, it’s important to understand a few basics about reading maps:

  • The top of the map is always north, and the bottom is always south.
  • The right-hand side of the map is east, and the left-hand side is west.
  • The scale of the map (usually located in the bottom left-hand corner) tells you the ratio between the distance on the map and the actual distance on the ground.
  • Contour lines on a map represent changes in elevation, and the closer they are together, the steeper the terrain.

Using the Compass Rose

Now that you understand the basics of map reading, it’s time to learn how to use the compass rose. Here’s how:

  • Determine which direction you want to go.
  • Orient the map so that north on the compass rose aligns with north on the map.
  • Use the compass rose to determine which direction you need to travel.
  • Hold the map in front of you and turn your body until the compass rose lines up with the actual compass in your hand (if you’re using one).
  • Follow the relevant line on the compass rose to determine your direction of travel.


Reading a map may seem daunting at first, but with these basic skills and knowledge, you’ll be able to navigate and explore with confidence. Remember to always have a compass on hand and to double-check your bearings to ensure you’re heading in the right direction.

North South East West
Up Down Right Left

Always keep in mind the cardinal directions and how they relate to the compass rose on your map. Happy exploring!

Navigational Tools

Navigational tools have always been an essential tool for travelers and explorers. Before the advent of GPS and other electronic navigational aids, maps and compasses were the primary tools used for navigation. Understanding the different types of navigational tools available is still crucial for outdoor adventurers, hikers, and navigators.

The Compass

  • The compass is the most basic and essential navigational tool used by hikers, campers, and sailors. It consists of a needle that rotates and aligns with the earth’s magnetic field, allowing for accurate directional readings. It is well-known for its use in a wide range of land and sea navigation, allowing people to determine the direction they want to take while also providing insights on their location, speed, distance, and other critical details.
  • The compass is made up of a needle, a compass housing, a base plate, and directional markings, among other elements. It is often combined with a map for optimal navigation. When used in conjunction with a map, these tools allow people to navigate along a specific route easily.
  • The compass is an essential tool of anyone exploring the outdoors, engaging in orienteering, or participating in a search and rescue mission. Knowing how to use it and taking a course in basic map and compass navigation is a must for all budding adventurers.

Magnetic Declination

Magnetic declination is a significant navigational concern when using a map and compass. This term refers to the difference between magnetic north (which the compass points toward) and true north (which is the geographic north pole).

The lines on the map, also known as meridians, point to geographic north instead of magnetic north. Most maps include a compass rose or diagram indicating magnetic north and the declination angle or how many degrees to adjust the compass bearing to account for the difference between magnetic north and geographic north. It’s vital to know the declination setting in your area and adjust your compass for proper navigation.

GPS Navigation

The advent of GPS technology has enabled more effective and accurate navigation than ever before. Global Positioning System (GPS) is a network of satellites orbiting Earth that allow receivers to calculate exact positions, speed, elevation, and other navigation data. GPS devices are now commonplace in navigation and are used in everything from car navigation systems, smartphones, aviation, military, and sailing.

GPS devices can give navigators the ability to track and locate themselves with incredible accuracy, thus making planning and executing journeys easier and safer than ever before. Various GPS devices have different features, such as voice navigation, mapping, and distance measurement, making them accessible to almost everyone who needs reliable navigation.


Navigation Factor Compass Sextant
Navigational Principle Earth’s Magnetic Field Heights, angles, and trigonometric calculations using the position of the celestial bodies
Navigation Area Global Offshore
Navigation Level Basic level Advanced level
Accuracy Within a few degrees With a few miles

While GPS has taken over as the primary navigational tool worldwide, marine navigation still depends on traditional tools such as the sextant. A sextant is a navigational tool that measures angles between two objects, such as the horizon and Polaris. The sextant can offer navigators precise celestial positioning, allowing them to locate their position and course at sea.

While modern sailors also use GPS and other electronic aids, traditional methods like sextants can still provide valuable backup when electronic tools fail. They are still required for marine licenses, and learning to use them takes navigators beyond the realm of GPS and into the world of mathematics to navigate with certainty.

Navigational tools are crucial for any outdoor adventurer or navigator, whether in the air, on land, or at sea. With these essential tools and proper training, direction-finding can be rewarding and not intimidating. Going back to the basics of map and compass navigation can also build confidence and a sense of self-reliance, essential qualities for those adventuring to remote locations.

Compass Variations and Features

A compass is a vital tool that helps one navigate through unfamiliar terrain. It consists of a magnetic needle that aligns itself with the Earth’s magnetic field to point towards the north. However, apart from the standard magnetic compass, there are different variations and features of the compass that cater to specific navigational needs.

  • Clinometer Compass: This type of compass has an additional feature that allows the user to determine the angle of elevation or depression of an object. It is useful for hikers and mountaineers who need to gauge the steepness of a slope or the height of a cliff.
  • Global Needle Compass: Also known as a dip needle compass, this compass has a vertical needle that points towards the magnetic poles instead of the geographic north. It is useful for navigating near the poles where the magnetic field is stronger than at the equator.
  • Orienteering Compass: This compass has a clear base that allows the user to see the map beneath it while taking a bearing. It also has a rotating bezel that helps in measuring angles accurately. It is useful for orienteering, a sport involving navigating through checkpoints in the wilderness.

Apart from these variations, there are some essential features that one should look for while purchasing a compass. These include:

  • Adjustable Declination: This feature helps to adjust the angle between true north and magnetic north, enabling the user to take accurate bearings.
  • Luminosity: Some compasses have markings that glow in the dark, making it easier to navigate in low light conditions.
  • Durability: Compasses should be made of sturdy materials that can withstand rough handling, extreme temperatures, and moisture.
  • Accuracy: A good compass should have precise markings and a stable needle that is not affected by nearby objects or electromagnetic fields.

Here is a table summarizing the variations and features of a compass:

Compass Variations Compass Features
Clinometer Adjustable Declination
Global Needle Luminosity
Orienteering Durability

Whether you are a seasoned adventurer or a beginner on a hiking trail, a compass is an essential tool in your navigational arsenal. Understanding the different variations and features can help you choose the best compass for your specific needs.

The Importance of Orientation in Map Reading

Orientation is a crucial aspect of map reading. It involves the ability to determine the direction of north and orient the map properly so that it aligns with the surrounding landscape. Without proper orientation, it is easy to get lost and misinterpret the information on the map.

Here are some reasons why orientation is important when reading a map:

  • Allows you to accurately navigate your way to your destination
  • Helps you identify landmarks and other features on the map
  • Enables you to determine the most appropriate route to take
  • Ensures that you stay on the correct path and avoid getting lost
  • Prevents confusion and mistakes when interpreting the information on the map
  • Ensures that you are able to communicate effectively with others when planning a route
  • Facilitates the use of navigation aids such as a compass or GPS device

To orient a map, it is important to identify the direction of north. This can be achieved through the use of a compass or by determining the position of the sun if it is visible.

One common method for orienting a map is to align it with the surrounding landscape. This involves identifying a visible feature on the map, such as a mountain or a river, and then locating that feature in the real world. Once the feature has been identified, the map can be rotated and aligned so that it matches the orientation of the surrounding landscape.

Another method for orienting a map is to use a compass. A compass is a navigational tool that helps determine direction. By aligning the compass with the magnetic north, it is possible to orient the map so that it aligns with the surrounding landscape.

Compass Direction Map Direction
North Top of the map
South Bottom of the map
East Right side of the map
West Left side of the map

In conclusion, proper orientation is essential for effective map reading. It enables you to accurately navigate your way to your destination, identify key landmarks, and avoid getting lost. By using techniques such as aligning the map with the surrounding landscape or using a compass, you can ensure that you are properly oriented and able to interpret the information on the map accurately.

What is the compass on a map called?

1. What is a compass on a map?
A compass on a map is used to indicate direction and help you navigate. It is often depicted as a small, circular symbol with two lines crossing through the center.

2. What is the purpose of a compass?
The purpose of a compass is to give you a sense of direction while navigating. This is especially useful when traveling or exploring unfamiliar terrain.

3. What are the different types of compasses?
There are different types of compasses, including magnetic compasses, gyrocompasses, and electronic compasses. Each type has its own unique features and benefits.

4. How does a compass work?
A compass works by utilizing the Earth’s magnetic field to determine direction. The compass needle is magnetized and will always point north, allowing you to navigate in a specific direction.

5. Can a compass be used for navigation in all conditions?
While a compass is a valuable tool for navigation, it may not always be reliable. Factors such as electromagnetic interference or variation in the Earth’s magnetic field can affect its accuracy.

6. How accurate is a compass?
The accuracy of a compass can vary, but it is generally considered to be reliable for navigation purposes. However, it is always important to use additional navigation tools and techniques to ensure your safety and accuracy.

7. Can I use my smartphone as a compass?
Many smartphones have a built-in compass feature that can be used for navigation. However, it is always important to have a backup navigation plan, as technology can sometimes fail.

Closing Thoughts

Thanks for taking the time to read about what the compass on a map is called. Whether you are a seasoned traveler or just starting out, understanding the basics of navigation is essential. Remember, a compass is just one tool in your arsenal, so be sure to always have a backup plan and stay safe during your adventures. Visit us again for more helpful tips and information!