Whenever you’re out backpacking in the woods, one of the most important things you need to bring is a compass. A compass will tell you where you are and give you your bearings in the event that you get lost. But what will you do in the event you lose your compass during your trip? It’s not the end of the world and it will not spell your doom if it does because there are many signs that you can see from nature that will help you get your bearings. All you need to do is to know where and how to look at these signs.
Probably the most well-known way of telling directions based on natural signs and clues is by looking at the sun. Everyone knows that the sun rises from the east and the sun sets in the west. With this information, if the sun is to your right in the morning you will be facing north.
Conversely, if the sun is on your left in the afternoon, you are still facing north. These are general directions though because we have to consider that the earth tilts on its axis.
At night, the North Star will help you determine your direction. To find where the North Star is, look for the Big Dipper. For people who are located in the northern hemisphere, the North Star will be the brightest star that you will see nearest the handle. It is also a part of the constellation that looks like the letter W. In fact, this W-shaped constellation also points north. If you are in the southern hemisphere, the W-shaped constellation will be inverted. It will be pointing towards the Big Dipper. The North Star is in between these two constellations. But in the southern hemisphere the North Star points to the south. So you should know if you live in the northern or southern hemisphere.
Shadows are also a handy way of telling you about directions. In the afternoon, with the sun still above the horizon, put a small twig, branch or stick on the ground. Place it on a relatively clear area where there is sunlight. As the stick makes a shadow, mark the tip of it with a piece of stone or a marking on the ground. After a few minutes the shadow will have moved. Mark the tip again. Now connect the two markings by drawing a line while you face the sun. The left end of the line will be east and the other end of the line is going to be west.
Trees can also provide clues as to direction. Look for moss on the trees. The side of the trees where the moss is located is where the sun rises, which is the east.
Photo from fairbridge.asn.au