11 Easiest Ways To Navigate Without A Compass That Actually Works!

There’s no perfect substitute for a compass, a map, or a GPS, but maybe someday you will be facing a situation where you will have none of the above. You will have to use your knowledge and skills to do the navigation for you.

Several methods can help people navigate both day and night and also in the different hemispheres. Here are our 11 Easiest Ways How To Navigate Without A Compass That Actually Works!

A Few Things To Keep In Mind:

  • Be familiar with natural tendencies of your current environment along with the structures and landmarks that would be of interest if and when you’re in a survival or bug-out situation.
  • When using methods that utilize a watch to help us navigate, make sure to set the watch without any adjustments for daylight savings time.
  • Know which hemisphere you’re in. The sun is in a different part of the sky if you’re within the Northern Hemisphere vs. the Southern Hemisphere.
  • The Northern Hemisphere is the part of the earth that is north of the equator, and the southern hemisphere is the part of the planet that is south of the equator. You should know which hemisphere you’re in by merely knowing what country you’re in. If you live in the United States and Canada, you’re in the northern hemisphere.
  • You can determine which hemisphere you’re in by searching for Polaris, or the north star in the night sky. This star will be visible in the Northern Hemisphere but not in the Southern Hemisphere, even if you’re slightly below the equator.

1 – How To Navigate Using Geological or Environmental Features

You can also navigate using geological and environmental features, especially from trees and moss.

How to Navigate By Using Trees

If you’re in the wilderness without a compass, you can use trees as a navigational tool. Evaluate the trees for their most heavy side.  Trees are rarely symmetrical; one side always seems to have more growth than the other.

Plants need sunlight to grow and the side that receives the most sunlight will appear to be heavier. In the Northern Hemisphere, the sun spends most of its time in the Southern part of the sky. Because of this, the denser side of the trees will usually be facing South.

In the Southern Hemisphere, the more massive portion of the tree usually points North. You should walk around the tree a few times to find the densest area on the tree, or the thicker parts To accurately decide which side of the tree is heaviest.

This method works best using tall trees in open fields. In wooded areas, the trees will receive significantly less sunlight, so it’s not as apparent which direction they’re growing.

How To Navigate By Using Moss

You can also navigate by using moss on the trees. Moss tends to grow on the side of the tree that is regularly shaded. In the Northern Hemisphere, you can usually find moss on the side of the tree that points North. In the Southern Hemisphere, you would typically see moss on the side of the tree that leads south.

It’s important to keep in mind that there are many other factors which create shady conditions that could encourage moss to grow on a particular side of a tree.

Trees that are shaded by other trees in a wooded area may throw off your direction. Trees that grow on slopes would have the same effect.

It’s good to examine trees that are in more open spaces, and you should also compare several trees.  Deciduous types can tend to populate the Southern slopes of hills while coniferous types cover the North. These phenomena occur oppositely in the Southern Hemisphere.

Plant life and science may help to determine the direction of travel, but it is not the most accurate method. Do not rely solely on these occurrences when navigating, but it can come in handy when other methods fail.

2 – How To Navigate Using The Northern Hemisphere Analog Watch Method

The Northern Hemisphere analog watch method does not necessarily require you have an analog watch. You can just draw a clock on a piece of paper or in the dirt to simulate an analog watch. Follow these simple steps for this process to work.

  1.  Lay the watch flat on a level surface or face up in the palm of your hand, so the watch face is parallel to the ground.
  2. Point the hour hand directly towards the sun.
  3. Find the middle point of the angle between the hour hand and the twelve o’clock marking on the watch or drawing.
  4. Bisect the angle between the hour hand and the twelve o’clock mark to find South.
  5. Before noon you will have to measure clockwise from the hour hand to the twelve o’clock marking.
  6. Afternoon you will have to measure counterclockwise from the hour hand to the twelve o’clock marking.

3 – How To Navigate Using The Southern Hemisphere Analog Watch Method

Like the Northern Hemisphere method, the Southern Hemisphere analog watch method does not necessarily require an analog watch. You can draw a clock on a piece of paper or in the dirt to simulate an analog watch. Follow these simple steps for this second process to work.

  1. Hold the watch horizontal and point it to twelve o’clock in the direction of the sun.
  2. The main difference between the Northern and Southern Hemisphere when it comes to using a watch as a compass is the Southern Hemisphere you’re using the twelve o clock mark and the Northern Hemisphere you use the hour hand mark as your sun alignment.
  3. Bisect the angle between the hour hand and the twelve o’clock mark to find North. The middle of the angle between the twelve o’clock mark and the hour hand on your watch marks North.

4 – The Shadow Tip Navigation Method

The Shadow Tip Navigation Method works the same in all corners of the world. For the Shadow Tip Method to work, you will have to place a straight stick upright in the ground so that a shadow can be seen.  A stick measuring around three to four foot tall will work correctly for this method. The narrower the tip of the stick is, the more accurate the reading will be.

  1. Place a rock or another small object directly on the tip of the shadow.
  2. After approximately ten minutes, the shadow will have moved from west to east due to the earth rotation.
  3. Place the second rock precisely at the tip of the second shadow.
  4. Draw a straight line in the ground between the two rocks. This straight line is your East to West line.
  5. Place your left foot on the first mark which is the West-mark and then place your right foot on the second mark which is the East mark.
  6. You will now be facing North which will place the South directly behind you. The East will be located to your right and the West to your left.

5 – How To Navigate Using An Alternate Shadow Method For Greater Accuracy

This alternate shadow method is a bit more accurate than the previous method we’ve shown you. Follow these simple steps. This method can take a few hours to achieve the most precise reading.

  1. Stick a short stick firmly into the level ground.
  2. Place a rock at the tip of the stick’s shadow.
  3. Measure the exact length of the shadow of the stick. You can use a piece of string or even a branch if you don’t have any measuring tools with you. The first measurement should be taken in the morning, or at least an hour before noon.
  4. Monitor the shadow as it shrinks before midday and begins to grow in the afternoon. Once the shadow has reached the exact length of the string or branch that you took the first measurement with, place a second marker or rock at the tip of the second shadow.
  5. Draw a line connecting the first mark to the second mark. This line will be your East/West line.
  6. Place your left foot on the first mark (West) and your right foot on the second mark (East). This will place West at our left and East toward our right. True North will be in front and South will be behind you.

6 – Star Motion Navigation

The Star Motion Navigation method is achieved by using two sticks at night within the Northern Hemisphere

  1. Find two sticks with one of the sticks being a bit longer than the other.
  2. Plant the sticks in the ground approximately two to four feet apart from one another.
  3. Find the brightest star in the sky and line it up with the shorter stick.
  4. Place the longer stick into the ground between the short stick and the star, so the tip lines up in an exact straight line with the short stick and the star in the sky.
  5. Wait several minutes as you will need to give the star some time to move.
  6. After several minutes, check back and look over the tips of the sticks again and notice the location of the star has changed.  Of course, the star doesn’t actually move, its the rotation of the earth that gives it that impression.
  7. If the star moved up, you’re facing the East.  When the star moved down, you’re facing West. If it moved right, you’re facing South, and if it moved left, you’re facing North.

7 – How To Navigate Using The North Star (Polaris) In The Northern Hemisphere

The North Star (Polaris) is a simple way to navigate and will only be visible in the northern hemisphere. The North Star is the last star in the handle of the little dipper constellation. Polaris can be located by finding the big dipper which is usually highly visible. The big dipper is comprised of seven of the sky’s brightest stars.  You can see it either high or low in the sky depending on the season.

Remember the phrase “Fall down and Spring up.” The Big Dipper will be high in the sky during the spring months and low in the sky during the Autumn months. It also rotates around the North Star as long as you’re located above 23.5 degrees north latitude. The constellation is always above the horizon.

Four stars form the Bowler Cup while the other three form The Handle. Regardless of the season, the two pointer stars or the stars that create the outer edge of The Bowl always points to the North Star.

Draw an imaginary line from the two pointer stars to the next brightest star in the sky, and you will find Polaris.  Unlike the stars of the Big Dipper constellation, the North Star is always located at a fixed point in the sky and never leaves more than one degree off from True North.

8 – How To Navigate Using The Southern Cross Constellation In The Southern Hemisphere

In the Southern Hemisphere, the norths star is not visible, and there is also no single star in this hemisphere that always indicates the direction of North or South.  We can, however, use the Southern Cross and its pointer stars as a guide.

Five stars form the Southern Cross Constellation.  The four brightest stars form a cross that is angled or tilted to one side. After identifying the two stars that make up the long axis of the cross. These stars form a line which loosely speaking points to an imaginary point in the sky which is directly above the south pole.

Follow the imaginary line down from the two stars five times the distance between them.  It might help to make two marks on a piece of paper or a piece of wood the same range of the two crossed stars appear to be from one another in relation to you and then make another line that is five times the length of this.

Hold it up in the air in line with the two stars and at the line you made, draw an imaginary line from this point to the ground and try to identify corresponding landmarks to steer by because this is True South.

True North is directly behind you if you’re looking at the point.

9 – How To Navigate With Orion At The Equator

The Belt of Orion – The Orion Belt is also known as the Three Kings or the Three Sisters. Looking for Orion’s Belt in the night sky is the easiest way to locate Orion in the sky. The stars are more or less evenly spaced in a straight line, and so can be visualized as the belt of the hunter’s clothing. They are best visible in the early night sky during the Northern Winter/Southern Summer, in particular, the month of January at around 9:00 pm. (Source – Wikipedia)

Orions Belt has three prominent stars and also has a sword shape attached projecting a line through the middle star of the belt. This is the general direction of North.

Orions Belt lays across the equator. The Belt rises in the East and sets in the West.

10 – How To Navigate Using the Moon

First, you need to locate the crescent moon in the night sky. This particular method for finding your direction works only if the moon is either Waxing Crescent or Waning Crescent, which occurs approximately seven days in each calendar month.

The Crescent phases typically occur at the beginning and the end of each month.

  1.  Draw an imaginary line from the moon’s tips to the horizon.
  2. Picture a line from the two points of the crescent that runs all the way down to the bottom of the skyline, or the horizon.
  3. If you’re located in the Northern Hemisphere, the point where the line meets the horizon is roughly South.
  4. If you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, the point where the line is roughly North.


These are several navigation methods that might prove useful to you if you become lost in the wilderness. I’m sure there are more, and I would encourage you to comment below and offer us more examples of navigating without a compass or GPS that actually works!

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