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General Gear Discussion The General Gear Discussion forum is for the discussion of traditional and lightweight (ultralight) backpacking gear that is not covered in other Practical Backpacking™ forums. [Please post about Backpacks, Shelters, Sleeping Gear, Backcountry Kitchen (Food, Stoves) in those respective forum areas.]


View Poll Results: Do you set the declination on your compass?
Yes 17 77.27%
No (but my compass has the feature) 3 13.64%
No (my compass does not have this feature) 2 9.09%
Voters: 22. You may not vote on this poll

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  #1  
Old 09-10-2012, 04:38 PM
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Reality Reality is offline
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Compass Declination

If you have a compass that allows you to adjust for declination, do you set the declination?

Please feel free to elaborate.

Reality
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  #2  
Old 09-10-2012, 05:50 PM
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GGervin GGervin is online now
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Yes! ...And I learned the "interesting" way to set the GPS to the correct "north" setting to match the compass, too! I will add that I bet this question almost reduces to "How much do you use map-and-compass vs. GPS, map, and compass navigation?" I'm betting people who rely on map and compass more are more inclined to want the adjustable declination setting and use it, since a GPS can now compensate for it instead of the compass.

As I've mentioned before, I have a Silva Ranger. One of the reasons I chose that compass is the settable declination feature. Back when I bought it, I did only map-and-compass navigation, and the settable declination just plain made map work easier. All my backpacking has been west coast, so I've never had to re-set it for a different location. Since getting an e-trex, I've kept it set to "true north" to match the adjusted compass.

I did lose the Ranger, and bought a Brunton classic as a temporary replacement - a good but basic baseplate compass with no declination adjustment. I reset the GPS to "magnetic north," and all was fine. I found basic map and compass skills still worked, but with more effort. The extra effort went away when I used the properly set GPS to determine bearing to next waypoint, so I missed the adjustable compass feature less.

Then I rescued the declination-adjusted Ranger. Happy day! But I forgot to reset the GPS back to "true north." Next trip out (at least 6 months later - I'd forgotten I'd lost the Ranger at all by then), all the landmarks measured almost exactly 17 degrees off when I used the GPS to find bearings to the next waypoint. Baffled the heck out of me, since the map and my eyeballs told me I was off. How could my GPS be wrong when it was never wrong before? Finally at the end of the day, it hit me my area's declination is 17 degrees and there was a GPS setting that must be wrong. Bingo! I put the e-trex back on "true north," and my 17 degree navigation bafflement vanished!

Embarassing, yes, but maybe someone else can learn from my error. That's the main reason for sharing the story. But it also explains my guess about a relationship between GPS use and need for adjustable declination.

So, despite the tech advances in GPS, would I still insist on adjustable declination if buying a new primary compass? Yes! But maybe I just like being old school...
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  #3  
Old 09-10-2012, 06:01 PM
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Benwaller Benwaller is offline
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My Suunto MC-2 has this feature and I use it as I can't come up with any rational reason, rational for me that is, not to. Actually declination is pretty much set-and-forget most of the time as in the off-season I only wander around the local coastal hills and in summer my trips are in the Lassen/Shasta areas so really there is not a lot of declination adjustment necessary. But what there is, I do.

I do understand why declination might not matter much to any number of folks, and most reasons I've listened to make a lot of sense from a practical standpoint, but I have this thing about not inviting error, even if it is marginal in nature. Kinda' rigid in that regard. Nostalgic maybe, as The Old Man was pretty thorough in his map-and-compass training of us, me in particular.

He was all about staying found before that phrase became a book title.

So yeah, I set it.

,
Ben
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  #4  
Old 09-10-2012, 06:35 PM
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Scrambler Scrambler is offline
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I always set Declination on my compass. As easy as it is, I see no reason not to.
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  #5  
Old 09-10-2012, 09:55 PM
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Bushwalker Bushwalker is offline
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They (the map makers) put that declination on the bottom right hand corner of a map for a reason, so I use it...

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  #6  
Old 09-11-2012, 03:02 AM
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beekeeper beekeeper is offline
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I use it because if I get tired or distracted for some reason, I don't want to forget to convert between map true North and compass magnetic North bearings.
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  #7  
Old 09-11-2012, 10:46 AM
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richwads richwads is offline
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I have a baseplate compass in my pack with adjustable declination, but usually use a pocket compass for quick orientation.

No matter what compass I use, I always orient the compass base to true north (more or less) by turning it until the compass needle is about 15 degrees northeast (this is on the west coast). Then I orient my map to my compass. Occasionally I will use the base plate compass, and it usually has the declination already set.

Most of my maps are missing the title block (with declination noted) as I've taken to printing only the relevant parts of them from pdfs. I have noticed that in the last 30 years, declination has changed a few degrees out here.
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  #8  
Old 09-16-2012, 11:14 AM
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beekeeper beekeeper is offline
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I have drawn lines on my map before that was the amount of declination listed in the title block. I didn't think the angle shown in the diagram was anything but a generic angle, so I took out a protractor and marked the declination off a map north gridline and drew the line with a waterproof pen. Then I copied the angle several more times along the map page making parallel magnetic north lines.

Quote:
Originally Posted by richwads
I have a baseplate compass in my pack with adjustable declination, but usually use a pocket compass for quick orientation.

No matter what compass I use, I always orient the compass base to true north (more or less) by turning it until the compass needle is about 15 degrees northeast (this is on the west coast). Then I orient my map to my compass. Occasionally I will use the base plate compass, and it usually has the declination already set.

Most of my maps are missing the title block (with declination noted) as I've taken to printing only the relevant parts of them from pdfs. I have noticed that in the last 30 years, declination has changed a few degrees out here.
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  #9  
Old 09-16-2012, 06:26 PM
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dsuursoo dsuursoo is offline
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i have the capability but i tend to fire and forget with it, unless i know i'm in an area with severe deviation, where even short-range navigation can be compromised badly.

alaska had a lot of that, and small pockets of high deviation inside areas of lower.
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  #10  
Old 09-27-2012, 09:49 AM
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oakesmi oakesmi is offline
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I am trying to build my navigation skills so I do not set my declination because I want to get in the habit of looking at my maps and reminding myself that I have to compansate for declination. At somepoint in the future I may go to just setting the declination on my compass but for now I am manually doing it.
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