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Equipment: Compass

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CompassA magnetic compass is the most commonly used instrument in determining and measuring directions and angles. If you plan on sea kayaking or offshore touring in Florida, a compass is mandatory. It is possible for fog to last for extended periods and the compass (or a GPS unit) is required to keep traveling on a straight line.

Compasses used for kayaking come in two styles; those which are permanently or semi-permanently mounted to the kayak's deck and the hand-held units. Both work fine for kayaking and each has it's own advantage. A deck mounted compass is convenient as it is always available and you can quickly check your bearing. Hand-held units are inexpensive and don't require precious deck space. Additionally, hand-held compasses can be placed on a map for better chartwork. Silva style compasses are especially useful.

Note: If your deck-mounted compass starts acting quirky, check to see what's stored immediately below the compass. It's possible to confuse it if anything is made of a ferrous metal. There are many good books available for learning orienteering with a compass. Check your local library or bookstore for more information.