New Skill

How can a lifelong football fan not look at the game schedule before signing up for a class? I guess this time happened because I signed up before the season started and who suspects a game on a Thursday night?

So instead of watching my team lose their second game in five days, I was sitting in a class I’d been meaning to take for ages: map and compass reading.

Map and Compass Class

Years ago, back when i took the Sierra Club’s Wilderness Basics Course, I was so excited to learn this skill. Unlike most of the other training, they decided this was going to be hands on learning out in the field during our backpacking trip. Unfortunately, that trip was snowed out and they never did make up the lost training.

With my newly found free time, I decided to take the class from REI.

Overall, I learned most of the skills I was hoping for. I went home and showed DH2U how to make a bearing. It was exciting.

The instructor, however, was not very good. While he seemed to know the material, he didn’t know how to use his words to describe the steps necessary for us to do it on our own. If the materials had shown it, that wouldn’t have mattered, but despite the class having been fully booked for more than a week, he didn’t have enough copies (we are only talking 10 sets!). Plus, the materials didn’t show the “how” either.

When we all pulled out our compasses, the instructor recommended I return mine since it didn’t have the needed features – the arrow to “box in” the needle. In looking at it more closely, I realized it had two dots to serve that purpose.



You can see that I’ve turned the dial so that the arrowhead is between the two dots.

In showing it to DH2U, he noticed that the dots would glow in the dark.

Compass in Dark

I’m glad this last picture was taken in the bathroom and not the middle of the woods, since it shows I was facing the wrong direction! That triangle should be between the two dots at the top for me to be on course. The fact that I can tell this now and I would have been clueless before the class shows that I did learn something, despite the teaching quality.

I sent an email saying I was unhappy with the class. This experience won’t stop me from taking the next level class – compass and map reading in the field – when it is offered next year. I already know it will be a different instructor.

It is as if a whole new world of information has opened up to me. It was definitely worth missing the football game.

Has anyone else made it to adulthood without knowing how to use a compass? or When was the last time you learned something despite having a not-quite-up-to-the-job instructor?

4 thoughts on “New Skill”

  1. Oh yeah – that would be me not knowing how to use a compass. I’d be lost without breadcrumbs or something to mark my path. Although I DO have a pretty good sense of direction as far as N,S,E,W. So at least if I were deep in the woods, I’d know I was walking in circles and where I was when I starved to death.


    1. I envy your directional sense. I am horrible at NSEW directions. It doesn’t help that our streets here aren’t on a grid that uses them for orientation. Even our east bound freeway heads south for a while!


  2. I looked into doing something like this too. There was an orienteering class and group that met in Minneapolis. I thought about it for a long time, but I just wasn’t passionate about it enough. I liked the idea, but I had other projects going on that I liked even more. It doesn’t help that I’m not much of an outdoors kind of person. That could all change though for me. I’m prone to 180 degree switches in what I like to do.


    1. I am so glad I’m not the only one whose interests change. If I don’t do something right when I’m thinking about it, often time that interest window is missed. I was quite pleasantly surprised that my interest in map reading continued on so long. To be honest, though, there were times during all these years of waiting when I probably would have passed on the class. Maybe my interests are more cyclical.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s