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Discussion: Orienteering compass with a sight?

in: Orienteering; General

Aug 10, 2023 1:04 AM # 
So when planning my next leg, I like extracting an azimuth from the map (it doesn’t matter if it’s through the Silva 1-2-3 system and keep the needle in the housing – red in the shed; or just by looking at the needle’s position or the number it is pointing at) and then lifting the compass, holding it to my eye level, looking at the horizon and aiming at a distant point. The problem with that is that when lifting the compass from the map and holding it at my eye level, I tend to move the compass and loose that azimuth. Another problem is that there is no marker or ledge at the tip of the compass to aim on. When I lower the compass back to the map, I see that the offset may be even up to 20-30 degrees, and this can be in any direction.
Military compasses for example, allow you to look through a sight to the distance while still seeing the degrees through the read-the-numbers-sight (not sure how this part is called...) as both happen at your eye level. Sport orienteering compasses do not have this capability. Any ideas how to achieve this functionality without using a military compass? I'd still want to use a transparent baseplate compass so that I could place it on the map and see what's below it.

My apologies for the cumbersome explanation. If you don't get the point I can try again.

Disclaimer – I am not a fan of mirror sighting compasses such as this one: as they tend to dazzle me and I don't like needing to open and close them constantly.
Aug 10, 2023 2:22 AM # 
I think everyone will 'get' what you are saying. However, if I may, most will also be shaking their head at the idea that you seem to want to get a surveyor's accuracy from a compass when orienteering.
Keep in mind that when orienteering we have something that the surveyors don't have: a good map, usually a great map that someone has already surveyed for us.
Most here will be used to using the compass for 1) not much more than making sure the map is oriented correctly so they can read off the map where they have to go and 2) use the baseplate to measure distance needed/ remaining to go.
But when getting direction from the compass it is good enough to hold the compass at about waist height and eyeball the direction either using that Silva 1-2-3 method or the more common method of reading the direction off the needle so it is the same as your desired direction on the map crosssing a meridian line.
As you sight your compass look up and pick an object along the direction of travel line and move to it. As you get close then take another sighting along the same line and keep going.
Always check the compass direction against what the map is telling you.
Aug 10, 2023 10:20 AM # 
Silva used to make compasses with a sighting prism before they turned to the mirror models. Possibly you can find one online, look for Expedition 54 or 55.
Moscompass has brought out a new thumb compass (the GT) with a longer base and a sighting line, the 2 and 3 models have bearings but other models don't.

Have to say though, that Gordhun is right - use the map!
Aug 10, 2023 11:31 AM # 
This original post might not be legit.
Aug 10, 2023 11:45 AM # 
What, you don't trust a post from someone who's only just signed up to AP today and posted exactly one item?

My opinion, for what it's worth, is that if you're using a prism/sight/mirror/whatever to assist with orienteering then you're not out to win (or finish before course closure).
Aug 10, 2023 4:21 PM # 
Mr Wonderful:
There was a time I was the newest member of the AP community.....
Aug 10, 2023 5:23 PM # 
And we finally trust you now. ;)
Aug 10, 2023 6:24 PM # 
Thanks for your replies. I could not find a sport prisma sighting compass anywhere. Silva Expedition 54 or 55 seem to be regular baseplate compasses. I disagree with some comments though as I think that in open terrains with gentle topography, being able to accurately aim at a distant object by using this capability is very much needed (not the case for a dense forest though, yeah, I get it). I do not know any other method other than the military compasses way and was wondering if there is any sport model that would offer that option or a technique that would be better than mine (taking a bearing on the map and than lifting the compass to eye level).
Aug 10, 2023 11:06 PM # 
a technique that would be better than mine

A good start would be "The Winning Eye" by Michel Gueorgiou, i.e., "How to succeed through map reading".

The Winning Eye

Aug 10, 2023 11:39 PM # 
Look more closely at the Expedition 54/55 and you will see the prism in the needle housing.
Aug 11, 2023 12:31 AM # 
I've used a prismatic sighting compass, but only for mapping, and even for that, not in a very long time.

I'll be orienteering in Wyoming at the end of this month, and some of the maps there are the epitome of open terrain with gentle topography. My technique there is to orient the map and get a move on.
Aug 11, 2023 12:54 AM # 
Probably of no relevance to what you are seeking, but the development of the str8 compass, to declutter the thumb compass and make it better while incorporating benefits of the base plate compass, in order to make the orienteer faster might be an interesting read (Interesting to see a former US team member Pavlina in one of the photos :) With the thumb compass you definitely would not take the compass off the map for taking a bearing but using the entire setup of map-and-compass for looking and picking a slightly higher point, even in gentle topography without any additional vegetation cues and travel to it, as Gord mentioned.
Also helpful in changing how you look at map and compass as a unit for following compass bearings, you may also want to check out this O-Ringen YouTube 'tech tip' video of another former US team member Samantha Saeger:
Aug 11, 2023 5:07 AM # 
Thanks for the clarification simmo! Now I see. Silva Expedition 55 seems like what I had in mind and I even found a (weird) video in Japanese that shows how to use the prism: This looks like an interesting attempt to combine a transparent baseplate sport compass with a prism, which is a feature that exists mainly in bulky, non-transparent, military-style compasses. Since the needle is a round disc there, I wonder how fast it would be and if it be a good option for a sport event. Too bad they abandoned that idea and switched to mirror compasses - those are bulkier, not easy to use in competition conditions and the mirror keeps on dazzling me the entire time. I wonder if attaching a simple sight, without a mirror or a prism, or even a two pieces sight, say before and after the bezel (like a gun sight in a way), would help. Although I would not be able to see the direction and the distant object in the same holding position, with some practice I may be able not to mess it too much when switching between the two. Thoughts?
Aug 11, 2023 7:10 AM # 
I think Silva developed those compasses primarily for mapping, as JJ suggests. I only used mine for mapping. The needle was not fast in comparison to modern good quality orienteering compasses, but was not as slow as cheaper models.

I think you'll be lucky to find one.
Aug 11, 2023 11:06 AM # 
You might want to have a squint at this;

Also, try using a JET compass;
Aug 12, 2023 12:34 AM # 
Another option could be a prismatic compass:
Aug 12, 2023 4:59 AM # 
Thanks for the above option however the needle disc is not transparent so it would not be ideal for a race.
If anyone is aware of a model that has: 1) Prism, 2) Transparent needle disc, please let me know.
So far the Silva Expedition 54/55 seems to be the only compass that has those two features.
Aug 12, 2023 7:09 AM # 
Have you tried just holding the compass at waist level, squaring your body to the compass, and then just looking straight ahead? That really should get you dead on and be repeatable. The magnetic north lines on the map probably have more error than that.
Aug 12, 2023 5:54 PM # 
I have always thought it is impossible to look though such sights at full speed. Is it really possible do that without slowing down or even entirely stopping?
Aug 13, 2023 2:47 AM # 
Mr Wonderful:
Ain't nothing in the original post about going fast.

For no reason in particular, here's Joe Barrett running around French Creek and winning w/ out using a sighting compass (I presume, I have not met him).

Aug 13, 2023 3:07 AM # 
But none of those people Joe beat had sighting compasses, either. Do you suppose having one would have been enough to beat him?

(I have met Joe, as well as at least nine of the people he beat, and the answer is clear in my mind.)
Aug 13, 2023 6:51 AM # 
Through the years I have observed beginners show up our our events with different types of compasses. Some of these compasses have mirrors, others have swiveling cases with sighting lines. Have always wondered where they get the idea that these devices are helpful in orienteering.
Aug 13, 2023 7:29 AM # 
@geoman most likely the boy scouts taught them bearing and distance
Aug 13, 2023 9:20 AM # 
I know of no bricks and mortar outdoor equipment shop that sells thumb compasses. That might be why newcomers never turn up with one.
Aug 13, 2023 11:59 AM # 
Although I use a thumb compass, a basic baseplate compass is also perfectly fine. That's what I used until I started using a thumb compass, although I used it the same way as a thumb compass. Most of my club's loaner compasses are baseplates, and I know a number of accomplished orienteers who use baseplate compasses, some of whom even rotate the capsule to set a bearing. But none who hold the compass up at eye level.
Aug 13, 2023 12:01 PM # 
Mr Wonderful:
Fair point to InvisibleLog. When new folks ask in the lead up to their first event I say don’t buy one, borrow one of ours (thumb)

The Army land nav manual only shows a lensatic compass, eg 9-2 in this
Aug 14, 2023 8:59 AM # 
Before I started orienteering and only used baseplates for rogaining, I had a completely different picture of what a thumb compass was.
Aug 16, 2023 12:02 AM # 
The Army also tends to use 1:25K or 1:50K USGS. In my experience , military land nav has more in common with rogaining than traditional orienteering. Not to say you can’t terrain associate in military land nav, but it’s a different degree of precision in one’s map detail than what we are used to as orienteers, which makes distance estimation and compass work more important.

Or not, depending on who you talk to, but that pace count discussion is another thread entirely. :-)
Aug 16, 2023 12:36 AM # 
Mr Wonderful:
I'm not good and won't guarantee I'd win, but I sure would love to take my thumb compass up against some lensatic users on USGS at the nearest Land Nav training venue to me.

Aug 16, 2023 1:10 PM # 
Beautiful. Bet there are some subtleties in the terrain that don’t pop out at this scale. I wish the terrain I visited for training and operations had looked like that. I guess Yakima (eastern WA) was the closest - that’s where I found it easy to teach terrain association, primarily because there were no trees and it was easy to see the terrain.
Aug 17, 2023 2:27 PM # 
Compasses designed for orienteering do not have sights,
this is because such a feature is not necessary for orienteering.
If you find a compass with a sight, it wasn't designed for orienteering

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