By: Blonde One

Just like the ‘offside rule‘ seems to be the ultimate proof of understanding of a game of football, so the understanding of a ‘back bearing’ seems to be the ultimate aim for navigators! We often get asked “but what actually is a back bearing?”. It seems to be the accepted rule for some people that you can’t navigate well until you have learned this skill. Just like knowing about the offside rule seems to be the measure by which we judge our appreciation of football, the use of a back bearing will surely prove that you are a superb navigator!

Well, I certainly don’t claim to know much about football and have absolutely no clue what the offside rule is! I do however, have some good navigation skills and do know what a back bearing is and how to use it.

The first way to use a back bearing is to confirm that you have come the way you thought you had or to be able to retrace your steps back to your last point. When you arrive at the new point just turn the compass 180° so that the black end of the floating needle lines up with the red arrow at the bottom of the baseplate. The direction of travel arrow should point in the direction you have just come.

Another way to use a back bearing is to work out exactly where you are along a linear feature such as a wall or river. Point the compass at a feature that will appear on the map such as a tor or the edge of a forest. Turn the bezel so that the floating red needle is sitting on top of the red orienting arrow in the bezel. Now put the compass on the map with the side of the baseplate on the feature and so that the N on the bezel is pointing to the top of the map. The line from the feature to your linear feature can be drawn so that you know exactly where you are along that feature.


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