This Old Gadget

By on September 23, 2005

Next year, I’m going to be doing some adventure racing and mountain hiking. Figured I better learn how to use a compass and topo map.

I didn’t even know that declination was a word.

Also did you know that:

As well as the magnetic deviation east or west, compasses also show a vertical “dip” up and down. This dip varies in different parts of the world and compasses are specially calibrated for that dip. So you can’t take a compass made for North America and use it in South America and get accurate readings.

Of course, there is this new GPS technology I keep hearing about, but you can’t use that in adventure racing.



  1. Join the club, with local triathlon race fees going thru the roof my buddies and I are considering a single day adventure race.

    should be fun.

  2. I am also a triathlete. Race fees here in south dakota are not bad at all… $25 – $35 bucks. Entry fees for the adventure races are around $100 / person.

  3. Interesting point about GPS. It first started as military only satellite network, then the US (only people that have GPS network) decided to publicize it and let private companies use the technology. Its accurate to 3 feet.

    Commercialization happened in the 1990’s i think. But just recently I learned something that really put this into perscpective. I was wokring with some supply ships last month and asked them about sea navigation. Before GPS was de-classified they were still using a SEXTANT and taking sunshots to determine their longitude!!!!

    All the of the ocean going ships in the world, even the largest super oil tankers, were still using the Sextant; The same thing that Columbus used to cross the atlantic! Very-not-high-tech And this happened until the 1990’s.

    For me its a reminder that despite all our hubris of advanced technology, there are still many limits to what it can do. Or is that the luddite in me speaking?

  4. Tri fees over here are getting silly. The last one I did (South Coast) was 43GBP (non BTA member) and wasn’t even BTA accredited. Many of the smaller races aren’t too bad, but we’re still talking 25/30GBP minimum. The London tri, on the other hand, costs something like 60 or 70 quid!

    My brother’s been doing Adventure racing for a couple of years, most recently the Ace Race in Exmoor, and looks like great fun. Definitely something I’m going to get into over the winter I think. Keep us updated with how you get on.

    Oh, and I didn’t know that about compasses. One to remember.

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