The baseplate compass is perhaps one of the most important tools that a walker can own.

Having a reliable compass that you can use and understand fully in any conditions is essential.

The baseplate compass is made up of a number of different elements each of which serve to assist the walker reach their destination without fuss. In this article we will walk you through each part of a typical and basic compass of this sort. You can also watch our video summary which is shown below.

The Elements of a Baseplate Compass


The baseplate of the compass is where all the elements are located and houses. Normally the baseplate is manufactured from 3mm thick hardwearing clear acrylic plastic.

Lanyard Mount

A lanyard allows you to safely secure the compass to yourself or your equipment to prevent you from losing this important piece of equipment.

Magnifying Glass

A fairly common feature of most baseplate compasses and it allows you to pick out fine details on your map and can have other uses such as finding splinters.

Scales / Rules

Along the edges of the baseplate are marked scales / rules to assist you in planning and marking up routes. These scales can be in mm, inches or the more popular map scales such as 1:50k or 1:25k


Some baseplates have romers marked on their surface. These grid-like romers allow the walker to easily read and give accurate grid references. Romers are commonly marked up in the 1:40k, 1:50k or 1:25k map scales.


Some compasses have holes cut through the plastic baseplate and these act as stencils to aide in marking up your map when planning a route.

Direction of Travel Arrow

This is one of the most important markings on the baseplate and key to accurate navigation.

Bezel and Housing (Capsule)

The rotating bezel is marked up into 360 degrees to allows you set your bearing. The liquid filled housing, sometimes referred to as the capsule, is where the magnetic needle is mounted.

Orienting Arrow

Marked on the base of the liquid filled housing is the orienting arrow. This allows you quickly orientate your compass to the direction you wish to travel.

Orienting Lines

The orienting lines are marked alongside the orienting arrow and allow you to accurately orientate your compass to the grid marked upon your map.

Declination Scale

The declination scale allow you to make adjustments in your bearing to allow for the differences between Grid North and Magnetic North.

Magnetic Needle

The magnetic needle of a baseplate compass is normally marked in two colours – Red denoting North and Black or White denoting South.

The Basics

These are the basic elements of a baseplate compass and additional features can be found across different brands / models such as luminous markers, GPS error stencils, protractors, inclinometers to name but a few but they are just added helpful extras and are not essential for most walkers.

The baseplate compass is perhaps one the most important pieces of kit a walker should learn to use.

Recent Posts
Showing 2 comments
  • Mark

    Excellent introduction. Thanks Sean

  • Terri

    Thank you Walk Fife! I have always been a little unsure about my compass. Keep on walking !

Leave a Comment

Contact Us

Drop us a line and say hello!

Share your walking route with Walk FifeGPS & Fitness Trackers - Privacy and Safety Concerns - advice from Walk Fife