How to Find North without a Compass

(Modern – If You’re Lost Without a Compass, What’s the Most Reliable Way to Find True North?

  • Moss
  • Water Flow
  • Clouds
  • Trees

Answer: Trees. Here’s why…

Being lost in the woods can be scary, especially when you’re not sure which direction to go. Getting your bearings can be a challenge without a compass, but it’s not impossible—if you know where to look.

The easiest, and most traditional, way of finding north is by locating Polaris (the North Star) at night. Start by locating the Big Dipper, then look straight out from the tip until you spot the Little Dipper (Ursa Minor). Polaris is the brightest star in this constellation. In the northern hemisphere, the night sky appears to revolve around this star.

However, if the night sky is obstructed by clouds, then you’ll have to find north another way.

Use The Trees

By examining trees, you’ll be able to determine which direction is north. Plants, including trees, live and grow by way of photosynthesis. This means they turn sunlight into energy. This key biological factor determines the way trees grow, and can clue you in on what direction you’re facing.

The following video shows how trees grow in the northern hemisphere, and how that enables you to determine which direction to travel:

As the video explains, trees have a natural tendency to grow toward the sun. Since the sun generally resides in the southern half of the sky in the northern hemisphere, the branches on the north side of trees grow upward, and those on the south side grow outward to gather sunlight. The north side often has fewer branches as well because there is less light on that half of the tree.

This also tends to leave the north side of trees damper and cooler than the south side, leading to moss growth. You shouldn’t judge direction on moss alone, however, as shade from other trees could create cooler spots, allowing moss to grow in areas not exclusive to the northern half of the tree.

Another common misconception is that water flows from north to south, but this isn’t always accurate. Water flows downhill, regardless of the direction, so don’t put your faith in finding north using flowing water.

Once you have established which direction is north, determining east and west is as easy as watching the sun (it rises in the east, and sets in the west). With this information, you’ll be able to set your course and head for safety.

For additional information on what to do if you become lost, check out our article here.

~Here’s to Your Survival!

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