Azimuths or Bearings?

Every year at the start of FORT 130 we start learning how to use a compass for forestry field work. Among the options is whether to get an azimuth compass or a bearings compass.

In azimuths, north is 0, east is 90, south is 180, and west is 270. This is a very commonly used system.

Bearings are a bit more complicated. The bearing is how many degrees east or west of north or south. No bearing is greater than 90. For example 45degrees azimuth is N 45 E. 225 azimuth is S 45 W. Bearings is an older system. Most land descriptions in the eastern US are in bearings. Also, bearings are ideal for field work. It is very easy to find the back sight. Keep the same number. Reverse the N/S or E/W.

True, both systems will get you where you want to go, but I will continue to emphasize bearings, partly from tradition, partly because if you learn bearings, azimuths are childs’ play.

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