Compass and maps overview

On the Mountain Skills 1 course we introduce maps and the compass and explain features of both. We go into much further detail on Mountain Skills 2. You can learn the useful skills of map and compass, increasing your confidence on the hills. We demonstrate the use of the compass, in the classroom and also out it the field.


A Silva Type 4 compass is the recommended for use in the Irish Mountainside.
The type 4 is a flat compass with the following essential features:


Over the course you will learn:

  • Compass points – cardinal points, 360 degree system
  • North – true, grid, magnetic
  • The concept of a bearing
  • Measuring bearings from a map by estimation, protractor
  • Theory of a Silva-type compass; taking bearings from a map
  • Grid and magnetic bearings
  • Walking on a bearing – short exercises


Over the courses we show samples of different maps – there are many! In Ireland we mainly use the OSI maps – these maps are available for the entire country and are suitable for hillwalking. There a some specialist maps such as East West Maps or Harveys maps which cover selected hill walking areas, these maps are at a different scale to the OSI maps.

Along with the compass you will also learn:

  • National Grid
  • Map Scales
  • Map Features
  • Four-figure grid references
  • Six-figure grid references
  • Map Setting

map setting

The images used here are samples from our slide show and are copyright of the MTUK. The MTA publish books on mountain navigation and are available here.