Finding Direction Using a Watch

For First Class Requirement 1, Scouts must show how to find their way at day and night without a compass. This method only requires a watch.

When doing this with Scouts, we like to emphasize that if they are lost they should just stay put and wait for help to find them. These sort of methods should only be used in dire situations. It is a fun demonstration though and they can see how accurate their results are with a compass.

Printable copy of Finding North Using a Watch

Finding North Using a Watch

The directions below can be used to find the approximate north direction during the day if you are in the northern hemisphere. The further away you are from the equator, the more accurate this will be.

Your watch must be set to standard time, not daylight savings time.

  1. Hold the watch flat in the palm of your hand.
  2. Point the hour hand of your watch toward the sun.
  3. Draw a line which bisects (cuts in half) the angle between the hour hand (pointed at the sun) and 12 on the watch. (See the printable copy for a diagram.)
  4. One end of the line points north. Remember, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west.

If you have a digital watch and you can draw a fairly accurate analog watch, you can still use this method. Just draw the watch and hands with the current time and use that.

If you can find a very thin stick, hold it up and use its shadow to help you point the hour hand at the sun. This will give you a much better result than just guessing when it is pointed directly toward the sun.

Compare your results to the reading on a compass.

If you are in the southern hemisphere, point the 12 at the sun instead of the hour hand.

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