Thumb compass

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Thumb compass on left Compasses orienteering.jpg
Thumb compass on left

A thumb compass is a type of compass commonly used in orienteering, a sport in which map reading and terrain association are paramount. In cases of homogeneous terrain with few distinct features, a bearing between 2 known points on the map may be used. Consequently, most thumb compasses have minimal or no degree markings at all, and are normally used only to take bearings directly from a map, and to orient a map to magnetic north. Thumb compasses are also often transparent so that an orienteer can hold a map in the hand with the compass and see the map through the compass.

Compass direction finding and navigation instrument

A compass is an instrument used for navigation and orientation that shows direction relative to the geographic cardinal directions. Usually, a diagram called a compass rose shows the directions north, south, east, and west on the compass face as abbreviated initials. When the compass is used, the rose can be aligned with the corresponding geographic directions; for example, the "N" mark on the rose points northward. Compasses often display markings for angles in degrees in addition to the rose. North corresponds to 0°, and the angles increase clockwise, so east is 90° degrees, south is 180°, and west is 270°. These numbers allow the compass to show magnetic North azimuths or true North azimuths or bearings, which are commonly stated in this notation. If magnetic declination between the magnetic North and true North at latitude angle and longitude angle is known, then direction of magnetic North also gives direction of true North.

Orienteering Group of sports that requires navigational skills

Orienteering is a group of sports that require navigational skills using a map and compass to navigate from point to point in diverse and usually unfamiliar terrain whilst moving at speed. Participants are given a topographical map, usually a specially prepared orienteering map, which they use to find control points. Originally a training exercise in land navigation for military officers, orienteering has developed many variations. Among these, the oldest and the most popular is foot orienteering. For the purposes of this article, foot orienteering serves as a point of departure for discussion of all other variations, but almost any sport that involves racing against a clock and requires navigation with a map is a type of orienteering.

Map A symbolic depiction of relationships between elements of some space

A map is a symbolic depiction emphasizing relationships between elements of some space, such as objects, regions, or themes.


Thumb compasses attach to one's thumb using a small elastic band.

Thumb First digit of the hand

The thumb is the first digit (finger) of the hand. When a person is standing in the medical anatomical position, the thumb is the outermost digit. The Medical Latin English noun for thumb is pollex, and the corresponding adjective for thumb is pollical.

An elastomer is a polymer with viscoelasticity and has very weak intermolecular forces, generally low Young's modulus and high failure strain compared with other materials. The term, a portmanteau of elastic polymer, is often used interchangeably with rubber, although the latter is preferred when referring to vulcanisates. Each of the monomers which link to form the polymer is usually a compound of several elements among carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and silicon. Elastomers are amorphous polymers maintained above their glass transition temperature, so that considerable molecular reconformation, without breaking of covalent bonds, is feasible. At ambient temperatures, such rubbers are thus relatively soft and deformable. Their primary uses are for seals, adhesives and molded flexible parts. Application areas for different types of rubber are manifold and cover segments as diverse as tires, soles for shoes, and damping and insulating elements. The importance of these rubbers can be judged from the fact that global revenues are forecast to rise to US$56 billion in 2020.

The first commercially successful orienteering thumb compass was the Norcompass, introduced by Suunto in 1983. [1]

Placing an even greater emphasis on speed over accuracy, the wrist compass lacks even a baseplate, consisting solely of a needle capsule strapped to the carpometacarpal joint at the base of the thumb; the thumb serves the function of a baseplate when taking and sighting bearings. It is often used for city and park race orienteering.

Carpometacarpal joint joint in the hand

The carpometacarpal (CMC) joints are five joints in the wrist that articulate the distal row of carpal bones and the proximal bases of the five metacarpal bones.

See also

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North one of the four cardinal directions

North is one of the four compass points or cardinal directions. It is the opposite of south and is perpendicular to east and west. North is a noun, adjective, or adverb indicating direction or geography.

Piloting or pilotage is navigating, using fixed points of reference on the sea or on land, usually with reference to a nautical chart or aeronautical chart to obtain a fix of the position of the vessel or aircraft with respect to a desired course or location. Horizontal fixes of position from known reference points may be obtained by sight or by radar. Vertical position may be obtained by depth sounder to determine depth of the water body below a vessel or by altimeter to determine an aircraft's altitude, from which its distance above the ground can be deduced. Piloting a vessel is usually practiced close to shore or on inland waterways. Pilotage of an aircraft is practiced under visual meteorological conditions for flight.

Amateur radio direction finding organized transmitter hunting competition

Amateur radio direction finding is an amateur racing sport that combines radio direction finding with the map and compass skills of orienteering. It is a timed race in which individual competitors use a topographic map, a magnetic compass and radio direction finding apparatus to navigate through diverse wooded terrain while searching for radio transmitters. The rules of the sport and international competitions are organized by the International Amateur Radio Union. The sport has been most popular in Eastern Europe, Russia, and China, where it was often used in the physical education programs in schools.

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Suunto Oy is a Finnish company that manufactures and markets sports watches, dive computers, compasses and precision instruments. Headquartered in Vantaa, Finland, Suunto employs more than 300 people worldwide, and its products are sold in over 100 countries. Although globally active, the headquarters is placed next to the factory, in which most of the work stages are still handcrafted. Suunto is a subsidiary of Amer Sports Corporation with sister brands Wilson, Atomic, Sports Tracker, Salomon, Precor, Arc'teryx and Mavic.

Diver navigation Underwater navigation by scuba divers

Diver navigation, termed "underwater navigation" by scuba divers, is a set of techniques—including observing natural features, the use of a compass, and surface observations—that divers use to navigate underwater. Free-divers do not spend enough time underwater for navigation to be important, and surface supplied divers are limited in the distance they can travel by the length of their umbilicals and are usually directed from the surface control point. On those occasions when they need to navigate they can use the same methods used by scuba divers.

Mounted orienteering is the practice of orienteering while riding a horse or other riding animal.

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Brunton, Inc. is a manufacturer of technical outdoor gear located in Riverton, Wyoming. Brunton is well known for innovation in the categories of recreational compasses, navigational equipment, and survey instruments.

Land navigation Wikipedia disambiguation page

Land navigation is the discipline of following a route through unfamiliar terrain on foot or by vehicle, using maps with reference to terrain, a compass, and other navigational tools. It is distinguished from travel by traditional groups, such as the Tuareg across the Sahara and the Inuit across the Arctic, who use subtle cues to travel across familiar, yet minimally differentiated terrain.

Resection is a method for determining an unknown position measuring angles with respect to known positions. Measurements can be made with a compass and topographic map, Theodolite or with a total station using known points of a Geodetic network or landmarks of a map.

Ski-orienteering winter sport combining the events of cross-country skiing and orienteering

Ski orienteering (SkiO) is a cross-country skiing endurance winter racing sport and one of the four orienteering disciplines recognized by the IOF. A successful ski orienteer combines high physical endurance, strength and excellent technical skiing skills with the ability to navigate and make the best route choices while skiing at a high speed.

Orienteering map map used in orienteering

An orienteering map is a map specially prepared for use in orienteering competitions. It is a topographic map with extra details to help the competitor navigate through the competition area.

The history of orienteering begins in the late 19th century in Sweden, where it originated as military training. The actual term "orienteering" was first used in 1886 at the Swedish Military Academy Karlberg and meant the crossing of unknown land with the aid of a map and a compass. The competitive sport began when the first competition was held for Swedish military officers on 28 May 1893 at the yearly games of the Stockholm garrison. The first civilian competition, in Norway on 31 October 1897, was sponsored by the Tjalve Sports Club and held near Oslo. The course was long by modern standards, at 19.5 km, on which only three controls were placed. The competition was won by Peder Fossum in a time of 1 hour, 47 minutes, and 7 seconds.

Björn Kjellström, originally from Sweden, was a ski orienteering champion in Sweden and co-founder of the compass manufacturing company Silva Sweden AB. More than 25 million Silva compasses have been sold since the founding of the company.

Control point (orienteering)

A control point is a marked waypoint used in orienteering and related sports such as rogaining and adventure racing. It is located in the competition area; marked both on an orienteering map and in the terrain, and described on a control description sheet. The control point must be identifiable on the map and on the ground. A control point has three components: a high visibility item, known as a flag or kite; an identifier, known as a control code; and a recording mechanism for contestants to record proof that they visited the control point. The control point is usually temporary, except on a permanent orienteering course.

Mountain bike orienteering sport

Mountain bike orienteering is an orienteering endurance racing sport on a mountain bike where navigation is done along trails and tracks. Compared with foot orienteering, competitors usually are not permitted to leave the trail and track network. Navigation tactics are similar to ski-orienteering, where the major focus is route choice while navigating. The main difference compared to ski-orienteering is that navigation is done at a higher pace, because the bike can reach higher speeds. As the biker reaches higher speeds, map reading becomes more challenging.

Course (orienteering) set of points to be visited, in orienteering

An orienteering course is composed of a start point, a series of control points, and a finish point. Controls are marked with a white and orange flag in the terrain, and corresponding purple symbols on an orienteering map. The challenge is to complete the course by visiting all control points in the shortest possible time, aided only by the map and a compass.

Canoe orienteering

Canoe orienteering (canoe-O) is an orienteering sport using a canoe, kayak, or other small boat. Usually, a canoe-O is a timed race in which one- or two-person boats start at staggered intervals, are timed, and are expected to perform all navigation on their own. Portages are allowed. The control points, shown on an orienteering map, may be visited in any order. Standings are determined first by successful completion of the course, then by shortest time on course.

Orienteering is a longtime component of Scouting programs such as the Boy Scouts of America and other Scouting groups. The BSA first class rank requires that scouts complete a one-mile orienteering course by using a map and compass. The Scout must also measure the height of objects, such as trees, using simple trigonometry. Although some troops tend to emphasize the use of compass bearings and pacing, orienteering actually involves a variety of skills, including map reading and route solving.


  1. "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-24. Retrieved 2009-04-03.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)