Something I never thought about until last night

6:32 a.m. on August 3, 2017 (EDT)
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Last night I was out hiking on some unfamiliar snowmobile/ATV trails, and every so often I'd pull out my compass to make sure I wasn't heading back toward where I was parked. The first time I checked the azimuth seemed off from what it should have been based on where the sun was, etc. I knew the compass was accurate so I was at a loss, then it dawned on me - my pack has a magnetic clip for the drinking tube. When I held the compass out at arm's length it read accurately. (I verified using the compass app on my phone, which isn't magnetic.) So I guess it's good to find this out in a place where there's absolutely no chance of getting lost. 

11:23 a.m. on August 3, 2017 (EDT)
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Magnetic interference can definitely plague compasses. Certain geological formations can also affect them. I have been in many areas in the NE where in certain areas the compass can act a little finicky I assume due to large iron concentrations etc.

As you observed, if you can see the sun, you can easily tell if your compass is operating correctly for the most part.

In any regard, it is always a good idea to hold your compass at least at forearm length with an open palm for that initial check. A lot of people hold a compass too close to their body in general, and when that is done it is very easy to not have the compass level which can induce error also. The closer you rotate your arm in towards your body the less level you can hold your palm as it will naturally cant unless your a freak of nature with double jointed elbows and what not.

9:37 a.m. on August 4, 2017 (EDT)
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It is a good idea to be familiar with the features of the night sky (e.g., the North Star) as well.  The NS is more accurate than any compass...

9:07 p.m. on August 4, 2017 (EDT)
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Absolutely, you should never depend on one means of determining directions in the woods. A compass can break or be lost, you could conceivably have to use your map as tinder to start a lifesaving fire, etc. Using the sun, moon, and stars will at least give you the cardinal points of the compass, and that, along with having memorized pertinent landmarks and terrain features along and around your planned route, can get you back to civilization. 

9:14 p.m. on August 4, 2017 (EDT)
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On an overcast winter day-hike my compass needle was acting screwy.  It took me a bit to realize it was the flip-back mittens that used tiny magnets to hold the finger covers to the back of the mitten.  

10:42 p.m. on August 4, 2017 (EDT)
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I have also found that sapphire bearing compass's are not as adversely affected by nearby magnets etc for whatever reason. Which is another reason why I carry my brick of a cammenga on trips where I need to rely on my compass.

9:10 a.m. on August 5, 2017 (EDT)
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The easiest way is to use a map. It seems harmless to go on a hike without a map, but even the most experienced hikers can get lost. I also have learned to look for landmarks: shadows, moss, hills, rivers, trails. Finally, the sun rises in the east and always south; the sun sets in the west and the North Star is always north. 

February 18, 2020
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