Quiz: How well can you use a map and compass?

By Cliff Jacobson
Illustrations by Steve Sanford
From the March-April 2014 issue of Scouting magazine

EVERY FIRST CLASS Scout can compute a bearing from a map and follow it on the ground. But can he correct his compass for magnetic declination? Triangulate his position on a map? Interpret topographic dangers like falls and canyons? MapandCompassQuiz

Take this quiz and see how much you and your Scouts know about wilderness navigation. You’ll need a compass and pencil to do some of the problems. Note: An incorrect question on a camping quiz is no big deal; one wrong compass bearing, however, will get you lost!

Choose the best answer. Some questions may have more than one right answer.

After taking the Get Your Bearings quiz, use this list of answers to check your work. 


These three “norths” are always indicated on a topographic map:
You have computed a “true” map bearing of 90 degrees to your objective. The magnetic declination is 10 degrees east. What bearing should you set on your compass dial?
The “contour interval” is given in the margin of every topographic map. It tells you:
If you make a 10-degree compass error over a 1-mile distance, you will probably miss your objective by about:
You are on Pikitigushi Lake (see map) and want to canoe the creek down to the lake at E. If you enter the creek and paddle south, you will:


The contour interval on the Pikitigushi Lake map is 50 feet. What is the approximate elevation of Point A? Tip: Note the 1,000-foot contour line to the east.


You are canoeing on a lake. Your objective is a campsite on the far shore 1 mile away. The campsite is partially obscured by trees and can’t be seen from far away. The best plan is to:
You are standing at Point C on the Pikitigushi Lake map. Describe the topography immediately to the east:


Compass required: You are standing on the hill at Point C. What is the true bearing to A?


You’re unsure exactly where you are on the Pikitigushi Lake map. But you can clearly see hills A and B. You shoot a compass bearing to each hill. The magnetic compass bearing to A is 320 degrees. The magnetic bearing to B is 346 degrees. Magnetic declination equals zero degrees. Where are you?


You are following the 1,000-foot contour line on the Pikitigushi Lake map. You are walking:


What is the back bearing (reverse bearing) of 100 degrees?
Your troop is planning a backpacking trip in a rugged national park. Which topographic map would provide the most detail for hiking?
The contour interval on Map A is 10 meters. It is 10 feet on Map B. Which map probably provides more detail about the topography?
You are located at Point B on Pikitigushi Lake. You want to hike to the small lake at Point E, two miles away. The safest plan is to:


You have been invited to canoe a river in Zambia, which is about 14 degrees south of the equator. Will the compass you purchased in Minnesota work in Zambia?
The grid lines on a topographic map always point to true north.
A meandering line of zero magnetic declination (the “agonic line”) runs roughly from Wisconsin to Florida. Which statement is true?
Where contour lines on a map cross or run very close together, you’ll find:

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