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Do I really need a compass?

Susan B Johnson

PuraVida
Year of past OR future Camino
June (2016)
I've read a few different suggested pack lists, and noticed that a compass is suggested. I thought the Camino was well-marked. Do I really need a compass for the Camino Ingles and to Finsterra?

Susan
 
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supersullivan

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Sarria-Santiago 2012. SJPP-Santiago-Finisterre-Muxia 2013. Ponferrada-Santiago June 2014. Leon-Santiago-Finisterre September 2014. April-May 2015: SJPP- S de C- Finisterre -Muxia- S de C.
Susan, short and sweet: no need for a compass unless you're planning on taking detours off the marked route.

Buen camino

Seamus
 
W

whariwharangi

Guest
No. You absolutely do not need a compass.

Even if the road were not marked and the people not used to redirecting pilgrims who have wandered off route ... a compass would be of little value without a good map. If you are concerned about navigation ... get an app that tracks the camino on google earth for your ipod or tablet device and turn on the glonass.

If you need to determine direction in rough ... the sun is to the south, rises in the east, and sets in the west. You really don't need more as that.
 

NicMen

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Arriving in Lourdes for my first Camino 29th Aug 16 and starting to walk 31st.
On the other hand... you may be in a forest path and coming to a T intersection, on a cloudy/rainy day... you may benefit from knowing where is West and where is East... GPS and an iPad/iPhone app are great if you have a local sim card... if not, you may be walking in the wrong direction for kilometres... Just my humble opinion. Buen Camino!
 
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Mark Lee

Guest
I've never found the need for one.
But if it's a small compass and clips to your pack...sure, why not. Won't hurt to have.
 
W

whariwharangi

Guest
On the other hand... you may be in a forest path and coming to a T intersection, on a cloudy/rainy day... you may benefit from knowing where is West and where is East... GPS and an iPad/iPhone app are great if you have a local sim card... if not, you may be walking in the wrong direction for kilometres... Just my humble opinion. Buen Camino!

It is this kind of rationalizing that fills ones pack with useless junk.
 
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MTtoCamino

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Francis SJPdP to Finnestere April(2014)
I have unfortunately been lost multiple times, only once on the Camno after too much afternoon beer. They make a great Lager called 1906....best on tap.
I always carry a compass never a phone. Just my view of the world. The places I have found it useful: Big cities, after dark in every type of geography, tubes or subways, & wilderness. Maps are helpful if you now how to orient them & use a compass with them. But a simple compass will give you a direction the road or trail is running & really that is basically all you need to determine if it is the way you need to be going. If on the Camino you have or should have the knowledge you will be walking west or on some routes north. After finding other humans just start asking the question Camino Santiago por favor? & then Cervasa por favor??
Buen Camino!!
 

NicMen

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Arriving in Lourdes for my first Camino 29th Aug 16 and starting to walk 31st.
I have unfortunately been lost multiple times, only once on the Camno after too much afternoon beer. They make a great Lager called 1906....best on tap.
I always carry a compass never a phone. Just my view of the world. The places I have found it useful: Big cities, after dark in every type of geography, tubes or subways, & wilderness. Maps are helpful if you now how to orient them & use a compass with them. But a simple compass will give you a direction the road or trail is running & really that is basically all you need to determine if it is the way you need to be going. If on the Camino you have or should have the knowledge you will be walking west or on some routes north. After finding other humans just start asking the question Camino Santiago por favor? & then Cervasa por favor??
Buen Camino!!
Oh, I really, really like this answer MTtoCamino! The only thing I would add/change is the order of your question... 'una Cerveza por favor' and then, 'el Camino de Santiago por favor'?!!
Actually, I thought about trying local wines more than beers in France and Spain, but... we'll see how I go in a few months!
 

Felice

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
SJPP to Santiago Sept 2014
I took a small compass on the CF and used it once. Coming out of Sahagun in the half light, on an overcast drizzling morning, I followed a group of about 8 people, because I did not want to get lost. After about 15 mins, I felt something was wrong as we were walking along a road with no hard shoulder. Are you sure we are on the right road? I asked the others. Oh yes, they said, did you not see the arrows back at the start? Another 15 mins and I was seriously worried so I got out my compass. We were heading SW, not W as the map in the Red Guide showed. A few minutes later a car came by and I flagged it down. Yes, we were going the wrong way. Goodness knows how far out of our way we would have walked had I not had my compass. As it was, we walked an extra 6 km that day. Just wished I had got my compass out sooner.
 

Bradypus

Moderator
Staff member
Year of past OR future Camino
Too many and too often!
If you do use a smartphone compass app then please check its reliability and calibration beforehand. Last year on the Via Francigena I walked quite a few extra kilometres on a very damp and totally overcast day when my phone decided to display precisely 180 degrees out (ie. 'North' was actually South). Took some time before I understood why my navigation skills had suddenly deserted me.
 
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MTtoCamino

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Francis SJPdP to Finnestere April(2014)
Oh, I really, really like this answer MTtoCamino! The only thing I would add/change is the order of your question... 'una Cerveza por favor' and then, 'el Camino de Santiago por favor'?!!
Actually, I thought about trying local wines more than beers in France and Spain, but... we'll see how I go in a few months!
Yes even my terrible Spanish got me along. Since the bars seem to feed most times there is no shortage of wine with every meal. It's the sharing of those meals with the other folks that helps make the Camino what it is.
Keith
 

Introibo

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances ( March 2015 )
Camino Portugues ( September 2015 )
Leave the compass at home.

Take a needle and thread for any blisters that may occur.

Here's the clever part. Magnetise the needle before you leave. If you're lost you can
easily attach the needle to the thread, dangle it from waist height and thereby
determine which way is north.

Hope this helps.
 
Last edited:

rometimed

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
(SJPdP: 2015, June2020!) (Eng Way: 2015)
No. If you have a smartphone with GPS you never do.
 

jmcarp

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances, 2013
Camino del Norte a Chimayó (USA), 2015
Camino Portugues, 2017
M

Mark Lee

Guest
Good idea, Mark. Perhaps something like this, since many folks have also inquired about the advisability of having a whistle. This one also has a C/F thermometer. http://www.basspro.com/Coghlans-4in1-Whistle/product/21029/. I've seen similar products at Walmart and other outdoor shops.
That's exactly what I'm talking about. Something small, and clip-on. No need for large, military style ones for what little, simple compass work one might need on the Camino. Anything more and you need to break out the topo maps, ha ha, and if it's that much of a concern I would recommend hauling around an electronic GPS with the Camino route you are walking programmed in.
 
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D

Deleted member 29041

Guest
Even though I have a well developed sense of direction, I always bring a button compass. Weighs less than 9 gram (third of an ounce for the uneducated).

I've used it in foggy conditions on the Napoleon route (SJPP to Roncesvalles) and in woods/cities with narrow winding tracks/streets. It's also a great help, if you walk in darkness, when the arrows can be rather difficult to see.

Once went tapas hunting with some friends in Pamplona and had to use my wee compass to convince the others that our beds really were in the opposite direction.
 

vlebe

Walker Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2001; 2004; 2009; 2013, (2016/2017)
For the Camino Frances: In the 90's and early 2000's one could easily get lost in the CF, but even then it was for a short period.

Last time I walked the Camino Frances (2013) I was astonished by the amount of signs...It was even a bit of a kick in my mood (in a negative way). There were way markings every few meters all over. I was thinking that soon they will be installing light posts, neon signs and such all over the Camino...

Bottom line is : on the CF ( from sjpp to SdC)you cannot get lost even if you want to ! Bringing a compass (or gps) will make you feel stupid once you see the amount of way marking...

The other Caminos are a a bit less marked so you have to check with the pilgrims that have done them lately..but even then, sun is all you need....When I walked from Le Puy to Santiago, in the stretch from Le Puy to SJPdP I found myself lost 4 or 5 times But never needed more than the sun and waiting to find a small village to ask about the right way...

Buen Camino!
 
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D

Deleted member 43780

Guest
Years and years of hiking here.
Most of the people I see lagging a compass along on a trail have no idea how to use it or read a map.

So, if you feel the need to take a compass, know how to use it and read a map.
 
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Year of past OR future Camino
2012
On the Camino Frances if the sun is shining in your right ear you are lost. In Galicia if the wind and rain are coming from behind you you are lost. In Leon if you can't see the next little yellow arrow you are ... still in Leon. Look for a brass scallop in the pavement instead.

I always carry a compass, even to the Co-op, its in my head and it pays attention to where I am and where I am going. As @martyseville nearly says if you don't know how to use a map and compass don't take them. I'll add that if you do know how to use a map and compass you will not need them on the Caminos.
 
D

Deleted member 43780

Guest
Agree with Tincatinker, you will not need one on the Camino(s).

But, pay attention to the arrows. Know your where about at all times. If you feel lost, ask for directions.

Locals on the Camino are used to being asked "Camino????" And are very helpful to get you in the right direction.

It is easier to get lost (by missing a arrow) in the larger towns/cities than out on the open Camino in the country side.

It is hard to get lost on the Caminos. On the Ingles once I actually looked at foot prints in the dirt (thread and direction of walkers) and knew I was heading the right way.
 

Jeff Crawley

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2018
I DID get lost coming out of Logrono once. They were building a housing development and had obliterated a sign.

Soon realised there were no other footprints so backtracked to the correct route.

It was a little embarassing to later hear from a young Czech couple that they had followed somebody's footprints onto a building site and then had to turn around . . . .

So, unless you're behind me, follow the tracks!

I saw many footprints heading to Santiago, very few coming back. ;)
 

NicMen

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Arriving in Lourdes for my first Camino 29th Aug 16 and starting to walk 31st.
Oh, I really, really like this answer MTtoCamino! The only thing I would add/change is the order of your question... 'una Cerveza por favor' and then, 'el Camino de Santiago por favor'?!!
Actually, I thought about trying local wines more than beers in France and Spain, but... we'll see how I go in a few months!
Now I know how I went... Plenty of both!!!
 
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MikeJS

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Francis (2011), Norte (12), VdlP (16). Sureste/Invierno (17). Olvidado/San Salvador/Primitivo (19)
If you do use a smartphone compass app then please check its reliability and calibration beforehand. Last year on the Via Francigena I walked quite a few extra kilometres on a very damp and totally overcast day when my phone decided to display precisely 180 degrees out (ie. 'North' was actually South). Took some time before I understood why my navigation skills had suddenly deserted me.
If you have a smart phone with you use the gps.
 
Year of past OR future Camino
cf (2), de la plata, cp. (2003 -2018)
It is this kind of rationalizing that fills ones pack with useless junk.
Lay off the junk! Some people eat the stuff :) And as for useless, I just love my compass. Seldom use it but who cares, they ain't carrying it! I'm looking forward to dragging the Gitlitz book around with me when next I escape and will use it to orient meself with compass and flash lamp in big dark churches as I study minute carvings a long way up some pillar! Each to his own I say. as to rationalizing, the heart has reasons of its own, of which reason has no compass. walk soft. stay safe. buen camino :)

samarkand.
 
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Levi

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances 2015
VDLP 2016
Portuguese March 2017
Sanabres September 2017
Madrid September 2018
I bought a compass in Decathlon before I walked the Via de la Plata. The compass cost...I can't quite remember, but less than 3 euros. So obviously it was a good one. My thinking was that so long as I knew I was heading northish westish I was ok.
I soon discovered that this little piece of magic wasn't just a compass. Oh no. It also gave temperature readings - very useful on the Via so you can say 'Do you see how hot it is???!!!!' Even though you're absolutely on your own.
And then there was the magnifying (plastic) glass. For ant observation. And also, the emergency whistle!
To be honest, I only discovered the whistle when I walked the Primitivo 18 months ago, because my little compass always comes on camino. I think it might be 'lucky' too....
 

Jeff Crawley

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2018
That's what happens when you get lost.
Could have used one yesterday. After going for an eye test in a town I'm quite familiar with just along the coast from me I thought it would be pleasant go and sit by the seashore and have a picnic lunch (fish and chips - don't judge me!).
The trouble was that two separate roads had been closed for construction works and so I drove round and round seeking a way through the back streets. Unable to spot the moss on the north side of any of the trees a compass would have come in handy.
As it was the chips had cooled somewhat but the day was warm and sunny so it worked out well in the end.

(Bet this thread gets shut down soon as well ;))
 

Houlet

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances 2014
Via de la Plata 2015
Camino Sanabres 2015
Camino Norde 2017
Under normal conditions you don't NEED a compass the route is well marked however in fog or other bad weather it could save your life. Personally I always have a map, a compass a whistle and torch and hope never to need any of them.
 
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Marbe2

Active member
Year of past OR future Camino
2015-2019 walked all or more than half of CF 7 times... CP recently cancelled by Covid 19!
Anyone who says it is impossible to get lost on the Camino, even the CF is incorrect. Many walkers over the years,on this site, have indicated that they got lost, or at least temporarily lost...having missed a marker or arrow and gone the wrong way on a trail or road. This happened to me once as well. Sometimes signs are obscured by overgrowth, missed due to poor visibility due to fog, darkness or snow/blizzard conditions, etc, or to the occasional pranksters changing the direction of a sign. If you are on a road or trail and get lost the easiest and usually safest thing to do is to retrace your steps. Try not to complicate the mistake by trying a short cut that might complicate your situation...unless you have been given explicit instructions by a local that you perceive as highly reliable. There is no harm carrying a small lightweight compass, if you know how to use it.
 
Last edited:

wayfarer

Moderator
Staff member
Year of past OR future Camino
2012
View attachment 94322
(I'm just feeling bored and mischievious - mainly bored thought ;))
I understand, we are all bored and going crazy at the moment but to remind everyone again that we do not allow serious threads or questions to go down the silly route and that is out of respect for the OP, none of us would like a genuine post, thread or question of ours to be made fun of even if the replies are funny and witty. We lost at least two new members last year because of this and its not nice. I also have to bite my tongue pretty much every day to not throw in a smart comment but I have to resist. 😁
I hope this explains the situation.... so back on topic please.
 
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Camino Chrissy

Take one step forward...then keep on walking..
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
Anyone who says it is impossible to get lost on the Camino, even the CF is incorrect. Many walkers over the years,on this site, have indicated that they got lost, or at least temporarily lost...having missed a marker or arrow and gone the wrong way on a trail or road. This happened to me once as well. Sometimes signs are obscured by overgrowth, missed due to poor visibility due to fog, darkness or snow/blizzard conditions, etc, or to the occasional pranksters changing the direction of a sign. If you are on a road or trail and get lost the easiest and usually safest thing to do is to retrace your steps. Try not to complicate the mistake by trying a short cut that might complicate your situation...unless you have been given explicit instructions by a local that you perceive as highly reliable. There is no harm carrying a small lightweight compass, if you know how to use it.
I would have been lost a few times on my Caminos in Spain if my son had not been with and walking ahead of me. On the Le Puy Camino with two girlfriends we got lost a "few" times.🙄
 

Grousedoctor

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
Although I’ve never carried a compass, I have found the app Windy Maps quite helpful. For the regions in Spain where I’ve traveled, the Caminos are marked by a blue line. Best of all, the regional maps can be downloaded and used when needed. I’ve found them particularly helpful in cities showing my location in relation to where I was going. On the VDLP, on one steep section of trail, I took the bike route. Not being one hundred percent sure that I was on the correct path, my Windy Maps locator verified that I was on the alternative path heading in the right direction to intersect soon enough with the main Camino route. The app was also very handy in knowing my location in relation to the next town or stopping point along The Way.
 
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Felipe

Veteran Member
I like my Caminos with a reasonable chance of getting lost now and then... 😉
OK, back to the OP. I tried to train my children with the usage of compass and maps. I discovered that you need some practice because in woods or hills, sometimes meandering paths that go south will have some sections that actually go north, and that could be confusing and disorienting.
In my experience, I only got lost in the Caminos when I did not notice a sign because I was distracted or too tired. In difficult stages, I tried to be with another walker and be sure we *both* double checked the signs when arriving at a crossroad.
 
Last edited:

Bristle Boy

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2022
Yes, this post is not as "cut and dried" as it first appears. The answer might lie with the adventurous nature of the OP.
A rudimentary knowledge of map reading and the orientation of the map by compass is a useful skill if you want to go exploring or visiting something that is not on the (yellow arrowed) marked path. It would allow you return to the path you wish to take and get you back to the way.
 

Camino Chrissy

Take one step forward...then keep on walking..
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
Best of all, the regional maps can be downloaded and used when needed.
I had regional maps downloaded on my phone by Hubby before I left on the Le Puy, but when with my girlfriends, I totally had forgotten about them until we were lost beyond hope...then my memory finally kicked in and I was so thankful to have them.
 

Camino Chrissy

Take one step forward...then keep on walking..
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
It would allow you return to the path you wish to take and get you back to the way.
I just learned something new, that a map used alongside a compass is the perfect combination to know exactly where you are...no sun needed. I've never used a compass before.
 

C clearly

Moderator
Staff member
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
(Bet this thread gets shut down soon as well ;))

We have to have something to do to while away the time between siestas!
Yes, we do have to do something. But let's make it something constructive and cooperative. There are many opportunities here on the forum to make contributions and write posts that will help members learn about the camino, Spain, architecture, how to train, preparation, equipment, emotional preparation, etc., etc. Even learning about the subject of this thread - compasses. (However, we did not need two resuscitated threads on compasses, both of which were trending into silly banter.)

I like humour as much as the next person, but prefer it in smaller doses rather than plastered all over other threads. Sometimes the personal banter just demonstrates who is buddy-buddy with whom, and it is discouraging to newer (or shy) members who are uncertain about the forum culture. It is better to provide some information along with the clever wit, although it might require more work and it might take up two siesta intervals. :eek: 😴

{Edited to add: I may have to delete this post as off-topic, soon, but I thought it important to address an issue that the thread illustrates.]
 
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Year of past OR future Camino
cf (2), de la plata, cp. (2003 -2018)
Under normal conditions you don't NEED a compass the route is well marked however in fog or other bad weather it could save your life. Personally I always have a map, a compass a whistle and torch and hope never to need any of them.
I still carry my old paper map For St J to Roncesvalles. It sits quietly, folded away in a corner of the ruck. We know each other. just like my compass. They are old friends and I will not abandon them!

Buen camino :)

Samarkand.
 

Camino Chrissy

Take one step forward...then keep on walking..
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
The difference between magnetic and true north in Spain isn't that much. If you know how to use a compass then get a toy, thumbnail-sized compass; it won't set you back much in weight or size. Or download a free compass app for your phone.
Great info Rick...I'll get me the toy version probably.
 

Barbara

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances, Norte (twice)and Primitivo, Sureste, In France From home Tours and Vézelay, also Le Puy.
If you want a compass you might as well get a decent one. Silva rectangular ones have a magnifier thats handy for peering at paper maps as well as for other stuff like seeing the tiny thorn stuck in your hand that you are trying to get out, threading the needle to repair the trousers you ripped on the thorns that you wouldn't have been caught on if you hadn't been lost, and also for getting back to the route... Or take the norte in 2001 when the only way to navigate was sun on your back in the morning and sea on the right but yeah, not really essential when you have maps and gps on your phone. Not that the compass is actually very heavy, it's the maps that weigh a lot.
 
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Year of past OR future Camino
Us:Camino Frances, 2015 Me:Catalan/Aragonese, 2019
Unfortunately, it [map and compass alone] won't tell you where you are.
It sometimes can if you know how to use them. A simple example: You are on a trail headed NW. At your right you see a twin peaked mountain. You take a sighting and the notch is 45 degrees east of north (exactly NE). You find the mountain on the map (it is easy, it has two peaks) and draw a line running exactly SW of the notch. The line may cross several trails but, let's say, at only one is the trail at the intersection with the line running in a NW/SE direction. Your position on the map is at that intersection.
 

Barbara

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances, Norte (twice)and Primitivo, Sureste, In France From home Tours and Vézelay, also Le Puy.
Unfortunately, it won't tell you where you are. But if you know where you are, it will tell you how to get where you want to go!
Well, if you have three good features that you can positively identify you can do a triangulation so yes, it will. But I agree a GPS position is a lot simpler.
 

trecile

Camino Addict
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés (2016 & 2017), Norte (2018), Francés-Salvador-Norte (2019), Portuguese (2019)
Well, if you have three good features that you can positively identify you can do a triangulation so yes, it will. But I agree a GPS position is a lot simpler.
I agree. I like the Buen Camino app. It shows me where I am on the Camino and how far the next town is. If I'm not on the Camino it's easy to see how to get on it.
 

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