The compass, the original GPS unit.
It was invented around 300AD in China.
Years later, around 450 AD the technology wound up in Europe where it underwent a bit of a change.
At around 1300 AD the "Dry" type was invented and then in more modern times the liquid filled magnetic compass.
The Rose or diagram on the front face indicates the four basic directions and on some models there are degree marks used for reference.
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A magnetic type uses the earth’s magnetic field and a magnet inside to align an indicating needle to the North.
A Gyro type uses the interaction of a wheel spinning very fast and the earth’s rotation to indicate a point of reference or direction.
Modern ones have sighting mechanisms to aid in exacting the bearing onto the horizon.
There are liquid filled and dry air filled models. The liquid acts a dampening agent to slow the bouncing around of the needle.
Liquid filled ones may still be found in some vehicles. They would usually mount to the windshield or on the dash. These are no found much anymore as the modern GPS units and navigation devices have replaced them.
With the technological advances, a solid state model has been invented. It indicates direction using electronics.
Of course this is some of the same technology found in modern GPS navigation units.
It may be however, a good idea to know how to read one and to be able to read a map as well.
One never knows when the power will be out and batteries only last so long.
Navigating with one requires a map and a straight edge a straight edge or ruler.
Models designed for use with maps, many times will have a straight edge built right into the side of them. They will also be made of clear plastic to allow seeing the map right through them.
Many hikers will opt to use one instead of a GPS unit due to the reliability factor. No batteries to worry about.
Should a person decide to learn how to navigate with one, a process known as orienteering, one good resource is
This site can help us learn to read and use topographical maps, find directions, navigate switchbacks, use the starts to help and more.
In our store you can find some good compass choices and by clicking on them a person can get some reviews.