how to use a compass to find property lines

(They’re hundreds of miles apart. Your smartphone can do everything else, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it has a compass built into it. You can now send the waypoints and route to your GPS, and head out into the field to locate the property corners. So, knowing that we need to go 216 degrees from our bearing, we can set our compass. Uh-oh, you forgot to download free maps at, and now you're lost in the woods without any navigational tools. And I’m going to line that arrow so that 216 degrees, the bearing that we came up with looking at the map, is pointed down that arrow. The angle between the two—known as the declination—varies depending on your location. They are almost never “true”. Using any information you have available—such as plat maps, old survey deeds, etc.—you may be able to lay your own property lines using basic surveying techniques. To say that a navigation grade GPS should get one within a few feet of a corner is misleading, as at times it may be much worse. Smart! The ruled edge helps with triangulation and taking your bearings. Use the Go To command on your GPS to navigate to each waypoint marking the corner of your land. That’s why a magnetized compass and a paper map—and the navigational knowhow to use them—are part of the Ten Essentials.. Next, you need an application to read the coordinates of your cursor position. Rotate the bezel until the grid lines on the base plate match the grid lines on the map. We used a very simple compass, just purchased at a local department store. Take a bearing on your first landmark: Line up your direction of travel arrow with your landmark, then rotate the bezel until the needle lines up with the markings for north. They don’t take batteries, don’t have screens to break, and don’t need software updates. (Pro tip: make sure the fixed grid lines on your compass line up with the north-south grid lines on your map.). Now follow these rules to get found. Below, we’ll cover both the basics and finer points of compass navigation. Your compass is going to have an arrow pointing right down the middle of the compass. I've had good success using a metal detector to find buried iron rods and pins, after using ExpertGPS and a handheld GPS to get to the search location. (Mountains and lakes are both good choices.) A compass is the most reliable navigation method—but it’s no good unless you know your way around it. After a simple calibration process, it can not only do whatever a compass can do, but can even lock onto a bearing well enough to tell you when you’ve gone astray. Baseplate: a clear back that lets you see the map underneath. Read the number next to the index line—this is your bearing. Required fields are marked *. The apps work by utilizing your phone’s magnetometer. Take a bearing on your first landmark: Line up your direction of travel arrow with your landmark, then rotate the bezel until the needle lines up with the markings for north. In many counties Google displays the property lines of rural lots on their maps. Don’t get lost in the first place. Besides being cheap and simple, baseplate compasses’ see-through design makes them easy to use with a map. But here’s the thing: GPS units are electronic, and electronics fail at the most inopportune times. Sign up for our Backcountry Navigation or Basic Map and Compass online course. You’ll also need to find ONE corner or monument on your land, to use as a starting point. I'm happy to walk you through how ExpertGPS can handle all of your mapping and data conversion needs. Early American land records were characterized by descriptions that often sounded like this 1812 excerpt from Connecticut: To create a legal land survey that you can use for selling property or establishing boundaries, you should consult a licensed land surveyor. And even in the age of GPS and smartphones, the most reliable way to make sure that you stay on track is by using a map and compass. Remember, the whole point of this isn’t that we know exactly where the fence line is going to be or precisely where the property line is, but to make sure that when we start cutting down trees, we’re only cutting down our trees and not the neighbors. After adjusting your compass for declination, start by orienting your map to true north, as in the previous example. You’ll need a plat, mortgage map, or legal land survey of your property, showing the distance and bearing from each corner to the next. If you don’t adjust your compass to compensate, you’ll find yourself headed in the wrong direction. It is pretty typical if you’re looking for a pin on your property to find that it is just a piece of rebar that’s been hammered into the ground with a bit of surveyors tape thrown around it. Find the boundary points of your vacant lot in Google maps. © 1998-2020 TopoGrafix – 24 Kirkland Dr, Stow, MA – Email: There are many versions of “North”, geodetic, grid, astronomic, besides magnetic. I know it’s not 100% accurate, but we know that we’re going to get close enough doing it this way. 3. Now when I move my compass so that the north stays pointing at north, if I walk the direction of my arrow, I know I’ll be walking 216 degrees. How to find property lines with your cell phone or GPS. Also popular are lensatic compasses, which flip open like a locket and use a sighting wire in the cover and a rear lens to take highly accurate bearings. – Fax Orders: (815) 346-5239. I used the white of a piece of paper for a little more contrast. Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Use basic surveying techniques for a rough estimate of your property lines. Which parts your compass has depends largely on what kind you carry. Thanks, Tom! These tips, from backpacker and astronomy Ph.D. candidate Melodie Kao, will ensure that you never get lost in the dark again.*. It shows you the property line leading to the next boundary corner, based on the distance and bearing you entered. With the introduction of modern GPS units that combine signals from Glonass, Galileo, and US GNSS satellites, the accuracy has gotten much better, and the techniques described above should get you close enough to the spot to find a hidden survey pin. Finding a Property Line using a Compass. Ours happens to be next to a very large pine tree so it’s fairly easy to locate. We can get a whole lot more close by doing this, clearing some trees, going back and double checking later, than just blind clearing trees. You can also enter a custom declination, which can be extremely useful in entering historical deeds where the magnetic field has drifted over time, or when entering plats with a non-standard basis of bearing. Want to master these techniques and more? Michael T. asks: And then around the ring of my compass are all the different degrees, my bearings. Because baseplate compasses are the most widely used, our instructions here will focus on them. Your email address will not be published. You can see them, if you zoom in close enough (use the Map, not the Satellite display option). Buy Now. Bearings are most often assumed, based on one line of a section, being a cardinal direction. Index line: an extension of the direction of travel arrow that indicates where to read bearings. Tom Arneson, Minnesota licensed Land Surveyor N0 12682. Read on. Our recommendation: keep the phone in your pack and go old-school instead. Sometimes, they run out of battery; sometimes, after years of use, they fail. Keeping these two simple items in your pack—and knowing how to use them—is a small step that could save you a lot of trouble. This article covers the following concepts: Here are some common components. Sure, not all who wander are lost. 3. Start by identifying a few landmarks. 1. (Don't know how to do that? Sometimes they might be kind enough to put another stake of wood next to it, or to take that surveyors tape and tie it not only to the rebar pin, but also a little higher up on a tree, something so that you can see it a little more easily and get to the pin. First, you’ll need to be able to find at least two known landmarks. All I need is to be able to set the bearing, which I can do. Check off the Move to Waypoint and Add to Route boxes. Of course, phone-based compasses come with a few big cautionary notes. If you can find a third, even better. ExpertGPS allows you to enter bearings in True or Magnetic degrees, or aligned to a UTM, state plane, or national coordinate grid. Move around the property in this way until you have entered all of the calls. How can I use ExpertGPS to survey my property lines? We started off by tying this piece of mason line to the tree and putting the knot a little closer to the side where the pin is on.

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