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Backup Compass

For Your Mini Kits

By John D. McCann

I always like backups to backups. Even though my mini kits usually have a 20mm Button Compass in them (which is a backup to my large compass), I like to back that up with something (after all you could always lose or break the 20mm).

What I like to put in mini kits is a small disc which is very flat and can be used to push your magnetized needle through (I'm sure all the needles you carry in you kit are magnetized), so it floats and can be used as a compass, floating it in water.

OK, where do I get these magic discs you ask?..... The grocery store. They are called meat trays.

Meat Tray

This is meat tray which you get meat on in a grocery store.

After eating the meat that came on it, you wash it off and punch holes in it with a hole punch.... I use a 5/8" punch... but any size will do as long as both ends of the needle stick out (you'll see what I mean).

Holes Punched from Meat Tray

A view of the holes punched out of the meat tray.

Close up of punched discs

The hole pieces become your little flat discs which take up no room in a mini kit.

Next... If you need a back-up compass... take a magnetized needle from your kit and push it through the disc.

Needle through disc

A view of the magnetized compass through the disc.

Now you have a compass when floated in water. You can hold water in your hand for use as a transportable compass.... but you can also use a titanium cup... as it is not magnetic. I'm sure you have seen this done with a needle on a leaf... but this guarantees if there no leaves you have a float-able platform for the needle... and the needle won't roll off.

Floating in a mug

Here it is in a titanium cup next to my Suunto Global. Both needles point north.

For those who don't know how to magnetize a needle for a kit, first you need a magnet.... no shit, right. Any large size magnet will work (those from speakers are good)... but I use one that works well for me (don't remember where I got... someplace one day?). I like it because it has a hole in the middle.

The magnet I used

This is the magnet I use for magnetizing needles.

The thing to remember is to stroke the end of the needle with the eye... not the point. I place the eye of the needle in the hole and pull the needle straight out, sliding it against the magnet wall. I do this about 50 times. Now.... when the needle is floated... the Point will face north (the eye South).

Inserting the needle in the magnet

Inserting the eye of the needle into the magnet hole.

Pulling the needle out of the magnet

Pulling the needle out off the magnet, sliding it against the magnet wall.

Anyway, that is how I do it. You can also just stroke the eye of a needle against a regular magnet to magnetize it it.

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