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Preparation

There are a couple of things you should do prior to taking the class. We recommend you make two purchases if you have not already done so: a compass, and Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills (8ed) (FOTH).

You will need to bring your compass to first lecture. And you might have a quiz based on reading material from FOTH.

Please read the following in Freedom of the Hills:
pp. 83-99
pp. 104-110
optional pp. 99-104

If you are taking Basic Mountaineering, you must buy the 8th edition of Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills. If you are not taking Basic Mountaineering, you don't have to buy the 8th edition but we highly recommend it. We will be making homework assignments by page reference. If you don't have the 8th edition it will be hard to follow.

You must buy or borrow a compass. We strongly recommend that you buy a compass with adjustable declination. We never refer to Magnetic bearings; we always refer to True bearings. If your compass does not have adjustable declination you are always having to manually adjust or calculate in order to find True bearing. We find that this confuses students in Nav 2; there is already too much to digest without having to worry about declination adjustment. If you do not plan to take Nav 2, a compass without adjustable declination is more acceptable.

Note that some cheaper compasses have a FIXED Declination scale. This is not the same as ADJUSTABLE declination. With a Fixed Declination scale you still need to make adjustments with every reading. Another option if your budget does not allow for the purchase of a compass with adjustable declination is to tape a cutout arrow to tbe bottom of the compass and use this makeshift arrow as your declination correction.

We recommend that you not wait too long to buy your compass. Stores usually only stock a handful of any one model. And we can have a large number of students wanting to buy a compass.

We mentioned that you want a compass with adjustable declination. Even if you do not yet know what declination is, look for it among the features on the compass.

Another feature that you might want to consider is a sighting mirror. It adds to the expense but it also adds to the precision. With a sighting mirror, you can see both the needle and the target you are pointing to. So you can dial in your bearing very accurately. Without a mirror, you simply point the baseplate at the target and eyeball it. The latter might get you within 4 degrees, plus or minus. Over a distance of one mile, a 4 degree error amounts to 380 feet off to one side or the other. The sighting mirror gives you more accuracy. Not required, but recommended.

The compass should have meridian lines. Most do.

A clinometer is helpful if you plan to do mountaineering. The clinometer helps you measure snow slope, nice to know when assessing avalanche danger.

Some compasses compensate for needle dip, if you plan to take your compass out of the country.

And some models offer different measurement features on the baseplate. Most compasses show degrees in 2 degree increments. A compass with a 1:24,000 scale works well with USGS topo maps.

Here are a few examples. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list. Nor is it meant to be a list of our favorites. Rather, it is a list to show you the type of compass you might consider purchasing. Some of these are available at local stores. Shop around online to find deals.

Baseplate compass without sighting mirror:
Suunto M-3D
Silva Explorer

Compass with sighting mirror:
Suunto MC-2
Silva Ranger

Again, you can find versions of each of these models that have slightly different features.