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How to Tell Direction in the Wilderness using Stick Shadows

Learn how to tell direction in the wilderness using stick shadows from NYC Outward Bound's Marko Yurachek in this survival skills video from Howcast.


A way to tell direction with using the sun and a stick is to place a stick in the ground. The sun is going to cast a shadow. When the shadow is cast you're going to put a mark right here. There we go. We have a nice shadow line right here. And we're going to put a mark at the tip of that shadow. The easiest way for me to tell is to touch the top of the stick with my finger, and that's where the mark is going to be put. So I put a mark here, it's a little stick, and I put another mark here. The big stick is casting a shadow.

We're going to give it about 10 or 15 minutes, and the shadow is going to move. As the shadow moves we're going to put a second mark in and that's going to give us our east west direction line. So we need a minute or two right now, or probably 10, 12, 15 minutes, for the shadow to move as the sun goes across the sky.

Originally we placed a stick here to cast a shadow. The first shadow stopped at this post. As the sun travels across the sky the shadow changes. We're about 20 minutes later and we have a shadow that's right here. If we draw a line to go between this stick and this point we have an east west oriented line.

The east west line will give us north and south. If we're standing on the east west line and we have east in our right hand we're looking north. South is behind us.

We also did a watch sun compass. And the watch sun compass gave us south in this direction and north in this direction. So our north south line, if we put it right next to our east west line, make a perfect cross giving us north, south, east, and west. So we have a compass right here on the ground from the sun.

One can be done without the other, but when you do them together it's kind of nice because you have that confirmation that one gives to the other.

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