BACK TO BASICS: Compass Headings

A compass is a simple tool that has been around for thousands of years. We use its markings to figure out not just where we are, but where we are going. When aiming a satellite dish or antennas, we use compass headings to know exactly where to point. We’ll say, “point the antenna at 270 degrees.”

That’s great if you’re using a smartphone app that gives you exact numbers but what if you have one of these?

Our Classic Pocket Compass is an inexpensive way to get compass headings, but it isn’t as easy to read. Here’s a quick guide.

Turning around in a circle can be looked at as “going around 360 degrees.” In other words, as you spin, you could stop in any of 360 equally spaced points. If you’re facing north, we call that zero degrees. If you spin around halfway, we call that 180 degrees. and you’re facing south. Here’s how compass directions (like north) translate into numbers, called compass headings.

North 0 degrees
North-Northeast 22.5 degrees
Northeast 45 degrees
East-Northeast 67.5 degrees
East 90 degrees
East-SouthEast 112.5 degrees
SouthEast 135 degrees
South-Southeast 157.5 degrees
South 180 degrees
South-Southwest 202.5 degrees
Southwest 225 degrees
West-Southwest 247.5 degrees
West 270 degrees
West-Northwest 292.5 degrees
Northwest 315 degrees
North-Northwest 337.5 degrees

Here’s a picture if it’s easier for you to visualize it that way.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.