Directions. You can’t get anywhere without them. The most basic directions for aiming any satellite dish involve using the azimuth, tilt, and elevation. Some of these are marked on the mount itself but for basic azimuth you’ll need a compass heading. For a compass heading, you’ll need a compass.

You can use a smartphone, but of course if you drop it you’re in trouble. We recommend something like this Solid Signal Military Grade Compass. Its sturdy case and classic construction give you everything you need in a small and economical package. This is a durable waterproof tool based on centuries-old technology that is as effective today as it was when the ancients were sailing the oceans.

Why wouldn’t you just use your phone?

Yes it’s true that pretty much every phone has a compass app. It’s generally very accurate and there’s no technical reason not to use it. But, there are three very good common-sense reasons.

Phones aren’t incredibly sturdy, but they are expensive

Your phone isn’t likely to survive a drop from the roof. In some cases it won’t even survive a drop from your hand without getting some sort of damage. When you’re up there aiming, you’re not going to be paying attention to the phone and you could very easily drop it. Your phone is a lot more expensive than a compass like this. It’s also a big pain to replace if you need to.

Phones aren’t great in full sunlight

Even the brightest phone isn’t going to be super legible in bright sunlight. Yet, you shouldn’t be up on the roof unless it’s a clear, sunny day. You should avoid climbing up unless there is absolutely zero chance of getting hit by lightning. Television is great, but it’s not worth giving your life for.

Phones run out of power

I get it — unless this is your first time it’s not going to take you eight hours to aim a dish. But it is going to take you a while. You’re going to want to set your phone so it doesn’t go dark, and so the screen is as bright as possible. These settings will help you aim your dish or antenna but they aren’t going to help you get all day battery life. I do think you should take a phone up with you onto the roof in case you get into an emergency, but that phone isn’t going to do anyone any good unless it actually has power.

Get a compass at Solid Signal

This is the kind of tool you don’t want to be without. Of course, once the satellite aiming is done you’ll have an easy and fun time hiking through your local forests, too. Just like any other compass, this one is great for finding your way whether on land or sea. Put one in an emergency kit or stow it on a boat for emergencies!

You’ll find compasses, plus a lot of other much more detailed equipment by shopping for the tens of thousands of great parts and accessories that you’ll find at

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.