Using the Shadow Method For Finding Directions

If you are lost during daylight hours and do not have a good compass, like this one, one of the easiest ways to find the four points of the compass is the shadow method. The downside to this method is that it only works when the sun is out.

Simply stand a 3-foot stick on end and place a small rock where the tip of the shadow falls. Wait 10-15 minutes and place a second rock at the point to where the tip of the shadow has moved. Draw a line between the two points. This is an east-west line. Place the toe of your left foot at the first rock and the toe of your right foot at the second rock; you will now be facing north.

The shadow method of finding directions

If you are ever uncertain which direction the lines run, remember that anywhere on earth, the first shadow mark will always be west, the second east.

Once you know these four directions, determine the route that you need to travel. Look in the direction you wish to go and pick out an object to be your goal. When you arrive at your goal you will know that you have traveled a straight line and have not wandered off course.

This skill is just one of many outdoor and bushcraft type skills we should teach our kids and grandkids. Check out this list for more skills that will help them appreciate the outdoors and develop good survival skills at the same time.



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19 thoughts on “Using the Shadow Method For Finding Directions”

  1. Correct me if I’m wrong Howard… but if your on the other side of the rocks, wouldn’t you be looking south? hahaha

  2. Why not just stand with your back against the stick. In a survival situation you might not be so clear in the head to determine what’s right and left 🙂

  3. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west so the first rock is always east and the second rock is always west. If I put the toe of my left foot on the first rock (east) and the toe of my right foot on the second rock (west) I will be facing south my friend!

    1. if it rises from the east and sets in the west then the 1st shadow will always be west, if it moves to the west the next shadow will be on the east side, so you’ll be facing north. the sun is always on the south side

  4. this is very confusing! whish side of the world you are reffering to? Northern or southern hemisphere???? does this make a different!!!

  5. Y’all need to rethink this method a bit. The above method will only get you generally headed north and not actually north. Plot out the path from before and after noon and you will see the dramatic difference. Besides, if you have to rely on this method for getting yourself out of a situation, you’ve got bigger problems ahead.

  6. OK, so, a tip that is very helpful if you can, is to plant the stick and make the measurement before and after noon, as a poster above mentioned!

  7. I’m a metis we got built in GPS lol the only way to know is to try it out, but cool method nonetheless,thanks

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