Photo of snowy Sussex woodland trail Photo of snowy Sussex woodland trail

How to Make a Compass Out of Sand, Snow or Dust

Whenever you’re on sand or snow, tune in to the direction the most recent winds have been blowing from and you’ll find yourself surrounded by small compasses.

This is a technique you can practice at any time of year and much closer to home than you might imagine. Anything that the wind carries easily can be used. It works with dry leaf and twig debris and you can even find patterns in the dust in towns and cities.

Here are some pictures from my nearest beach that show how straightforward it is.

In the top image we can see the wind blowing the lighter (in weight and colour) sand towards us. We just make a mental note that it is blowing from the northeast.

The images below show all the small compasses created by tiny obstructions on the beach. The air flow is slowed by these bumps and particles fall and collect on the downwind side of the obstacle.

The result is lots of small compasses, sand tails pointing from northeast to southwest.

The compasses last until the next strong winds when we just repeat the steps above. It’s a technique that works all over the world.