What’s the most dangerous thing in the military? A Lieutenant with a compass.
Anyway, bad joke aside, let’s take a quick look at finding your navigational direction; assuming you do not have a compass but know roughly in which way civilization lies. If you’re not sure which way to go, typically downhill is your best bet. Water and roads are always further down and generally lead you to civilization.
Star navigation. While the constellations rotate and are lost from view depending on the time of year; one constellation is always there, the Big Dipper. If you know any constellations, then this is the one you know; that or Orion’s belt. Depending on the time of year, I usually find the dipper hanging out close to the horizon. Use the two stars on the edge of the ladle (the dipper thing) to draw a line up to the first real bright star, Polaris by name, and then you got north. From north you can find the other directions on the compass.
Moss Method. This is generally a northern hemisphere thing. The idea being that exposure to the sun often kills likens (the moss type not the werewolf type), as they abhor direct sunlight. With the sun directly over the equator, it will always appear south from the north part of the globe; thus by default moss will cling to the north face of the trees. The amount of luck you have with this depends largely on the environment. If you are in a place with is frequently cloudy and rainy you’ll find moss all around the trunk, if the environment is very dry or arid you may not even find any liken or moss. But it is worth knowing.
Find north with a watch. From Find north without compass but your watch by knarx. Point the little needle towards the sun. Now look onto the angle between the little needle and the 12 o’clock mark. Take the middle of the angle and imagine a drawn line from the middle of the watch along the middle of the angle. The imagined line will show you South. In the opposite is north. Before 6 AM and after 6 PM always take the middle of the smaller angle. The method is quite capable, though it works only in the northern hemisphere, but the closer you come to equator the more inexact it will be.
Stick method. From How to Find North Without a Compass By Challenged Species– 3 December, 2012. Use a stick and the shadow it casts. The shadow is the opposite of the sun direction. Grab a 1 meter (1 Yard) stick, stab it into the ground in a sunny area. Use a rock and mark the end of the shadow, because the sun moves from East to West the first shadow represents West. Now wait 15 minutes and mark the next shadow, this is East. An imaginary line connecting the two rocks represents the West/East axis, a perpendicular line will be North South. This will give you a general idea of North.
Sun Method. From How to Find North Without a Compass By Challenged Species– 3 December, 2012. You can find your way true north by tracking the movement of the sun, in order to use this method you will need to keep some things in mind. The sun rises in the East and sets in the west, at midday it hangs in the middle of the horizon. Thus while in the Northern Hemisphere when you’re facing the sun at noon, walking directly toward it will take you south. Walking with the sun at your back means you’re heading north. The opposite is true in the Southern Hemisphere.
Enjoy and try not to get lost.