this means you can't just start paying attention when you want the information. similarly, if you're going to be out all day, you can navigate by the sun, but only if you're paying attention to its movement as you go.
all that said, sometimes you need to know the cardinal directions, say, if you're working with a map and for some reason you lost your compass and your spare compass.
hey, it could happen, i guess.
or maybe you need to know the actual direction so you can make an accurate determination of time.
there are a lot of complicated methods involving drawing circles and intersecting shadows or analog watches or sighting constellations, but the easiest is the stick in the ground trick.
i've never done it before, so it was cool.
you need a day sunny enough to cast a shadow, though, so there's that.
you put a stick into the ground and you mark the end of its shadow with a stone or another stick. then you wait a while. mark the end of its shadow again. if you face away from the sun and line your feet up with your markers, you are facing true north. east will be on your right and west will be on your left. i really, really hope you can figure out where south is placed from there.
also, if you are in the southern hemisphere and you do this, you will be facing south. if you do not know in which hemisphere you are located, you have bigger problems than not being able to find the cardinal directions.
|line it up and... BOOM. true north.|