Hiking & Backpacking

How to Choose the Best Compass For You

How to Choose the Best Compass

Your hike can only be successful when you have all the necessary hiking gear. One of the things that you must have is a hiking compass. It helps you to navigate using your map. It also lets you know where you are and how you can get to your destination. There are many types of compasses. Most of them have different features. You need to choose that which will make your hike easier and better; you need to have the best compass. The last thing you want is to get lost in the middle of nowhere.

Tips on choosing the best compass

The following are ten tips that you can use to pick the best compass.

Backlighting and luminosity. Choose a compass that has luminous features or is backlit.  It will be particularly helpful if you plan on navigating at night. This way, you will not go through the trouble of having to use a flashlight.  Choosing a model that is not backlit can be disastrous. You might find yourself stranded in the middle of the night with no place to go. The compass will be useful during the day and night.

Global Needle. Some compasses are calibrated for a particular hemisphere’s magnetic variance. This means that you cannot use those analog compasses in every part of the world. Their needles start to drag when used in different hemispheres. When selecting a hiking compass, go for one with a global needle.  Such needles can be used in all parts of the world. They are specifically designed to account for changes in magnetic variances.  With such a compass, you can still find your way regardless of the trail that you’re on.

Again, ensure that the needle is magnetized. This allows it to settle fast. You don’t want a compass that takes hours to show directions, trust me.

Analog vs. Digital. When choosing the best compass, decide whether you want a digital or analog one. Choose the one that will best suit your needs during the hike. Digital compasses need battery power. You must be ready to charge the batteries or change them every once in a while. You must either carry other batteries or have a portable charger. If not, the tool might fail you, and you could get lost.

Analog compasses, on the other hand, do not need an external source of power. They will still work even if you have been storing them for years. You can choose them if you don’t have a power source for a digital compass.

Sighting Mirror. You should always choose a compass that has a sighting mirror. It allows you to view your compass and your surroundings at the same time. It also makes the readings to be more accurate. With this feature, your compass is less likely to mislead you. You can use this mirror as a signal in case you find yourself caught up in an emergency situation.

Clinometer. A clinometer is essential, depending on where you are going to hike. It helps you to measure slope. This is important when you want to know how deep a mountain is. If you are hiking during winter, it lets you know the risk of an avalanche. It is an essential feature if you are mountaineering or traveling during the wintry season.

Does it have a whistle? Some compasses have a whistle while others don’t. You can use it to signal to other hikers when need be. It might come in handy, depending on the place that you will be hiking. You may want to tell the other hikers something or warn them about a specific impending danger. Usually, most hikers interpret one sharp whistle as “stop”. Two sharp whistles are for “come to me” while three are used mean “come to me quickly”.

Durability. Ensure that you buy a durable compass. You don’t need a compass that breaks when you are not even halfway through your hike.  Some compasses have an anodized metal coating to enhance their durability.  Anodization also protects them from corrosion. The compass you buy should also be able to survive high altitudes and stormy weather.

Does it have a reciprocal scale? A reciprocal scale is important when you want to know your position on a map. It indicates the opposite bearing in degrees of the direction that you are traveling towards.  For instance, you can find that a specific mountain is at a bearing of 200 degrees and there’s a bridge at 340 degrees. The opposite bearings will be 20 degrees and 160 degrees respectively.

To determine your location on a map, draw a line from the mountain at the direction of 20 degrees and another from the bridge at a direction of 160 degrees. Where the two lines intersect will be your position.

Declination adjustment. Declination adjustments allow for safe hiking. During navigation, there is, for example, the “true south” and the “magnetic south”. The true south is the direction to the geographic South Pole while the magnetic south is the direction towards the magnetic South Pole.  Declination is the angle that measures the degree difference between these two points. It is not fixed. It can change depending on your location and time.

A compass with the declination adjustment feature can account for the changes. It does this by either adding or subtracting the declination from its bearing.  You can then navigate safely without continually calculating the declination.

Silicon feet. Some compasses have silicon feet. It grips onto your map and prevents the compass from slipping when you are taking the readings. This can come in handy during extreme or harsh conditions. You will be able to take a reading and quickly know where you are.

Best Hiking Compass Review

A compass is a must-have equipment for hiking. The above tips should help you end up with one of the best compass in the market. When buying one, ensure that it has the most important features. The sighting mirror enables you to have more accurate bearings. You can also use it as a signal during dangerous times.  Your hiking compass should also have a clinometer so that you can measure slope. Make sure that needle is global so that it will still work no matter where you decide to navigate. Other important features include declination adjustment, silicon feet, and a whistle.

Below are our top picks for the best hiking compass!

1. Professional Multifunction Military Army Metal Sighting Compass High Accuracy Waterproof Compass Green Color

Some people hike for fun. But, the military does it on purpose- to defend the country. The accuracy of navigation offers an officer a chance to live. So, they have to choose the best hiking compasses to avoid falling in the hands of enemies.

Now, this military compass is waterproof and shake-proof. You don’t have to worry that the rain water might damage it. Again, do not be afraid that the north pointer could shift to the south if you happen to jump or fall.

Then, the display is luminous- it’s actually white with black hands. Well, it’d be very absurd to have a compass that strains your eyes. At least, you want a hiking compass that will be visible even in the dark.

Oh, plus it’s compact, lightweight and portable. It measures 220g and measures 65 by 53 by 26 mm. This is ideal for backpacking as it neither consumes too much space nor becomes too heavy to carry.

It has a sturdy metal and glass construction. The rugged engineering makes it possible to withstand water, shock and pressure.

Then, this is a multifunctional compass as you can use it for boating motoring, camping, hunting, hiking, mountaineering and any other outdoor activity.

2. Core Survival Paracord Survival Bracelet – Hiking Multi Tool, Emergency Whistle, Compass for Hiking, Camp Fire Starter 5-in1 Set

Sometimes, you do not want to carry a load of a metal in the name of a compass. It’s rather you have a light diminutive bracelet that tells you the accurate direction. And, this is what the Core Survival Paracord Survival Bracelet does to you.

It is a survival multi-tool that has a heavy-duty climbing rope, a magnesium fire starter, whistle and a compass. The compass is too intact to fall off. If you hate carrying large backpacks when hiking, then you should look for minimized paraphernalia. The bracelet lets you carry several items on one simple bungle!

The Paracord may be small in the construction, but it is long! In fact, when deconstructed, it is about 10 feet long. Then, it measures 601lbs and it has an impressive rating from the ACT and EMC’s independent safety testing laboratory.

The compass bracelet won’t fall off your hands. Slide the compass to buckle it up around your wrist. Slide it back when you want to take it off.

Basically, this is a survival bracelet with a compass. It has several tools to help you out during emergencies when you are in the deep woods. The whistle, for instance, is loud enough to make people come to your rescue if you are in an SOS situation.


3. Suunto A-10 Field Compass

For less than twenty dollars, get one of the best hiking compasses in the market! This compass is minimalist- but it has several features that might thrill you.

First, it is compact and lightweight. It weighs 0.32 ounces and measures 11.3 by 5.2 by 1 inches. This makes it easy to fit in the hiking pants pockets.

Second, the size, weight and design all work together to make the compass ergonomic. It fits well in your palm, and; you can even hold for long without bruising yourself. It has lanyard and a detachable snap-lock.

Third, the compass is reliable. It has a two-zone system which enhance accurate readings in the northern hemisphere. It points north every time, and it has no bubbles. Remember, ordinary compasses might find it hard to trace the compass north especially when in the northern part of the world.

Fourth, it has clear calibrations. They are legible and styled for use in map-work. It’d be absurd to have a compass that you can’t read. This makes the Suunto to be part of the best hiking compass review list.

It is sturdy, durable, affordable an efficient. It will neither break when you fall nor stop working when it rains. I don’t see any reason why you shouldn’t add it to your cart!

4. Cammenga 27CS Lensatic Compass, Phosphorescent, Clam Pack

The best hiking compass buying guide above describes the ideal navigation tool. It states that it should be durable, waterproof and accurate. But, it also states that for a compass to qualify for this list, it should also be visible in the night and have a sturdy construction. If you add affordability, lightweight and compactness to that, you will understand why Cammenga 27CS Lensatic Compass just can’t be left out of this list!

First, it has phosphorescent luminosity. This makes visible in the night. There is no rule to hiking that states you must adhere to some timelines. You camp at night and even walk in the night- that’s yours to choose as long as it is safe. And, if you get lost in the night- in the middle of nowhere- a phosphorescent compass would come in handy.

Second, the compass has a sturdy, durable and resistant engineering. It has cast aluminum frame materials with sapphire jewel bearing and olive drab lanyard. The compass can withstand large rainfall- this makes it ideal for fishing. Plus, it is able to withstand extreme temperatures between -50 F to +150 F.

Third, the Cammenga 27CS Lensatic Compass requires no liquid in the damping process. Its accuracy is +\- 0002 mils with a bi-directional rotating bezel. It weighs 6.41 ounces and measures 9 by 3 by 6 inches.

5. Silva Polaris Compass

When you decide to have fun outdoors, it’s important to have the best hiking compass with you. But, which is the best? Well, from our buying guide, it’s notable that such an instrument should be easy to use for both experienced and novice hikers. Above all, it should be accurate in navigation. This is what the Silva Polaris Compass brings!

First, it has a friction-free sapphire bearing. This permits the tungsten steel needle to swing freely. Then, the clear fluid inside keeps the needle steady. So, it neither dislocates nor distorts the accuracy.

Second, the base plate is clear with an inch, mm and 1:24,000 scale. This is useful especially for people who are reading maps, setting bearings or planning a hike route.

Third, it has a fixed declination scale to accommodate slight adjustments to map bearings and the field headings.

Fourth, the compass has a durable slim profile with excellent accuracy. It has 2 degrees graduation lines which have large calibrations at every 20 degrees for easy reading. This makes the compass an ideal inclusion in hiking, camping and survival kits.

The compass is light- it weighs 0.16 ounces. The compact navigation tool measures 5 by 8.8 by 1 inches. It is affordable and durable, too!

6. CMMG Official US Military Tritium Lensatic Compass 

If you want the best hiking experience, you need a lightweight, compact and accurate compass. Well, as I stated in a comprehensive hiking for beginners guide, you need to carry several items. But, during the actual ‘walking in unknown lands’, you’ll need the compass more than anything else. And, when you decide to choose, make sure you get the best. A military designed compass would be the least of factors you should consider!

Well, first, CMMG Official US Military Tritium Lensatic Compass is lightweight, compact and portable. It weighs 3.2 ounces and measures 6 by 4 by 3 inches. Thus, it is ideal for backpacking.

Second, it is resistant to water, shock and sand. The company says they have tested in the battle field, and thus recommend it for the military. The compass is sturdy, and; it will not only last for long, but also withstand extreme weather conditions. It won’t damage in the rain. Also, it withstands low light conditions and temperatures of -50 F to +150 F. It’s therefore ideal for use in the winter and/or hot desert areas.

Third, you don’t need any flashlight to tell direction. When you’re in a dark night, you can look at the compass as it will be clear and luminous enough. The lights can remain luminous for more than twelve years. It has a sturdy metallic construction and a canvas carrying pouch.

7. Professional Multifunction Military Army Metal Sighting Compass High Accuracy Waterproof Compass Green Color

I am sure you want to buy a compass that has a luminous display, metallic construction and rugged design. Also, it should be elegant and ergonomic. For less than twenty dollars, get a compact, waterproof and shake resistant hiking compass.

First, it is lightweight and compact. It measures 65 by 53 by 26 inches. It weighs 6.7 inches. Well, it’s a little heavier than ordinary compasses due to its sturdy metallic construction.

Second, it has a special fluorescent light. This lets you read the direction in dark environments. You don’t have to recharge it as it absorbs the light energy from sunshine.

Third, the compass is designed for outdoor use. It has a strong rugged metal body. The navigation tool not only survives shock, but also extreme weather conditions.

Fourth, the hiking compass comes in three colors- black, green and camouflage. It is shake-proof and has high damping oil plus a clear calibration.

8. Suunto MC-2 Compass

It is important to have a minimalist compass. However, ensure that the compass has all the features you need. At least, it should qualify in the list of the best hiking compass. You see, a navigation tool needs to be compact, sturdy, durable and accurate. Read on to see why the Suunto SS004239001 MC-2 Compass is good for the money!

First, it has a steady high grade steel needle that has a jewel bearing. The pointer always shows north, and it’s balanced for the northern hemisphere. It has a liquid-filled capsule for a stable reading.

Second, it weighs 2.56 ounces and 1.7 by 5 by 3.6 inches. This makes it compact, lightweight and ideal for backpacking. It has a rugged ergonomic design- it won’t hurt your palms.

Third, it allows you to correct using the adjustable declination. This makes you to maintain an excellent navigation throughout your hiking escapades.

9. Eyeskey Multifunctional Military Army Aluminum Alloy Compass

When hiking, you need to tell direction, calculate your distance as well as have the freedom to move to any kind of environment. This is why I’d rather have Eyeskey Multifunctional Military compass. See why!

First, the compass has a tough engineering metal construction that is not only durable, but also resistant to shocks weather. This allows you to use it in rainy, hot or cold weathers.

Second, it has a fluorescent display. This material absorbs sunshine and then shows you the direction in the dark environments.

Third, the compass is waterproof and shakeprooof. It makes it worthwhile in climbing, or getting engaged in vigorous activities.

Fourth, it is accurate. Anytime, you can improve the efficiency by decreasing errors using the built in bubble level.

Fifth, it is a multipurpose compass. You can use it for a plethora of outdoor activities. These include boating, camping, motoring, hinting, fishing, exploring and mountaineering among others.

Sixth, the navigation instrument is compact, lightweight and ergonomic. It weighs 6.2 ounces and measures 2.75 by 2.0 by 0.98 inches. Oh, plus, you can pick your favorite color; green, silver or camouflage.

10. Suunto A-30L Field Compass

No doubt, Suunto offers a chain of great brands in the navigation industry. The company has some of the best hiking compasses in the world. They apply a minimalist approach in manufacturing their instruments. Instead of adding other multi-functional features to their compasses, they dwell on making the instrument sturdy, accurate and useful. Suunto SS012100013 A-30L Field Compass is one of their cheapest, yet best functional brands. See some of its features below.

First, it has a balanced pointer for the northern hemisphere. Noteworthy, the majority of ordinary compasses change their course especially when in Russia, Greenland, Canada and Northern Asia among other north regions. Such compasses make it difficult to tell the exact direction. But, Suunto is accurate and balanced.

Second, the high grade steel needle has a jewel bearing. Well, it not only makes it clear enough to tell direction, but also enhances the balance.

Third, the capsule is liquid-filled. The liquid allows for a smooth operation.

Fourth, the declination correction is adjustable. If you feel the compass isn’t correct, you can always rectify it using this feature.

Plus, the compass is compact, sturdy and lightweight. It weighs 1.1 ounce and measures 2.2 by 4.3 by 1 inch. The snap lock lanyard is detachable and the bezel is luminous.

Which is your best hiking compass and why?

Let us know through the comments.

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