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.




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”.




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.


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.



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