As a rookie in the U.S Military, one of the skills that you are trained to master like the back of your hand is the ability to navigate through some of the harshest terrains and get to the set destination on time.
Joining the military was one of my childhood dreams which came true after graduating college. Luckily, I was conversant with the various hiking techniques and survival tricks, and so the training course did not take a huge toll on me.
Even though I could tell the direction we are headed by just looking at my shadow; sometimes it would get very complicated especially during harsh weather conditions. With the little sunshine, we would often get lost in the woods by somehow we would manage to get out of the forest on time.
During all my experiences in the world, I got to appreciate the importance of carrying a compass in my back bag. Back then, there was just a handful of them in the market, but I am glad that manufacturers have worked smart to come up with a vast array of brands.
The internet is one of the ideal platforms that you can use to get information about the best compass brands in the market.
However, you still need to consult widely to ensure that you make the right decision as you compare the different compasses available in the market. And so today, I want to give you some insider tips that I used to purchase some of the most reliable and durable compasses in my collection.
As mentioned earlier, there are some factors that you need to put into consideration when assessing the various compasses in the market before making your final decision. Below are some of the most important factors or attributes that you should never forget to keep in mind before placing your order.
Speed and Stability
Compasses that have a well-articulated and fast needle show the north direction better than the slow compasses. The traditional models are usually very slow, and so they can slow you down especially when you have a deadline to meet. That said; speed is not one of the essential factors that you should put into consideration when looking for the best compass for hiking since speed is not a priority.
However, if you are planning to participate in an orienteering race, go for a high-speed compass. During severe weather, it will greatly help you to get down the mountain as quickly and safely as possible.
A lot of unexpected occurrences can take place when you are on a hiking or backpacking expedition. There is a high possibility of the compass being bumped in your backpack.
It can also fall off your hands as you try to find your way down a steep slope. From experience, these kinds of incidents happen to even the most experienced hikers and military personnel. Confusion, strong winds, fatigue, and rain are some of the factors that could increase the risk of dropping the compass.
Therefore, it is recommended to purchase a compass that can withstand such eventualities without losing its functionalism and efficiency.
The traditional backpacking and hiking compasses only had three or fewer features. Thanks to the advancements in technology, we now have compasses that have up to 15 different features or capabilities. Check the user’s manual provided by the manufacturer to the specific features that an ideal compass should have.
Some of the certain features that a hiking compass should have included:
This is a scale that is designed to help you make declination adjustments that resonate with the places that you are navigating. The scale is crucial as they ensure that the compass points to the true north instead of the familiar magnetic north, especially during harsh weather conditions.
The rotating bezel is designed to give you the ability to measure azimuth accurately.
Base Plate with a Ruler
During our military training course, we were taught unconventional ways of measuring distances on topographic maps. So far, the skills acquired are instrumental especially when in covert missions. Most of the modern compasses have a special base plate that comes with a well-calibrated ruler to help you measure map distances.
Fatigue and inclement weather can blur your sight. As a result, manufacturers incorporate a sighting mirror in the compass package to help reduce errors, especially when moving the compass from the waist level to eye level to read the dial.
When trying to find your way down the slopes, you need to know the degree of steepness to avoid injuries. You can comfortably know the slope angles by using the clinometer. During my missions in the Arctic, I was lucky to carry a compass that had an inbuilt clinometer. By using it, I was not only to find my way around the unforgiving terrain but also to evade avalanche hazards and measure the height of objects.
The magnifying lens will come in handy when trying to spot details on the map that are written in small prints.
Luminescent indicators are specially designed to help you use the compass well at night.
Reviews of 7 Best Compasses on the Market
With an impressive build quality and an adjustable diopter sighting lens, this compass is an excellent companion for a direction finder. You will enjoy the usefulness, quality, and function that it offers.
While on a hiking expedition with a friend he once commented that the compass was the bargain of the decade for those in need of a sighting compass with one-degree accuracy or even better. The compass has a tripod screw hole at the base where it can be mounted for easier use. It has a conversion chart on the backplate for distance, gradient, and angle.
- Durable and lightweight
- Has a good aesthetic look
- Affordable considering the functionalities
- For anyone who may experience difficulties using the compass, it comes with a detailed instruction booklet on how to use it
- With a lanyard and a waterproof pouch, it is a great compass for checking bearings on a family camping trip
- It is not a prismatic compass as indicated
- The sighting aperture is not adjustable
- The Thumb ring must be cut off to sit flat
- Not reliable as the only compass while out in the wilderness
As a sports enthusiast, I bought the compass to fine-tune my new television antenna towards the right direction for the NFL playoffs, and it worked like a charm. My friend who owns a nearby computer shop that installs equipment like antennas and television dishes had recommended it to me. The compass is waterproof, and it is made of metal and glass. It has a bright display inside which facilitates clear viewing. It is not for those looking for a lightweight compass; it is built like a tank. It is also resistant to the effects of weather. Housed in a rugged metal case, my friend has been through thunderstorms with it, and it is still strong.
- Excellent accuracy
- Easy to use and has many navigation functions
- Smooth hinges and a clear bearing glass sight
- It has a nice look and can be precisely mounted on a tripod for a standard camera using its bottom-side bolt hole
- It is quite heavy
- The sight glass for the bearing is small
- User instructions are written in tiny font and are brutally difficult to understand
This compass has a high heavy-duty metal body showing strength and durability engineered to work under extreme weather conditions. Many features and rugged construction remind me of the compass I used during an expedition with my veteran friends. During Christmas, my uncle bought it for his son who was considering enlisting in the military. It is shake-proof, waterproof, and suitable for mountaineering, hunting, motoring, and camping, boating, exploring, and other outdoor activities. For the cost, I cannot understand why anyone in an unfamiliar city or hiking in the woods would not include it in his/her list of must-haves.
- It has a one year warranty from GWHOLE
- Has built-in bubble level that decreases errors and improves accuracy
- It has a long lanyard attached to a folding ring for easy portability
- Designed with a special fluorescent light that can be used to read data in a dark environment when it absorbs adequate sunshine
- The back cover is made of plastic
- The lack of securing the sighting glass on the frame that holds it in place may lead to an issue of having to align the glass every time
When you are driving a car, and you are trying to find your way north, this is the compass for you. If you need to impress your wife on how good you can be in finding your way home after a drive in an unfamiliar city, you need to buy this compass that comes with an alterable luminous marching line, a sighting hairline and liquid-filled for fast readability. It has several features with accurate and reliable performance. If you need a birthday gift for your grandson, the compass has more whistles and bells than he needs. It is what it says it is. I would recommend it for a boy scout too.
- The price is very affordable
- It comes with a lifetime warranty service
- The clinometer is a great bonus
- The inclination scale on the compass is much easier to read, compared with the mirror and level bubble style
- Not visible in darkness as indicated
- The user instructions are written in complicated English
- Lacks professionalism – a closer look shows that the bullseye is not horizontal on the base
When you are in an unknown or new territory, the Suunto compass is what you need to help you navigate. The compass has many dependable and carefully crafted features for all conditions. It has an additional sighting hole for superior accuracy and an adjustable declination correction scale. I met a distant cousin who told me that he had been using it since he began his forestry career and he could not use another brand. He has used it even below freezing point and also put it in a freezer to test its ability to work in different conditions. The easy-grip bezel reads in increment of 2-degree and has a glowing outer ring for reading in low-light.
- It is lightweight
- High quality and great engineered product
- The global needle is steady, stable, easy to use, and looks good
- It is designed such a way that it gives a clear reading anywhere in the world
- Works well in different climatic conditions
- It has luminous paint and dial which help to navigate at night if they are charged well so that you do not have to use a light whenever checking your bearing
- The tiny declination adjustment tool can be easily lost
- Closing the lid requires an extra force and makes an uncomfortably loud sound when it finally snaps shut
It is the same compass that Cammenga has supplied to the US military. The difference is that the self-luminous tritium has been removed and replaced with phosphorescent paint. Although some compasses were made only for use in zone 1, Cammenga is created with international travel in mind. Instead of using fluid to preserve the movement of the turning dial, it uses a copper shell.
What impresses me with this compass is that you can carry it to your cheek and stare at a directional peep sight while concurrently seeing through a magnifying glass that illuminates the dial night and day. I once met a group of young men who used the compass when they were hiking in Alaska for four months, and they were impressed by its performance.
- Easy to read and has a clear sight
- It can also be used in extreme temperatures
- Battle-tested through rigorous shock, water, and sand
- Older people with poor night vision can read it well during the night
- The olive drab pouch is very cool with US military block letters
- It is heavy
- The compass has an issue with the lock mechanism
- The phosphorescence does not perform very well even after operating under a bright lamp and then taking it into a dark room
A friend introduced me to a veteran who lives in interior Alaska whose previous encounter with Silva compass lasted 30 years despite the device being subjected to unfriendly places comprising being stored in the windshield bag of his snow machine outside at -60 degrees temperatures. It is still staggering along. He recently bought a new Ranger compass, and he did not even pay more despite the added features. It has a split-sighting mirror which assures excellent accuracy when traveling on distant landmarks. It has a geared declination adjustment and a lanyard with a slider that is adjustable.
- Ruggedly built to withstand heavy field use
- It has silicone feet which provide a positive grip on a map
- Well thought out design features
- Excellent instruction manual providing useful directional information
- It does not come with a case
- The sighting line on the mirror is so thin that it is virtually invisible
- The fit of the bezel is very loose and easily rotates independently of the dial
How to Use a Compass and a Map
Before graduating from military training school, you have to showcase your ability to use a compass and a map without any external assistance. One of the benefits of acquiring this skill is that you will be able to safely and accurately navigate terrains that you have never been before without relying on trails left behind by other hikers.
Here are the steps on how to use a compass and map like a professional.
Step 1: Strategically place your hiking or backpacking compass in such a way that it aligns with the start and finishing points indicated on the map.
Step 2: Use the side knobs to slowly rotate the compass until the north needle points N on the map.
Step 3: Rotate the compass and the map at the same time until the red edge of the main compass needle points north. Take note of where north is on the map as it will be your reference point throughout your hiking expedition
Step 4: Adhere to the direction of the travel arrow indicated by the compass. Make sure that the needle is well aligned to the orienting arrow to avoid getting lost.
Based on our evaluation of the seven compasses, we have arrived at a unanimous decision that the Cammenga Phosphorescent Clam Pack Lensatic Compass is the most reliable, convenient, and ideal compass for hiking and backpacking. It has some of the most dependable features that make it ideal for hiking in virtually any terrain under all weather conditions. It is also durable and perfect for new hikers.
We love to hear what our readers have to say about any of the above compasses. Feel free to share your experience through the comment section. Thank you!