OUTDOORS

Best Compass: Never Get Lost in the Wilderness

hiking compass featured
Dennis Owens
Written by Dennis Owens

If you love adventure and hikes in the mountains or the woods, you must own the best compass possible. Of course, you must also know how to use it, but this is a whole different story.

Having a compass can hugely benefit you during those long trips outdoors. But first, you need to know that each compass comes with different features. For instance, a waterproof material will be rather useful since it keeps the device protected in the different weather conditions.

Besides, a lightweight and compact design can also help you since it will be easier to carry the device around in your backpack. Another important feature of a good compass is the presence of different scales of measurements which can really prove to be useful.

Product NameWeightColorBest UsePrice
Suunto A-10 Field0.32 ozClearHikingCheck price on Amazon
Silva Ranger 5155.6 ozCL Hi-VisNighttimeCheck price on Amazon
Phosphorescent Lensatic6.4 ozBlackHikingCheck price on Amazon
SE CC4580 Military3.7 ozGreySightingCheck price on Amazon
Eyeskey Military14.4 ozArmy greenCamping, hiking, bikingCheck price on Amazon
Neon® Metal Waterproof5.6 ozArmy greenHiking, camping, bikingCheck price on Amazon
Coleman LED Light1.6 ozBlackNighttimeCheck price on Amazon
Gerber Bear Grylls Compact0.5 ozBlackHuntingCheck price on Amazon
Ultimatesurvival Technologies Deluxe1.8 ozBlackBasic compassCheck price on Amazon
Aufo Tactical Professional13.6 ozGreenHikingCheck price on Amazon

Features to Consider Before Buying

In general, there are three different kinds of compasses to choose from. These include basic compasses, advanced compasses, and accessory compasses. While the first kind is more suited for beginners, light hikers and come with the basic features, the advanced compasses come with better features and at a higher price.

However, it is a good buy for regular travelers. Lastly, the accessory compasses are small devices used with key rings and watches and perform the basic operation of providing a good direction reference.

Usually, a basic compass will have the necessary features. These will include an accurate magnetized needle, liquid filled capsule, index line, and the likes. However, some compasses can offer a little more than just the basics. Here are some features to focus on while looking for the ideal compass for yourself:

Declination Adjustment

This is basically a more advanced form of an orienting arrow. The sole purpose of this feature is to basically align the arrow in a way such that it can give you the magnetic declination in the area. This comes in handy giving you extra information.

Magnifying Lens

The magnifying lens makes the compass even more desirable with the facility of reading small maps and symbols.

Sighting Mirror

This is another useful tool for the compass. This gives you the opportunity to make precise readings.

compass sighting mirror

Luminescent Indicators

This feature comes in especially handy when you are traveling at night or are moving in the dark. This lights up the orienting error giving you accurate measurements even at night.

Clinometer

A clinometer is a separate device on its own. However, when it is incorporated in a compass, it can tell you the slope of an area that helps you assess other information like avalanche hazards and the likes.

Lanyard

Since the compass is a small object, you would need it handy with you at all times. So having a lanyard ensures that it can be attached to a belt or wrist and the likes.

Weight

Apart from the special features for the compasses, it is useful to have a lightweight device that can be carried anywhere with you, especially those long trips.

Top Compasses for Outdoor Adventurers

Below is a list of some of best orienteering compasses that can help you in your long adventure trips. We did a short review for each one so you can select the best according to your needs.

Suunto A-10 Field CompassSuunto a-10 Field Compass

Price: Approximately $17

Size: 0.3 x 3.3 x 7.2 inches

Color: Clear

Weight: 0.32 oz

Best use: Hiking

The Suunto A-10 Field Compass is a rather lightweight compass which is also very durable. It is fit to be used outdoors since it is made with acrylic which is scratch resistant and can be put to rough use.

For starters, it has a fixed declination correction scale. Next, it has a dual scale, which means that the readings are displayed in cm as well as inches. Moreover, it comes with jewel bearings. Besides, this device is extremely portable, meaning it can be carried around without too many issues.

It has been carefully designed so that the compass can fit in your palm for the best results. This lightweight product has a two-zone system meaning that you can also use it in the northern hemisphere easily. So, overall, this is a great choice for people wanting to go out for adventures in the open with the compass guiding you at all times.

PROS:

  • Lightweight
  • Durable
  • Scratch resistant
  • Very portable
  • Compact and ergonomic design (fits in the palm)

CONS:

  • Counterfeit Suunto a-10 Field Compass looks like the real thing so beware when making a purchase

Related: Suunto also sells outdoor watches like the Suunto Traverse. To ensure you are on the right track all the time, use your Suunto a-10 Field Compass and have your Suunto watch as your backup.

Check the price on Amazon

Silva Ranger 515 Compass

Silva Ranger CL High Visibility

Price: Approximately $41

Size: 0.7 x 5.1 x 11.3 inches

Color: CL Hi-Vis

Weight: 5.6 oz

Best use: Nighttime

Silva Ranger 515 Compass can be used in the most difficult environmental conditions without hassles. Irrespective of how challenging the weather is, you will have the compass by your side, which is great to know.

One of the reasons for this is the liquid-filled interior and the durable plastic body that makes the product extremely waterproof. Moreover, this device gives you the most accurate readings such that you get all the required information.

Another exciting feature is the set of luminous points that keeps the device lit up in the dark. This is especially helpful when you are out at night in the open without much light around. The calibrations come in 2-degree graduations with points from 0 degrees to 360 degrees.

Apart from this, the package comes with a clinometer, map magnifier, and sighting mirror, all of which can be of good use to you when you are outdoors. The lanyard is equipped with an adjustable slider and screwdriver for your convenience.

Moreover, the compass also has a geared declination that promises continuous compensation while taking the bearings. Coming to the grip, this device is pretty hardy in this aspect.

The large knurled dial can be a testimony to this fact. This compass can be used with different topographical maps with different light conditions, different terrain, and different weather conditions.

PROS:

  • Visible even at night
  • Waterproof
  • Gives accurate reading

CONS:

  • The sighting line on the mirror is hard to read
  • No too visible in low light condition

Related: Along with a compass, it would be great to have a Ranger Beads Pace Counter as part of your outdoor accessories. Remember you are in the wilderness and prevention is always better than cure.

Check the price on Amazon

Phosphorescent Lensatic CompassPhosphorescent Lensatic

Price: Approximately $44

Size: 1.8 x 5.7 x 7.8 inches

Color: Black

Weight: 6.4 oz

Best use: Hiking

The Phosphorescent Lensatic Compass is one of the best compasses for hiking. This is compact in structure making it really portable for those camping or hiking trips and is waterproof.

This means that you can use it in different weather conditions with the compass sustaining no damage.

Sometimes it happens that the long trips tend to give rise to some moisture on the tools. This compass is protected and will continue to function well in spite of the moisture. The total weight of the device is roughly 0.4 pounds when shipped (this gives you an idea of how lightweight this is).

In general, this device can be used for both the northern and southern hemispheres. However, this product is specifically catering to the northern parts of the globe and has to be balanced separately for using it in the southern hemisphere.

Moreover, the compass also has an eyesight mechanism which basically helps in seeing the wire and the distance object properly.

Some users have conducted several tests on the compass and all of these have proven to bring about good results. For instance, the compass can cover many kilometers in the thick wooden forests and still give accurate readings.

It can also be used at night to give equally useful results. The entire dial in the compass actually turns with the directional arrow which is quite interesting. Moreover, the dial is basically stabilized by a copper shell in place of a fluid for best results. Its compatibility with different temperatures is one useful feature.

PROS:

  • Compact
  • Very portable
  • Moist-resistant
  • Lightweight
  • Employs eyesight mechanism
  • Gives accurate readings

CONS:

  • The bezel can be hard to click
  • The locking mechanism works inconsistently

Related: Cammenga also sells Tritium Wrist Compass which is highly recommended for those who always want to walk out in the wilderness. It can be your backup along with your Phosphorescent Lensatic Compass.

Check the price on Amazon

SE CC4580 Military CompassSE CC4580 Military Lensatic

Price: Approximately  $12

Size: 3.2 x 2.5 x 1.2 inches

Color: Grey

Weight: 3.7 oz

Best use: Sighting

The SE CC4580 Military Compass is one of the best compasses in the market, especially in digital camouflage print.

For starters, this compact product looks really attractive and is an ideal fit for outdoor travels. It also comes with a number of different features that make it the perfect model in this area.

For instance, its rotating bezel ring is one such feature. Added to that, there are two different scales for measurement including the centimetre scale and the inches scale. These ruler units are basically placed on either side of the bezel. It also has a built-in bubble ring for your convenience.

Along with that, there is a specifically designed conversion chart for angles, gradient, and distance. This chart can be found on the back cover.

The cover comes with well-directed sighting lines to help the adventurous traveler on his expeditions. This is accompanied by the adjustable diopter sighting lens.

The lanyard is 36” in size. The compass, in general, is made from a thermo-elastic liquid capsule complimented by a floating dial. It weighs a total of only 3.7 ounces indicating the lightweight nature of the device.

To add to this list, the total package comes with a nylon pouch in which you can carry the compass around for traveling. This keeps the device protected and safe.

Moreover, this pouch is water resistant indicating that the compass can be used in different weather conditions and terrain. On the whole, this product comes at an affordable price and proves to be a very effective product.

PROS:

  • Two scales of measurement
  • Built-in bubble ring
  • Conversion chart
  • Very light

CONS:

  • Not suitable with cheek to compass method
  • It needs to get re-aligned from time to time

Related: To be sure that you are on the safe side all the time especially at night, bring SE’s Head Magnifier with you along with your compass. This will surely help you in the wilderness mainly in the dark.

Check the price on Amazon

Eyeskey Military CompassEyeskey Military Optical Sighting

Price: Approximately $29

Size: 3.5 x 4.3 x 5.8 inches

Color: Army Green

Weight: 14.4 oz

Best use: Camping, hiking, biking

The next product on our list of the best orienteering compasses comes from the house of Eyeskey.

The Eyeskey Military Compass With Pouch is known for its accurate measurements, giving you a peace of mind when you are out in the woods or other unknown locations. This lightweight and compact product turns out to be reliable at all times. The centimeter scale proves to be very effective giving you proper measurements. Also, the clinometer helps you in the journey.

The eyepiece is readable and adjustable catering to your convenience. Moreover, there is a separate tripod adaptable feature that allows the device to be fit onto a tripod whenever required.

The body of the compass, in general, is made from metal whereas the main dial is liquid filled. While we are on the dial, is has a floating compass style with a 360-degree scale to facilitate direction measurements.

As the features suggest, this product can be used for a long time since it is of such a durable make. There is also a sighting window with a sighting line. There is no option for adjusting the declination; however, the informative user manual can really help the users understand the device.

On the whole, this compass is extremely lightweight and compact and is easy to carry around with you. This makes it one of the best tools for your hiking backpack. This is a solid product which promises to last a long time, being the perfect partner during your long travels.

PROS:

  • Accurate measurement
  • Lightweight and compact design
  • Adjustable eyepiece
  • Highly durable

CONS:

  • Not that durable

Related: Eyeskey also offers High-Power Zoom Monocular which is highly recommended if you will walking for days in the wilderness. It would be a great tool to check what lies ahead before walking towards it.

Check the price on Amazon

Neon® Metal Waterproof Compass

Neon® Metal Waterproof Professional

Price: Approximately $12

Size: 1.7 x 4 x 4.9 inches

Color: Army Green

Weight: 5.6 oz

Best use: Hiking, camping, climbing, biking

If you are looking for a compass which can guide you at night then Neon® Metal Waterproof Compass is exactly the product you should be looking. The design of the compass has integrated a fluorescent display which basically acts as a backlight.

In order to use this backlight, all you need to do is to make sure that the compass has absorbed enough sunshine as it will act as the fodder for the fluorescent light which will assist you in reading the data.

As we all know that a compass is primarily used to identify a location or direction, here, the manufacturers have made sure that you get the most accurate results. They have achieved it by adding a built-in bubble level. What it basically does is increase the chances of getting the apt result by carefully decreasing the chances of making errors.

Now, let us discuss a little bit about the shell of the compass which is metallic in make.

In addition to that, this compass is designed to withstand even the harshest of weather and terrain conditions which is why you will find it to be extremely sturdy. But the beauty of the product is that it is lightweight which will allow you to carry it around effortlessly.

This compass has a number of different applications starting from plotting maps to positioning as well as orienting the maps. Irrespective of whether you are climbing, hiking, biking or camping, this compass will be your silent guardian who will watch over you.

PROS:

  • Fluorescent that serves as a backlight in low light conditions
  • Accurate
  • Affordable
  • Lightweight

CONS:

  • Affordable but not that durable

Related: Staysafe in the wilderness with your Neon Compass with a Neon Multi Tool. This multi tool from Neon gives you access to small yet useful survival tools that might come handy while in the wilderness.

Check the price on Amazon

Coleman LED LightCompassColeman Compass

Price: Approximately $10

Size: 3.8 x 7.7 x 0.9 inches

Color: Black

Weight: 1.6 oz

Best use: Nighttime

If you are looking for that one compass that you can simply wrap around your neck or wrist then Coleman LED Light Compass is just the product for you.

Being extremely convenient to carry around, this compass is very useful especially for people who are looking to travel light.

The first feature that will catch your attention is the 8 directional reference points. Now, you will not have to guess which way the compass is pointing as you will be able to see exactly which direction you have to go whether it is North or South or North-West.

Next,comes the liquid filled inside of the compass, which is an integral part of the product. It is what gives it the accuracy which is the most important part of the Coleman Compass.

One of the things which you are bound to notice when you see the product has to be the design of the compass, especially the shape. The kidney shape of the product is a subtle way of making things easier for the person using the compass as it provides a comfortable grip.

Moreover, you will be able to use it even at night all thanks to the backlight which will allow you to read all the important data in the dark, which is just perfect.

Lastly, it is worth mentioning that you also get a lanyard along with the compass. This will enable you to keep the compass around your neck; this not only makes it convenient but also keeps your hand free.

PROS:

  • Easy to carry around because it is light
  • 8 directional reference points
  • Very accurate
  • Nice kidney-shaped design
  • Has a backlight for low light conditions

CONS:

  • Very affordable yet not that durable

Related: Coleman is also known for offering high-quality tents hence if you will be spending some nights in the wilderness, a Coleman Tent would be great to have.

Check the price on Amazon

Gerber Bear Grylls Compact CompassGerber Bear Grylls Compact

Price: Approximately $14

Size: 0.8 x 4.5 x 5.5 inches

Color: Black

Weight: 0.5 oz

Best use: Hunting

All big things come in small packages which is exactly how this Gerber Bear Grylls Compact Compass can be described. With an overall length of just 2.28 inches, this is one of the most convenient compasses you will find in the market.

The beauty of the product is that although it is small, it does not compromise with the reliability quotient of the compass. Add to that, the design of the compact compass is rugged which makes it eligible for even the harshest of terrains.

In terms of quality testing, the manufacturers have not left any stones unturned as each and every piece is field tested before being put on the market. As far as the materials are concerned, the body of the product is made from plastic which is actually a pretty clever move on the part of the manufacturers as it makes the compass more durable.

Moreover, to take care of the convenience quotient further, the design of the product makes it lightweight as well as compact which enables you to carry it around everywhere you go.

If you think that this is purely made for hiking purposes then you are mistaken; it has a number of applications which include survival, military, industrial, tactical, hunting and other such outdoor uses. To top it off, the strategically placed zipper on the compass makes it perfect as you put it around your wrist rather than holding it all the time.

PROS:

  • Small and handy
  • Easy to use
  • Compact yet reliable and accurate

CONS:

  • Made of plastic materials

Related: Gerber is also known for selling multi tools and having a Gerber Dime Multi-Tool along with your Gerber Compass would be another way of being ready in the wilderness.

Check the price on Amazon

Ultimatesurvival Technologies Deluxe Map CompassUltimatesurvival Technologies Deluxe Mapcompass

Price: Approximately $8

Size: 5 x 2.2 x 0.8 inches

Color: Black

Weight: 1.8 oz

Best use: Basic compass

When it comes to survival compasses then there are hardly any other compasses that can compete with the Ultimate Survival Technologies Deluxe Map Compass.

For starters, when it comes to quality of the product, then it must be said that it yields only the most accurate results. In order to do so, the manufacturers have put in a liquid inside the compass which is exactly what you need for providing indisputable accuracy. The manufacturers have worked really hard as far as quality testing is concerned.

The reason for saying so is that these products go through rigorous field testing before the customers can take a look at them. Unlike other compasses, this one is designed in such a way that it can help you read maps. In order to do so, the manufacturers have extended the clear base.

What this does is improve the reading of a given map which is a definite advantage if you are planning to go for hiking or camping trips. If that was not enough, you will also find various measurement scales with the compass.

These measurement scales are strategically placed to assist the user to chalk out route plans in a much more precise manner which is not something you get with too many compasses. Lastly, this compass comes with a matching line which will put you in an advantageous position.

PROS:

  • Highly recommended for newbies
  • Cheap yet gives accurate readings

CONS:

  • Not durable

Related: For your wilderness adventure,don’t just stop by bringing in a compass, bring an Ultimate Survival Technologies SplashFlash LED Light. This will surely make your life easier especially at night.

Check the price on Amazon

Aufo Tactical ProfessionalAufo Tactical Professional

Price: Approximately $17

Size: 1.9 x 3.1 x 4.5 inches

Color: Green

Weight: 13.6 oz

Best use: Hiking

If you don’t want to take any chances when you go camping or hiking the next time then this is probably the compass you would want by your side.

Firstly, AUFO Tactical Professional comes with a reference table which will help you ascertain the scope as well as distance more accurately.

Moreover, having a magnifying viewer to check out the directions is an added advantage which you will get if you are holding this compass. Here, you will also be able to see the directions even if you cover up the compass all thanks to the sighting window.

Not only does this feature allow you to view the directions but it provides a sighting line on it to make sure you don’t make a mistake while reading it.

In addition, to make sure that there is no discrepancy when it comes to accuracy, you will also be provided with a sliding ruler. If this ruler is used with the magnifying glass, then you increase the chances of getting an even better result as far as accuracy is concerned.

Furthermore, the bubble level in the compass takes care of any fear of getting the directions wrong which is something you would want as a user.

In terms of night vision, with this compass, even that part is covered. The luminous display inside allows you to figure out directions and distances even at night with ease.

All you have to do is keep the compass under sunlight for good 3-4 hours and your luminous display is all set to play its part. The metallic military compass is rugged and can stand even in the harshest of weathers and rugged terrains.

PROS:

  • Clear sighting window
  • Magnifying viewer
  • Sliding rule for absolute accuracy
  • Luminous at night

CONS:

  • A bit heavy for an 11 pound compass

Related: Along with your compass, bring a PahaQue Wilderness Single Hammock that you can use to rest on at night.

Check the price on Amazon

Wrap Up

Compasses are an integral part of your hiking backpack. With a good and sturdy body, you can carry it everywhere irrespective of how harsh the weather conditions are. Carry it in your pocket and put it to good use.

You no longer have to worry about getting lost in the woods. An accurately designed device will keep you aware of the directions. The compass pouches can also come in handy for these purposes. With different measurement units and the ability to read topographical maps, it is indeed a useful tool to have.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dennis Owens
Dennis Owens

Dennis Owens is a graduate of National Camping School and REI Outdoor School. He knows everything about what gear to take with you, how to plan your trip to stay safe and what to do if you get lost in the mountains. We are lucky to have Dennis with us as he is a ‘walking encyclopedia’ when it comes to the wilderness.

  • Jason Delgado

    So many compasses! I always thought as long as a compass points north that it did not matter what kind of compass you had. However it makes sense that you want a strong compass, because if you are doing any kind of running you want something that can take the impact.

    • Dennis Owens

      That’s true, Jason. This simple yet very important tool comes in various sizes, features, and of course price. Durability is very important, especially if you’re more into rugged outdoor activities that will require the compass to be exposed to the elements more often.

  • Dennis Hughes

    Be careful with a compass storage. For example, do not place it on the stereo that is equipped with powerful magnets, or in locations with a strong electric current. Do not put the compass in a pocket next to your mobile phone. Over time, the impact of the mobile phone may demagnetize the arrow. As compass to find North responds to the magnetic field near it, it is very important that there are no magnetic fields other than the magnetic field of the earth.

    • Dennis Owens

      This is a very helpful tip, Dennis. Compass storage is one of the most overlooked concepts and I am glad you’ve raised this concern. Its mechanism can be affected by stereos and yes even mobile phones can demagnetize the arrow.

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