We all know and love all these new era gadgets that can tell at any time, accurately (most of the time, anyway), where you are on the surface of the Earth.
Of course they are useful, but none of them can replace a detailed topo map or a compass- the primary tools when it comes to exploring the wilderness.
The compass tells you how to place your map, pinpoints your current position and you may not need it daily when hiking. But, when you take the wrong turn, it’s the tool that tells where to go next.
But, having a compass and a map doesn’t necessarily mean you know what to do with them and you need to practice a bit before going into the wild.
The basics on hiking compasses
There are several types of hiking compasses and you need to know a bit about them before getting yourself one.
The floating-needle compasses use a magnetized needle that aligns with the earth’s magnetic field.
The housing for the needle is typically filled with a liquid that steadies the needle, giving accurate readouts. But this is the traditional type of compass and it divides in several other types.
The low priced model, suited for any beginning hiker, is the basic compass that has all the main components, but has no other features like a mirror or declination adjustment.
The advanced compasses have all kinds of features and many extras (mirror, magnifier) that are functional, giving precise readings. If you go very often hiking, they are the compasses to get.
The extras that your compass has, are not aesthetic, and they have a specific role that helps you take accurate readings.
What counts the most in a hiking compass?
The stability and speed of your compass are highly important and the faster the compass needle tells you where north is, the better.
When you go mountaineering, having a fast compass is not that important as you move fairly slowly and you’re not in a rush. But, if a storm gets in the way, what use is a slow compass then?
The endurance of your compass has to be pretty good as chances are the compass is going to take at least a few dropdowns and get lost in your backpack a lot.
The durability of your compass is therefore essential. You might be careful with it on a nice, sunny weather, but what happens on a heavy wind when you also need to hold the map?
It’s almost impossible for a compass not to be dropped at least once in its lifetime…
Some features are more important than others on your compass, like a declination scale and a magnifier.
The magnifier is helpful when reading small symbols on the map, whereas a ruler measures the distance.
You should go for a large bezel so that you can use it with gloves and keep in mind that a mirror minimizes errors when moving the compass from eye-level after sighting to waist-level for reading the dial.
You can measure slope angles with a clinometer, but this is already information for the more experienced hiker.
When you travel at night, some luminescent indicators are more than useful, on both sides of your orienting arrow or even on the bezel’s 4 cardinal points.
And, if you travel in the Southern Hemisphere, a global needle is a feature to have for more accuracy. The compass needle spins freely in North America and it may tilt or drag in other parts of the world.
And, for practical uses, get a compass that comes with a lanyard. This piece of cord lets you attach the compass to a belt, your backpack or even on your wrist.
The most important part
Getting a hiking compass is not that difficult. You need to know your skill level, your needs and anticipate your hiking trails. If you only go hiking every now and then, maybe it’s better to get a basic compass, with few extras. But if hiking is your thing and you never lose a chance to go hiking, get a more sophisticated model, with plenty of extra features and functions.
Top 5 hiking compass reviews
Very easy to use, with many features and reliable readings, the Professional Multifunction Military Army Metal Sighting Compass is a great buy, especially when you run low on budget.
The compass is waterproof, shake proof and accurate for the readings. It features a reference table to estimate distance and scope and has useful sighting window with sighting line.
You can easily use the compass at night and in dim light as it features luminous display inside.
The compass is made of metal and glass and is long lasting. There is a solid, good built to the compass and the steel housing makes it ready for the heavy use.
There is a good grip for the compass, minimizing risks for dropping. The compass is precise and comes in a protective pouch.
Here are the most important pros:
- The compass is shock proof and waterproof
- The compass is easy to use and gives accurate readings
- The compass has luminous display inside, for easier reading at night
- The compass has a solid built and it’s hefty
On the other hand, there are also some parts we like less so here are our cons:
- The compass is on the heavy weight side
- The pivoting dial is a bit sloppy
- The compass has a cheap look
- The instruction is not very clear
All in all, as it’s quite easy to use, reliable, waterproof and shockproof, the compass is a great buy, especially if you go hiking or camping with your children.
Eyeskey Army Sighting Compass
For the more experienced hiker, who knows what’s the best hiking compass available, the Eyeskey Multifunction Waterproof Military Metal Army Sighting Compass is a reliable tool to get.
The compass comes with inclinometer and is great for hiking, camping, biking. The compass has a compact size and it gives accurate readings.
There are many features on the compass that recommends it as a good tool for hiking. The sighting window with sighting line is helpful and the dial has a 360-degree scale. The compass is made of metal material and is liquid-filled so the compass is long lasting.
The foldable metal lid is practical and the luminous magnet arrow makes the reading in the dim light or at night far easier. The lens is adjustable prism and the compass has a fully sealed design. The compass is waterproof, shockproof and very easy to handle and carry.
The workmanship on the compass is high quality, and the compass is not only efficient and accurate, but it also looks very good.
You don’t have to worry about metric conversion as the compass comes with CM and INCH ruler on each side. You can easily measure direction, longitude and latitude, horizontal and so on.
The compass comes with a useful English manual and a high quality carrying pouch and a strap.
The compass is very well made and is a sophisticated model.
Here are the most important pros:
- The compass is durable, compact and well made
- The compass is shockproof and waterproof
- There are many features on the compass that help with a precise reading as the compass is quite sophisticated
- The compass is easy to use and carry
When it comes to the cons, there are only few to mention:
- Some say the compass is heavy weight
- The compass has some problems with focusing, according to some
The compass manages to be easy to use by the experienced hikers and ready to take the heavy use as it’s shockproof, waterproof and durable.
Cammenga 27CS Lensatic Compass
A great, reliable and accurate compass for your hiking trips is the Phosphorescent Lensatic Compass. The compass is made in the USA and is waterproof.
The phosphorescent lensatic compass clam pack is efficient and the reading in the night is easy.
The compass comes with a carrying pouch and a belt clip, making it useful for the hiking experiences.
All moving parts of the compass are solid and the copper shell stabilizes movement.
The compass is efficient even in extremer temperatures and is durable. It’s rugged, yet lightweight, which makes it easy to carry around.
The compass comes with a very long lanyard and a carrying pouch. When we talk about performance, the compass gives accurate readings even in most challenging weather conditions.
The compass is easy to use and is good to take when camping or hiking.
Here are the main pros:
- The compass is made in our USA
- The compass is easy to use
- The compass has a good built
- The readings are accurate
The cons on the compass are the following:
- The bezel is made of plastic
- The waterproofness is not reliable and some observed rusting on the compass
- The carrying case could be of better quality
The compass is a reliable, efficient, accurate tool ready to take the heavy use, in most challenging weather conditions.
SUUNTO M-3 G Compass
As it gives accurate readings and is very easy to use, the SUUNTO M-3 G Compass qualifies as a good tool for hiking in so many situations, as it’s designed for both Hemispheres.
The compass is very well made, has a compact shape and is designed for precise and good direction taking.
The global needle has a very good balance and works everywhere around the world. The base plate has anti-slip rubber pads that add stability for accurate reading, but also protect the compass.
The compass is large and has liquid-filled capsule and adjustable declination correction scale. The ergonomic design, with rounded edges, gives a good grip on the compass.
The compass is efficient even in the cold weather as the serrated bezel ring turns easily in cold weather also. As it features luminous markings, the compass is efficient even at night or in dim light.
The needle of the compass zeros in on North easily and steady. The needle is strong magnetic type, with great performance.
The compass is non-battery operated and is reliable and easy to use.
Let’s highlight the main pros:
- The compass doesn’t need batteries
- The compass works all over the world
- The needle zeros in fast to North and steady
- The compass is accurate even in cold weather
As for the cons, here are ours:
- The instruction is a bit vague so you need to figure it on your own how to use all the features on the compass
- There is no scale for the clinometer
- The cover needs better quality as it looks rather cheap at the moment
As it’s versatile, accurate and reliable even in more difficult weather conditions, the compass is a good buy anytime, wherever you may be on this planet.