The days are getting longer, and you don’t need to wear five layers of clothes before you head out the door. Soon it will be summer, and you know what that means---another outstanding camping season.
Perhaps you even started to assemble your gear in your basement and looked to make sure everything was functioning. You made sure your backpack didn’t have holes, and your tent doesn’t smell like mold.
But while you are getting all your gear together, there’s one piece of equipment many tend to overlook. No, it’s not a mini-air conditioner. I’m talking about getting yourself a best compass for hiking.
Some of you may want to forget the rest of the following review. You might want to point out how in the age of smartphones that compasses are obsolete. Isn’t there a compass app? Don’t certain phones come with a compass?
Well, if you only plan on hiking near a city, then maybe getting a compass is not an issue for you. But for the rest of us who want to get away from the crowd, then getting a compass is more of a necessity.
Let’s face it---there are times when you won’t get coverage, or you are away from an outlet for a week.
For those who are going to spend some serious time away from what most people call “civilization,” then getting the best compass for hiking should be on the top of your priority list. The only question to ask now is, who makes the best compass? Read on and find your answer.
7 Best Compass for Hiking: Comparison and Reviews
Heavy duty canvas bag
Magnifier in the center
Needle points north on uneven surfaces
Includes a clinometer
Cobalt chrome alloys for the needle
Lensatic function increases accuracy
1. Eyeskey Multifunctional Military Metal Sighting Navigation Compass
Are you looking for one of the best navigation compasses on the market? The Eyeskey compass is the missing piece to add to your hiking equipment.
What makes this hiking compass different from others? Take for instance the multifunctional aspect. The device measures slope, azimuth angle, and even deviation angle. The sighting window can conveniently measure horizontal distances.
Do you plan on going out in cold weather? The field compass was placed at -15 degrees with ice and was still operating after the ice melted.
What are others saying about one of the best hiking compasses? One reviewer lamented how he tried to use a compass app on his phone, but it was draining his battery and using up too much of his data. He decided to buy the Eyeskey compass and loved the heavy duty, military style canvas bag.
Another pointed out how the durable compass took accurate bearings. Still, another like the solid construction, but felt it was heavy for ultra-light backpacking.
2. SUUNTO A-30 Compass
Are you looking for a lightweight backpacking compass to take on your next adventure? The SUUNTO A-30 compass is the missing piece to your pile of outdoor gear.
Why should you buy this outdoor compass, you ask? This bad boy is only 1.12 ounces and made of durable acrylic. You won’t need to worry about your apparatus get scratched with your other gear.
The travel compass uses Suunto’s two-zone system for reliable readings in the northern hemisphere so that you won’t get lost.
Will you have a night hike this summer? The compass comes with luminous markings for navigating in poor visibility.
The reviews are in, and they are positive. One person loved how the high-quality compass is lightweight and enjoyed how the north needle and bezel ring glows in the dark. The same person commented that he could leave his reading glasses at home with the built-in magnifier in the center.
Another reviewer liked the included string, allowing the user to wear the outstanding product around his neck.
3. SUUNTO A-10 Recreational Field Compass
Do you see yourself as a weekend warrior who only wants a simple baseplate compass? The SUUNTO A-10 is the best compass to buy for those who don’t plan on getting too far from civilization.
Why should you buy this fantastic walking compass? Take for instance how the product weighs only 3.52 ounces. Then there’s the durable scratch-resistant construction of acrylic, and don’t forget how you can fit the item in the palm of your hand.
If you are a boy scout and hoping to get your orientation merit badge, this is the best Suunto compass to buy. But don’t take my word for it. What are others saying?
One reviewer raved about the excellent included directions. He went on to say how the needle will point north, even on unlevel surfaces. The reviewer went on to point out how the user needs to make sure the needle doesn’t bump the top or bottom of the housing.
Another reviewer lamented how the compass doesn’t glow in the dark. But others like the durable construction and how it could be carried around in your pocket. Some would say it is the best backpacking compass.
4. Silva Ranger 515 Compass
Are you looking for a walking compass that will complement your rugged outdoor adventure lifestyle? The Silva Ranger is a necessary item to add to your purchasing list.
Take for instance how the compass delivers exceptional accuracy in even the worst of conditions. The baseplate has three scales for easy navigation with a map. There are silicone feet to provide a firm grip on your map, making the Silva Ranger the best map compass.
There’s even a clinometer to measure angles of inclination. With a clinometer you can measure slope angles, making the mountaineering compass an excellent tool for the winter hiker who needs to estimate danger on avalanche-prone slopes.
What do others have to say about this top-rated compass? One person in Alaska boasted how the declination adjustment works great, and the dial spins smoothly.
Another liked how the compass comes with a mirror so he can have a handsome appearance in the morning and the dial is easy to use.
Another reviewer mentioned how he didn’t like the sighting options. The person said he couldn’t read the heading while aiming at an object. But another boasted how his compass always put him to within five-meters of his intended target, making the Silva Ranger one of the best navigation compasses.
5. Suunto MC-2G In Global Compass
Are you looking for a travel compass you can take to both the northern and southern hemisphere? Do you want the confidence that you are getting the best compass for hiking and backpacking? You need to get the Suunto MC-2G.
Why may you ask? A fair question to ask. The Suunto MC-2G has a global needle that operates anywhere in the world. There’s a large mirror, additional sighting hole, luminous bezel ring, and baseplate with a magnifying lens.
What are others saying about the backpacking compass? One mentioned the compass is overall a great- built compass. All the essential features work such as the needle pointing north, the mirror reflects, the magnifier does an exceptional job at magnifying, and the declination adjustment works.
Another believed that the compass is extraordinary for both beginners and the wilderness explorer.
6. Brunton – TruArc 3 – Base Plate Compass
Are you still looking for the best compass for backpacking? Are you on a budget and need the best cheap compass? The Brunton needs to get in your bag, and I mean in your bag now.
The compass is cheap, but not in quality. The Brunton has a global needle system. Why should you have a global needle? The global needle provides accuracy in both the northern and southern hemisphere.
There’s also advanced navigation, meaning it resists magnetic interference. The compass is easy to use with imperial and metric scales.
What do others say about the best backpacking compass in some estimations? One reviewer enjoyed having a multi-zone needle, useful in both hemispheres. The needle is also steady enough to provide a general reading while you are walking.
Another liked the nylon lanyard, and the compass comes with an exceptional reference guide. Also, if your product breaks, Brunton will replace the product free of charge.
7. Sportneer Military Lensatic Sighting Compass with Carrying Bag, Waterproof and Shakeproof
If you have read this far, you are still considering the best backpacking compass to meet your needs. If you plan on doing some hiking, then consider getting the Sportneer Compass.
This amazing military compass will lead you where you want to go with a lensatic function that increases the reader’s accuracy. The military construction is durable, giving you confidence that your compass will make it through the fiercest storm and down the deepest ravine.
But wait---there’s more to love. You can keep the compass near you with a belt loop attachment or place it in a carrying case. This bad boy will also glow in the dark. It even has a laser sighting.
But don’t take the company’s word that this is the best compass for backpacking. What do others have to say?
One reviewer liked how he could get his product wet without fear of damage. Another pointed out how the compass was easy to sight in when taking a bearing. He went on to say the carrying case is well made.
There you have it---a review of some of the best compass brands. There are many compass reviews for hiking to read other than the one you are currently reading. As you can tell by the chart, there are many factors to consider when getting the best compass for hiking and backpacking.
Some will look at the essential components to determine the best compass for hiking. Others want some advanced features, such as a global needle or having something called a lensatic function to increase accuracy.
Maybe you want a clinometer to figure out if a slope is safe to walk on.
Perhaps you are new at getting the best hiking compass to meet your needs. Maybe you don’t know where to start. You might be asking if you need some of the advanced features mentioned in this review.
For those in a mental fog, the following will help you navigate through the turbulent sea of features.
The Ultimate Guide: Best Compass for Hiking and Backpacking
How to Choose the Best Basic Compass:
Does size better in a compass? It comes down to personal preference. Many will like the idea of placing their compass in their pocket. While others might have more concern about getting their device full of scratches and will instead have a canvas bag or lanyard.
Only the two military-style compasses reviewed came with a high-quality canvas bag. The others either went with a lanyard, or you needed to place them in your pocket. There was little variance in overall dimension size.
The main point is to get something where you can read the numbers and get an accurate reading. Don’t get something so small that the numbers are impossible to read.
In this review, two products have military-style construction. There was the Eyeskey with aluminum alloy construction and the Sportnear. The tradeoff with having something durable in your possession is the weight.
The other compasses were of lighter material, such as acrylic and plastic. Having a lighter material means a higher risk of breakage. The consumer needs to consider the advantage of durability to price.
Take for instance the Brunton brand mentioned in this review. If the compass were to break, the company would replace the compass free of charge.
For those who are new with compasses, the bezel is the ring marked with degrees from 0 to 360. All compasses will have numbers marked on the circular apparatus.
The difference between compasses comes to the space between the numbers of 0 to 360. As you can guess, the smaller the interval between numbers, the more precise the reading.
If you are near a city and already on a well-marked trail, then the space interval might not be an issue, but if you are counted on your compass to find your basecamp in the middle of a storm, then getting the most precise bezel ring is to your advantage.
A magnifying glass is nice to have for those who want to read precise map details. One advantage is for those who classify themselves as near-sighted can still enjoy the great outdoors without having to carry reading glasses on the trail.
If having a magnifier is something you need to have, then consider getting the Suunto A-30, Silva Ranger, or the Suunto MC-2G.
For those who have been in construction for any length of time, you know that level is always best when getting a reading. The same is also true for those who want to navigate in the woods. The best option is always to get your compass on a level surface when looking for magnetic north.
The Suunto A-10 was different in that you could still get an accurate reading even on unlevel surfaces. The main stipulation was to make sure the needle didn’t rub against the top or bottom of the fluid housing.
How to Choose the Best Advanced Compass:
The difference between magnetic north and true north is called “magnetic declination.” In the USA declination can vary as much as 20 degrees. Brunton and Suunto compasses enable the user to make declination adjustments, so you don’t have to keep adding or subtracting degrees.
If you don’t want to deal with always making declination adjustments, then consider getting either a Suunto compass or the Brunton brand.
A global needle can find north no matter if you are in the northern or southern hemisphere.
If you do some extensive hiking, then consider getting a compass with a global needle. Two brands reviewed here with a global-needle were the Brunton and Suunto MC-2G compasses.
If you are doing some mountaineering or backcountry skiing, then you need a compass with a clinometer. The advanced practical feature measures slope angles and can help you properly access avalanche hazards.
The Silva Ranger was the only compass reviewed with a clinometer.
If getting a precise measurement is something you need, then get a sighting mirror. The mirror helps you aim more accurately at distant objects. The mirror can also take on the role of an emergency signaling device.
If getting a precise measurement is something you require from your compass, then consider getting the Sportneer, Suunto MC-2G, Silva Ranger or the Eyeskey compass.
If you plan on hiking to see the sunrise or trying to find your way back to basecamp after a breathtaking sunset, having a device that glows in the dark is a great advanced feature.
If getting a compass that glows in the dark is something you need on your next adventure, consider getting the Sportneer, Suunto MC -2G, and the Suunto A-30.
Backlight durability is an illuminating feature for liquid displays. As you can guess, backlighting is from either the side or back of the numbers you want to read in your best hiking compass. Some compasses may have backlighting if they have a luminosity feature.
Types of Compasses for Hiking & Backpacking
Some compasses above are liquid compasses. For example, Suunto compasses have a magnetized needle immersed in the fluid.
There are also lensatic compasses, where the apparatus contains a lens and a lid with a hairline. One such example is Sportneer.
Then there are baseplate compasses, where a liquid filled compass is on a rectangular base made of clear plastic. If you are plotting distances and need an excellent map compass, then get one with a baseplate.
Many of the compasses reviewed in this article have a base plate, such as the Brunton, Suunto MC-2G, Silva Ranger, Suunto A-10, and the Suunto A-30.
How to Use a Hiking Compass
There are four main directions on a compass, namely north, south, west, east. The main path for navigation is north. Typically, the red part of the needle points to the magnetic north.
The other feature to note is the scale on the ring that goes from 0 to 360 degrees. When you find the magnetic north, you only turn the dial, so the “N” on your compass measures up with the red part of the needle.
Once you have everything lined up, the next step is to determine where you want to go. Say, for example; you want to head west, then you hold the compass in your hand and look for the “W” on the ring and then start walking in that direction.
Why Compass is Still Important Hiking Equipment
If you plan on getting away from cell phone towers, then having a compass is a necessary piece to your backpacking needs. Let’s face it---not everyone is going to hike near civilization, and even if you did, there’s no guarantee that your battery life is going to make it past the first night.
Don’t rely on the latest compass app. You owe it to yourself to get a compass if you get separated from your friends. Maybe you need to look for a lost friend. How will you search for someone off the beaten path without a reliable device to tell you the direction you are heading?
Don’t rely on your phone to rescue you. Make sure you have a compass in your backpack.
Hiking Safety Tips
If you are going to explore the great outdoors with your children, the first item to consider is getting each of your precious ones a whistle. They can blow their whistle in case there’s an emergency. Also, adults should have whistles in case they need to get someone’s attention.
Make sure you prepare for changing weather conditions. I always take raingear with me when I go hiking. Also, make sure you have an extra change of clothes even if you only plan on going out for a few hours.
Don’t ever leave the house without a first-aid kit. You never know when you’ll have a medical emergency. Also, have an excellent multi-tool knife.
Always prepare your trip ahead of time. You need to consider where you will set up your tent and even places to get water. Make sure you bring a water filtration system or get some water purifying tablets. It’s never a good idea to drink untreated stream water.
There are many compasses to pick from, but only one is the best compass for hiking where you plan on going. There are many factors to consider, such as if you need an advanced feature or if getting one with a magnifier is something you need.
The only part you need to do is either travel to your favorite outdoor recreational store or shop online. Then go out and explore the vast outdoors while you have a spring in our step and blood pulsating in your veins. Now get out and make some memories.