You may not think much about getting lost in the wild because you feel you have a smartphone enabled with a GPS tracker. But what happens when your phone’s battery dies on you? You’re completely lost and alone, and no one can reach you nor can you reach out for help.
It’s only in such unfortunate circumstances that you realize the worth of going hiking or backpacking with a good compass. But before you step into the market or check online, acquaint yourself with the types of compasses available today.
Types of Compasses:
You may be a casual trekker or a professional on a huge ocean liner. No matter what your walk of life may be, a compass will always come to your help and assist you in reaching your destination. Here are the different types of compasses to choose from:
One of the commonest types and best compass for the money, the baseplate compass is liquid-filled and mounts onto a plastic rectangular base. A magnifying lens to read maps, luminous lamps for low-light reading form part of its components. This compass type is good for plotting but cannot sight distant objects as it lacks the necessary features.
Also called a military compass, the lensatic compass has three main parts:
- The base: This is the body of the compass which holds the needle, bezel or dial and rotating scales.
- The cover: The sighting wire is housed here which protects the compass when shut.
- The rear lens: This projects outwards when you open the compass and serves to read the bezel or dial.
This type of compass is also called a marine compass as it is generally used on boats and ships. Unlike other compass types, it has a fixed needle that depends on a moving compass card for the correct directions. Since the moving absorbs the motion associated with boats, it is more dependable to have a fixed needle rather than a needle compass.
Sports in which map reading and one’s association with the terrain are important to use a thumb compass. Such sports are called orienteering sports. Here, the compass gets linked to the user’s thumb and lets the competitor hold the compass and map in one hand while moving speedily ahead, whether on foot or by canoe or bike.
This compass is used by those who need extremely accurate navigation assistance. Sighting the prism lets the user read the compass while also spotting distant objects.
A gyrocompass is a navigational compass that houses a gyroscope motor. This motor registers the direction of the true north along the earth’s surface. This compass does not rely on magnetism.
This compass offers a numerical readout of one’s bearings. Not only does it give accurate readings but also allows you to store your bearings in the compass’ memory. The disadvantages are that this kind of compass is not ideal for map work, and it requires a power source to work, thereby rendering it unreliable.
How Does Compass Work?
A compass works by finding out the Earth’s natural magnetic fields. The Earth’s magnetic field comprises two poles—north and south. These magnetic poles are a little away from the rotation of the Earth’s axis but are close enough so that the general directions along with some polar differences or declination can be used while navigating.
A compass is made of a lightweight magnet and a magnetized needle that is fixed to a free moving pivot. In this position, the needle reacts better to magnetic fields in the neighborhood. To locate north, the southern pole of the needle gets attracted to the magnetic north pole of the Earth.
When and Why Should I Carry A Compass?
If you’re traveling by road, hiking for days or are on the high seas, it’s necessary to possess a compass and map. While traveling, you might just take a wrong turn. That’s when the need for the best compass is truly felt.
Difference Between a Digital vs. Analog Compass
A digital compass is like its analog counterpart in the sense that both these compass types use the Earth’s magnetic field to determine the true North location, and both help trail makers, hikers, bikers and mapmakers in telling them which way they are going.
However, the difference lies in the fact that an analog compass can be wobbly due to some movement and can face interference from strong magnetic areas, thereby giving inaccurate readings.
On the other hand, a digital compass is sturdier and more accurate since it uses only the North Pole to guide it.
Alec Greg, an avid outdoor enthusiast and writer, intricately weaves passion for nature into captivating narratives. With expertise in hiking, camping, and wilderness survival, his evocative articles in top outdoor publications inspire readers to embrace and explore the beauty of the natural world.