Are you looking to venture into the great outdoors but are worried about getting lost? A compass can help keep you on the right track by helping you find north and orienteering yourself, no matter how far away from civilization you are! Compasses are an essential tool for hikers, boy scouts, or anyone that wants to prepare for surviving in the wilderness.
Choosing the best hiking compass can be confusing considering how many different features are available. Luckily, we’ve done the research for you and picked the Baseplate Compass with Attached Sighting Mirror by Suunto as our favorite. It has an adjustable declination, is well-made, and is sturdy. We’ve also put together an 8 best list for you to consider and created a handy buying guide reviewed by an outdoor guide to help you make your choice!
Before buying a hiking compass, there are a few points you should take into consideration, such as which functions you need. To help you with this, we’ve put together this handy buying guide!
There are many different features that you can find on a hiking compass, and it all depends on how serious you take your hikes. Hiking compasses can be divided into two broad categories that correlate to how many features you need.
The most important feature of any compass is a magnetic needle that will always point north quickly. It should have orienting lines and measurements on the baseplate so you can measure distances on your map. The baseplate should also have a direction-of-travel arrow so you can keep track of the direction you’re moving.
If you’re going for a hike in a safe and contained location, then a basic compass might be all you need. However, if you’re looking to wander into the wilderness and want to find your way back, an orienteering compass is the best choice.
An orienteering compass has basic compass features and additional ones to make navigation easier and more accurate.
One of the most important and common features is a declination adjustment. Due to varieties in magnetic declination from area to area, you might need to adjust your compass to reflect the differences between magnetic north and true north.
A clinometer is another handy tool you’ll find on an orienteering compass, and it measures the angle of your elevation.
Compasses with a sighting mirror are always great for more precise navigation as you can take a bearing from a distant object with greater accuracy.
The baseplate is the surface that the compass is attached to. If you're going to be working from a map on your hike, we recommend getting a compass with a see-through baseplate.
You’ll find a clear baseplate to be invaluable as it allows you to see the map while you take a bearing.
Another baseplate feature that you may find useful is a magnifying glass. Many baseplates have a small magnifying glass built-in, and it helps you read small details on a map.
For extra convenience, look for a lanyard attachment. With this, you can keep your compass around your neck or attached to your bag without the fear of losing it.
See-through baseplates also come with navigational markings and a ruler to help you measure distances on a paper map.
The bezel is the rotating ring that surrounds the housing of the compass. It’s printed with the different directions of the compass and degrees from zero to 360. The level of detail on the bezels can differ from compass to compass, however.
Some compasses might have the degrees marked out in five or ten-degree segments, but we recommend compasses with every individual degree marked. You can even get some compasses that mark to the level of half degrees! The more detailed the bezel is, the more precise your readings and orienteering will be.
The smaller the interval of degrees, the easier it is to navigate precisely.
If you’re out in nature, you can’t always rely on your GPS or cell phone reception to rescue you if you get lost. Your only way back to civilization might be your map and compass, so you need to make sure that your compass is durable.
Many compasses are set in cases with a lid that closes over the compass to protect it. Others come in a padded and protective pouch to keep the compass safe and clean.
A bezel and needle that glow in the dark can help you on night hikes. Just remember to expose them to light before it gets dark! If you’re going to be hiking in extreme temperatures, make sure that your compass can cope with the heat or cold.
It also may be essential for you to get a waterproof compass. There are several ways to measure how waterproof a compass is, and the best is the IP waterproof rating. The higher the second digit in the rating, the more waterproof it is.
Some compasses will say what depth of water it can be submerged in, whereas others only say that they are waterproof without defining what that means. If a waterproof compass is essential for you, look for an IP rating since this is the best standard for measuring how waterproof something is.
Metals that contain iron can ruin your compass. Keep your compass away from your car, metallic objects magnets, metal benches, and signs. Also, electrical fields can also throw off the accuracy of a compass. Always be sure to have another source of navigation when you are in the wilderness!
When you’re hiking, it’s easy to get caught in bad weather quickly or become lost before you’ve even realized that you’ve wandered off-track. If this happens to you, then you’ll need to reorientate and find north quickly.
The time it takes for the needle to settle is known as the dampening time. Having the needle in a liquid-filled housing is one of the main factors in dampening time. Liquid allows the needle to float freely and find north quickly. Just make sure that the liquid won’t freeze if you’re hiking in cold temperatures!
Sometimes the liquid in the compass can develop air bubbles, and these can mess with the compass reading. Giving the compass a few light taps usually does the trick, but if there are too many air bubbles, you might need to purchase a new compass.
We’ve searched the internet to find the best hiking compasses available. We made our choices based on the points listed in the buying guide below, as well as reviewer comments when available.
*Please note that these products were chosen after extensive research by mybest writers. The choices are not necessarily affiliated with or recommended by Pak Eugene.
Baseplate Compass with Attached Sighting Mirror
Military Lensatic Sighting Compass
Hiking Backpacking Compass
Deluxe Map Compass With Raised Base Plate
Multifunctional Military Metal Sighting Navigation Compass
Hiking Backpacking Compass
Adjustable Declination and a Mirror for Signalling
Sturdy Compass That Can Take Some Damage
Clear Numbers That Are Easy to Read
A Good Teaching Compass
Durable Compass With a Number of Features
Good Compass for Map Reading
A Basic Compass With Many Features
Durable and Well-Constructed Compass
|Size||3.56 x 4.98 x 1.71 in.||2.05 x 2.76 x 0.98 in.||2 x 4.7 in.||2.4 x 5 x 0.6 in.||2.56 x 3.98 x 1.22 in.||2.4 x 4 in.||5.8 in.||2.48 x 3.93 x 1.3 in.|
MC-2 NH USGS
|Size||3.56 x 4.98 x 1.71 in.|
|Size||2.05 x 2.76 x 0.98 in.|
|Size||2 x 4.7 in.|
|Size||2.4 x 5 x 0.6 in.|
|Size||2.56 x 3.98 x 1.22 in.|
|Size||2.4 x 4 in.|
|Size||2.48 x 3.93 x 1.3 in.|
MC-2 NH USGS
|Size||3.56 x 4.98 x 1.71 in.|
Any compass made by Suunto will really reliable. These are a Finnish brand company made over 70 years ago and are the standard for outdoor expeditions of all kinds. These compasses come with all of the necessary elements for orienteering and are able to take a beating and last a very long time.
If you like to hike, having the right gear is essential. Thankfully we have more recommendations to help you!
This expert reviewed the contents of the buying guide for accuracy and provided factual corrections when necessary. They did not participate in the product selection process, nor are they affiliated with any of our choices unless explicitly stated so.
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