Do I Need A Compass For Hiking?

Best Compass For Hiking: 12 Top Options

Whether you are preparing for the adventure of a lifetime or looking for a product to have in case of an emergency, you always need a compass. If you are hiking, backpacking, camping, or participating in many outdoor activities, you are going to want a compass. The last thing you want to do is get lost after a long day of adventure. Find the best compass for hiking so you can be safe in your outdoor experience.

Top 12 Best Compass for Hiking Options

1. Cammenga Phosphorescent Clam Pack  

The Cammenga Phosphorescent Clam Pack Lensatic Compass is going to be an investment. It is higher priced but users are convinced that it is worth the investment. It is heavier because of the phosphorescent material that is used. It weighs 5 ounces. 

A few more benefits about this compass is that it is very durable. It is waterproof, shockproof, and sand proof. It is prepared to handle any activity you encounter. This compass can also last in extreme heat and cold temperatures. It also comes with a pouch to keep the compass safe and a belt clip to make it convenient to attach to you while you are hiking or backpacking. 

The Cammenga Phosphorescent Clam Pack Lensatic Compass is balanced for the northern hemisphere for this model. However, they do make a compass that is balanced for the southern hemisphere. This is an important feature to take into consideration before purchasing the model.

Specifications 

  • Rotating bezel 
  • Cast Aluminum 
Pros
  • Portable
  • Phosphorescent display
  • Non-liquid damaging mechanism
  • Military-grade
  • Sighting peephole
  • 10 page reading guide
  • Up to 40 mils of accuracy
Cons
  • Heavy
  • Hard to see and read degree numbers

Sample Customer Review… Just like my military-issued one. This is always the best in my opinion because it’s simple and easy to use. Doesn’t have superfluous junk on it and is made for both map work and using on the move. Land navigation and map work was the bread and butter of my career field. I am a retired USAF TACP, so map work was essential at all times. A compass-like this is compact, easy to use and read, and fits in a small pocket for easy access so you don’t lose it. I suggest a simple 550 cord lanyard or lanyard cord of some other kind to make sure it doesn’t get lost.

Read more reviews at Amazon.com

2. Eyeskey Tactical Survival Compass 

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The Eyeskey Tactical Survival Compass is ready for your travel adventures. It is shockproof and waterproof to protect your compass and ensure it can handle your adventures. This compass is easy to read and also provides accurate readings. The fluorescent light will help you find your way at night. 

The Eyeskey Tactical Survival Compass includes a rotating bezel that is designed to ensure you are traveling in the right direction. It also has a conversion chart. It comes with a pouch and lanyard so you can travel with this compass conveniently. 

Specifications 

  • Waterproof and shockproof 
  • Easy and accurate readings 
  • Taking bearings easily 
  • Allow for clear reading at night 
  • Conversion chart 
Pros
  • Sturdy
  • Shockproof
  • Accurate
  • Durable
  • Waterproof
Cons
  • Does not open all the way flat
  • Fluid leaked
  • Air inside

Sample Customer Review… This Compass seems well made and is everything that I remember when I was a Boy Scout many years back. It made me have to check out how to use the instrument again, but it came back really quick. Even with GPS and other electronics available, this unit will not fail me or anyone who purchases it. It is a nice, well-made instrument and as a slide rule, it is as accurate as it can be. Eyeskey did a great job in finding this and putting it on the market. I don’t think that my reliance on GPS is as needed as it was before. Shipped promptly, efficiently, and intact. Well Protected and packed …A great reunion with a compass in about 40+ years. I love it.

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3. GWHOLE Military Lensatic Sighting Compass 

The GWHOLE Military Lensatic Sighting Compass is a very inexpensive product. It is shake-proof and waterproof to protect the compass. It also comes with valuable additional products. Such as a lanyard, pouch, and manual. This compass also includes a fluorescent light to allow you to use the compass in the dark. 

The GWHOLE Military Lensatic Sighting Compass has a built-in bubble level to ensure that the compass is providing accurate readings. Another feature of this product is that it has rules on each side.

Unfortunately, this compass is heavy for its size. If you are looking for a lightweight compass for hiking or backpacking, this may not be the right fit for you. It also cannot adjust the declination. Many users like to adjust their declination. 

Specifications 

  • Metal body 
  • Can work under all weather conditions
  • High accuracy 
  • Waterproof and shake-proof 
  • Includes pouch and lanyard. 
Pros
  • Cheap
  • Well constructed metal body
  • Flourescent light
  • Waterproof
  • Bulit-in bubble level
  • Nylon carrying case
Cons
  • Heavy
  • Plastic material may not be as durable as it seems

Sample Customer Review… Nicely made, seems quite solid but the base is thin plastic. If you are reasonably careful with it there should be no issues with the construction. It has a bubble level to help with accuracy and a little sight tube so you can sight down the crosshairs and see the compass degree reading at the same time. Comes with a nice (although very small print) set of instructions and a nylon carry case with a belt loop. There is also a lanyard attached to a folding ring on the compass. Overall I’m happy with it. If I was a rugged outdoorsman I might look for a slightly more rugged instrument, but this one surpasses my needs.

Read more reviews at Amazon.com

4. Sportneer Military Lensatic Sighting Compass 

The Sportneer Military Lensatic Sighting Compass is a professional-grade military compass.  It has many uses but is designed for camping, military use, and emergencies. The military construction ensures that this compass is durable. It is shake-proof and waterproof to last through tough adventures. 

The lensatic function improves the accuracy of the compass. It is also very portable and comes in different ways to carry the compass. It comes with a belt loop attachment and also includes a carrying case. 

The Sportneer Military Lensatic Sighting Compass is fluorescent so you can find your way in the dark. 

Specifications

  • Carrying case
  • Professional grade 
  • Ergonomic design 
  • Military construction 
  • Portable 
  • Fluorescent 
Pros
  • High-quality
  • Leveling bubble
  • Fluorescent
  • Reliable compass meters
  • Has features for multiple outdoor activities
Cons
  • Scratched
  • Dull luminous glow
  • Some users complained it broke after a short time

Sample Customer Review… This has to be the best compass on Amazon. It’s waterproof, sturdy, comes with a nice case, and setting the “degrees” is easy via a rotating dial. You can feel the solid quality when holding this compass. You will receive a heavy (solid) product so don’t think this is a lightweight item. Therefore, if you are taking long hikes, the compass may slightly weigh down your backpack. I like how the product has a level “bubble” so you can if the compass is on a level surface.

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5. Ueasy Military Compass 

The Ueasy Military Compass is a well-received compass on the market. The aluminum material ensures that the compass is very durable and able to keep up with all of your activities. It is also waterproof and shake-proof. This compass is designed to last you throughout the years. One factor to consider is that it is heavier than other compasses. If you are planning on purchasing a compass for its lightweight features to travel lightly, this may not be the compass for you. 

The Ueasy Military Compass has different features to allow this compass to be multifunctional. Some of the features include a sighting telescope, a ruler, and a conversion chart. These features are a great way to further utilize the space of the compass. It also ensures that this compass is very practical for any obstacles you may run into. 

Specifications

  • Shakeproof 
  • High accuracy and stability 
  • Special design 
  • Fluorescent light 
  • Multifunctional 
  • Money-back guarantee 
Pros
  • High-quality
  • Reasonably priced
  • Durable
  • Come with lanyard for easy carry
Cons
  • Pale green pointer
  • Plastic face
  • Heavy

Sample Customer Review… This a great compass and easy to use, if you know how to use this type of compass. I did have a problem reading the numbers when sighting through the sights, but this was not the problem with the compass, it was because I wear bifocals and they did not work well with this compass. My son took it out for evaluation and had no problem at all. As I said that problem I had was not a problem with the compass. It works quickly and easily and it repeats well. I have seen more expensive ones that do not work as well.

Read more reviews at Amazon.com

6. Proster IP65 Compass 

The Proster IP65 Compass is very basic. It does not have many high-tech features. However, it does have a clinometer to measure height and slopes.  It also has a luminous feature for you to use the compass in the dark. This compass also functions under extreme weather conditions. Whether you are in an area where it is super hot or extremely cold, this compass will work. 

The weight of this compass is not ideal. It weighs much more than the other compasses we have included in this article. Weight at 11.02 ounces, this compass is not recommended if you are trying to travel light. Additionally, the declination of the compass can not be set. Many users like to have this option. 

The Proster IP65 Compass does have a foldable metal lid to ensure that the face of the compass is protected. 

Specifications

  • Clinometer 
  • Sighting telescope 
  • Fluorescent design 
  • Multifunctions 
  • Application
Pros
  • Cheap
  • Basic
  • Luminous magnetic arrow
  • Great range of features
  • Durable
Cons
  • Poorly constructed
  • Heavy
  • Not very accurate

Sample Customer Review… Former Military Policeman who spent a lot of time in the field (Korea, Germany). Taught Land Nav course and can say that this is a keeper. I don’t know if the issues in the reviews were flaws in former models or user error/knowledge. I would trust my and my family’s dependence if out in the field. This compass actually has more features (Clinometer) and comparable in accuracy to the lensatics I used in the Army. I would definitely recommend this compass to anyone. This compass’s features are more advanced than a straight-up basic compass, so a beginner might not understand how to use it except to find the direction of travel.

Read more reviews at Amazon.com

7. SE Military Lensatic and Prismatic Sighting

The SE Military Lensatic and Prismatic Sighting compass have a thermo-elastic liquid-filled capsule to make sure that you can use this compass no matter what time of day it is. It is fluorescent in case you are using it at night. 

This compass can be used for many activities including camping, hiking, training, and many more. It is made with high-quality materials to provide military toughness. The SE Military Lensatic and Prismatic Sighting compass also come with a water-resistant nylon pouch to make sure your compass is protected and lasts throughout your adventures. 

This compass is heavy compared to others on the market. It weighs 3.68 oz which can provide complications if you are planning to travel light.

Specifications

  • Fluorescent 
  • Versatile 
  • Function
  • Accurate 
  • Military toughness
Pros
  • Water-resistant nylon pouch
  • Adjustable lens
  • Rulers on both sides of compass
  • Built-in bubble level
  • Carry pouch
Cons
  • Slow
  • Inaccurate
  • Heavy
  • Declination can be hard to handle

Sample Customer Review… This is a nice lensatic compass, and much better than the ones you find for $4 to $12 at many stores. It’s solid, comfortable, comes with a pouch, and matches the expensive military compass perfectly, on multiple tests, so we know it’s accurate. The pictures show exactly what it is. The bezel moves smoothly, it feels good and opens nicely. It’s not a $150 compass, but for what it costs, it’s well worth its price. We prefer this to the flat Silva and Brunton, and we feel comfortable using these (got husband one for Christmas) around here. We are surrounded by State and National forests, with a Wilderness Area 11 miles away, and one backcountry trail comes within 60′ of our property. This compass does exactly what we need, and with the magnified peephole, you don’t need to get out the reading glasses to be able to see the tiny little lines, it’s very easy to see the center of the big oak about 60′ away from the den window is exactly 92 degrees. I feel comfortable carrying this when walking on the trails, or walking off-trail.

Read more reviews at Amazon.com

8. SUUNTO A-10 NH Metric Recreational Field Compass

The Suunto A-10 NH Metric Recreational Field Compass is a great product of the market. It is very lightweight weighing 1.06 oz. This feature makes this compass very practical for various outdoor activities. Especially if you are hiking or backpacking, a lightweight compass is important to consider before purchasing. 

The Suunto A-10 NH Metric Recreational Field Compass is perfect for beginners. It provides basic navigation and is very easy to use. 

A unique feature of this product is the snap-lock lanyard. It is easy to detach when needed. It is convenient when you are trying to work the map to determine your path. It is also reasonably priced which is another feature that attracts numerous customers. 

Specifications

  • Balanced for the northern hemisphere
  • Stable operation 
  • detachable snap-lock lanyard 
  • Steel needle 
Pros
  • Reasonably priced
  • Lightweight
  • High-quality
  • Compact
  • Come with detachable lanyard
  • Splashproof
Cons
  • No Clinometer
  • Fixed declination
  • Number and marks that are painted tend to fade

Sample Customer Review… Does what a basic compass should do. Tested it on a hike today and it appeared to function properly: sent me in the right direction and got me back to my car. I don’t intend to do any extravagant navigation–just wanted a basic compass that wasn’t hard to figure out and would get me back on track in an emergency situation. This does that. So I’m a happy hiker.

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9. Silva Polaris Compass 

The Silva Polaris Compass is very standard. It comes in one size. One benefit of this compass is that it is very easy to read. The needle is made of steel and there is a friction-free sapphire bearing to protect your compass. 

This compass is small and slim to bring on various outdoor activities. There is a clip where you have the option to attach a lanyard. Unlike other products, this compass does not come with its own lanyard. This can provide an inconvenience for users. 

The Silva Polaris Compass is prepared to assist you throughout any time of the day. This compass has a high-visibility green color that makes it very easy to read in the dark. Whether you are hiking or camping, the sun can set fast and you need to be prepared.

Specifications

  • Slim 
  • Durable 
  • Easy to read 
  • Fixed declination scale 
  • Friction-free sapphire bearing 
  • Comes with instructions 
Pros
  • Accurate
  • Lightweight
  • Clear to read
  • Affordable
  • Orientation lines
Cons
  • No lanyard
  • Not very durable

Sample Customer Review… I looked at many different compasses in an effort to purchase something basic with which to find my way home, should my GPS ever fail in the field (I always carry a plain old paper map as well). This checked the block nicely for the amount of money I wanted to spend. It’s nicely made – does not feel cheap. The needle sweeps smoothly and easily and the bezel ring moves nicely as well. The lanyard ring is a nice touch. I attached a piece of 550 para-cord to it and now I’m all set. The only thing I wish this had was some sort of soft pocket or pouch to place it in to keep the face from becoming scratched. Still, it seems like pretty scratch-resistant plastic and I could have paid more for another model and had that, so for the money, this is a great buy.

Read more reviews at Amazon.com

10. Brunton TruArc5 Baseplate Mapping Compass

Brunton TruArc5 Baseplate Mapping Compass has a global needle to ensure that you can find your path no matter where you are traveling. You can adjust the declination feature but some users have had challenges with this. 

A great feature of this compass is its weight. It is very lightweight at 1.1 ounces. It is also compact and easy to transport so that you can take it with you on various trips. It is practical for hiking, fishing, camping, and many more. The lightweight feature is a strong competitive advantage to reach a larger target audience. It is also reasonably priced and also includes a ruler on the side of the compass. It is a good idea to add to increase the opportunities for use. The Brunton TruArc5 Baseplate Mapping Compass also comes with a lanyard, allowing the compass to be easier to travel with. 

Specifications 

  • Global Needle 
  • Tool-less 
  • Magnifier 
  • Made in the USA 
  • 2-degree resolution
  • Weighs 1.1 ounces
Pros
  • Good price
  • Global needle
  • Lightweight
Cons
  • No instructions
  • Declination adjustment issues

Sample Customer Review… For the money, it’s a great compass. I did not experience the problems setting the declination that other users who rated the product were having. No complaints function perfectly. I immediately took it out of the package, oriented a topo map of my local area, and then set the declination with ease. I’m not sure if I just lucked out or if the manufacturer has corrected the problems with the more recent production runs of this model. No complaints.

Read more reviews at Amazon.com

11. Suunto MC-2G Global Compass

This is a very sophisticated compass that is simple to use. The compass includes many advanced features that are perfect for avid hikers. It has a retractable sighting mirror that helps with the accuracy of the device. The compass is quite compact and is often smaller than most hiking watches.

The baseplate of the compass includes luminescent markers that can be read in low-light areas. This compass comes with a detachable lanyard so it can be easily taken on and off during your travels. The compass is also splashproof so you do not have to worry if it gets a little wet.

Specifications

  • Precise directional measurements
  • Dependable in low-light areas
  • High quality craftsmanship
Pros
  • Clinometer
  • Luminescent markings
  • Global needle
  • Rubber feet allows for great stability
  • Splashproof
Cons
  • Cover can be hard to open
  • Heavy

Sample Customer Review… A gift from a former hiker/climber to his son, I looked through a lot of reviews and this came out in the balance of functionality, accuracy, and durability. In the age of GPS, some newbies ask “Why a Compass? The simple answer is battery failure and the reality that a well-understood com-pass and chart is still the best way of understanding not where you’ve been, or where you are, but in which direction to take your next step. Suunto has the best (and universally good) reputation of all but a few very expensive boutique compasses. It would be hard to beat this combination of accuracy and durability.

Read more reviews at Amazon.com

12. Silva Ranger 515 Compass

This hiking compass is very similar to the Suunto MC-2G compass. The only feature that Silva does not have compared to Suunto is the global needle. But besides that, this compass has every other great feature. This compass is on the more expensive side because of the advanced perks that come with it. If you are a dedicated hiker who plans on staying in the country then this is the compass for you.

The base plate of the compass is quite crowded with scale markings and the face is distinguishably marked by a black bezel. The lid also snaps shut so there can be no worries it will open while being tossed around in your bag. A lanyard strap can also be attached to the compass for easy carrying. The markings on this compass are luminous and Silva claims that these markers are four times as bright as hiking watches and do not wear down over time.

Specifications

  • Classic bezel, lid and mirror
  • Sighting line down the center of the compass
  • New luminous markings
Pros
  • Adjustable declination
  • Silicone feet underneath the compass for stability
  • Clinometer
  • Sighting mirror
Cons
  • Base plate is quite crowded with multiple scales
  • Not a global compass

Sample Customer Review… I live in Interior Alaska. My previous Silva Compass lasted for 35 years, subjected to floating around in my pack and other unfriendly venues, including being stored in the windshield bag of my snowmachine outside at temperatures down to 60 below. It’s still limping along. I didn’t pay much more for this new Ranger, and it has better features. As to performance, all I know so far is that the declination adjustment works (nice feature), and the needle points to magnetic north, and the dial spins smoothly. Quality compasses like this are the gold standard to let us know whether the electronic compasses in our cell phones and GPS units work. And this compass must be there for me when I am out in the sticks and a battery fails or reception goes south on one of the electronic units. I chose this model with the gridded transparent base so I can lay it on a map and navigate as well as using it “in hand”.

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Buying Guide: What to look for when a compass for hiking

Durability

While hiking your compass is bound to be bounced around or subjected to the elements. There are endless ways your compass can get damaged, you can trip on a rock and drop it, or your backpack accidentally falls on it while setting up camp, the list is endless. Your compass needs to be able to weather any of these possibilities because, without it, you will be without navigation.

All the compasses throughout this review are extremely durable and made to handle anything that you throw at it. Some are more vigorous than others and if you know the possibility of damage to your compass is high, then pick one more suited to your adventures. If you are a regular rock climber, you should consider an aluminum casing or if you are a fisherman, you will need a waterproof one.

Compass Needles

The needle is by far the most important part of the compass, and without it, you’re just holding a useless piece of plastic. Typically compasses have needles that are made for certain areas such as the northern hemisphere and others that are global. The quicker your needle points north, the less time you take trying to find it yourself and this means your compass is more accurate. This is crucial when bad weather is approaching or you need pinpoint accuracy for your trek.

Every compass within this review gives quick and accurate readings so that you can have peace of mind that you are safe on the trail, no matter which compass you decide to pick. Some compasses come with global needles and others with northern hemisphere needles, make sure to pick the one that best matches the locations you will be hiking in.

Clinometer

A clinometer allows you to measure an ascend or descend angle or steepness. It is useful for mountain heavy hikes when planning a route or spotting avalanche hazards. It is a very specialized feature that not everyone needs but if you like to hike in the mountains, you will probably want it on your compass.

Magnifying Lens and Luminescent Indicators

The magnifying lens helps you to read your map and spot the little symbols and details. It can be quite useful and most of the compasses in the review include one. The luminescent indicators allow you to read your compass in the dark, this is extremely helpful when you find yourself getting caught out on the trail late at night.

Declination Scale

The declination scale on a compass is very important and allows you to adapt from magnetic north to true north. Some compasses include them and others do not, but if you want your location to be as accurate as possible on your hike, you’re going to need one. Declination scales come in two forms, fixed and adjustable. Adjustable declination scales are much easier to use, and once set, show your adjustment along your hike. Fixed declination scales make you mathematically calculate your location and adjust every time you read the map. If you want a declination scale included with your compass make sure it’s adjustable, it’ll make your hike much easier.

Conclusion 

With many compasses on the market, how are you going to know which one to choose? It is important to understand your needs for the compass. Whether you need a high-tech compass that includes various features, or a basic functioning compass, this article has the products for you. Either way, I hope this list led you to find the best compass for hiking. Don’t get lost and don’t forget to bring your compass on every adventure. 

Written by Megan Sackman and Emilie Weinbeck

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FAQ

Do you need a compass for hiking?

A compass for hiking can be a very useful tool especially if you’re taking a long trip. Packing a compass and a map can be an extra security measure in case of emergency.

What is the most accurate compass?

The Silva Ranger 515, The Suunto M-3, The Brunton Eclipse 8099, and The Suunto M-9 Wrist Compass are some recommendations.

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