Reviews

Best Compasses for Hiking: Find Your Way in the Great Outdoors

These top compasses for hiking will help you navigate through the wilderness with ease

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  • Product Network

    14 Products

  • Clock

    6 Hours

  • Reviews

    9 Reviews

How We Decided

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PUBLISHED ON December 5, 2019

Being able to navigate with a compass and a map is a vital skill that can save your life. A hiking compass can help you determine your location and the best way to get to where you want to go. If you like exploring the great outdoors, grab one of these hiking compasses and navigate through the wilderness.

  • Best Overall
    Cammenga Lensatic Compass
    Summary
    Summary

    This bright lensatic compass functions excellently when you're in the great outdoors. It's resistant to water, shock, and sand. It works well in places with extreme temperatures. 

    Pros
    Pros

    The compass is used all over the world by the military, government agencies, and outdoor enthusiasts. It is fitted with a magnifying lens, dial graduations in both degrees for accurate readings, and a sight wire. 

    Cons
    Cons

    Its locking mechanism may lock permanently when you least expect it. Its lens and bezel ring is made of plastic, instead of aluminum, and are not durable. It is only ideal for general direction and can’t be used with a map.

  • Best Value
    Reliable Outdoor Gear Scout Compass
    Summary
    Summary

    High-quality, lightweight, and built to last, this is a compass you can rely on when hiking, backpacking, or camping outdoors. It is highly accurate and works great with a map. 

    Pros
    Pros

    The liquid-filled capsule causes the needle to swing fast and freely, accurately pointing you north. The compass has a swivel bezel ring that is easy to rotate. The bezel ring allows you to easily change the inclinometer bearings.

    Cons
    Cons

    It lacks features like declination adjustments, which are vital for accurate navigation. The bezel ring isn't very tight, and that affects its accuracy. The compass is only good for beginners and people hiking short distances.

  • Honorable Mention
    SUUNTO Recreational Field Compass
    Summary
    Summary

    This compass stands out for three reasons: its housing has a liquid-filled case that dampens the needle’s jerkiness, its transparent baseplate has different rulers, and its scale is standard on U.S. Geological Survey maps.

    Pros
    Pros

    Weighing just 27 grams, this is a compass you can take with you anywhere. It is balanced for the Northern Hemisphere and features a high-quality steel needle with jewel bearing. It also has a lanyard hole.

    Cons
    Cons

    The needle usually takes a while to settle before it finds the magnetic north. The compass is not durable and breaks easily. When it does, it produces a kerosene-like smell. It is also not filled with liquid-like many high-grade compasses.

Why Trust Us


All of our reviews are based on market research, expert input, and practical experience with each product we include. This way, we offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.

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Tips

  • Get a compass that meets the basic requirements of a standard compass. It should have a magnetized needle, a rotating bezel, a baseplate, and an orienting arrow. There are many counterfeit products on the market, and the last thing you want is to get stuck in the wilderness because you bought a low-quality compass.
  • To take a bearing, hold the compass flat and point its arrow toward your destination. Rotate its bezel until the orienting arrow is at the same point with the magnetic needle. The needle’s north end should point to N. Locate where the degree markings around the rotating bezel line up with the orienting arrow. The degree mark is your bearing.
  • Do not store your compass near a magnetic field or an electric field. Magnets can demagnetize the needle in the compass, causing it to give incorrect readings.

FAQs

Q: Which compass can help me to triangulate my position?

A: To triangulate your position, you need an orienteering compass with an excellent sightline indicator. A liquid-filled compass with a long baseplate can also do a good job. However, it is worth noting that natural elements can make triangulation impossible in some parts of the world.

Q: If I’m lost and my compass doesn’t work, how can I find north?

A: In case your compass stops working and you get lost, you can do the following to find north: use the face of an analog watch to bisect the sun, use original constellations, use the sun's path as a rough E-W line, or use a magnetized paper clip with a floating leaf.

Q: What does declination mean?

A: The orienting arrow on a compass usually points to the magnetic north. Declination refers to the angle between the magnetic north and the true north. It typically varies based on your location on the earth. True north is north according to the earth's axis.

Final Thoughts

We love the Cammenga Lensatic Compass because it’s specifically designed to withstand outdoor elements and works well in extreme temperatures. But if you don’t have a big budget for a compass, get the Reliable Outdoor Gear Scout Compass.