When you’re on a hike, a compass, map and navigational skills are some of the most important tools you can have at your disposal. A compass can tell you where you are and the best way to get to where you want to go. If you get lost on a trail, and you don’t have cell service or your GPS device dies, a compass and a map might be the things that ensures you make it home safe. But how do you know what’s the best hiking compass for you?

One of our big goals here at The Adventure Junkies is to make your life easier when it comes to ticking of your hiking gear check list. In this guide, we’ll walk you through how to choose a hiking compass and show you our selection of the best models of the year.

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QUICK ANSWER – THE BEST HIKING COMPASSES

  1. Suunto A-10 Field Compass
  2. Suunto MC-2G Navigator Compass
  3. Silva Ranger 515 Compass
  4. Brunton TruArc 3 Base Plate Compass
  5. Silva Polaris Baseplate Compass
  6. Brunton Nomad Generation 3 Pro-Compass
  7. Coghlan’s Outdoorsman Digital Compass
  8. Suunto M-9 Wrist Compass
  9. Bushnell Bear Grylls Edition Original G2 Compass
  10. Celestron 48003 TrekGuide

 

 

 

HIKING COMPASSES REVIEWS

SUUNTO A-10 FIELD COMPASS

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

BEST FOR: Basic navigating and orienting

ANALOG OR DIGITAL?: Analog

DECLINATION ADJUSTMENT: No

SIGHTING MIRROR: No

PROS: Base plate with straight edge for map reading, waterproof

CONS: Doesn’t have global needle, fixed declination scale, non-luminous, bubbles may develop in liquid

 

 

 

SUUNTO MC-2G NAVIGATOR COMPASS

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

BEST FOR: Advanced navigation and orienting

ANALOG OR DIGITAL?: Analog

DECLINATION ADJUSTMENT: Yes

SIGHTING MIRROR: Yes

PROS: Base plate with magnifying lens, straight edge, and inch markings for map reading, global needle, adjustment key included on lanyard, bezel reads in two degree increments, luminous outer ring

CONS: Numbers rub off of the bezel after regular use, cover isn’t durable enough for heavy use, luminous outer ring doesn’t stay illuminated for very long, tool needed for declination adjustment

 

 

 

SILVA RANGER 515 COMPASS

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: Advanced navigating and orienting

ANALOG OR DIGITAL?: Analog

DECLINATION ADJUSTMENT: Yes

SIGHTING MIRROR: Yes

PROS: Luminous points for easy reading; silicon map grippers; adjustment key included on lanyard, clinometer, rotary bezel, base plate with three scales, magnifying lens, and straight edge for map reading

CONS: Tool needed for declination adjustment, doesn’t have global needle, bubbles may develop in liquid

 

 

 

BRUNTON TRUARC 3 BASE PLATE COMPASS

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

BEST FOR: Advanced navigation and orienting

ANALOG OR DIGITAL?: Analog

DECLINATION ADJUSTMENT: Yes

SIGHTING MIRROR: No

PROS: Tool free declination adjustment, metric and standard scales, responsive needle, easy to hold, inexpensive, global needle, rotary bezel, baseplate with straight edge and inch markings for map reading

CONS: Non-luminous, declination marks are difficult to see

 

 

 

SILVA POLARIS BASEPLATE COMPASS

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: Basic navigating and orienting

ANALOG OR DIGITAL?: Analog

DECLINATION ADJUSTMENT: No

SIGHTING MIRROR: No

PROS: Red and black orientation lines, large sighting arrow, rotary bezel, inexpensive, easy to use, baseplate with straight edge and inch markings for map reading

CONS: No declination adjustment, bubbles may appear in liquid, not durable enough, doesn’t have a global needle, non-luminous

 

 

 

BRUNTON NOMAD GENERATION 3 PRO COMPASS

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: General navigating and orienting

ANALOG OR DIGITAL?: Digital

DECLINATION ADJUSTMENT: No

SIGHTING MIRROR: No

PROS: Delivers information on temperature, altitude, barometric pressure, clock, calendar, and alarm functionality, backlit display, waterproof, lithium battery

CONS: Difficult to set some functions, battery operated, face scratches easily

 

 

 

COGHLAN’S OUTDOORSMAN DIGITAL COMPASS

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: General navigating and orienting

ANALOG OR DIGITAL?: Digital

DECLINATION ADJUSTMENT: Yes

SIGHTING MIRROR: No

PROS: Easy to read display, delivers information on temperature, clock, calendar, and alarm functionality; lithium battery

CONS: Compass readings can fluctuate if device isn’t level, no backlighting, battery operated

 

 

 

SUUNTO M-9 WRIST COMPASS

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

BEST FOR: Basic navigating and orienting

ANALOG OR DIGITAL?: Analog

DECLINATION ADJUSTMENT: No

SIGHTING MIRROR: No

PROS: Can be read from the top or the side, sighting notch and reading window, wrist strap fits wide range of sizes, can be removed from supplied band and placed on another wristband, housing can turn for direction setting, water resistant, luminous face

CONS: Must be kept very level to get accurate reading, doesn’t have a global needle, can be slow to orient, wristband might be too large for small wrists

 

 

 

BUSHNELL BEAR GRYLLS EDITION BACK TRACK ORIGINAL G2 COMPASS

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: General navigating and orienting

ANALOG OR DIGITAL?: Digital

DECLINATION ADJUSTMENT: Yes

SIGHTING MIRROR: No

PROS: Self-calibrating compass, GPS receiver, backlit display, includes signaling mirror, water resistant, stores up to 3 locations, works worldwide

CONS: Operates on 2 AAA batteries, has to be configured before each use, takes a while to connect to satellites, compass functionality will not work without a satellite connection

 

 

 

CELESTRON 48003 TREKGUIDE

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: General navigating and orienting

ANALOG OR DIGITAL?: Digital

DECLINATION ADJUSTMENT: Yes

SIGHTING MIRROR: No

PROS: Delivers information on temperature, altitude, barometric pressure, clock, calendar, and alarm functionality, backlit display, water-resistant, bubble level, lithium battery

CONS: Difficult to set some functions, battery operated, no on/off button to save battery life

 

 

 

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COMPARISON TABLE – THE BEST HIKING COMPASSES

PICTURE
COMPASS
ANALOG/DIGITAL
DECLINATION ADJUSTMENT
SIGHTING MIRROR
PRICE
RATING
PICTURE
COMPASS
ANALOG/DIGITAL
DECLINATION ADJUSTMENT
SIGHTING MIRROR
PRICE
RATING
Suunto A-10 Field Compass
Analog
No
No
$
4.6
Suunto MC-2G Navigator Compass
Analog
Yes
Yes
$$
4.5
Silva Ranger 515 Compass
Analog
Yes
Yes
$$
4.5
Brunton TruArc 3 Base Plate Compass
Analog
Yes
No
$
4.4
Silva Polaris Baseplate Compass
Analog
No
No
$
4.4
Brunton Nomad Generation 3 Pro-Compass
Digital
Yes
No
$$$
4.0
Coghlan's Outdoorsman Digital Compass
Digital
Yes
No
$
3.8
Suunto M-9 Wrist Compass
Analog
No
No
$
3.8
Bushnell Bear Grylls Edition Original G2 Compass
Digital
Yes
No
$$
3.6
Celestron 48003 TrekGuide
Digital
Yes
No
$$
3.4

 

 

 

HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST HIKING COMPASSES

ANALOG VS. DIGITAL

Digital compasses come with lots of extra bells and whistles and are a common feature on hiking watches. But are they the right device for you?

Digital compasses are battery powered. You’ll need to be prepared to either change or charge the batteries. If you forget to bring your batteries or portable charger with you, then your device could fail. This could leave you without a navigation tool right when you need it most.

Analog devices have no external power source. You can store an analog compass for months (or even years!), and it will still work. With an analog compass, you have the benefit of not worrying that it will run out of power when you’re in a jam.

 

DECLINATION ADJUSTMENT

When navigating, you must be aware of “true north” and “magnetic north.” True north is the direction to the geographic North Pole. Magnetic north is the direction to the magnetic North Pole.

Declination is an angle that measures the difference in degrees between these two points. Declination is not a fixed number. This angle changes based on your location and can vary from year to year.

What does this mean? Even if you’re facing true north, your compass needle may point several degrees east or west towards magnetic north. For short treks, this may not make a difference in your navigation. However, for long journeys, ignoring declination could send you many miles off route.

Compasses equipped with a declination adjustment function can easily account for these changes. How? By adding or subtracting declination from the compass bearing. Once you make the adjustment, you can safely navigate without continuously calculating the declination.

 

GLOBAL NEEDLE

Not every analog compass can work anywhere in the world. Many compasses are calibrated for the magnetic variance in a particular hemisphere. Take a U.S. calibrated compass to Australia, and you’ll see that its needle drags and sticks.

If you plan to use your compass while traveling around the world, then look for one with a global needle.

Global needles are designed to account for the changes in magnetic variances. These compasses perform successfully no matter where in the world you end up on a trail.

 

SIGHTING MIRROR

A sighting mirror lets you view your compass and your surroundings simultaneously. This feature makes compass readings more accurate and is ideal for advanced navigation. As a bonus, the mirror can be used as a signal in an emergency situation.

 

LUMINOSITY AND BACKLIGHTING

Will you be navigating at night? If the answer is yes, you’ll need to be able to see your compass in the dark. Look for models that are backlit or have luminous features on the face of the compass. These functions will allow you to see your compass without constantly using a flashlight.

 

DURABILITY

Your compass is an essential line of defense against getting lost on a hike. If it breaks right when you need it, you could find yourself trapped in an unsafe situation.

Whether you’re hiking in high altitudes or inclement weather, you need a compass that lasts. Be sure to select a model that’s durable enough to withstand whatever comes your way.

Looking for more ways to find your route while hiking? Make sure to check out the Hiking GPS 101 for information on how to find the best GPS unit for your hike.

Top 10 Best Hiking Compass – Hiking Tips For Beginners – Backpacking Tips and Tricks for Women and Men
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