Not all areas in the US are navigated and mapped out.
Should you somehow wander off trail, would you know how to get back to familiar grounds without a hiking compass?
When technology is at minimal or even completely absent, you need to go back to the basics!
We have listed the 6 BEST compasses you can buy in 2018 (so far)
Before we go into details, let’s take a quick look at what I recommend:
Do you want to learn more about hoe to find the best compass?
- What Is A Compass and How Does it Work?
- Why Should You Get a Compass?
- What To Look for in a Compass?
Or, you can just read the full reviews:
Top 6 BEST Compasses 2018
Now that you know how important a compass is, Mike’s Gear Reviews has listed top 6 compasses online. You might find the best compass for you below. The item specs and the prices are lifted from Amazon, unless stated otherwise.
From the famed compass brand Brunton, the TruArc 20 is a reliable survival compass that can withstand the harshness of the outdoors anywhere in the world. This has all the things that you need for accurate reading.
It has global needle, two clinometers, and tool-free declination adjustment among other key features. All of which easily makes it the best compass option for both new and expert adventurers.
Here are the pros and cons of this product:
|Has global needle||Not luminous|
|With sighting mirror|
|With declination adjustment|
|With 2 clinometers|
The specs are as follows:
- Reliable – A compass designed for you in situations where your equipment needs to withstand serious abuse in rugged, wet and dirty conditions.
- Professional Grade – TruArc 20 comes with Brunton’s best features, including a sighting mirror, Clinometer, tool-less declination adjustment, and a protective cover and foot. A great tool for foresters, landscapers and contractors. Great for camping.
- Advanced Navigation – Resists magnetic interference better than any competitor and will not lose its polarity.
- Global Needle – With a global needle that is accurate in both northern and southern hemispheres, TruArc 20 is ready to go anywhere in the world.
- Made in the USA – Made in Brunton’s own facility in Riverton, Wyoming
Whether you are in backpacking in a tropical country somewhere in the Pacific or trekking in the Himalayas, you can count on the Brunton TruArc 20 Compass to guide you through. This is possible because of its global needle and its two clinometers. Yes, it has two clinometers, which measure slope quickly and easily.
Its tool-free declination adjustment, which measure the difference between the magnetic north and true north, can be a little difficult to adjust at first, but it’s so that you don’t accidentally change it while you are trying to keep your bearing.
Keep in mind that for all the features that this hiking compass has, it does not have a luminous bezel and dial, which means you would need your handy flashlight to read it in poor light or in the dark. It’s nothing major, but it should be noted. Its protective cover limits the use of declination adjustment, but it is still fully functional for reading both azimuth and back azimuth.
If you are looking for the best backpacking compass, the Brunton TruArc 20 Compass is a good candidate.
The SE CC4580 Military Lensatic and Prismatic Compass is a favorite of many compass reviews because it is high value for such an inexpensive tool. Its military design style is a big draw as well.
As users have noted, the compass is a Chinese copy of a German brand that sells for $150. At only $11, this compass holds surprisingly well.
Here are the pros and cons:
|Has waterproof pouch||No clinometer|
|Affordable||No global needle|
|With luminosity||No declination adjustment|
The specs, as per Amazon, are:
- Thermo-elastic liquid-filled capsule with floating dial
- Great for camping, scouting, hiking and more
- Tripod screw hole on base, adjustable diopter sighting lens, and sighting lines on cover
- Sighting lines on cover as well as a conversion chart for angle, gradient and distance on the back plate
- Heavy duty digital camouflage print cover and water-resistant nylon pouch
It is not difficult to see why the SE CC4580 ranks high in compass reviews. It is a beautiful compass to own and use. It has a few features lacking—like no clinometer, no global needle and no declination adjustment—but it’s a fully efficient basic compass with extra features to use.
It may not have some of the expected compass traits, but it offers users convenience in small things, like the two different measurement scales—centimetre and inches—that are placed on either side of the bezel. It has adjustable diopter sighing lens, sighting window and sighting lines. Its digital camouflage print cover makes for an attractive look. Its water-resistant nylon pouch makes it efficient in most weather conditions.
It is made for the northern hemisphere, and so if you are hiking in other countries, you will find this inaccurate. And for that reason, it could not be the best compass for hiking at different countries. Nevertheless, it’s a great bargain for such a heavy-duty compass.
From the Chinese brand that specializes in binoculars and other optical instruments, the Eyeskey Military Metal Sighting Compass is a solid product. It is made of heavy-duty metal and thus has a considerable weight to it at 287 grams.
This is a new model. The old one has fewer features included. This one has adjustable luminous marching line, thumb hold and magnifying viewer, floating luminous dial, and sighting hairline among others.
Here are the pros and cons, followed by the specs:
|With global needle||Heavy|
|With declination adjustment|
- This compass can help you a lot. Made of compact size, this lightweight compass can give you a reliable and accurate performance.
- This is the last compass you’ll ever need! Updated to include rugged metal case, adjustable luminous marching line, thumb hold and magnifying viewer, sighting hairline, floating luminous dial, and liquid filled for fast readability.
- With this compass, traveling around the world is not difficult even for someone easy to get lost.
- Sighting window with sighting line.
- Covered with lifetime warranty and 30-day money back guarantee
It’s hard to not like this Chinese-made global compass. It is probably the ultimate tool that you need whenever you are on an adventure. It is made for all weathers and all terrains, making it the best survival compass for many outdoorsmen.
It is a global compass that boasts of a handful of features that you would need for an accurate reading wherever you are. It could very well be the best hiking compass that you can find at this price range.
It isn’t a military issue by any means, but it does look and feel like it.
The name Cammenga is perhaps one of the most recognizable brands of navigational and tactical gears. This American company boasts of military and law enforcement clients around the world. Its military-grade products are made in the US and are of the highest quality, and this includes the Tritium Lensatic Compass, which is made for use in the northern hemisphere.
Often claimed as the best compass in the military line, the Tritium Lensatic Compass is built to last for all survival conditions and climate. It does have a few negatives, though. Here are the pros and cons, followed by the specs:
|Luminous dial / tritium lighting||No declination adjustment|
|Heavy-duty||No global needle|
|Shock-proof and damage resistance|
- Official US Military Tritium Lensatic Compass Box
- Aluminum frame and waterproof housing
- Luminosity: Tritium
- Jewel Bearing: Sapphire
- Rotating Bezel: Bi-Directional
- Climate Capacity -50F to +150F
- Frame Materials: Cast Aluminum
- Expected Luminous Life: 10 Years
- Accuracy +/- 0002 mils
- Dial Readings: Degrees & mils
- With carrying pouch and belt clip
It does have a few things that are no included in this compass, including the clinometer, the declination adjustment, and the global needle. However, it isn’t so bad because you can adjust a few things in the compass and you’re set.
For the declination adjustment, you can rotate the bezel until the declination mark is lined up with the magnetic north (N). It does not have a global needle, but its housing has a deep well so it can be used across global magnetic zones.
It is waterproof, shock-proof and damage-resistant, making it a truly durable piece of navigational tool. If you need a compass for trekking, this could be the best backpacking compass that you will ever need.
Another entry from Eyeskey, this Multifunctional Military Army Aluminum Alloy Compass has fewer functions than the first one. It is, however, just as durable as the first. Made of ADC 12 aluminum alloy, it does have significant weight to it but it is made to work under extreme weather conditions,
Here are the pros and cons of the product:
|Waterproof||No declination adjustment|
The specs are as follows:
- High strength engineering metal body, rugged and capable of working under extreme weather condition.
- Special design of fluorescent light, you can use it and read data on it in dark environment after absorbing enough sunshine.
- High accuracy, built-in bubble level, which can improve its accuracy and decrease its errors.
- Waterproof and shakeproof, suitable for motoring, boating, camping, mountaineering, exploring, hunting and other outdoor activities.
- All our products have been covered with LIFETIME WARRANTY plus 30-day money back guarantee.
The Eyeskey Multifunctional Military Lensatic Compass is notably cheaper than the Military Metal Sighting Compass discussed above. It is probably because it has fewer functions. It has no global needle and no declination adjustment.
Nevertheless, it is another favorite of outdoors veterans because it is a sturdy piece of equipment that works extremely well even though it is not truly a military issue tool. Like the first Eyeskey product here, though, it is a bit heavy as a hiking compass. It isn’t ideal for use by novices as well.
But again, at its price point, this is another candidate for the best hiking compass.
This isn’t just named as such for the sake of naming. The NICEY Classic Pocket Style Multifunction Camping Compass does really look like a classic piece of directional tool. Its beautifully crafted design and gold color would make you feel like you are a navigator in the long bygone era.
Good looks aside, the Classic Pocket Style compass is a useful tool that gets the job done, and done well.
Here are the pros and cons of this product:
|With declination adjustment||No global needle|
Here are the specs. Amazon did not list any specs of this compass, and so the following were lifted from various compass reviews sites.
- Rugged metal case
- Floating luminous dial
- Direction angle: 360 degrees
- Product dimensions: 2.7 x 2.5 x 0.4 inches; 0.3 ounces
This is, by far, the most stunning compass on this list. It just shouts timeless and elegant, and at just a cheap price as well.
But apart from its looks and price, this dry compass gets the job done. It gives accurate directions and is clear to read. If you are a novice, this is the compass for you. It is as straightforward as it can be.
Mike’s Top Choice
From the six top-selling compasses above, Mike’s Gear Reviews finds the Brunton TruArc 20 the best compass that you can invest on. Averagely priced at $60, it has all the traits that you need for a navigational instrument. You can carry it wherever you want, anywhere in the world, and use it in whatever condition that you’re in.
For the most value for money, however, the Eyeskey Waterproof Multifunctional Military Metal Sighting Compass is a great, less expensive buy at just $28.
Google Maps isn’t going to be very helpful when you are out and about in the wilderness. Even if the area you are navigating has already been mapped out by mobile apps, there’s a chance that you wouldn’t have continuous signal or enough battery to make it through the day… and besides, when you are out in nature, you probably want less to do with modern tech. This is when carrying the best compass with you in your outdoor adventure is necessary.
What Is A Compass and How Does it Work?
This navigational instrument is used for navigation, location and direction (north, south, east and west). If you are out in an uncharted area and you need to navigate your way from point A to point B, a hiking compass could come in handy.
There are two kinds of compass: magnetic and gyrocompass.
A magnetic compass relies on a magnetized needle that aligns with the horizontal lines of the Earth’s magnetic field. You should keep magnetic compasses away from magnets and metals as these might disorient the reading.
A gyrocompass, on the other hand, relies on a fast-spinning disc and the Earth’s rotation to find geographical directions. The rapidly spinning wheel’s rotation that interacts with the Earth’s rotation until its axis of rotation is parallel with that of the Earth’s, pointing to the Earth’s rotational poles.
Why Should You Get a Compass?
Your GPS app on your smartphone can only do wonders if you don’t run out of battery and have Wi-Fi in the middle of the woods. A compass doesn’t rely on batteries, electricity or Internet connection.
A compass can help you find your way when your map, digital or otherwise, suddenly becomes ineffective in your situation. Even with all the modern technologies that we have today, a compass is still irreplaceable. It’s nice to have a GPS device, but a survival compass is essential.
What To Look for in a Compass?
There are a few things that you need to check when looking for the best compass for hiking. These are the base plate mounting, the orienting arrow and lines, the index line and the direction of travel arrow, magnetized needle that floats on liquid, and the rotating bezel.
The best compass that you can buy, however, also has the following: declination adjustment, clinometer, global needle, and sighting mirror. Other features like magnifier and luminous bezel are great to have but not as crucial as the others. You may also include the manufacturing country of the hiking compass.
Base Plate Mounting
This is the transparent base with ruler markings that the compass sits on. There are other subtypes of magnetic compass that don’t have base plate, but it is a useful feature to have because it helps make reading maps easier. It also helps in calculating the distance of point A to point B.
The Fixed Lines
These include the orienting arrow and lines, the index line, and the direction of travel arrow.
The orienting arrow is fixed within the compass housing and should be aligned to the north of the housing.
The orienting lines are also fixed within the compass house. They should be aligned with the vertical lines on a map.
The index line is the fixed line beneath the rotating bezel. It marks the bearing you wish to travel along by rotating the compass housing.
The direction of travel arrow points to the direction that you will be travelling to. It is the fix mark on the base plate. This is aligned with the index line on the edge of the compass housing.
It is the piece of metal that has one end painted red to indicate North.
It usually floats on liquid so it rotates freely and steadily even if the holder of the compass isn’t perfectly still. Dry compass, which doesn’t use dampening fluid, is also an option, but if you want the best compass, or at least the most accurate, then go for one with the needle floating on liquid.
The best hiking compass should have a rotating bezel, or the azimuth ring, which is the movable circle surrounding the compass capsule. It is marked from 0 to 360 degrees.
The declination adjustment is not present in some compasses. Not everyone even knows how this work.
Basically, it is an angle that measures the difference in degrees between the “true north” and the “magnetic north”.
The true north is the direction to the geographic North Pole, while the magnetic north is the direction to the magnetic North Pole. These two norths are thought to be about 1,000 miles apart from each other.
Declination changes based on the location and the time of the year. If your compass has this feature, you can adjust the compass by adding or subtracting declination from the compass bearing. If you want to buy the best backpacking compass, it should have declination adjustment feature.
A clinometer allows users to measure slop angle. It can help assess avalanche hazards and the heights of objects. A survival compass is likely to have this feature.
If you travel outside the country, you would want your compass to have a global needle.
Because many compasses are made specifically for either northern or southern hemisphere, the one that you bought in your country might be inaccurate if you used it in another part of the world. A global needle compensates for the differences in the magnetism, allowing your compass to work accurately wherever you are in the world.
So if you’re a world traveler, the best compass for you is one with a global needle.
It’s not a necessity, but a sighting mirror could make navigating with a hiking compass easier. It lets you view your target and your bearing simultaneously. It reduces reading errors when you move the compass from eye level to waist level.
Luminescent indicators allow you to read the bearings and in low light or in the dark. Magnifiers is handy in spotting minor details on a map.