Compass Reviews: Top 6 Compasses 2019



Best Compass Review

Best Compass Review

Before there was GPS, there was the compass. But out in the wilderness, GPS often isn’t as precise as we need it to be, and we certainly can’t rely on Google Maps. This is why a good compass still plays a vital role  as part of our gear.

It can be very tempting to rely only on GPS or Google Maps, but even if you were able to rely on these methods, what if your phone or GPS battery dies? At the very least a good compass can lead you in the right direction.


Our picks

Mike’s Top Pick

Eyeskey Multifunctional Military Army Aluminum Alloy Compass

Eyeskey Multifunctional Military Army Aluminum Alloy Compass

The Eyeskey compass has lots of great features. To ensure accuracy, it has a true sighting optic and a bubble level.

It’s also really durable: constructed with metal, the Eyeskey compass is waterproof and shake-proof.

When exposed to enough light, the display lights up in the dark with a fluorescent light, allowing you to see the reading if it’s pitch black.

A conversion chart for angle, gradient, and distance appears on the back of the compass, and a rotating bezel ring allows you to lock in your bearing so you know you’re heading in the right direction.

Pros:
• Durable: waterproof and shake-proof
• Bubble level and sighting optic ensure accuracy
• Comes with lanyard for wearing and a carrying case

Cons:
• No thumb loop for holding up to the cheek for easy, stable sighting

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Brunton – TruArc 3 – Base Plate Compass

Brunton - TruArc 3 - Base Plate Compass

For the price, the Brunton – TruArc 3 – Base Plate Compass has great features that compare to others in its price range, and more.

Like the others, you can set your inclination, but it doesn’t require any tools to do so like it’s competitors.

It’s also lightweight, making it easy to carry around your neck, in your pack, or in your pocket.

One of the best features of this compass, though, is that it can be used for both the northern and southern hemispheres.

Pros:
• Doesn’t require tools to set inclination
• Lightweight
• Can be used in northern and southern hemispheres

Cons:
• Air bubbles sometimes form in liquid housing

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Cammenga Tritium Compass 3H

Cammenga Tritium Compass 3H

The Cammenga Tritium Compass 3H is set in a durable aluminum frame that’s resistant to sand, damage, and shock. It comes with an accuracy-ensuring copper induction-damping ring, and also has a non-liquid filled needle housing, ensuring accurate readings can be taken in any temperature.

A sight wire and magnifying lens help make sure that the accurate reading is also easy to see.

Unlike any other on our list, this compass is self-illuminating: it requires no exposure to light to illuminate because it uses tritium (find out more about tritium below or in this Wikipedia article).

The Cammenga Tritium Compass 3H is military grade and battle tested through intense shock, water exposure, and sand. It’s identical in construction as those compasses used by the military and government agencies around the world.

Pros:
• Durable: waterproof, sand-proof, shockproof
• Copper-induction damping ring ensures accuracy
• Non-liquid filled needle housing: won’t be affected by variations in temperature

Cons:
• Tritium doesn’t glow very brightly: may need second light source

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Table of Contents

Introduction

Our picks
        Mike’s top pick
        Value pick
        Premium pick

Table of Contents

Comparison Table

Best Compass Reviews

Value section/ Methodology
        What is a compass?
        How does a compass work?
        What should I look for in a compass?
        Essential vocabulary


Comparison Table

PLAN - PRICE

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Weight of 7.1 oz

Size of 3.4 x 2.5 x 1.1"

Waterproof

Shakeproof, metal body

Camouflage

Bubble level, true sighting optic

Weight not listed

Size of 6x4x3"

Waterproof

Shockproof, sand proof

Olive, camouflage, black, or brown

A copper induction-damping ring that slows, settles and steadies the compass needle

Weight of 1.06 oz

Size of 2.2x4.09x0.39"

Waterproof

Made of high grade steel

White

Fixed declination correction scale, liquid filled capsule for stable operation

PLAN - PRICE

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Weight of 2.4 oz

Size of 4 x 2.5

not listed

not listed

White and black

Split mirror sighting

Weight of 1.1 oz

Size of 3.5x2.5"

not listed

not listed

Black, white and yellow

Accurate in northern and southern hemisphere

Weight of 3.68 oz

Size of 3x2x5"

not listed

not listed

Olive

Sighting lines



 Best Compass Review

Eyeskey Multifunctional Military Army Aluminum Alloy Compass

Eyeskey Multifunctional Military Army Aluminum Alloy Compass

The Eyeskey compass uses a true sighting optic; a hole on the side of the compass that you can peer through to see the precise measurement of location. The sighting optic can be adjusted to suit your eyesight.

Constructed with metal, the Eyeskey compass is waterproof and shake-proof, and according to manufacturers, it’s suitable even for boating.

When exposed to enough sunlight throughout the day, the display lights up with a fluorescent light in the dark, which helps you to see the reading if it’s pitch black.

A bubble-level feature allows you to check that the compass is level and that your reading is completely accurate.

Another notable feature are the holes built-in to the design of the compass that allow you to run the lanyard through the compass so it can be worn on your neck.

This compass scales inches and centimeters, giving you the ability to easily scale its readings to your map.

A conversion chart for angle, gradient, and distance appears on the back of the compass, and a rotating bezel ring allows you to lock in your bearing so you know you’re heading in the right direction.

The Eyeskey compass is liquid-filled and has a floating dial. In addition to a lanyard, this compass comes with a convenient carrying case.

Pros:
• Durable: waterproof and shake-proof
• Bubble level and sighting optic ensure accuracy
• Comes with lanyard for wearing and carrying case

Cons:
• No thumb loop for holding up to the cheek for easy, stable sighting

What buyers said

“I found it hard to properly look through the sighting optic without a loop for my thumb… it was hard to keep stable against my cheek. Other than that, I found that this compass did provide accurate readings, and the measurements on the side make it really easy to transfer readings to a map.”

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Cammenga S.W.A.T Tritium Lensatic Compass

Cammenga S.W.A.T Tritium Lensatic Compass

The Cammenga S.W.A.T Lensatic Compass, set in an aluminum frame, is shockproof, damage resistant, and sandproof. The copper induction-damping ring slows the compass needle and allows it to stabilize quickly, making it easier to read the compass accurately.

Unlike the Eyeskey compass, this compass has a non-liquid filled needle housing, meaning that any temperature change within the -50° F to 150° F range will not affect its reading.

It comes with a magnifying lens and a sight wire that assists in reading an accurate bearing.

Dial graduations are given in degrees and MILS (See below for more information on MILS, or this Wikipedia article).

A phosphorescent coating illuminates the compass reading when exposed to a small dose of light.

Pros:
• Durable: waterproof, sandproof, shockproof
• Copper-induction damping ring ensures accuracy
• Non- liquid filled needle housing: won’t be affected by variations in temperature

Cons:
• Some reviewers noted quality issues with the product

What buyers said

“This is exactly the kind of compass you would be issued in the military, except that it doesn’t have tritium. I thought this compass worked great and you can tell it’s durable.”

“The construction of this compass seemed a bit flimsy, but it seems to read really well, just a millimeter or so off, so I’m happy with it.”

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Cammenga Tritium Compass 3H

Cammenga Tritium Compass 3H

The Cammenga Tritium Compass 3H is very similar to the other Cammenga on our list, the Cammenga S.W.A.T Tritium Lensatic Compass.

There are some very important differences between the two models, though.

But let’s start with the similarities: the Cammenga Tritium Compass 3H is also set in an aluminum frame and is equally as durable as the other one, as it’s also resistant to sand, damage, and is shockproof. It comes with an accuracy-ensuring copper induction-damping ring, and also has a non-liquid filled needle housing. This last feature ensures that you can read accurate bearings in any temperature.

You can easily see the accurate readings by using the sight wire and magnifying lens. Readings are given in small measurements: degrees and MILS.

Now, the differences. Instead of a phosphorescent coating that requires light exposure to illuminate, this compass is self-illuminating: it requires no exposure to light to illuminate because it uses tritium (find out more about tritium below or in this Wikipedia article).

The seven tritium micro lights used to illuminate the compass lasts for 12 years without any maintenance at all. The tritium comes with a few cons, though: it *only* lasts for 12 years and some reviewers said it doesn’t light up the compass dial as much as they had hoped.

Probably the biggest difference between the two is that the Cammenga Tritium Compass 3H is military grade and is battle tested through intense shock, water exposure, and sand. It’s identical in construction as those compasses used by the military and government agencies around the world.

Pros:
• Durable: waterproof, sand-proof, shockproof
• Copper-induction damping ring ensures accuracy
• Non-liquid filled needle housing: won’t be affected by variations in temperature

Cons:
• Tritium doesn’t glow very brightly: may need second light source

What buyers said

“The Cammenga Tritium Compass 3H is a great buy: it’s the same as those used in the military and you can tell it’s great quality. My only complaints are that the sight wire was off a bit and the tritium wasn’t as light as I wanted it to be.”

“This is a very precise compass: within a degree. I’m very happy with my purchase; this compass is precise and durable.”

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Suunto A-10 Field Compass

Suunto A-10 Field Compass

The Suunto A-10 Field Compass doesn’t have as many features as some of the others on our list, like tritium lighting or a sighting optic, but it does everything it needs to do.

It’s made with high grade steel that is water resistant, and a plastic compass face that is scratch-resistant.

This compass is accurate within 2.5°  thanks to a liquid filled capsule and the fixed declination correction scale. According to Suunto, “The fixed declination correction is an additional scale under the compass needle. This is used by first taking the direction with the protractor and then turning until the compass needle points at the declination scales according to the local declination. This must be done every time the compass is read (Suunto).”

You don’t need to worry about this compass not operating accurately in extreme weather; it is able to function in -40°F temperatures.

Pros:
• Durable: waterproof, sandproof, shockproof
• Inexpensive and functional
• Lightweight

Cons:
• No lighting feature for visibility in the dark

What buyers said

“This compass is easy to use, and it seems really accurate as you need to hold the compass quite still to get the needle to stop moving! It’s super lightweight and I actually love the simplicity of it. I bought a military-grade compass a few years ago and it was very complicated to use.”

“The Suunto A-10 compass is a nice little compass. It works well and is easy to figure out. I bought some for my kids and they’re light enough for them to carry around without complaining!”

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Silva Ranger 515

Silva Ranger 515

The Silva Ranger 515 is similar to the Suunto A-10 Field Compass in design: both feature simple, clean, no-fuss design.

Unlike the Suunto A-10 Field Compass, though, the Silva does have luminous markings so it can be more easily read in the dark.

Another different feature is the split sighting mirror which helps you read this compass accurately. The mirror has a sighting line on it, so you can verify your bearing with the mirror and your naked-eye view.

A clinometer also allows you to measure inclination angles, like cliffs and hills. Read more about what a clinometer does below, or on Wikipedia.

The Silva Ranger 515 compass is great for map reading, too. Silicon feet make it easy to place the compass on a map for reading without having to worry about the compass sliding around.

There’s also a map magnifier and the baseplate has three scales to allow you to work with a topographic map.

Like the other compasses, this one comes with a lanyard, but a small bonus feature is the attached small screwdriver to adjust the declination.

Pros:
• Luminous markings help for reading in the dark
• Mirror with sightline for accurate reading
• Great for map reading: silicon feet prevent slipping, clinometer sets inclination, magnifier makes it easier to read       maps

Cons:
• Manufacturer doesn’t note if waterproof
• Heavier than comparable models

What buyers said

“I just re-purchased this compass after losing the same model that I’d had for 30 years. Though it can take some getting used to reading the bearing through the mirror, I’ve found this compass to be reliable and easy to operate.”

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Brunton – TruArc 3 – Base Plate Compass

Brunton - TruArc 3 - Base Plate Compass

The Brunton – TruArc 3 – Base Plate Compass has a similar feel to the Silva Ranger 515 and Suunto A-10 Field Compass.

You can set your inclination without the need of a screwdriver.

It’s lightweight at just 1.1 ounces, lighter than the  Silva Ranger 515 and just a tiny bit heavier than the Suunto A-10 Field Compass.

Unlike many others on our list, this compass can be used for both north and southern hemispheres.

Some reviewers have noted that air bubbles have formed in the liquid-needle housing, which make it difficult to read the bearing.

Pros:
• Doesn’t require tools to set inclination
• Lightweight
• Can be used in northern and southern hemispheres

Cons:
• Air bubbles sometimes form in liquid housing

What buyers said

“For the price, this compass has everything I could ask for. The needle settles quickly, it’s accurate and I like that it has a declination setting. A bubble formed in the liquid housing when it was exposed to cold for awhile, but after I brought it home and let it sit in the warmth the bubble disappeared.”

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SE CC4580 Compass

SE CC4580 Compass

For the price, this compass has lots of great features, including a thumb loop to steady the compass while reading.

At 3.68 oz, it’s one of the heaviest on our list.

The dial is in a liquid-filled capsule with a fluorescent floating dial that makes reading bearings in the dark easier.

The sight lines on the cover also make reading this compass easier, and it also has an adjustable sighting lens viewer. The bubble level on the compass also ensures accurate readings.

The SE CC4580 Compass also comes with a screw hole on the base, so you can easily attach it to a tripod.


A conversion chart on the back of the compass can help you convert angle, gradient, and distance.

While manufacturers don’t state whether or not the compass itself is waterproof, it comes with a pouch that is.

Pros:
• Conversion chart on back of compass
• Fluorescence aids in lighting the compass in the dark

Cons:
• No inclination setting
• Not waterproof
• Not lightweight

What buyers said

“This compass works for me: I don’t need a precise reading, just a relatively accurate one. I just use this on the land close to my house, so I’m not going too far. It is pretty heavy, and I’m not sure how much I’d trust it out in the wild because of the accuracy. The quality doesn’t seem to be the best either; but like I said, for my purposes it works.”

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Value section/ Methodology

What is a compass?

The compass has been around for thousands, of years: the first known use of a compass was during the Han Dynasty in China, back in 200 BC (Wikipedia). Since then, the compass has evolved but we still rely on the earth’s magnetism to steer us in the right direction, just like the people of the Han Dynasty did way back when.

A compass is a small circular device that, using its “rose” or needle, indicates direction by pointing north, east, south, or west, northwest, northeast, southwest, or southeast.

Compasses are extremely useful in the wild, because they don’t rely on electricity to function, therefore, they will never stop working.

How does a compass work?

Magnetic compasses are the most common type of compass, even the compass on your smartphone relies on the earth’s magnetic field for direction.

This works because the earth’s magnetic field aligns the needle of the compass with the north or south magnetic poles (Wikipedia).

What should I look for in a compass?

The features you’ll prefer in a compass depend on how and where you’ll be using it, and on personal preference in general.

Here are a few things to consider:
        • Lighting

Lighting is a good feature to have, so you can easily see your compass reading, even when it’s pitch black outside. This may be when you need your compass the most, so a light can help.
        • Magnifying lens

Another feature that helps you read your compass is a magnifying lens. This comes in especially handy when directions need to be very precise.

     • Accuracy features

Different compasses will have different accuracy features. Some will have a bubble level, which ensures you have the compass level for              an accurate reading, while others will rely on

Essential vocabulary

When you start searching for a compass for the first time, you’ll probably come across several terms you aren’t familiar with. In this section, we help clarify those terms.

Declination correction

Most compasses come with a declination correction. This just ensures that your compass points to true north instead of magnetic north, which is where, in the case of magnetic compasses, they’ll want to point.

However, magnetic north is not the same as geographical north, which we know as the north pole, so compasses are equipped to adjust for this.

Some compasses have a fixed declination correction. These compasses have a scale under the compass needle, and need to be calibrated each time you use them.

Others have an adjustable declination correction. This type of declination correction only needs to be calibrated once. Instructions on how to calibrate the declination correction will be included with your compass (Suunto).

Clinometer

A clinometer (sometimes referred to as a inclinometer), is a device that measures angles of slope, elevation, or depression. It’s used in compasses as an added feature to measure the height or depth of geological structures like cliffs and hills (Wikipedia).

Sighting window

Some compasses come with a sighting window, which is a precise line grid on top of the compass casing that will help you ensure you’re reading the compass accurately.

Bearing

The bearing of a compass could refer to two things: the directional bearing and the bearing that holds the compass pointer or “rose.”

The directional bearing refers to the numbers on the compass.

The bearing that holds the compass pointer can be made of jewel; some manufacturers say this gives a more accurate reading than other kinds of bearings.

Measurement units

Measurement units on the compass are helpful in transferring readings to maps, and the more measurement units the better, because scaling can vary by map.

Lensatic compass

You’ll see “lensatic compass” referred to in the names of some of the compasses on our list. This simply means that the compass is a) magnetic and b) has a magnifying lens for reading the compass (Miriam-Webster).

Sighting

Sighting refers to viewing the directions of the compass. This is often done through a small sighting hole, what is called a sighting window or sighting optic.

Some compasses with a sighting optic also have a ring on the back so you can loop your thumb in for stability as you bring the sighting optic up to your face to read the bearing.

MILS

“A milliradian, often called a mil or mrad, is an SI derived unit for angular measurement which is defined as a thousandth of a radian (0.001 radian).” This form of measurement is most commonly used in the military (Wikipedia).

Tritium and phosphorescent paint

Tritium is a nuclear gas that is “self-luminous:” it creates its own light. This is used to light the dial of a compass, in contrast to phosphorescent paint, which is essentially glow in the dark paint: it needs to be exposed to light for a period of time in order to radiate light (Wikipedia and Cammenga).


Sources:

Cammenga. Phosphorescent Lensatic Compass 27. https://cammenga.com/product/compasses/phosphorescent-compass-27/
Miriam-Webster. Lensatic compass. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lensatic%20compass
Suunto. Understanding declination correction. https://www.suunto.com/en-ca/Support/Compasses-feature-index/Understanding-declination-correction/
Wikipedia. Compass. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compass#History
Wikipedia. Mils. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milliradian
Wikipedia. Inclinometer. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inclinometer
Wikipedia. Tritium Radioluminescence. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tritium_radioluminescence

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Brunton TruArc 20 Compass
Author Rating
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