Hiking has come a long way in the past 100 years, and many of the tools that hikers use have advanced with technology. While powered gadgets like GPS systems can come in handy on a hike, there’s nothing quite like having the best compass for hiking on hand in case of an emergency.
A compass is a great tool to use when visibility is poor, you get lost, hiking off trails, or dealing with signal loss while using an electronic GPS system.
Although it’s important to know how to use your compass properly, having a compass that won’t let you down in a time of need is also vital. With that said, let’s take a closer look at the top three compasses available in 2018.
If you’re in a rush, our top compass recommendation for hikers is the Suunto A-30 compass. It’s simple clear acrylic construction is perfect for using with a map, and it is easy to carry with you in your daypack.
1. Suunto A-30 Compass
- The main pro is the simplicity, nothing too complex, but it works well
- Made from sturdy durable plastic
- Lightweight and scratch resistant
- Comes with an easy to use lanyard so you can easily attach to things
- An excellent option for beginners but equally functional for experienced users
- Does not have additional features e.g. to measure angles etc.
- Although sturdy, not as sturdy as others listed here
Many folks give plastic style compasses like the Suunto A-30 a bad rap for being made from plastic. They can often be described as not durable enough and the like.
That can of course be the case, but not always and there are plenty of excellent plastic compasses available on the market that function really well.
In fact our editor only uses this style of compass as he finds them very easy to use with maps. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at the Suunto A-30 Compass to see what it has to offer.
The first thing that most of you will notice about this compass in comparison to some others listed on this page, is it’s simplicity.
It is a clear plastic construction, which is handy to use on a map as you can see through it when trying to connect up two points to take a bearing, while still being able to see the terrain on the map in between.
The plastic used is also very durable and scratch resistant, so it can take a bit of a beating in a day pack and while in use out on the hills.
Next up we have Suunto’s use of it’s two zone balancing system which helps ensure you get a reliable reading in the Northern Hemisphere. This particular compass is for use in the Northern Hemisphere, but it’s sister for the southern hemisphere should also be available.
Suunto also has a single global system which it uses in some of its compasses, but this is not a big requirement for most, as people tend to do their hiking in the one country, and or continent.
For those special bucket list trips, they are more often than not guided as you are likely in foreign and unfamiliar territory. You can learn more about the two Suunto zone balancing systems here,
The compass also features a jewel bearing and marking holes for control points, should you wish to add them on a map. These are simple and functional and work well.
The bezel and markings are also luminous for navigating in poor visibility or at night, and they also have a snap-lock feature. The luminous markings usually work of their own accord, but if they are dim, say in cold weather, a quick rub of them to generate some heat, usually does the trick to get them working well.
As mentioned, out editor swears by this style of compass. His take is that he likes the simplicity of it, which others see as a weakness.
In terms of average day hiking, all the basic functions a hiker needs are covered capably in the Suunto A-30 Compass. While it may not look as snazzy or dazzling as some of the others listed here, it does its core job very well.
2. TurnOnSport Compass
- Simple design
- Lanyard included
- Another good option for beginners
- More personal taste, we found the florescent yellow color a little distracting
- Some concerns expressed by users on the durability
This compass utilizes an acrylic plastic baseplate, which is tough and durable. As already alluded too, we think simple and functional plastic compass designs like this, are the best option for a hiker.
This compass is an excellent option for someone just getting started with navigation or orienteering. It has all the key things you need in a simple and easy to use design.
The TurnOnSport compass is another compass that is designed with the basic principles of functionality and ease of use first. It’s a practical and easy to use model.
It has a clear plastic baseplate made from acrylic. This design is very easy to use with maps as it is transparent. The color of the baseplate is however a type of fluorescent yellow, which we think is a little distracting. However, that could just be our bias as we prefer clear and colorless plastic.
The acrylic plastic used is durable as most plastics are. However, there were some user concerns expressed about the durability of this compass. If you are carrying it in a backpack as you bump and move over rocky terrain, that may be something to consider. If you are doing basic orienteering for fun, then its likely less of a concern.
The compass itself is constructed as all good compasses are, utilizing a magnetic needle and directional arrow, as well as orienting lines compass and lanyard. The compass also features metric measurements.
This is a manual magnet compass which comes with a 360 degree rotating bezel to help you take your bearing. There is also a magnifier at the top to help magnify features on maps that are hard to see. The compass also comes with a ruler and a 1:24000 compass Scale.
The last thing of note, is that the price is very competitive relative to some other options listed here, but keep in mind that you do tend to get what you pay for.
Overall, the TurnOnSport compass is a great option for someone new to navigation and orienteering. For example, boyscouts could get a lot of value from this model for orienteering exercises and the like. Similarly, a hiker on lighter trails should get along fine with it too.
If however, you are a seasoned hiker that likes to go off the beaten track and over trickier terrain, something more sturdy would likely be a better a option.
3. Eyeskey Multi-function Compass
- Lifetime warranty
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Military construction
- Heavier than other options
- Not the easiest for beginners to use
Eyeskey promises that they have created a compass that can be used at any time to ensure that you’re on the right path. Let’s find out if this multi-functional compass works as claimed.
The first thing that most of you will notice about this compass is the waterproof and shake-proof aluminum housing. The housing ensures that the compass cannot be easily damaged, even while crossing rigorous terrain during severe weather conditions.
The mirror design permits view of the capsule while sighting an object or setting a line. This is practical and helpful while setting your direction of travel.
Such a particular design makes this product a little heavier than other models, which may be too much for some individuals. However, in the grand scheme of things, it is still a lightweight piece of kit.
This model also has an engraved ruler and a wheel that can help you measure, in inches and centimeters, straight and curved distances on the map.
Additionally, upon purchase, you will get a nice leather pouch and a manual written in English. What is also nice is the gold color, it looks pretty cool and pleasing to the eye.
This is a product that will definitely help you in the core requirement of following the right bearing and direction.
If you find yourself in a position where you need to find your way, you most definitely need that capability to work. This compass will be a reliable and dependable help in that regard, due to its sturdy military construction.
4. Sportneer Lensatic Sighting Compass
- Easy to use, adjust, and carry around
- Sturdy compass and case
- Can be used any time of the day
- Will not sit flat unless you remove the string clip
- Steep learning curve
This army green sighting compass from Sportneer is said to be built following military-grade standards so that you can get the most accurate readings. Will this really be a reliable hiking companion? Let’s have a look.
Two big bonuses included with this sighting compass are the level bubble and the carrying case.
The compass is great for reading when you are using the compass on any level surface, it’s also easy to use when holding in your hand, which of course will be necessary when trying to hike over or following certain types of terrain in the natural topography out in the hills.
The carrying case, on the other hand, keeps the compass safe and secure while you are not using it.
Like many compasses in this class, this model from Sportneer is quite heavy, but not as heavy as the other two, since it is also made of waterproof and shake-proof metal.
The good thing though is that the manufacturer incorporated a belt loop attachment, giving you a different option on how to carry it. Overall, the biggest benefit of using this sighting compass is the accuracy that it provides.
From sighting to reading distances to finding directions, you’ll find that the accuracy is pretty high because of the integrated lined reference window as well as its fluorescent dial and directional arrow. The compass also provides accurate scales in both inches and centimeters, which will help keep you on track.
The material used in the production of this compass, from the inside to the outside, has been well-thought out to match the standards of some well-loved compass models and brands. The components were also intelligently placed so that each one can be efficiently used anytime.
5. Proster IP65 Compass
- Also functions as a clinometer to measure angle / elevation of slopes
- Sturdy and accurate
- High waterproof rating
- Can be used any time of the day
- Some problems with the elevation guide
Designed with a foldable metal lid, adjustable prism lenses, and luminous magnetic arrow, this army green compass from Proster is the heaviest and most expensive on the list. Will it be worth it?
When it comes to accuracy, this compass does very well. The needle settles quickly and stays on point even if you are moving from side to side a lot. Along with the sighting lens, this compass will provide all the accuracy you need to follow a map or get your bearings while on the trail.
This compass comes equipped with an optional elevation guide, so if you need to estimate elevations to stay on course, this sighting gauge can help you do just that.
One negative of keeping this gauge on the compass is that it prevents light from charging the solar powered fluorescent backlight, but if you have a headlamp or other light source for nighttime, this will not be an issue.
Still, it is not the most accurate guide and may need to be tapped a few times to get an accurate reading. Also, one big drawback you should know about this compass is the instruction manual. Do not expect to learn how to use a compass with such as it seems to be a case of “lost in translation.”
Taking all of those minor glitches out of the bag, the compass itself functions wonderfully, so you can use it if you already know how to use a compass. Additionally, it is made of metal that is resistant to water and shakiness.
This compass stands out against other models because of its ability to survive immense water exposure, making it an all-weather companion of both novice and experienced hikers or campers.
Choosing the best compass for hiking will depend on your particular situation, but we feel that the Sportneer Lensatic Sighting Compass stands out among the three.
It is the most convenient to carry and ergonomically designed, as well as having the lowest weight and price. Also, with the Sportneer compass, you’ll find that you can learn how to stay on course without a lot of issues, and this will lead to a more successful and enjoyable day hiking out on the hills.
However, if simplicity if the name of the game, then look no further than the Suunto A-30 Compass. It does everything the average hiker / backpacker needs a compass to do, and it is very lightweight and also exceptionally easy to pack away.
Just be sure to store it sensibly as although it is tough, it doesn’t have the hard outer casing that the others do.
If in case you want something more sophisticated looking and you don’t mind spending more and carrying a heavier compass, then the Proster IP65 Compass is a great option. Not only is it accurate, but it also has other functions besides being a compass.
So we hope you found this article on the best compass for hiking useful. As you can see, as with most things these days, there is a wide variety of option and choice available to you.
As with any hiking gear, we always say that you need to get clear on what you need your gear for first before parting with cash to buy something.
In this instance, having a compass that do complicated things like measuring angles and the height of slopes, may be cool to have, but the main question you need to ask yourself, is do you really need it!? That’s were you find your answers as to what is best for you to get.
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