Best Compass Selection Guide – 7 Reasons to Have One


Since the advent of GPS, smartphones, and other high-tech devices, it’s easy to overlook the importance of a compass. What happens when tech fails? 

Whether your battery dies, you travel out of range, or you encounter unmapped territory, a compass can bail you out and get you back on track. If you’re wondering why you’d ever need one, and how to get one, we’ve got you covered. Read on to learn why you need one and how to choose the best option to meet your needs.


Best Compass – 7 Reasons to Get One


Let’s talk about why it’s in your best interest to purchase a compass. While it’s easy to dismiss them as backwoods or military tools, you’d be surprised at how handy a compass can be anywhere, even in the city.


1. Understand Directions Better

A compass uses a magnetic system to identify true north, making it easier to identify east, west, and south. If the arrow points north, you learn that traveling in the opposite direction means going south. You can develop a better understanding of direction using a compass to guide your path.


2. Reliable Directions

How good is your sense of direction? Some people navigate by landmarks or memory, but that’s not always an option. From bad weather to unknown terrain, having a reliable guide to point your way is not a bad idea. Since it always points to the true north, you’re not liable to get lost no matter where you need to go.


3. You Don’t Need a Google Maps Update

Most of our GPS technology relies on satellites and mapping the areas we travel. Remote areas and places with new construction may not be accurate, but you can’t always avoid them. Thankfully, a compass doesn’t need any of those updates to keep you moving in the right direction.


4. Power-Friendly

Inevitably, your GPS or smartphone battery will die at the worst possible moment. What do you do then? Since a compass relies on magnets, you don’t have to worry about recharging them. Even if you need to use them at night, a flashlight, solar light, or simple LED light can get you on your way in no time.


5. Excellent Backup to Fragile Tech Devices

Aside from requiring little to no power, a compass can sustain a lot more wear and tear than typical phones and GPS devices. Drop a GPS, and it’s probably done for. A cracked smartphone screen could spell trouble. Compasses can serve as old faithful in the event of a device failure.


6. Durable and Space Saving 

While many phones can fit in your pocket, they aren’t quite as space-friendly. Though you can buy a heavy-duty, tricked-out compass, a basic one does just fine and usually fits comfortably in most pockets. 


7. They Look Cool 

Okay, so appearances shouldn’t matter, but in some ways they do. A compass, no matter how basic, looks awesome. Plus, showing off how awesome you are at navigating with a compass will surely leave an impression. 


How to Choose The Best Compass


With so many options available, it may seem overwhelming to choose the best option for you. Knowing a few key points could make things much easier, and help you narrow the field. There are four primary features to consider when purchasing a compass, though they may not all be necessary.


Declination Adjustment

First, it’s necessary to understand that declination refers to the difference between true north and magnetic north. Depending on where you are, the difference could be a few degrees or several. Declination adjustment allows you to adjust the setting when you travel to a new area.


Sighting Mirror

When you require precise navigation, like backwoods hiking and other off-trail adventures, a sighting mirror can serve two purposes. It can give you exact bearing in relation to landmarks and act as an emergency signal if necessary.


Global Needle

Are you heading to a new country or traveling south of the Equator? If so, you may want to pick up a compass with a global needle that can compensate for variations in the magnetic field anywhere in the world.



Though not always necessary, clinometers can help in places where avalanches occur. Skiers, hikers, scientists, and search-and-rescue teams usually require this feature to measure how steep a slope is, heights of objects, and avalanche hazards.


Where to Get the Best Compass


Knowing what to look for in a compass is half the battle, but finding one could prove another challenge. Most stores that sell outdoor gear carry some compasses, like REI, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and Bass Pro Shops. Of course, Amazon is an excellent place to start because of the selection, and you can read customer reviews. 

To help you out, we did some mini-reviews of our favorite compasses. While we can’t pick the best compass of the bunch, we don’t think you can go wrong with any of them! 



SUUNTO unisex adult Northern Hemisphere compass, USGS UTM, MC-2 NH US
4,789 Reviews
SUUNTO unisex adult Northern Hemisphere compass, USGS UTM, MC-2 NH US
  • Advanced Navigational Compass: Made with serious hikers in mind, this professional mirror compass was designed for precise directional measurement and has been balanced for global use with Metric...
  • Precise And Dependable: Operable in low light conditions, the MC-2 Compass includes a sighting hole and notch for accurate bearings, declination adjustment tool, and a clinometer
  • Stay On Course: Made in Finland, Suunto mechanical compasses help you safely and accurately navigate the great outdoors; Great for Alpine skiing, hiking, trekking, mountain biking, trail running...

This compass covers the basics, and you can choose between a global style or the northern hemisphere. The MC-2 includes declination adjustment and a clinometer. It functions well in multiple situations, including low light, and it’s easy to use. Plus, SUUNTO is a reliable, respected brand.



  • Compact, durable design
  • Multiple options
  • Easy to use



  • Brand name obscures some of the face
  • May have some quality control issues 


Cammenga Waterproof

Cammenga Official US Military Tritium Lensatic Compass, Olive Drab Accurate Waterproof Hand Held Compasses with Pouch for Hiking Camping Navigation Survival Backpacking Orienteering
1,731 Reviews
Cammenga Official US Military Tritium Lensatic Compass, Olive Drab Accurate Waterproof Hand Held Compasses with Pouch for Hiking Camping Navigation Survival Backpacking Orienteering
  • MADE IN THE USA - This aluminum compass is the top quality pocket compass on the market. Accurate to +/- 40 mils, it performs flawlessly in extreme temperatures.
  • OFFICIAL US MILITARY COMPASS - With this professional tactical compass survival is more likely. A survival compass backed by our government!
  • WANT A COMPASS YOU CAN TRUST? Stay safe with this accurate compass for backpacking. Self powered lighted pocket compass provides illumination for over 12 years.

Branded as an official United States military compass, it’s waterproof and sand proof with a powder-coated aluminum frame. It includes built-in illumination, can handle extreme temperatures, and it’s American-made. You can even choose between three colors – black, coyote brown, or olive drab. 



  • Multiple high-end features
  • Waterproof and sand proof
  • Compact design



  • Expensive 
  • Some quality control issues reported



AOFAR Military Compass AF-4074 Camo for Hiking ,Lensatic Sighting Waterproof ,Durable ,Inclinometer for Camping ,Boy Scount,Geology Activities Boating
2,387 Reviews
AOFAR Military Compass AF-4074 Camo for Hiking ,Lensatic Sighting Waterproof ,Durable ,Inclinometer for Camping ,Boy Scount,Geology Activities Boating
  • MULTIFUNCTION:Floating compass dial with 360° scale,adjustable prism lens,Fold metal lid,Compass with clinometer, enable to measure height and slopes
  • DURABLE METAL : Durable metal construction,waterproof and shakeproof.allowing it to withstand even the most harsh conditions.Activities: Ideal for camping, hiking, adventure, positioning,...
  • HIGH ACCURACY:Thermoelastic liquid-filled capsule,This model uses a true sighting optic that allows you a direct read of the internal compass card housed in the fluid filled capsule

If you appreciate the military look and feel but not the price tag attached to the Cammenga compass, you may want to check out this one. The AF-4074 comes in camouflage or black and includes multiple features, including a sighting hairline, clinometer, and adjustable prism lens. It’s also waterproof and has night glow features so that you can still see in the dark.



  • High-tech, military look at an affordable price
  • Sturdy build
  • Waterproof


  • Heavier than others
  • Night glow may not be sufficient


Silva Explorer Pro

Explorer PRO Compass, Clear, One Size (Pack of 1)
173 Reviews
Explorer PRO Compass, Clear, One Size (Pack of 1)
  • Slope card for measuring slope and extra distance
  • DryFlex Rubber grip for easy handling of the compass/great grip
  • Built in adjuster for magnetic declination

Though it looks basic, the Explorer Pro Compass has some helpful built-in components, including adjustable declination, luminous markings for night use, and a magnifying lens. It also features a DryFlex Rubber grip and lanyard for easy handling and carrying.



  • Comes with lanyard and rubber grip for easy handling
  • Luminous markings for night use
  • Includes slope card



Silva Starter Compass

Silva Expedition S Compass | Night-Enabling Luminous Markings | Perfect for Navigation, Hiking, Trekking and Hunting
283 Reviews
Silva Expedition S Compass | Night-Enabling Luminous Markings | Perfect for Navigation, Hiking, Trekking and Hunting
  • SILVA EXPEDITION S COMPASS features easy-handling Dryflex housing, silicon rubber feet for precision map work
  • NIGHT- ENABLING LUMINOUS markings, magnifying lens, map-measuring scales in MM or INCHES
  • SLOPE CARD calculate avalanche risk, determine how challenging your journey will be. This compass can also map-measure 1:40,000, has both a clinometer for measuring slope angle, and 45-degree...

When you need a durable, budget-friendly option, Silva’s starter compass could be just the right fit. Though it doesn’t have some of the bells and whistles you get with the other options, this one is waterproof and features a detachable lanyard so that you can wear it around your neck. It’s durable and easy to read.



  • Priced right
  • Easy to use
  • Waterproof


  • No advanced features 
  • May have some quality control issues


Best Compass – Final Thoughts


Whether you’re heading to remote areas for outdoor adventures or seeking a reliable backup for navigating the city, there are dozens of reasons to use these useful tools. You can find options to fit any situation and budget. If you carry one, you will never get lost again!