Top 15 Best Hiking Compasses in 2021 – Ultimate Guide

Sam Fletcher
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What is a compass used for, exactly? Isn’t it enough to just point at the North Star and figure out where to head next? Do I really need to carry one with me?

Getting lost can be very scary, especially when you’re hiking in the great outdoors with only yourself and a few friends. Getting lost is even scarier when you have a group of people who aren’t used to doing the survival thing. If you’ve had experience solo hiking, then you know that being lost is a major cause of fear.

A compass is the first thing to add to your bug-out bag to ensure safety and comfort for yourself and your friends. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know how to read a compass, everyone can use a compass.

For that reason, it’s important that you know how to read your compass. The only way that you can know how to use a compass is to know how to use it, plain and simple. It’s kind of like driving a car, but in reverse.

NameCategoryProduct
Cammenga 27CS Lensatic CompassBest OverallCammenga 27CS Lensatic Compass
SE Military Lensatic and Prismatic Sighting Survival Emergency CompassBudget PickSE Military Lensatic and Prismatic Sighting Survival Emergency Compass
SUUNTO MC-2G Global CompassUpgrade PickSUUNTO MC-2G Global Compass

1. Cammenga 27CS Lensatic Compass

Our rating: 9 / 10

Cammenga 27CS Lensatic Compass

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Pros:

  • Durable and Reliable
  • Easy to Read Compass
  • Accurate and Dependable
  • Great for Hiking, Camping, and Backpacking

This compass by Cammenga is clearly made for adventures, durability, and reliable readings. This is especially true for those who plan to travel deep into the wilderness. So if you’re looking for a multi-functional compass, the Cammenga 27CS compass is definitely one of the best compasses for hiking, camping, and backpacking.

The Cammenga 27CS compass comes in a clam-sized plastic case. It is made from phosphorescent plastic with a luminous bezel. It also has an accurate and dependable luminous double-needle bearing pivot and a radium dial that is virtually unaffected by changing temperatures.

This compass can easily be operated with one hand. You can hold it like a regular wristwatch. But it’s a lot heavier than a watch, which you’ll realize the moment you start working with it.

2. SUUNTO MC-2G Global Compass

Our rating: 9 / 10

SUUNTO MC-2G Global Compass

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Pros:

  • Clear and easy-to-use prismatic view
  • Quick initial reading thanks to automatic selectable declination
  • Magnification while sighting
  • Large degree scales
  • Adjustable declination
  • Easy to use buttons
  • Durable stainless steel construction

Cons:

  • Can be difficult to read in very sunny conditions due to the blacked out background
  • Button covers are thin and may tear as a result of excessive use

For the experienced hiker or backpacker, it’s essential to know how to navigate with a map and a compass. Finding your way using a dual-purpose compass is easier than you think! The SUUNTO MC-2G is a top-rated compass with sighting and plumb line, making it the perfect addition to your hiking gear.

This compass features their friction-free movement system, which helps guard against accidental movement as well as improve accuracy when you need to take quick precise measurements. You can easily convert the US standard degrees to alternate coordinate by using the automatic north-south calibration button.

3. SUUNTO M-3 NH Compass

Our rating: 9 / 10

SUUNTO M-3 NH Compass

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Pros:

  • Waterproof
  • Includes plumb bob for those who like to orientate according to the map
  • CR 2032 batteries

Cons:

  • Bigger profile of the bezel might bother some buyers
  • The dial might be hard to read if you have trouble with reading

Continue reading…

SUUNTO's bezel design is a great addition to the compass world. The Suunto M-3 isn't intended to be used as a terrain navigation compass. However, it does make for a great option for those who do want to orientate with the of frame of the compass (like a map).

This particular compass is equipped with an electronic thermometer that can be used to find out the air and/or the water temperature. The M-3 has 3 degrees of accuracy. It's not necessary to use this feature if you're not an orienteering enthusiast, but it's a nice feature to have.

4. Eyeskey Tactical Survival Compass

Our rating: 9 / 10

Eyeskey Tactical Survival Compass

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Pros:

  • Made of high-quality materials
  • Attachable lanyard
  • Easy to use and store
  • Attached to a carrying pouch
  • Affordable
  • Suitable for various applications

Backpacking, Boating, Camping.

Eyeskey Tactical compass might not be suitable for professional usage, but it is an excellent choice for basic outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, mountaineering, boating, etc.

The compass is equipped with a durable housing made of aluminum alloy for preventing scratching or breaking, it has a mirror finish that is resistant to damage and can be rotated to 360 degrees. The housing is also waterproof and impact resistant to protect it from cracks and breaking.

5. SUUNTO A-30 NH USGS Compass

Our rating: 8 / 10

SUUNTO A-30 NH USGS Compass

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Pros:

  • Easy to read
  • Ability to adjust declination cheaply
  • Comprehensive sighting mirror
  • Internally illuminated lanyard
  • Center-mounted pivoting needle
  • Lanyard is reflective
  • Significantly reduces hand strain

Cons:

  • Compass and sighting mirror both have glass
  • Takes a little time to get used to

The Suunto A-30 is one of the most versatile compasses you can find on the market today. This is essentially a top quality compass with a sighting mirror thrown in for good measure.

The Suunto A-30 features large, easy to read display that also features a belt clip. The dial ring is particularly useful and easy to read thanks to the high contrast between the yellow ring and the brass colored center.

The Suunto A-30 also offers a declination scale. This is a sophisticated way of compensating for magnetic variation caused by the magnetism of the earth. The variation is shown by a small metallic pointer that moves around the ring and easily slides into place.

6. Proster IP65 Compass

Our rating: 8 / 10

Proster IP65 Compass

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Pros:

  • Non-magnetic and glass sealed design
  • Glossy finishing and good feel
  • Heavy duty and built to work for a very long time

If you think shopping for a compass should be fun then you are going to find the travels to finding your desired compass very entertaining. Within this detailed review, you will learn about the pros and cons of the different types of compasses you can buy. A military or a survival compass is a tool used by the military and other personnel in a survival situation. They are meant to assist people in navigating their land while on an exploration trip. They also assist the military and other specialists in resolving different military situations.

The compass is one of the most important and invaluable survival tools in all conditions. Hikers, hunters, and anglers take it very seriously because it’s for a good reason. Unless your presence of mind is intact, you mean nothing to the wilderness. Some people are so incredulous about a compass that they do not place much importance. Sometime be the people hell bent on surviving when they do not even know how to use a compass.

7. Ueasy Military Compass

Our rating: 8 / 10

Ueasy Military Compass

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Pros:

  • A great outdoorsy compass for those looking for the best compass for hiking
  • Has a straightforward and easy to read design
  • Waterproof design to save the compass from getting damaged
  • Compatible with the majority of GPS systems
  • Magnetic to increase the accuracy of the compass
  • Lightweight design to make it portable
  • Coded with 5 different colors to direct you to your next destination
  • Comes with a gift box to present the compass to family and friends
  • Inbuilt with a level and ruler to assist in setting up camp
  • A compass for those who are newer to adventuring; ideal for camping and trekking

Cons:

  • The seller could offer more detailed instructions with the compass
  • Instructions might not be in English

The Ueasy military compass is a compass that is ideal for those who are new to the ever-changing world of hiking. This compass is a classic wilderness inspired design. This compass offers a clear and easy to read display.

8. SE Military Lensatic and Prismatic Sighting Survival Emergency Compass

Our rating: 8 / 10

SE Military Lensatic and Prismatic Sighting Survival Emergency Compass

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Pros:

  • Pretty accurate
  • Sturdy and waterproof
  • Includes a pouch
  • Contains all the essential features

Cons:

  • May feel a bit heavy
  • The directions instructions aren’t as clear as they could be

This SE Military Compass will help you stay on track wherever you go, which is precisely what you want in a hike compass. Consider this effort of a classic military compass with a sighting wire to adjust the direction with the sextant-style sighting slot. It has the right amount of readings on the dial. Just a few hundred yards from the starting point, you will be surprised to find how easy it is to read the map. It can be operated with one hand.

This compass is perfect for hikers and backpackers to navigate. The simple dial is perfect for getting a good idea of the direction. For added accuracy, there is a knurled dial so you can rotate it before locking it in place.

You can use it to find your location if you’re lost because it is equipped with a patented sighting wire and sighting glass. You can use it to fix your location when your cell phone goes out.

9. SUUNTO A-10 NH Metric Recreational Field Compass

Our rating: 8 / 10

SUUNTO A-10 NH Metric Recreational Field Compass

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Pros:

  • Lightweight
  • Affordable
  • Great visibility
  • Traditional, durable design
  • 3D magnetic north indicator
  • Strong crosswind stability
  • Reliable in all weather conditions
  • Easy to read in most conditions
  • Sighting lines with sight-channel prism
  • Takes only a glance to locate

Cons:

  • No bezel ring
  • May be harder to read in bright light
  • Lanyard is short
  • Dial needs to be submerged or dipped in water sometimes to make the compass needle easier to see

Military and outdoorsmen should never be without the trusty Suunto A-10. This multipurpose compass was made to go anywhere and comes at a fantastic price.

Building off of the Suunto M-Series, this new model is suited for the recreational user, service members, and professionals. This compass has been used to successfully navigate in the harshest conditions and can be relied on for accurate readings. The visibility is improved by its mirror surface and wide design, which provides a larger viewing area.

10. Suunto M-3 G Compass

Our rating: 8 / 10

Suunto M-3 G Compass

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Pros:

  • Broad/simple navigation
  • Comes with base plate
  • Auto shut-off feature

Cons:

  • Weather resistant shell
  • 4 degree angular accuracy

Back up your paper map or compass with the Suunto M3 G compass. If you’re a traveler who seeks thrill of adventure, then this is the compass for you.

Suunto tends to be a trusted name in the surveying business, and this model lives up to the name. It’s built for adventure

Complete with a base plate, this compass is a great choice for wilderness travel. Due to its slim, lightweight design, the Suunto M3 G is an excellent choice for backpacking and hiking.

11. Sportneer Military Lensatic Sighting Compass

Our rating: 8 / 10

Sportneer Military Lensatic Sighting Compass

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Pros:

  • 35mm diameter
  • Comes with a compass pouch
  • Included direction guide
  • Luminous pointer
  • Blister resistant

Cons:

  • Magnetic declination compass
  • Range claims lack specifics

Many of us probably used a similar compass during our days in Boy Scouts, but this time around, it’s made to be a little more durable and functional than previous versions.

Sportneer’s military compass has a large 35mm diameter, which most users praise for allowing for easy following. The double-sided measuring ruler is full of information and is easy to follow as well.

A red cover provides some safety in low light, and the overall design is sleek and compact. A carrying pouch is included along with a small instruction guide that can help you get started.

12. Eyeskey Multifunctional Military Metal Sighting Navigation Compass

Our rating: 8 / 10

Eyeskey Multifunctional Military Metal Sighting Navigation Compass

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Pros:

  • It uses a magnifier to make reading the compass easy.
  • The sighting device is accurate.
  • The price is reasonable.
  • It is an easy compass to use.
  • The compass has a bright light for night time navigation.
  • The compass can be used by all people, including young children.
  • The housing is made of strong impact resistant metal.
  • The compass is water-resistant.
  • The compass has a powerful magnet inside the housing.

Cons:

  • The clip on the bright light can be easily broken.
  • There is no warranty.

Military, GPS.

This is a compact, eye-friendly and powerful compass. It features a high-intensity LED light which has two brightness levels and a strobe mode. The light is powered by 3 AAA batteries which are included upon purchase. The light is powered by 3 AAA batteries which are included upon purchase.

If you encounter any problems, contact the company. They provide lifetime support. They also offer a money-back guarantee within 100 days of purchase. This compass has its own manufacturing defects. This is not a return because the buyer simply doesn’t like it.

13. Brunton TruArc5 Baseplate Mapping Compass

Our rating: 7 / 10

Brunton TruArc5 Baseplate Mapping Compass

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Pros:

  • Clear, easy-to-read markings
  • Water-resistant and shake proof
  • Baseplate allows you to draw a map or note important info
  • Cheap and simple to use

Cons:

  • You must hold it level
  • Magnets might mess up the scale

Hiking and camping compasses are essential for the hobbyist, camper, or tracker. If you’re venturing off and need to keep track of your route or direction, you’re going to need a compass. I tested a ton of hiking compasses and found that the Brunton TruArc5 is very high quality and does exactly what you need it to.

The Brunton TruArc5 Baseplate Mapping Compass is a low-tech compass with many high-tech characteristics. It has a black base with clear dials that’s meant to be drawn on with a marker. The base is protected by a clear plastic cover that keeps it clean and helps it last longer.

The Brunton TruArc5 Baseplate is extremely easy to use. It’s very sturdy and fits nicely in your palm or pocket.

14. SUUNTO A-10 IN Metric Recreational Field Compass

Our rating: 7 / 10

SUUNTO A-10 IN Metric Recreational Field Compass

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Pros:

  • Super accurate
  • Includes a magnifying glass
  • Stylish design
  • Water-resistant
  • Easy to use and operate
  • Virtually indestructible
  • Comes at an affordable price

Suunto has some very popular GPS watches on the market, but they also have some very popular orienteering compasses as well.

The Suunto A-10 offers both, plus some other nice touches that you won’t find on other items.

This compass is virtually indestructible. The case is made from very durable materials, and the lens itself is almost impossible to scratch. It’s water- and shock-proof, meaning it’s a great option for anyone who is venturing into the woods or planning an outdoor trip.

15. Silva Polaris Compass

Our rating: 6 / 10

Silva Polaris Compass

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Pros:

  • Reliable and detailed compass
  • Easy to use with map
  • Suitable for all terrains and weather conditions
  • Robust and easy to handle
  • Durable and pocket-friendly
  • Large viewing angle for precise direction reading
  • Rectangular map inlay with magnifier
  • Includes a handy ruler

The Silva Polaris is one of the most up to date compasses available. It will help you easily find your way anywhere in the world. It comes with a flagship map with a magnifier and a ruler to make navigation even easier.

Thanks to its innovations, the Silva Polaris can be used in all terrains regardless of the weather conditions. It’s one of the best hiking compasses you can find.

16. Coghlan'S Map Compass

Our rating: 6 / 10

Coghlan'S Map Compass

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Pros:

  • Available in many colors
  • Waterproof
  • Includes both an adjustable base and a swing arm
  • Both a 360-degree and a north-pointing scale
  • Lightweight and inexpensive

The Coghlan's Map Compass is a really nice tool for any hiker to have in their pack, especially if they’re traveling into an area that they’ve never hiked before. It’s lightweight, waterproof, inexpensive, and easy to use, making it a popular choice for hikers.

This circular compass doesn’t have a traditional dial face. Instead, you set it on a pivot on the base and use the engraved degree and cardinal points to find your way back to your route or to a set destination.

There are also two scales on the pivoting base of the compass so you can easily get your bearings when you need to. One is a 360-degree scale, and the other shows the degrees of the cardinal points (N/NE, E/SE, S/SW, and W/NW).

17. Silva Ranger 515 Compass

Our rating: 5 / 10

Silva Ranger 515 Compass

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Pros:

  • Lightweight and easy to carry around
  • Rubber casing provides a non-slip grip
  • Clear display showing the directions of the cardinal points with the North to be the center

The Silva Ranger 515 is a classic hiking compass that is a must-have for any beginner backpacker or frequent hiker.

It has a low-profile container made from a lightweight, yet durable ABS plastic to keep the compass from breaking or harder to find in poor weather conditions. It also comes with a calibrated liquid-filled capsule with a red indicator top that resists damage from harsh sunlight.

The night-view compass can be used even if it’s pitch dark outside because the numbers and central red needle are clearly visible. The gradient feature allows for adjustments to your current bearing based off the local terrain and your direction of travel.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is the most accurate compass?

That depends on a factor: accuracy. If you mean technical accuracy, we would say the baseplate compass, made by Suunto or Silva. The baseplate is made of mirrors and is the most accurate kind of compass.

However, there is another kind of accuracy – ease of use. If you are just a beginner and you need to learn how to use your compass, then a regular one might be better. The reason is that learning to use a baseplate compass is more difficult, you need to learn and read its special manual.

Are cheap compasses accurate?

The accuracy of a compass is only as good as your holding of the compass. So if the compass has a needle that tends to tilt when held in your hand, it will always read incorrectly regardless of how good of a compass you have. If you are unable to hold a compass perfectly level during your reading, then you shouldn't even be using it!

Do I need a compass for hiking?

Assuming you plan to hike in more than one country, or even visit multiple states, we believe that a compass is an essential travel item for you. For greater ease of use and travel, we suggest purchasing a basic, lightweight compass that is small enough to fit in your wallet. This way it can be easily carried with you everywhere you travel. You'll quickly learn that knowing your heading can be critical if you want to avoid getting lost on a hike. Many popular hiking areas have trails that criss cross each other. If you don't know which direction you are heading, it can be very difficult to find your way back to the trail you started on. But if you carry a compass, you'll always know which direction you're headed.

How accurate are compasses?

Compasses aren't 100% accurate and that's why it's best to remember to use a compass in conjunction with a map (which I'll talk about a bit further down). You may find that a compass is off by up to 3 degrees. But in most situations, you'll find that your compass and map are extremely accurate. I've tested all these products in the wilderness, mostly in the United States but also Canada. Each one of these devices was able to match up with a map in the field.

Another thing to keep in mind, there are many factors that affect a compass needle and ultimately its accuracy. Here's a list of some you should be aware of if you're navigating in the wilderness:

Metal- avoid magnetized metal objects such as cars and metal fences. These can disrupt your compass and throw off it's accuracy.

Conclusion

Choosing a compass is not complicated, and this guide should be all you need to make the right decision for your needs. Whether you're a backpacker and need the best navigational tool, a hiker who enjoys a day trip or is looking for the best gift for a friend, or a survivalist who hopes to never need it, we've got you covered.

Our Recommendation

NameCategoryProduct
Cammenga 27CS Lensatic CompassBest OverallCammenga 27CS Lensatic Compass
SE Military Lensatic and Prismatic Sighting Survival Emergency CompassBudget PickSE Military Lensatic and Prismatic Sighting Survival Emergency Compass
SUUNTO MC-2G Global CompassUpgrade PickSUUNTO MC-2G Global Compass