Discussion in 'Equipment & Survival Kits' started by Josephina, Oct 28, 2008.

  1. Josephina

    Josephina Guest

    What should I look for in a good compass? How much does a good one run for? I saw some at Wal-Mart for $4 but I'm afraid of buying something cheap in quantity resulting in cheap in quality.
  2. ke4sky

    ke4sky ke4sky

    Which compass?

    Which compass is best for you depends upon whether you will have a map and know how to use it, or if you won't have a map and just want to maintain direction.

    As a minimum for everyday carry I would want a sturdy, waterproof button compass, such as the – Marbles pocket-type. This high quality basic compass costs about $18.

    If new to, but somewhat familiar with basic orienteering, then get a Silva 123, Starter or Pathfinder or a Bruton 9020G beginners map compass and wear it around your neck on a "dummy cord." These will cost in the $10 to $20 range. If you will have only one compass, at least get one of these and then learn how to use it.



    To learn the basics:

    Map and Compass Basics
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2008

  3. FlatFender

    FlatFender Guest

    Dicks Sporting Goods has some decent Silva compasses for $9.99
  4. Fn/Form

    Fn/Form Function over Form

    My bare minimum compass is a Brunton 15TDCL Elite (not the basic 15TDCL).

    Always have two. One in a secured pocket to use in emergency, the other to actually use.

    Don't buy the cheap, USA-made Silva stuff. Buy the Euro models. You can flip over the package and see where it's made, usually a flag from the country of origina.

    Silva USA is not the same as Silva Europe. The Silva Ranger (IIRC) was widely acclaimed as a great basic compass. That was back when Johnson Outdoors marketed the Silva made in Europe.

    Johnson has the US rights to "Silva", and it's not the same quality product it once was... due to a fall-out with Silva Europe and Johnson keeping the rights to "Silva" in the US.
  5. chocotaco

    chocotaco Guest

    Is it possible to make a compass if you have a magnet with you ?
  6. TechAdmin

    TechAdmin Administrator Staff Member

    Curious to know this as well. You can make a compass with basic parts like a compass and needle?
  7. GPER

    GPER Active Member

    You will need to know the difference between true north and magnetic north to figure into your navigation.
  8. wd4nyl

    wd4nyl Member

    Here are a few quick hints.

    When looking at compasses, look at several. All should point the same direction when pointing North. If it cant find North in Walmart, don't expect it to find it in Yosemite either.

    Move them around a little. A good compass should "recover" quickly and go back to North. If it takes a while for it to decide which way to go or meanders aimlessly, it is worthless for field use.

    It should have a dial where you can set your course after you have determined your bearings.

    I use a Silva.
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2008
  9. hillbilly

    hillbilly Active Member

    Get a good Lensatic compass if you can find a Military leftover.I don't know a brand name But a Lensatic compass is good for Orienting from a map or just for good direction keeping.The good lensatic compass will run 100 plus but is great and will actually take a slight beating if abused by accident.Used one in the Military and would not be without one now it will save your life in a real situation.
  10. The_Blob

    The_Blob performing monkey

    I know it might be blasphemy, but I just use a $1 store model with the suction cup that you mount in a car, I pulled off the suction cup & the mounting nub had a hole to put some 50# monofilament thru for a cord... it hasn't failed me yet, not that I've been in 'undiscovered country' or anything though.
  11. Canadian

    Canadian Well-Known Member

    I've got an inexpensive victorinox one. I wouldn't go too cheap on a compass. I wouldn't want to die in the woods over a few dollars.
  12. TechAdmin

    TechAdmin Administrator Staff Member

    Can a compass really go bad though?
  13. The_Blob

    The_Blob performing monkey

    the cheap ones usually aren't very resistant to damage & the really, really , really cheap ones have weakly magnetized iron pointers &/or leak issues
  14. patchmonkey

    patchmonkey Guest

    make a compass with magnet

    To answer chocotaco's question, yes you can make a compass with a magnet. To test this, rub one end of a needle on a frig magnet (preferably metal) and then float this needle on a piece of styrofoam in a bowl of water. It will orient to magnetic north.

    Caution, don't store a magnet any where near your compass. If you are desperate, magnets are all around us. The speakers in your car have magnets.

    I rate my gear based on two things: quality and the ease of use. In addition to my compass used for field navigation with a map I have a little Suunto watchband compass and use it all the time because it is with me all the time. $10 at REI. Much less expensive than a digital watch compass. Most orienteering masters can get anywhere with a map and a small watchband compass. You only need an expensive super accurate compass with mirror when you are navigating in featureless terrain (such as desert, tundra, or dense forest) while traveling long distances (in my opinion). If you understand declination then you can do it in your head and don't need a compass that can compensate for it.

    Your watch can double as a compass (google it) and you can find a North/ South line with the shadow of a stick and build a compass to based on your particular latitude with that stick and a line from the shadow (again, google it)

    Last edited: Feb 1, 2009
  15. Obsidian

    Obsidian Guest

    Cheap ones can fall apart. For around $10, you can get one that will last a lifetime. I had one that the needle came off its spindle while still in its liquid-filled capsule.

    I like Suunto, made in Finland. Never had any problem.

    Silva used to be made by the Silva company in Sweden. Back then they were great. But now Brunton I think owns Silva and now its not clear to me who or where they are made. I think the classic yellow with rounded edges Brunton is probably fine, but when you can get a Suunto for about the same price....

    The little button ones are difficult to use with any degree of accuracy. Get a baseplate model, like the Suunto A-10 or something like that.
  16. Ramkitten

    Ramkitten Member

    Good timing; I just came home from helping teach a map & compass class (just as one of the people in the room and in the field who could help people who were confused).

    Of course, if you know how to compensate for declination in your head, you can pay a few fewer dollars and not get a compass with adjustable declination ... although it sure is nice to have that feature. Overall, though, you do have to know what the current declination is for the area where you'll be traveling/hiking/navigating, because it changes over time and most maps are outdated. An error of one degree over one mile amounts to about 100 feet, so it depends on how big your target is as to how much that matters to you. Overall, it depends on how accurate you want or need to be. If you just want to have a general idea of direction, a cheap compass is fine. If you really want accuracy, there are compasses that retail for about $25 that are perfectly good (usually no sighting mirror for that price, though).

    Anyhoo, I just have compass on the brain right now, so I couldn't resist babbling about it.

    Oh, P.S. Somebody mentioned that compasses should always "point to north" and not jump around in the store. Couple of comments on that: There may be a lot of magnetic interference in a store, so you do have to take that into account if the needle is "jumping." Also, compasses don't point to magnetic north, except in a small number of areas. Instead, they point wherever the magnetic field in your area is pointing, and that magnetic field meanders around all over the place. It's one of the common misconceptions that our main instructors are always harping on us about when we say it ... so I'm just bein' annoying like they are. :)
    Last edited: May 2, 2009
  17. Obsidian

    Obsidian Guest

    If the Canadians would just put the magnet where it belongs and stop moving all over, we wouldn't have to worry about declination. :p
    Last edited: May 2, 2009
  18. sailaway

    sailaway Well-Known Member

    I have several compasses, both Silva and Suunto. We use them at the scout troop for orienteering work on the merit badge and in prepping for the klondike derby. I might add that a copy of the orienteering merit badge book is about $4.00 and a great way to learn how to use a compass. It is loaded with information on navigation and is written on a teenage level for beginners. I am enjoying all the input on different brands and differences. I had wondered about that when in Finn Feather & Fur or Dicks. Personally, I do not shop at Walmart, I'm a manufacturers rep. they do not want anything to do with a person like me.
    On my sail boat I have a Ritchie, it has been on their since 1985 and works quite well. When I turn the nav. lights on at night, its light comes on also. When I am done making the modifications to the boat I will have it tuned up to make sure any metal add ons aren't having an effect on it.:cool:
  19. Expeditioner

    Expeditioner Well-Known Member

    I like the Suunto's the best. I still have a GI compass that I use from time to time where you have to adjust for declination.
  20. Canadian

    Canadian Well-Known Member

    Suunto is a great brand. I like their products.