Rick is a former news reporter who decided that the corporate world wasn't for him and took off to travel the world. He's been to every continent (yes, even Antarctica!) and has tried out a multitude of outdoor gear along the way. From tents to hiking boots, he's probably tested it all. Now, he's one of our full-time product testers and experts.
Bryan is one of our leading experts since he's got a vast expertise in practically everything connected to the outdoors. He's been hiking since he was a young boy, was an organizer of kayaking tours which later led to another passion of his - kayak fishing. Now, he's a part-time expert consultant involved in our multiple product tests and topic research.
Last updated: June 05, 2022
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Have you ever lost the sense of direction in the middle of a hike? It can be alarming if you are in an area that you are not familiar with. A traditional compass can go a long way in helping you avoid such situations. Unlike electronic devices, compasses will not run out of battery or charge and leave you astray. You will be able to locate the basic directions from anywhere without GPS or Internet connection. If you are hunting for the best compass for hiking, then you have come to the right place.
While hiking can be adventurous, it is always better to know what lies ahead when you are in a new place. With a modern compass, you will get some extra assistance in navigation. We have taken into account some important features when creating our reviews for each product. Starting from whether a compass is analog or digital, to its declination adjustment, global needle, clinometer and more – we have covered everything.
We want you to have all the information that you will need at the tip of your fingers. To that end, we have spent hours researching and interviewing actual users. We have tested the compasses so that you do not have to. You will find a table listing all the products followed by detailed reviews and a comprehensive buying guide.
"For travelers who need luminous markings for navigation in poor visibility. It is also popular among hikers for its small size, scratch-resistant surface, marking holes for control points, handy snap-lock lanyard."
"With this compass, you will be able to determine your direction of any length and never get lost due to the sightning mirror. Even in dark time you will be able to see luminous markings for up to 4 hours."
"Ideal for quick map reading and route finding, this compass is made of robust materials and prepared for all conditions. Night navigation feature ensures that your hiking trip can continue anytime you want."
"Looking a small and lightweight compass with full outdoor guiding potential? This what you need. Stable operation with liquid filled capsule and detachable snap-lock lanyard for quick map navigation."
"With this digital multi-function device, you will be able to know your direction, local pressure and sea level pressure, temperature and weather forecast..
Also great if you need sport assistance: tracking your steps, speed, calories."
More features: luminous, liquid filled, magnifying glass, extra sight hole to increase accuracy
When it comes to SUUNTO compasses, you can expect that touch of luxury which is lacking in most of its competitors. Widely touted as one of the most reliable companies in the market for hiking compasses, the brand lives up to its reputation via this model. If you want a compass that exudes greatness, then this is a perfect option to go for.
The globally balanced needle with jewel bearing works smoothly every time. You will never be kept waiting in the middle of an emergency. Moreover, the compass comes with a 20 degrees tilt margin that makes it easy for the user to take the readings under all circumstances. You will also note that the declination correction on the model is adjustable, which means that you will always have top compass accuracy.
The liquid-filled capsule makes sure that the compass is always stable when operating. The compass comes with a mirror that aids in sighting bearings and signaling. This is one of the best compasses for survival as it will be there for you in times of need.
More features: luminous, liquid filled, magnifying glass, extra sight hole to increase accuracy, lightweight
As mentioned before, SUUNTO will allow you to experience what a luxurious compass feels like even when you are hiking. This lightweight model will be easy to carry and will not weigh you down. It is a versatile model, and you can experiment with it. Made with clear and scratch-resistant acrylic plastic, this compass will last for a fairly long time.
The model will be able to give reliable readings with the help of Suunto’s two-zone system in the northern hemisphere. The compass comes with a fixed declination correction scale and a jewel bearing. You will also find marking holes that will make it easier for you to draw a control point.
You will find that the luminous bezel and markings will help you navigate even in poor visibility. Additionally, you get lanyard with detachable snap-lock that is easy to manage.
More features: luminous, liquid filled, inch and cm scales, waterproof and shockproof design, sighting lens with diopter adjustment, range of working temperature: – 20 ℃ – + 50 ℃, accessories kit: cleaning cloth, carry pouch, manual, neck lanyard
If you want a hiking compass that will last for a fairly long time, then this model is an excellent option as it is made with high-strength engineering metal. You can take it on your most rugged hikes without having to fear that it will break. This compass is as sturdy as they come.
The compass comes with a built-in bubble level that ensures high accuracy. It can lead to lesser errors, and this means that you will never be led to a wrong path. The luminous magnet arrow and even the compass card are designed to help you navigate even when it is dark around. However, they will not work if they do not absorb enough sunshine. The fluorescent design is eye-catching for sure.
This traditional military-style compass comes in a case so you can have maximum portability. The waterproof and shockproof design is a bonus.
More features: luminous, magnifying lens, neck lanyard
You can rely on Silva to give you functional compasses which will allow you to navigate when you are hiking. The Silva Ranger 2.0, as the name suggests, is an advanced model that you will want to get your hands on. Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned adventurer, you will find that this compass is extremely handy everywhere. It gives you precision, and you can depend on its accuracy when you are looking to go back home.
The design of the model is made to be durable so that you can carry it on your trips without any fear. It shows outstanding results on rugged terrain. The needle, crafted from high-quality Swedish steel with excellent magnetic features, will not lead you astray.
The model comes with mirror sighting and a sighting hole that will allow you to keep an eye over long distances. It also has luminous markings so that you are able to navigate even during the night. The luminous surface must accumulate the light from the sun or flashlight. This night time navigation can last up to 4 hours.
More features: luminous, liquid filled,magnifying lens, neck lanyard, waterproof
When you are on a hike, and you need that extra hand at navigating, you should depend on a reliable compass that will give you accurate information. You simply cannot count on electronic gadgets that might run out of power any second. This is where Silva’s Explorer Pro Compass comes into the picture. This model will ensure that you are always on the right path. Users have found this model very easy to use, which makes it perfect for beginners.
The model comes with a distance lanyard and magnifier that will allow you to take your navigation game a notch higher. With the help of this compass, you will study your map to the very last detail.
The product comes with a built-in adjuster that will allow you to fix the magnetic declination according to your needs. The luminous markings allow you to find your way in the dark, making it really useful when the sun sets.
More features: luminous, liquid filled,magnifying lens
This new model from Brunton will fulfill all your navigation needs without any difficulty. The reliable design ensures that you are able to carry it on all your trips. If you are someone who frequents rough and rugged conditions, then this compass is for you. You will not have to worry about the product falling apart.
This product is perfect for professionals since it comes equipped with multiple features. The clinometer and the tool-less declination adjustment make this compass easy to manage and accurate. Foresters, contractors and landscapers will be able to use this compass for professional purposes.
The advanced navigation system can resist magnetic interference better than most of its competitors. It will not lose polarity, ensuring that you get accurate results. The TruArc Global Needle is trustworthy as it works in both northern and southern hemispheres. Take it anywhere you like without any fear of getting lost as it is the best handheld compass available.
More features: liquid filled, lightweight, accessories kit: lanyard with clip
This compass is extremely versatile and can be used for hiking, trekking and hunting without any problems. This model comes at an inexpensive price point and gives you full value for your money. It is easy to use, which makes it the ideal compass for beginners.
With this compass, you will not have to deal with any complications. It comes with a declination scale and ruler. The rotating bezel is an interesting feature that you might grow to enjoy. Even though this model is not very expensive, it is rather durable and will not fall apart easily. The scratch-resistant plastic ensures that your compass does not look worn down just after a few uses. The model comes with a lanyard that makes it comfortable for you to handle it on the go.
Since the model is liquid-filled, the needle settles down quickly. However, the price indicates that the brand had to cut down on some features such as the clinometer, sighting mirror and magnifying lens.
More features: watch compass, weather forecast, pressure, sport tracking, 30m waterproof
If you would rather have a digital compass, then this model will be a great choice. It is the perfect outdoor companion as it comes loaded with advanced features which will improve your navigation. The altimeter will inform you about your current elevation and even keep track of your journey. On the other hand, the barometer will inform you about both the local pressure and sea level pressure. The product also comes with a built-in thermometer and a weather tool to keep you prepared at all times.
You can rely on the accuracy of the digital compass as it is not likely to let you down. It will point to the correct directions for you no matter where you are. You can choose to calibrate it automatically or manually.
This particular model also comes with a sports assistant that will count your steps and your calories. It can record the distance and also act as a stopwatch. The compass also comes with basic functions such as double alarms, 12/24H time format, waterproofing, backlight, etc.
What makes it special?
Comes with loads of advanced features
Sturdy and durable design
The watch makes it easily portable
What cons did we find?
Can be difficult to read in the dark
Requires battery changing
Things to Consider
When you are looking for a good hiking compass, you will be surprised at the sheer number of choices available to you. It is easy to get overwhelmed when you visit the store and are faced with such tough decision-making. We wanted to make the process easier for you so that you invest your money in a compass that fulfills all your needs.
We have compiled a buying guide that will tell you all that you need to know when choosing the perfect hiking compass. All the compasses mentioned above are excellent products, but you will have to shortlist them based on your needs.
Choosing your type of compass for hiking
Your hiking compass should be geared towards fulfilling your individual requirements. All good hiking compasses should have certain basic features that we have covered below. Additionally, some models have built-in advanced features that are meant to make navigation easier for you. If you are a beginner, you may not require some of them, but it is always great to have the option. Professionals, on the other hand, are always looking to upgrade their experience.
Take into account the following when you are making a choice.
Analog or digital?
Digital and analog compasses do have certain differences that you need to keep in mind when selecting which one works for you.
If you are all about the extra features and tools which a compass can give you, then you should consider digital compasses. They are integrated into hiking watches as a result of which you get a package deal of many navigation tools. However, the disadvantage of digital compasses is that they are battery-powered. You will either have to change or recharge the batteries from time to time. This can be a hassle when you are on a hike, and you do not want to worry about such things. If you forget to carry your batteries or portable charger by any chance, then your digital compass would fail, leaving you stranded.
On the other hand, analog compasses do not need any external power source, which makes them less of a hassle when you are traveling. They may not have as many features as their digital compasses, but they will last you for many years. They give accurate results and help you out when need that guidance.
Features of the compasses for your needs
Hiking compasses should have the edge over regular compasses. They should come equipped with certain basic features like a declination scale, a base plate with ruler, and a rotating bezel. While the declination scale will allow you to make adjustments when you are traveling to different areas, the rotating bezel is meant to help you measure azimuth easily. The ruler will allow you to know map distances so that you have a clear idea about the road ahead.
Moreover, you will not regret having features such as sighting mirrors, magnifying lenses and clinometer. A sighting mirror will save you from making mistakes when moving with the help of the compass. With the help of a clinometer, you will be able to measure slope angles so that you do not start on a path that is too steep. The magnifying lens will ensure that you do not miss even the most minor details when reading the map. Most modern hiking compasses come with luminescent indicators that enable night vision. The glowing markers will allow you to find your path even in the dark.
If you are a frequent traveler all over the world, then you should opt for a hiking compass that has a global needle.
Durability and resistances
The primary reason why you need a hiking compass is to keep you from getting lost when you are exploring a new area. If your compass fails when you are traveling, you will have almost nothing to fall back upon. This is exactly why you need a durable compass that will not break by the accident. If you love to hike through rough terrains or high altitudes, you should look for a compass that is made with a sturdy material that can handle bad weather conditions as well.
When you are hiking, you will not be able to take care of a fragile compass. It is bound to sink in the bag or get dropped a couple of times, so make sure that you choose a durable model.
Price vs. quality
Whenever you make an investment, you should seek to get the worth of your money. There should be no compromises in the quality of the product.
Hiking compasses are priced within a wide price range, depending on the number of features they pack in. A feature-rich model that has every advanced tool you can think of may not be value for money for you if you think that you will never use the extra features. There is no need to invest in tools like these. On the other hand, if you want some flashy features, then you should not settle for a low-priced model with just the basic features because you will get tired of it soon and be forced to buy another model.
Finding the perfect hiking compass is about striking that perfect price to quality ratio. Your goal should be to get a high-quality model that will meet all your needs at the lowest price possible. While the relatively inexpensive SUUNTO A-10 Recreational Field Compass may be the perfect product for some, others might prefer the SUUNTO MC-2 Compass, which is a more advanced model.
However, you should not necessarily compromise the quality for the price because a hiking compass is an emergency tool.
Proper use and care
Once you shell out the money on a hiking compass, it is upon you to take care of it. An analog compass, if properly maintained, will give you accurate readings for a long period of time. On the other hand, digital compasses will need frequent battery replacements or charging to function properly.
Hiking compasses can be fairly pricey, and you should not neglect them. You do not want to buy a new compass all over again for your next trip. A hiking compass is very sensitive, and you should keep that in mind. Make sure that your compass is never kept directly beside your phone. Your phone magnets can mess with the calibration and magnetization of the compass. You will find that your compass tends to give inaccurate information after being stored with your phone. You should keep your compass away from all metals in general.
If the compass comes with a cord, don’t play with it as this can upset the balance of the product. Compasses with a bubble in the liquid should not be trusted because it is a sign that the needle is unable to float normally.
Ideally, globetrotters definitely have to get a global needle so they can use the compass in both hemispheres. However, if you have no plans to go traveling around the world at this point, then you do not necessarily need a global needle. Anyway, having a global needle will not lessen your experience.
You will need a global needle even if you have one trip planned on the opposite side of the equator. This is because compasses are usually hemisphere-specific and you need to use two different compasses for the northern hemisphere and the southern hemisphere. In the end, a global needle will give you the accurate direction no matter where you are, which is what makes it so unique. The compass will adjust itself according to your position.
Having a fluid-filled compass can be more beneficial than you think. Modern compasses come with a special kind of fluid that helps to balance the compass so that the user can get more accurate readings. This helps to reduce wear and tear to the needle over a period of time.
Moreover, this method also helps to reduce excessive swing and wobble when you are hiking. You will be able to read the compass much more easily. The fluid also contributes to your compass having a longer life. When you notice bubbles in the fluid, it means that the needle is unable to sit properly.
Most modern compasses come with adjustable declination which allows the user to change the declination based on his or her need. Ideally, you will have to change the declination value when you go to a new area so that you can get precise readings. Topographic maps usually include the declination of an area, but make sure that you are using the latest map.
Some compasses like Brunton have a tool-free adjustment system which is easier to manage for beginners. On the other hand, you will have to work harder to change the declination on Suunto compasses, but the process will not be very difficult as long as you are aware of the adjustment key.
Yes. Your hiking compass will stop functioning properly if it is exposed to magnetic radiations. If you want the compass readings to be precise, you should take special care to keep the device away from electronic gadgets or magnets. Being in another magnetic field can mess up the calibration of the compass so the needle will not show you accurate directions anymore.
Keeping your compass away from your phone is a must to save proper magnetization of the needle. However, if the magnetization is lost it is still possible reset the compass again, it may work properly. Still, this can be the reason why people lose faith in the device.
If you are spending your hard-earned money on a hiking compass, make sure that you are only opting for the best. While we are fond of all mentioned models, each of them comes with their own set of pros and cons. Having said that, some compasses did stand out to us, and we love them!
The AOSLSI Watch Compass is an amazing pick if you are looking for a digital compass with extra features such as an altimeter and a barometer. On the other hand, if you are not willing to spend time worrying about battery life, then the reliable analog SUUNTO MC-2 Compass is winner. With declination adjustment, a global needle, a sighting mirror, and clinometer, it has the complete package of features. Another impressive compass is the Brunton TruArc 15 Compass which offers similar features as the former.