Last Updated: July 27, 2020

Best Compass For Hiking (Budget to Expert)

While hiking around the backcountry wilderness, you’re going to need to know where you’re going. These days people tend to rely on technology more and more for navigation using things like handheld GPS’, watches, and smartphones, but you never know when tech is going to fail you. Batteries run out, phones get wet, and tech sometimes just ‘bluescreens’ you and ends up failing. At the end of the day, nothing beats a map and a compass. 

Our Top Picks

A good compass is the most reliable form of navigation, they don’t need batteries, they’re light and if you drop them, even in water, they aren’t going to break. They will show your heading, bearings, and can even be used to triangulate your location. You do of course need to have a good map of the area to go with it. 

In this article, we are on the hunt to find the best compass for hiking and have taken 8 of the best and compared them against each other. 

Top Product Overview

Suunto M-3 G Compass For Globetrotters, One Size, Global Metric
  • It's very accurate and comes with a global needle
  • The baseplate comes with luminescent markings for low light use
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SUUNTO A-10 NH Metric Recreational Field Compass
Best On A Budget
  • Quick to find direction and is accurate
  • Made from durable materials
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Silva Guide 2.0 Compass
  • Very affordable for such an accurate compass
  • Made from durable materials
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Silva Ranger S Compass, Clear, One Size
Best Allrounder
  • Quick and very accurate readings
  • Made to be very durable
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SUUNTO MC-2G Global Compass
Best Of The Best
  • Comes with all features you might want
  • Global needle for use anywhere in the world
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Cammenga 27CS Lensatic Compass, Phosphorescent, Clam Pack
  • Exceptionally durable with an aluminum shell
  • Phosphorescent display for night nav
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Brunton TruArc5 Baseplate Mapping Compass
  • Global needle for use anywhere in the world
  • Comes with a lanyard
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Silva Polaris Baseplate Compass
  • Available in a hi-viz version for night use
  • Affordable with a durable construction
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Best Compass For Hiking


Suunto M-3 G

Suunto M-3 G Compass For Globetrotters, One Size, Global Metric

The Suunto M3-G is ideal or hiking for those that need a simple but reliable compass. It’s liquid filled with a global needle that’s quick to show your direction.

The baseplate the needle sits in is made to sit comfortably in your hand and comes with rubber pads to ensure it doesn’t slip off your map or out of your hand.

The baseplate includes a ruler and a clinometer for both metric and imperial UTM scales, so no matter what your map uses, this compass has got it covered. There is a magnifying lens to make it easier to read the details on your map and the markings are luminescent so you can keep using your compass at dawn and dusk without a torch.

A detachable snap-lock lanyard with a wristlock is included so that you can keep the compass safe and access it easily. 

The only things missing from this compass are a lid for protection and a sighting mirror with does reduce marginal errors, but overall, it’s a solid choice for general map reading and navigation.

Pros

  • It's very accurate and comes with a global needle
  • The baseplate comes with luminescent markings for low light use
  • Baseplate comes with non-slip rubber pads
  • The clinometer comes with metric and imperial UTM scales
  • Detachable snap-lock lanyard included

Cons

  • Doesn’t have a protective lid
  • A sighting mirror is not included

Product Information

  • Weight: 1.55 oz
  • Liquid Filled: Yes
  • Declination scale: Yes
  • Declination Correction: Adjustable
  • Rotating Bezel: Yes
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Best On A Budget

Suunto A-10 NH

SUUNTO A-10 NH Metric Recreational Field Compass

The Suunto A-10 NH compass is super simple, robust, and easy to use. It’s ideal for use by beginners or anyone who wants a basic, inexpensive compass that’s reliable.

It comes with a high-grade steel needle with a jewel bearing, that sits in a liquid-filled capsule to ensure stable and accurate readings. It’s balanced for the northern hemisphere, so if you’re going to South America to hike in the Andes, this isn’t the compass you need.

The baseplate and compass cover are made from a durable scratch-resistant hard plastic. The baseplate includes a declination scale, ruler, and rotating bezel for general navigation. Both cm and inches are included.

Being a simple compass it does not come with a magnifying lens, clinometer, or a sighting mirror but a handy detachable snap-lock lanyard is included. 

Overall, it’s a great compass for beginners and basic navigation.

Pros

  • Quick to find direction and is accurate
  • Made from durable materials
  • It's very inexpensive
  • Ideal for use by beginners

Cons

  • A clinometer, magnifying lens and sight mirror are not included
  • Declination correction is not adjustable

Product Information

  • Weight: 1 oz
  • Liquid Filled: Yes
  • Declination scale: Yes
  • Declination Correction: Fixed
  • Rotating Bezel: Yes
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Silva Guide 2.0

Silva Guide 2.0 Compass

The Silva Guide 2.0 compass takes things up a notch and includes both a cover for protection and a sighting mirror for increased accuracy.

The needle is made from the finest Swedish steel and sits in a liquid-filled capsule. It’s incredibly quick to find North and exceptionally accurate.

The sighting mirror doubles up as the lid and locks at 45 degrees when open. This is ideal and allows you to read your compass whilst looking into your direction of travel, giving you much more accurate readings. The mirror can also be used to attract attention in emergencies.

The baseplate comes with 1:24k, 1:62.5k mile, inch (1/20th) map measuring scales that work with all maps. It can also be used at night, the luminous markings glow for up to 4 hours once activated by daylight or a flashlight. 

The only things missing from this compass are a magnifying lens and a clinometer, so you won’t be able to measure slope angles and you might have to strain your eyes to see the map clearly.

Overall, its an awesome value compass for hikers, hunters, and mountaineers.

Pros

  • Very affordable for such an accurate compass
  • Made from durable materials
  • Comes with a lid for extra protection
  • Sighting mirror included
  • Luminous markings for nighttime use

Cons

  • It doesn't include a magnifying lens or clinometer
  • Declination correction is fixed and can be adjusted

Product Information

  • Weight: 2 oz
  • Liquid Filled: Yes
  • Declination scale: Yes
  • Declination Correction: Fixed
  • Rotating Bezel: Yes
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Best Allrounder

Silva Ranger S

Silva Ranger S Compass, Clear, One Size

The Silva Ranger S is quite similar to others in the review but it’s built a little tougher. It comes with a lid and safety strap to protect it from being dropped. It’s waterproof to IPX8 standards and can be submerged below 1m. This compass is going to be tough to break.

The needle sits in a liquid-filled capsule and provides a quick and accurate heading. The baseplate includes a ruler, soft and non-slip DryFlex Socket, and an extra large-sized direction finder for simple and exact course planning.

It also has fluorescent elements for use in the dark and the declination scale is easy to adjust for a more accurate reading. The sighting mirror is part of the lid for more accurate readings too.

A clinometer and magnifying lens are not included. Overall it’s an awesome compass for accurate and reliable readings and is durable as hell.

Pros

  • Quick and very accurate readings
  • Made to be very durable
  • Waterproof to IPX8
  • Comes with a sighting mirror and lid
  • Fluorescent elements for use in the dark

Cons

  • Clinometer and magnifying lens not included

Product Information

  • Weight: 2 oz
  • Liquid Filled: Yes
  • Declination scale: Yes
  • Declination Correction: Adjustable
  • Rotating Bezel: Yes
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Best Of The Best

Suunto MC-2G

SUUNTO MC-2G Global Compass

The Suunto MC-2G is the first compass in the review that comes with all the tools you need, and it’s the most expensive so far, which is to be expected. It’s ideal for even the most technical outdoorsmen.

It comes with a global needle for use anywhere in the world. The needle sits in a liquid-filled capsule and gives precise and quick readings. It made to be very durable and handles water, shock, and dirt well.

The baseplate includes a rotating bezel, ruler, clinometer, magnifying lens, and sighting mirror. Plus the declination is easy to adjust using the key that comes attached to the included lanyard. It also comes with luminescent markings for use in the dark.

All of these features used together will give you the most accurate readings a compass can give. Overall it’s an awesome compass and best suited for explorers who need highly accurate and dependable navigation.

Pros

  • Comes with all features you might want
  • Global needle for use anywhere in the world
  • Excellent against shock, dust, and water
  • Highly accurate and quick readings
  • Comes with luminescent indicators for night use

Cons

  • A little expensive

Product Information

  • Weight: 2.65 oz
  • Liquid Filled: Yes
  • Declination scale: Yes
  • Declination Correction: Adjustable
  • Rotating Bezel: Yes
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Cammenga 27CS Lensatic Compass

Cammenga 27CS Lensatic Compass, Phosphorescent, Clam Pack

The Cammenga 27CS Lensatic Compass is an ideal choice for those who want a basic compass that is pretty much indestructible. It made with a cast aluminum housing, is shockproof and waterproof. You find it pretty hard to break and is the same compass the US defense force uses.

The needle is made for the northern hemisphere only and sits in a copper induction damping housing rather than liquid. This makes it impervious to temperature and bubble problems, it can be used in temperatures ranging between  -50 F to +150 F.

The housing comes with a retractable peephole for shooting a sightline to a landmark, magnifying lens, and a dial in both degrees and milliradians. The body has a 1:50,000 scale on the side to show distances of up to 5000m on a map

The rotating bezel comes with a luminescent azimuth marker and the phosphorescent coating keeps the compass visible for easy use in the dark.

Overall this is not the most sophisticated compass in terms of measurements but it is as durable as they get and can handle extreme temperatures.

Pros

  • Exceptionally durable with an aluminum shell
  • Phosphorescent display for night nav
  • Non-liquid damping mechanism for extreme temps.
  • Sighting peephole for better accuracy
  • Waterproof casing
  • 10-page compass-reading guide included

Cons

  • Heavier than baseplate compasses
  • No declination scale, or clinometer

Product Information

  • Weight: 6.4 oz
  • Liquid Filled: No
  • Declination scale: No
  • Declination Correction: No
  • Rotating Bezel: Yes
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Brunton TruArc5 Baseplate Mapping Compass

Brunton TruArc5 Baseplate Mapping Compass

The Brunton TruArc5 Baseplate Mapping Compass is about as simple as a compass gets but at the same time does a great job and is ideal for recreational use or beginners.

It comes with a global needle that sits in a liquid capsule, meaning you can use it anywhere in the world. It’s quick and accurate at finding bearings and although it’s smaller and lighter than a normal baseplate, it still packs a punch.

The baseplate features a ruler, in both cm and inches, a magnifying lens and the declination is adjustable East or West to +/- 180°. There are however some things that are missing from this compass. The cardinal points are not marked, there is no sighting mirror or clinometer, and that fact that its small means the markings are a bit tough to read, oh and there are no luminescent markings either.

Overall, it’s very basic but has the added bonus of a global needle and adjustable declination, in a light, small package.

Pros

  • Global needle for use anywhere in the world
  • Comes with a lanyard
  • Very inexpensive and simple
  • Magnifying lense included

Cons

  • Cardinal points not marked on degree markings
  • Clinometer and sighting mirror not included

Product Information

  • Weight: 1.1 oz
  • Liquid Filled: Yes
  • Declination scale: Yes
  • Declination Correction: Adjustable
  • Rotating Bezel: Yes
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Silva Polaris Compass

Silva Polaris Baseplate Compass

The Silva Polaris Compass is another simple option ideal for an advanced orienteer or someone who wants to learn. Its made with quality materials and just enough features to get by.

The needle is made from tungsten and sits on a sapphire bearing in a liquid-filled capsule. It’s very accurate and quick to find north.

The clear baseplate features inch, millimeter, and 1:24,000 scales making it easy for map reading, trip planning, and setting a course into the wilderness. It comes with a fixed declination which is a bit tiresome but at least it has one. 

It is missing the extras such as a sighting mirror, clinometer,  and a magnifying lens but will suffice for basic orienteering and learning. It also comes with instructions on how to use it to find your location and set a bearing.

Pros

  • Available in a hi-viz version for night use
  • Affordable with a durable construction
  • Sapphire bearing and tungsten steel needle
  • Accurate and quick to find north

Cons

  • Lanyard, magnifying lens, mirror, and clinometer not included
  • Fixed declination correction

Product Information

  • Weight: 2.65 oz
  • Liquid Filled: Yes
  • Declination scale: Yes
  • Declination Correction: Fixed
  • Rotating Bezel: Yes
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What To Look For In A Compass For Hiking

Compass Needles

The needle is the most important part of the compass, and without it, you’re just holding a piece of plastic with some numbers on it. There are a few types of needle, some made just for certain areas like the northern hemisphere and others are global. The faster your needle shows north, the less time you waste and the more accurate it is. This is extremely valuable when you’re in a race, trying to find shelter in bad weather or need pinpoint accuracy for your trek.

Every compass in the review gives quick and accurate readings so that you can be safe on the trail, no matter which one you prefer. Some come with global needles and others with northern hemisphere needles, be sure to pick the one that matches your hiking locations.

Durability

When trekking around your compass is bound to deal with some bumps and scrapes. There are so many ways it can get damaged; you can trip and land on it, or your backpack falls on it, you could drop it, the list is endless. Your compass needs to be able to survive these moments because without it, you’ll be up canyon creek without navigation.

All the compasses in the review are durable and made to handle a beating. Some are more robust than others and if you know the likely hood of damaging yours is high, pick one more suited to your adventures. If you’re a rock climber, you may want an aluminum casing or as a fisherman, you’ll want a waterproof one.

Declination Scale

The declination scale allows you to adjust from magnetic north to true north. Some compasses include them and others don’t, but if you want to be as accurate as possible, you’re going to need one. They come in two forms, fixed and adjustable. Adjustable declination scales are far easier, and once set, show your adjustment as you go. Fixed declination scales make you calculate and adjust every time you read the map. If you want a declination scale make sure it’s adjustable, it’ll make life much easier.

Clinometer

A clinometer allows you to measure a slopes angle or steepness. It’s useful for mountaineering when planning a route or spotting avalanche hazards. It’s a very technical feature that not everyone needs but if you’re a pro, you’ll probably want it on your compass.

Magnifying Lens & Luminescent Indicators

The magnifying lens helps you read your map and spot little symbols and details. It’s a useful addition and most of the compasses in the review include one. The luminescent indicators allow you to read your compass in the dark, this is extremely useful as you never know when you might get caught out.

Our Favorite Hiking Compasses

The best compass for hiking in the review is the Suunto MC-2G. It’s durable, global, and comes with every feature available from a clinometer and adjustable declination scale to a magnifying lens and sighting mirror. If you’re a serious explorer, this is the one to go for.

Sale
SUUNTO MC-2G Global Compass
  • Compact mirrored compass for taking highly accurate and reliable directional measurements
  • Global needle works anywhere on the planet; base plate with magnifying lens

The best on a budget hiking compass is the Suunto A-10 NH. It’s very inexpensive but still has all the features you need for basic navigation including a fixed declination scale. Be aware the needle is for use in the northern hemisphere only.

Sale
SUUNTO A-10 NH Metric Recreational Field Compass
  • High grade steel needle with jewel bearing
  • Balanced for northern hemisphere

The best all-round hiking compass is the Silva Ranger S. It’s durable, waterproof, accurate, global, and comes with every feature needed for general exploring.

Silva Ranger S Compass, Clear, One Size
  • With soft and non-slip DryFlex Socket, an extra large sized direction finder for simple and exact course planning.
  • Scale for declination compensation is located within the capsule.