Jump to content

I'm looking on suggestions about what kinda compas to buy>


Recommended Posts

Hey all. I'm not all that knowledgable about compasses and I was wondering if someone with a bit more knowledge about them could help me decide what to get. I see a lot of them on eBay, but I don't know if they are any good. I'm basically looking for a decent compass to aid me when I geocache (cause my GPS V doesn't have a built in one (you have to be moving for it to point what way your going)). I'm looking for something strong and durable that won't break if dropped, etc, etc. Also I don't want to spend crazy money one one. I just need one that can show me north and is good. No more than lets say 20.00 dollars. Any insight on what one to buy is appreciated. Thanks

Link to comment

I also have a Siva Ranger, and it is the best, but costs around $44. I would look at the Suunto Leader at $20. It has an adjustable declination scale, so that you can set your local declination and you don't have to worry about adding or subtracting the declination. It is a baseplate compass however, and is not as accurate for sighting as mirror sighting compass. If you are going to plot UTM coordinates, you might look at the Brunton Eclipse ($30), which has multiple roamer scales.

Link to comment

You probably want a "baseplate" style compass. Make sure its liquid filled. Suunto, Sliva and Brunton are generally considered to be the best brands. Some models to consider:


Suunto A40L

Suunto A10

Sliva Polaris

Brunton Star

Brunton Classic

Sunnto Partner

Silva Explorer 203W


All these are less than $20. The Ranger that Tuskerkeg mentions is a nice compass, but is over $40. Check www.rei.com or www.campmor.com for a good selection.


"It has been my experience that folks who have no vices have very few virtues" - Abraham Lincoln

Link to comment

Definitely get a compass with an adjustment for magnetic declination, as it makes working with a map far easier. I've used the Brunton Eclipse GPS and like it - it comes with UTM scales on the baseplate as well as a ruler for measuring lat/lon on a map. (By the way, Brunton sells the Silva products under its name, and Silva in the US is different from the Swedish company. Confusing, no?) I more generally use the Eclipse Pro, because I like the siting mirror, being able to see both the bearing and the back bearing at the same time, and having a clear one degree incremental read because of the magnifying viewer. But it's not cheap.


That being said, I also have a Suunto MC-2, which is a great compass, and the grid lines run all the way through the needle capsule, not just on the edge of the azimuth ring as with the Eclipse models. Suunto also has its GPS Plotter, which combines the compass and UTM grids, similarly to the Eclipse GPS.

Link to comment

I am of two minds on this issue. On one hand, if you buy one of the more expensive compasses, you are much less likely to have to worry about air bubbles and such. On the other hand, if you buy a cheaper model, you won't cry if you break it (or lose it).


I purchased a good compass for about $45 a few months ago. I used it for about a week and broke it. I tripped and smashed it into a rock. After which, I went back to using the compass that I've used since boy scouts. It has a little air buble in it, but it works. Also, it has no declination adjustment. This doesn't bother me as the variance is only a few degrees in my area. Also, I don't use my compass to plot my course on a map and trek for miles. I use it to get me to the cache from 100 feet away.


My advice is to buy the cheapest name-brand compass that you can find that has the features you want.


Whenever I feel blue, I start breathing again.

Link to comment

Sunto & Bruntons are fine instruments, I have a Silva, Sunto, and Brunton; each has its own use and way to use them.


One thing to look for in a compass is the scales, they should match our maps, 1:24k or 1:62.5K.

Brunton eclipse matches UTM's also. GOOD FEATURE!

Silva though a good compass doesn't match our scales, a 1:25K does not match our maps.


Adjustable declination is good but has one drawback, once set it makes the compass read true north. Works well using maps but magnetic field bearings can be off by the °'s of your declination, and this can get you goofed up.


Here are some links for you, have fun and never forget where the keys and your vehicle are!!!!












Link to comment

I just wonder about the usefulness of the ability to adjust for declination on your compass. Of the cache sites I've looked for, when a offset azimuth and distance are given, none have ever specified either magnetic,grid, or true north. This always confuses me. Working in the military, we are always careful of which we are using.


Madog "Discover of America"

Link to comment

Since you have a GPS, you can go with a cheap compass. I've travelled and hunted all over the nation with my GPS and my cheap Wal-mart compass. It has never let me down. In fact, if you are worried about durability buy 3 or 4 of them, they would still be better than a more expensive one that is not needed. Magnetic North is Magnetic North and degrees is degrees, don't spend much money on a compass. The $8 Wal-mart compass is all you need to accompany your GPS IMHO. Save your money and buy extra batteries for your pack!!

Link to comment

Originally posted by Madog:

I just wonder about the usefulness of the ability to adjust for declination on your compass.

The usefullness is not really worth it. Its easy to learn how to add or subtract the declination.

It can be confusing when you adjust the compass.

eg. Here in CO Declination is East, to set the compass (Brunton) I flip (inverse side) of the compass and set it to West, now it is adjusted to East. Some of my fellow hikers have set theirs to the East on the flip side, so when they have it face up its set for West Declination, and we are now getting different bearings. Another case in point is, say you are down and injured. Take a reading from 2 landmarks (resection) you call in your position and your compass is adjusted for declination. Well you are actually giving out True Bearings. Most generally accepted compass bearings are assumed to be mag unless specifaclly stated True. So you rescue squad has just been given wrong bearings. icon_eek.gif


Tahosa - Dweller of the Mountain Tops.

Link to comment
Originally posted by Madog:

I just wonder about the usefulness of the ability to adjust for declination on your compass. Of the cache sites I've looked for, when a offset azimuth and distance are given, none have ever specified either magnetic,grid, or true north. This always confuses me. Working in the military, we are always careful of which we are using.


I also use a compass to keep me oriented and "found" when off looking for a cache (or hiking or whatever else). You can get lost very easily with a GPS if you are moving slowly so the bearings function doesn't work. Even if you have a map with UTM grid and check your location, it can be tough to orient yourself, particularly in the middle of a forest.


Someone else pointed out that you can learn to add and subtract declination, and that it true, but if you are going between the world around you and a map, it's very easy to screw up, because sometimes you add and sometimes you subtract. Who wants to remember the right way when for an extra few bucks you can avoid making a mistake that can cost you hours at least.


For the cheap at heart, you can get a regular orienteering compass and mark the declination line with a piece of tape on the bottom of the capsule. You then treat the tape as the new position of the orienting arrow and center the needle above it. You lose a little accuracy, but nowhere near as much as you would if you add when you should subtract and suddenly find yourself 20 degrees off...

Link to comment

Buy a cheap but real compass. Spend 11 bucks. Then when you toss it in your pack and scratch it up you won't care. Not only that but unless you actually use your compass for something other than Geocaching, it really doesn't matter.


I spent 54 bucks on a good one and it doesn't give me 43 bucks better performance on Geocaching relatec compass work.


If you actually do hike and other things and actually need a good compass... That's different.


Wherever you go there you are.

Link to comment

Military Lensatic U.S.Manufactured by Marine Compass Company, Pembroke,Mass. mine is model 2-53 that's Febuary 1953 you may be able to pick one up at the Local army surplus. Mine is a gift and a Military Issue. Here are just a few points to ponder The original declination for our area in 1848 was 7.5 degrees,the current Declination is less than 1 degree,that is a magnetic reference to the north star or Polaris. You have to get the declination charts for the years that the Benchmark was set,then you have to locally adjust your instrument,then you hope you got it right then you start looking and hope? that this endevor is going to be worh it but it will you will enjoy the benifit of the learning in the process.I have spent the last 6 years intensly studying these concepts,as you will find out Surveying is a (Practice of Theory)theoretically speaking it should be right (there) or (there) or (there) 1,2,3 the Recon of a 3 point problem is TRILATERATION here's one I just looked up $11.00 www.armynavyshop.com/prods/rc400.html


When all else fails Geotry again.


[This message was edited by Trailblazer # 1 on January 02, 2003 at 06:42 PM.]

Link to comment

I use a Sliva Starter 1-2-3, which is a baseplate style compass. Its very durable and does not have an air bubble. I think I paid about $6.00 for it at Sports Authority and have been using for a year and half, its very durable. It even survived a run though the clothes washer.

I agree with the people who said not to spend more than about $10 for a compass. Get a cheap one so if it gets scrtached or broken your not out a lot of money. Buy two so you have one to loose or misplace while in the woods.

Link to comment

I have a really hard time convincing myself that a compass is so complicated that the prices can go from 10$-60$ for a decent one. Yeah I guess declin-whatever is something to think about...


On the whole I'd venture to say that compasses are about like everything else... you pay 10% for the product.. the rest is for the name on the product.


Think about a Harley.. or a Martin guitar, or a Mercedes SUV.. or.. you get the idea.


"If I were the quoting type, it would be here." -me

Link to comment

Originally posted by pure_ego:

I have a really hard time convincing myself that a compass is so complicated that the prices can go from 10$-60$ for a decent one. Yeah I guess declin-whatever is something to think about...


There are other features that help drive up the cost. For example, a siting mirror makes for shooting azimuths more accurately than a plain compass. That is more likely to drive up the price. There are also luminous markings, a magnifying lens, and additional map scales on the baseplate. I just checked ems.com (not a bargain basement location), and you could get a servicable Suunto Locator with declination adjustment for $18. I bet you could find it for less.

Link to comment

Just a basic Sliva and I've hiked many, many miles over the roughest country out there. My declination is the simplest and most reliable. ... a darned scribed line. If I go somewhere where the declination is a good bit different than on my compass, I buy a fresh one and scribe it. ($6.00) I can point to it or the N, geeze isn't that complex?! It is much more important to be able to read the visual points around you and the topo map well than to buy a fancy compass that still just has an needle that points to magnetic north with or without a fancy adjustment. Not having any magnetic material around the compass is likely the most common thing to screw up! The brain work is much more important!!!!


** The worst suggestion of a life time may be the catalyst to the best idea of the century, don't fail to listen to suggestions.

Link to comment

I have a Suunto optical sighting compass and have found that for caching, this is the best type to use. You can stand back 100-150 feet from the cache and get an exact visual bearing line to the cache. This can be very helpful for several reasons, to cut down on any potential bushwacking and to sight a line into an area where your GPS reception is poor. It also has the regular compass dial on the top of the unit.


Suunto Compasses




19973_600.gifThe adventures of Navdog, Justdog, and Otterpup

Link to comment

It was several years ago. My sons and I had just returned from putting over 150 miles in the back country of Colorado, back-packing and camping for two weeks. We were doing a weekender in XXX park with XXX (an educated grown man). This guy had rented a big backpack and so he decided he should lead because he had the best pack ….???? Whatever .. ? So my two sons and I let him lead. We were required to camp at a typical location assigned to us by park Rangers. It wasn’t hard to see we were going about 20° too far to the left in less than ¼ mile down the trail. My sons keep grinning at me, and giggling at their compasses. We tagged along a couple of miles until we were in a large clearing where this clown could look around and see we were now about 90° from him going in a different direction with confidence. My youngest (about 8 years old, then) lead us right around three small mountains to the permitted site with it’s clearly marked and numbered triangle. We had needed to add over three miles to the hike to make the correction due to seeking out and using legitimate trails. Our fearless leader tagged along, and we never did tell him his compass and huge bowie knife were getting it on. …. Besides, I don’t think he had a clue anyway. He could use the humble pie! … and we let him eat his fill.


-true story-


** The worst suggestion of a life time may be the catalyst to the best idea of the century, don't fail to listen to suggestions.

Link to comment

I use a Brunton Blue Sighting Compass Survey Master. It gives a fast heading just by looking down on top of the unit without turning any dials or using mirrors. It also gives a quarter degree accuracy on heading if you look through it's peep hole. I got mine online for sale at the site below, although the price has gone back up to $70 from $40 I purchased it for (they may give you the sale price if you ask?).


Brunton Survey Master



I had checked around looking at compasses online before making my pick above. My second choice, which was mainly just a color of casing thing.. was the one below which is still on sale. I believe that the one below would be much like the Survey Master, is a Suunto, and is selling for

about $40, is on sale for about $30 off the list price and is also very good to about a quarter degree accuracy. I found this great price at a Hollywood Cinematography site.





Finally, if you check on Ebay under "compass" and also www.geartrade.com under "compass", you ought to find what you are looking for. For instance, the "Outback" is selling new for about half price on Ebay.


Good luck

Link to comment

Depends on what you plan on doing with your compass. If you're going to being doing "map and compass" work or such, then you could get by well with a milspec style. If you're just want to orient yourself which direction then save your money. I carry 2 - my milspec compass I had in the military and a small ball type compass (cost $2) that I clip on the strap of my backpack. I also used for a while a small compass that slides on my watchband, cost $4.95, but it sticks up some and sometimes gets snagged. I used the same set up in the military, and while hiking and hunting flatground, desert, and mountains. Of the 2 styles of compass guess which I use the most? Yup, the $2 pin on compass. I just need to know which way is north and which way I'm going. To know I'm traveling at 277* is more info than I need to know most of the time. Usually I just want to know I'm heading west, whether 277* or 264* doesn't matter for most geocaches I've hunted. I'll take my initial bearing with my milspec. It's not that I don't use my milspec compass as it has its purposes but it's just more cumbersome to use and does more than I need most of the time. The pin on is just a quick glance at my ruck strap and I know which way I'm going.

Link to comment

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...