What is the Best Compass for Walking, Hiking, and Survival?

What is the Best Compass for Walking, Hiking, and Survival?

Hiking and camping are some of the most fun holidays and adventures you will have. It doesn’t matter if you are alone or in company, you are practically guaranteed to have a fun and freeing experience.

However, many people do find themselves getting lost when they wander from the trail or decide to explore new areas. When your phone signal fails you, you can turn to the traditional compass – one of the key tools for outdoor survival.

In this guide, we have gathered some of the best compasses as well as compass reviews, so you can find the one that is best suited to you. From top brands to cheap alternatives, the perfect compass is here.

Selecting the compass that suits you best can be harder than it seems, especially since there are so many on the market and the majority of them are very similar in appearance.

In this section, we take you through some of the things that will help you to choose a compass that is right for you and your needs.

A base plate is a great place to start. This often contains printed rulers and a magnifying lens glass to help you carry out map work while you are stationary.

#You can plan your route and adjust the bearings accordingly so that you are all set for your trip. It tends to have a direction of travel arrow as well, so you know which way to hold it when you are checking your location.

A rotating bezel tends to be featured on all compasses, and it is important to make sure that yours includes one. This is marked with degrees, and circles around the global needle. The smaller the interval of degrees, the easier it is to navigate precisely.

Of course, you might not want a compass as bulky as the traditional ones that contain baseplates. A wrist compass can give you readings that are just as precise as a classic one, but the compass itself is in a more convenient location.

This is certainly the way to go if you reckon that your hiking or camping trip will require you to use both hands most of the time.

If you want a compass that is a little more advanced, invest in one that features declination adjustment. The declination is the difference in degrees between the true north and the magnetic north.

Declination tends to vary depending on where in the world you are, and so declination adjustment can be very important, as you simply adjust it to your current location and then leave it until you move onto the next one.

Always take the time to read through the reviews before you make your purchase. If you aren’t sure which is best, the reviews from other customers can tell you a lot about the general level of satisfaction others have felt.

This can aid in your decision making and help you with a potentially tricky decision. It’s also important to remember that while the most expensive items are often more reliable, this is not always the case.

Things to Look for

There are a couple of things you might want to keep an eye out for when you go to buy a compass. The first of these is luminous. Many compasses will come with a luminous screen, so you can see the direction and bearings in the dark.

This can be very handy if you get lost or end up out longer than you had intended. It is certainly worth getting.

A lanyard is another option. If you are looking to keep your compass close to you at all times, then many come with lanyards so you can wear it around your neck – even the models with baseplates. This means you can check your location quickly and easily with minimal hassle.

A sighting mirror should also be considered. This helps you to focus more precisely when following an exact bearing or landmark. It can also double itself as an emergency signalling device much of the time, so you can try to get help if you end up in trouble.

The Advantages of A Compass

Here are some of the advantages to using a compass when you go hiking and camping:

  • Prevents you from getting lost
  • Allows you to see the direction you need to be heading in the dark
  • They are very portable
  • They are reliable and don’t risk malfunction like electronic ones
  • They give you rapid orientation
  • You can use them to undertake map work if they have baseplates

All that’s left is to choose the perfect compass for you. Take a look at our compass reviews for some of our favourite models.

Best Compass for Hiking and Survival - Comparison Table

Best Compass for Hiking and Survival - Summary Reviews

SILVA Ranger 3 Compass

Editors Pick

Silva is a reliable and trusted brand when it comes to the production of compasses.

With one of these, you aren’t likely to find yourself lost on your next camping trip. Take a look and see if it’s the right thing for you.

The Good

This compass has a sleek and nifty design that makes it very portable and easy to use.

It features a solid baseplate, alongside a rubber grip that provides you with an easy hold and excellent grip.

It has a detachable safety lanyard so you can keep it close to you at all times.

There is a declination scale inside the capsule that can be used anywhere at all. It also has sighting mirror with a sighting hole with magnifying lens, giving accurate bearings when read. 

The luminous markings are there to enable you to read it in the dark, so you’ll never be too lost. Plus, everything is measured in millimetres or inches.

I was initially skeptical about this compass justifiying the considerably higher cost but comparing it side by side with a cheaper model really does proove why you spend that little bit more.

The dial is clear and easy to read, plus the global needle mount system employed by Silva means it doesn't 'stick' at certain directions when the compass is not exactly flat in your hand or on the map as other makes do. This is a brilliant entry level compass that will last years.

Features - 
  • Brand : Silva
  • Night Navigation : Yes
  • Map Measuring Scales: Yes
  • Size: 9 x 10 cm 
The Not So Good

The neck strap is short, and the luminous marking is not bright enough for total darkness.

Our View

This highly affordable compass is reliable, durable, and ready to serve you on your next adventure. It comes from a trusted brand and offers you everything you need to have the perfect hike without getting lost.

Despite the issues with the luminous markings, it is one of the best models on the market and certainly worth looking into.


Q: How much does the item itself weight?

A: The compass weighs 33g, which is reasonably lightweight and can easily be worn around your neck for your journey without even noticing the weight. 

 Suunto M-9 Black with Velcro Strap Compass

Runner Up 

Suunto is another trusted and reliable brand, and one that many people find to provide accurate bearings.

This cleverly designed compass might just be the best alternative to the traditional models for you and your outdoor trekking through the fields.

The Good

This is a wrist compass. It looks very much like a watch but attaches itself to your wrist via handy Velcro straps.

It is handy and reliable, working excellently both within towns and out in the open countryside. It also has a luminescent face so that you can work with it in poor lighting.

It has been balanced for the northern hemisphere, and includes jewel bearing. It is very lightweight, so you hardly feel it on your wrist, and is water resistant. It’s thin, and makes the ideal compass for adventures that you know are going to require both hands.

Features - 
  • Brand : Suunto
  • Night Navigation : Yes
  • Map Measuring Scales: No
  • Size: 41 x 47 x 14 mm
The Not So Good

The Velcro strap does give this model a cheap feel, but it is possible to substitute it with a strap of your own.

Our View

This compass some from a top brand and is reasonably priced, which is great for those who have found themselves on a bit of a budget for this piece of gear.

It has all the bearings you need, and while it is only balanced for the northern hemisphere, at least you won’t find yourself lost on your next adventure in the true north. With a slim and lightweight build, it’s also gentle on your wrist, allowing you free movement and flexibility.

The Adventure Warehouse Navigation Compass 

Best Budget Compass

If you find yourself on a tight budget, and don’t want to get lost on your next camping trip, then this model from Adventure Warehouse might be the best choice for you. Take a look at the reviews and see if it’s a good match.

The Good

The baseplate for this model is thick and secure, keeping everything in place.

It also comes with a detachable lanyard, so you can keep it close to you at all times. It has three measuring scales, namely 1:25k, 1:50k, and 1:63k.

It has luminous points for navigation in poor lighting, as well as a magnifying lens glass and a sighting mirror, with rubber feet so that the compass stays steady while you are doing map work. It takes measurements in millimetres and inches using the measuring ruler that is included.

A perfectly good compass at a very reasonable price. After reviewing many other models from a range of brands and prices I think this compass is just as accurate as the very expensive models.

It includes a lanyard to keep it safe and all the markings one would expect as well as key ones in phosforescent paint to aid use in the dark. The compass also features a magnifying lens, a 10cm ruler, a 2" ruler and three map grid measurers with an easy to see global needle.

Features - 
  • Brand : The Adventure Warehouse
  • Night Navigation : Yes
  • Map Measuring Scales: Yes
  • Size: 1.6 x 12.8 x 6.6 cm  
The Not So Good

There have been no issues with this product so far, aside from one faulty model.

Our View

If you are looking for a cheap alternative to the big brands that works just as well, then you might have found it with this one. It delivers all the bearings you need to be able to navigate in the wilderness, making it the perfect hiking companion.

Plus, at such a low price you won’t be breaking the bank either. A nifty and reliable alternative to the more expensive models.

Other Compass Models

Here are some other some other compass models in case the ones above did not suit your needs.

Suunto A-30 L CM Explorer Compass

This lightweight compass has been balanced for use in both the northern and southern hemisphere. It has a fixed declination correction scale, as well as jewel bearing and a global needle.

Made by a trusted brand, it is reliable as well as durable, and features a detachable lanyard so you can keep it close to you.

The luminous bezel and markings help you to use in in dark conditions, and it has a baseplate with a magnifying lens and control marking holes (sighting mirror). A good buy at a reasonable price.

Silva Compass Expedition 4-360

Another trusted brand that has a very reasonable price tag; Silva is one of the most popular compass manufacturers for hikers.

This compass features sapphire jewel bearing for friction free movement of the compass global needle, as well as several Romer scales and silicon feet so that you can do accurate map work.

They have luminous markings so that the compass can be read at night, and even a magnifying lens and sighting mirrow alongside the millimetre and inch scales. Plus, the scales are durable and hot stamped on.

To Conclude

We have looked at quite a few models and brands in order to find the best compass in this guide. Of course, it’s not east to pinpoint a winner, especially since they cover so many different areas.

Reliable brands like Silva are often the way to go if you are unsure, and you also have the option of a wrist compass if you want something a little easier to access while you are out hiking. Regardless of which of these compasses you pick, they are all excellent and sure to prevent you from getting lost.

What did you think of our compass selection? Are there any you would have added? We love hearing from you, so feel free to leave a message in the comments below.