If you’re heading into the great outdoors, there are several necessities to consider. Water, food, sun protection and comfortable shoes are all must-haves, but one item that we sometimes forget about is the trusty compass. Sure, you may be planning on hiking trails that are well marked or venturing to an area you’ve explored before, but missing signs, washed-out paths, and unseen detours could cause you to quickly lose your bearings. With a magnetic compass, finding your way back to safety can mean the difference between life or death.
A magnetic compass is the most commonly used type of compass and works by pointing to ‘magnetic north,’ with the magnetized needle aligning itself with Earth’s magnetic field. Users can find true north with a magnetic compass and then correct for variation and deviation. A valuable tool with the US military, as well as contractors, underground miners and anyone exploring the outdoors, magnetic compasses continue to be an essential navigation tool.
For more on which magnetic compass is best suited to your needs, check out our list of favorites below.
1. Eyeskey Multifunctional Military Lensatic Tactical Compass
The Eyeskey Multifunctional Military Lensatic Tactical Compass can handle any adventure you throw at it. The shockproof and waterproof case makes this a great option for a variety of activities, including hiking, boating, hunting, camping, and even military use. The Eyeskey has a floating compass dial and 360-degree scale with a liquid-filled capsule that provides reliable and stable operation. A level bubble helps to improve the accuracy of the compass, with a built-in optical eyepiece making it easy to gain sight bearings. The compass also comes with a conversion chart for angle, gradient, and distance, as well as a rotating bezel that allows users to lock in their bearings and ensure they are staying on course.
Pros: The Eyeskey has a fluorescent light around the dial that makes it possible to read the compass in the dark.
Cons: For the fluorescent light to work, the compass must first be exposed to an ample amount of light.
2. Suunto MC-2 Compass
Take the Suunto MC-2 Compass on your next adventure, whether it’s the hiking trail or ski hill. The Suunto features a sighting mirror that covers the compass and provides protection while still making the compass visible to users. The Suunto has a clinometer that helps to measure angles, making this an excellent option for hikers and climbers who venture onto steep hills and trails. The compass also comes with a declination correction tool, a quick release, a guide and a lifetime warranty.
Pros: The Suunto comes with a lanyard and wristlock, giving users the options to secure the compass around their neck or wrist.
Cons: The Suunto has the highest price tag on our list.
3. Sportneer Military Lensatic Sighting Compass
Find your way in the light or dark with the Sportneer Military Lensatic Sighting Compass. The Sportneer has a lensatic function that provides greater accuracy and a lens on the rear sight that magnifies the card dial. Built military tough, the Sportneer is both waterproof and shake-proof, creating a highly durable compass. Stay on course even in the dark thanks to the Sportneer’s interface luminous effect.
Pros: The Sportneer offers users two ways to carry the compass, either in their pocket or inside the carry pouch when using the belt loop attachment.
Cons: Like the Eyeskey, the Sportneer must first be exposed to light for the fluorescent effect to work.
4. Turn On Sport Orienteering Compass
Whether you’re looking for an excellent gift for the scout in your life or need a compass that will make easy work out of reading maps, the Turn On Sport Orienteering Compass is a great option. Made with an acrylic baseplate, the Orienteering Compass is lightweight and durable, with an attached lanyard providing a convenient way to secure the unit around your neck or on a backpack. The Orienteering Compass features a magnetic needle and directional arrow, an Azimuth bearing (360 rotating bezels) as well as a liquid-filled capsule for the compass housing.
Pros: The Orienteering Compass features several useful tools, including a ruler in CM and inches, a 1:25000 scale, a magnifier and a 1:63360 scale.
Cons: The Orienteering Compass doesn’t come with a carrying case.
5. Northies Combo Pack Military Lensatic Sighting Compass and Paracord Survival Bracelet
The Northies Combo Pack Military Lensatic Sighting Compass and Paracord Survival Bracelet is a multi-functional survival kit that is compact enough to carry in your pocket. The Northies kit includes a compass, plus a 12-foot paracord bracelet, a flint fire starter and an emergency whistle. The compass provides an easy-to-use and accurate sightline thanks to a one-degree resolution and a luminous dial that makes it clear to read even in the dark. The clinometer is designed to measure the elevation of angles and climbs, great for hiking and rock climbing. The compass also includes a graduated sight edge that makes it easy to calculate distances when the compass is laid flat.
Pros: The Northies compass is made tough thanks to aluminum alloy construction and IP65 rated components.
Cons: The Northies comes with a big price tag.
6. RNS STAR Paracord Survival Bracelet
Never forget your compass again thanks to the RNS STAR Paracord Survival Bracelet, which can be worn daily. The bracelet features a high-quality compass, an LED light with three lighting options, an emergency whistle, a removable fire scraper, an emergency knife and a magnesia-rod fire starter. The paracord that makes up the bracelet can be unraveled to reveal 12 feet of cord, which can be secured and hold up to 500 pounds. When in bracelet format, the paracord measures 9 inches to 10 inches.
Pros: The RNS STAR comes in 18 color options.
Cons: The compass on the RNS STAR is very small and may be difficult for some users to read.
7. DETUCK Pocket Compass
Whether you’re looking for a beautiful gift to give a loved one or want to add a classic navigation piece to your collection of outdoor gear, the DETUCK Pocket Compass is a great option. The Detuck is an antique style compass made with vintage copper brass. The compass has a beautiful traditional backing and a large face that is easy for users to read. Users should place the compass on a flat surface to gain the most accurate reading and keep it away from other magnetic items that could affect the needle.
Pros: The Detuck has a fluorescent compass dial that makes is easy for users to see the coordinates in the dark.
Cons: The Detuck is not as rugged as the other compasses on our list and isn’t as well suited to hiking and camping.