How to Choose the Best Compass for Backpacking-Our 6 Top Picks

We’ve all been there: you’re out backpacking, and suddenly you’re not sure which direction to turn. You’ve lost your bearings and are totally unsure of where you are. If you’re backpacking or hiking alone, that’s a terrifying experience, but even if you’re with friends, it can be scary enough to ruin the rest of your trip.

That’s why it’s so important to have a compass on hand when you go hiking or backpacking. A good compass can help keep you from getting lost in the wilderness, so if you’re about to embark on an outdoor adventure, I recommend picking up one of those as any of them can be considered the best compass for backpacking.

In this article, we will go in depth of each compass and learn about their pros and cons. This will narrow down your search further in finding the best hiking compass. However, before we jump straight into the reviews, let’s look at a brief buying guide to finding the best compass for hiking! For those that want to jump directly to my suggested compasses, you can do so by clicking HERE.!

Buying Guide to the Best Compass for Backpacking:

When looking for a great backpacking or hiking compass, there are a lot of important factors to consider. Let’s discuss some of them in detail below!

1. Price

Price is an important consideration while choosing a backpacking compass. A good quality compass can be expensive, but it is worth the investment. A cheap Compass may not last as long or provide as accurate of readings as a more expensive one.

In addition, a higher priced Compass will likely have features that are beneficial for hikers and backpackers such as declination adjustment and global needle balancing.

2. Durability

The next important factor to consider when choosing a compass, is the durability! A compass should be able to withstand being dropped or otherwise mishandled, as this can happen while you are out on the trail. Additionally, it is important that the compass’s casing is waterproof and resistant to scratches and other damage.

There are a few different materials that compasses are made from, including plastic and metal. In general, metal compasses tend to be more durable than plastic ones. However, they also tend to be heavier – something to keep in mind if you plan on carrying your compass in your pocket or backpack.

No matter what material your chosen compass is made from though, make sure that it comes with a warranty of some sort – just in case anything does happen to go wrong while you’re using it!

3. Luminosity

Luminosity is the third important consideration on our buying guide, while choosing a hiking/backpacking compass. A compass with good luminosity will be easier to read in low light conditions, making it ideal for use while hiking, backpacking, hunting, fishing, etc.

There are two main types of luminescent materials used in compasses: tritium and phosphorescent paint. Tritium is a radioactive material that emits a constant glow, whereas phosphorescent paint needs to be charged by exposure to light before it will glow.

Tritium-based compasses are more expensive than those made with phosphorescent paint, but they offer the advantage of always being ready to use – no need to charge them up beforehand. If you plan on doing any night hiking, then a tritium-based compass is definitely the way to go.

4. Compass Case

When it comes to choosing a compass, another important factor to consider is whether or not the compass comes with a case. This may seem like a small detail, but it can actually make all the difference when you’re out on the trail.

A good case will protect your compass from bumps and scratches, and also keep it from getting wet if you happen to be caught in rain or snow. It’s worth spending a few extra dollars to get a quality Compass that includes a durable case.

5. Additional Features

There are different types of compasses available on the market today but when choosing one for hiking or backpacking, look for additional features that may come in handy while out on the trail. For example:

  • Clinometer: A clinometer measures angles and can be used to determine slope steepness or how high up an object is. This could be helpful if trying to gauge whether or not a particular hill is worth climbing.
  • Global Needles: Global needles work well in any hemisphere making them ideal for international travellers.
  • Magnifier Lens: A magnifier lens comes in handy for reading maps since they often have small print.

My Suggested 6 Best Compasses for Hiking and Backpacking

1. Eyeskey Tactical Survival Compass

The Eyeskey Tactical Survival Compass is a highly accurate and durable compass that can be used in a variety of different settings. The compass features an optical reading card for higher accuracy, as well as a thermo-elastic liquid-filled housing with floating dial.

The scale on the compass is Azimuth 360°, Reversed 360°, making it easy to read directions accurately. Additionally, the high-resolution rotating bezel ring makes it easy to take precise measurements. The built-in bubble level ensures that the readings are accurate even when the terrain is uneven.

Finally, the sighting lines on the cover make it easy to take quick and precise readings without having to open up the entire case.

Best Compass for Backpacking


  • It features an extremely durable metal body casing
  • It can be easily used in extreme weather conditions
  • Has both Azimuth 360° and Reverse 360° scales
  • Comes with sighting lines on the cover itself
  • It is dot accurate in measuring directions


  • The compass does not come with a clinometer, although we can’t complain much at this price point!


1. Where is this manufactured?

Eyeskey is a Chinese corporation with a Non-Chinese name.

2. Is this a compass that floats?

Is it full of liquid? Yes, then. Will the compass float if dropped in water? the answer is No!

3. Is this a compass for the Northern Hemisphere?

Yes. It is also a one-of-a-kind reading design. Azimuth can be read from the top or by using an eyepiece that reads the edge markings.

The Eyeskey Tactical Survival Compass is a great choice for anyone looking for a reliable and durable compass. It features an extremely tough metal body casing that can withstand even the most extreme weather conditions.

Additionally, it has both Azimuth 360° and Reverse 360° scales, making it easy to use in any situation. Plus, with its sighting lines on the cover itself, you can be sure of getting accurate readings every time.

2. SUUNTO A-30 Compact Hiking Compass

The SUUNTO A-30 Compact Backpacking Compass is a great choice for hikers and orienteers who want a reliable, compact compass. The bezel and markings are luminous, so you can easily read them in low light conditions. The acrylic construction is durable and scratch resistant.

The fixed declination correction scale makes it easy to adjust for your location. The magnifying lens with transparent baseplate lets you see the details of the map clearly. And the lanyard ensures that you won’t lose your compass while on the trail. Best of all, this compass comes with a lifetime warranty!



  • It comes with a high-grade steel needle with jewel bearing
  • Has a fixed declination correction scale
  • Made of durable, clear, scratch-resistant acrylic
  • Built-in magnifying lens that comes with a transparent baseplate
  • It also has a lifetime warranty


  • You have to hold this compass levelled, so that the needle can move freely!


1. Does it come with basic instructions?

It comes with more than just basic instructions; it also includes a comprehensive User Guide.

2. Is the compass designed for the northern or southern hemispheres?

This one is geared for the northern hemisphere.

3. Is this compass water resistant?

Yes, as in rain and shower proof…. I’m not sure about diving with it or what pressure it would withstand!

The SUUNTO A-30 Compact Hiking Compass is a great choice for anyone looking for a reliable and durable compass.

It comes with all the features you need in a compass, including a high-grade steel needle, fixed declination correction scale, clear acrylic construction, and built-in magnifying lens. Plus, it has a lifetime warranty so you can be confident in its quality.

3. SUUNTO M-3 Precision Compass

A compass is an essential tool for any adventurer, and the SUUNTO M-3 Precision Compass is a great option. This compass is built with a durable baseplate that can withstand rough use, and the needle is balanced for the northern hemisphere.

The declination can be adjusted to account for your location, and the luminescent markings make it easy to read in low light conditions. The magnifying lens on the transparent baseplate makes it easy to see small details, and the compass is stable and simple to use.

Whether you’re hiking or backpacking in unfamiliar territory or exploring a new city, this compass will help you find your way.



  • It has a premium and compact design
  • The baseplate is hardy enough to withstand the elements
  • Has luminescent markings for low light use
  • Comes with a magnifying lens on a transparent baseplate
  • Extremely stable and simple to use


  • The declination screw is pretty tiny!


1. Should the needle be able to move while the compass is still in the package?

Yes, exactly as it does when trekking or touring. There is no issue at all.

2. What map scale would you recommend for this? Or does it even matter?

On any scale. The 1:24,000 scale topo map is the most commonly used for detail.

3. Is this compass manufactured in Finland?

Yes! This compass is handcrafted in Finland.

The SUUNTO M-3 Precision Compass is a top quality compass that comes with many features. It has a premium and compact design, making it perfect for carrying around with you on your adventures.

The baseplate is hardy enough to withstand the elements, and the luminescent markings make it easy to use in low light conditions. The magnifying lens is also a great addition, allowing you to get a closer look at things when necessary.

Overall, this compass is extremely stable and simple to use – perfect for anyone who wants reliable navigation without any fuss!

4. Cammenga Official US Military Lensatic Compass

The Cammenga Official US Military Lensatic Compass is a top-of-the-line compass that’s built to last. Its shockproof, damage-resistant design makes it ideal for use in tough conditions, while its powder-coated, military grade aluminium frame ensures optimal endurance.

Additionally, the compass features phosphorescent pigment for low light navigation and is waterproof to considerable depths. Plus, it’s sand-proof for extra durability and has an accuracy of +/- 40 mils. Not to mention, the compass performs flawlessly in temperatures ranging from -50° F to 150° F due to its non-liquid filled needle housing.

Finally, the Cammenga Lensatic Compass uses a copper induction damping ring that slows down, settles, and then steadies the compass needle quickly, making it one of the most reliable compasses on the market today!



  • It has an extremely durable and damage-resistant design
  • It is built from powder-coated military grade aluminium
  • Comes with a phosphorescent pigment for easy low light use
  • Has a high accuracy of +/- 40 mils
  • It can work easily under temperatures ranging from -50° F to 150° F


  • The compass pouch is built out of thin nylon!


1. Where is it manufactured?

It reads “USA!”!

2. Is it possible to use this compass in the Southern Hemisphere?

This compass is only for the northern hemisphere.

3. Is this compass water resistant? Is it compatible with the military’s compasses?

The Cammenga is the official compass for US military. Although it is waterproof, if the pressure is too high, water may enter the compass capsule.

The Cammenga Official US Military Lensatic Compass is one of the most accurate and durable compasses on the market. It is made from powder-coated military grade aluminium and can withstand temperatures ranging from -50° F to 150° F. The compass also comes with a phosphorescent pigment for easy low light use.

So, if you are in the market for a high quality compass that will provide years of reliable service, then the Cammenga Official US Military Lensatic Compass should be at the top of your list!

5. Eyeskey Multifunctional Military Navigation Compass

The Eyeskey Multifunctional Military Navigation Compass is a reliable and accurate compass that comes with a number of features that make it perfect for use in the outdoors.

The compass has a clinometer which allows you to take measurements of slopes and inclines, as well as a built-in bubble level to ensure accuracy when taking readings. The compass also comes with a measurement conversion chart so you can easily convert between different units of measure, and the magnifying glass is great for reading maps or other small text.

Moreover, the compass is heavy duty and durable, making it ideal for use in tough conditions, and the tripod screw hole means you can attach it to a tripod for stability when taking readings. Finally, the pouch and lanyard included with the compass mean you can keep it close at hand while on your adventures!



  • It comes with a built-in clinometer
  • The dial is luminous for low-light conditions
  • Has an integrated bubble level for accurate and reliable readings
  • Ideal for all kinds of outdoor and adventure activities
  • Pouch and lanyard are included in the box


  • The numbers are pretty small and a little hard to see!


1. What exactly is in the manual?

The handbook has very little information. You will require additional educational resources.

2. Does it come with a case or something?

Yes! You’ll get a pouch along with a lanyard in the box!

3. Is the declination of the compass adjustable?

Yes, however, it comes with instructions that are best suited for pro users!

The Eyeskey Multifunctional Military Navigation Compass is a great choice for anyone looking for an accurate and reliable compass. It comes with a built-in clinometer and has a luminous dial, making it ideal for low light conditions.

The integrated bubble level ensures accurate readings, while the pouch and lanyard make it easy to carry on all kinds of outdoor adventures. So, overall, this is a great compass, and it completely justifies its price!

6. Explorer 2.0 Clear Compass

The Explorer 2.0 Clear Compass is a great choice for those who need a reliable and accurate compass, especially when night use is required. The luminous markings make it easy to navigate in low light conditions, while the red/black N/S lines in the capsule ensure safe and easy settling.

Additionally, the waterproof design means that you don’t have to worry about getting caught in the rain or accidentally dropping your compass into water. Finally, the DryFlex Rubber grip allows for easy handling of the compass, even when wearing gloves.



  • Basic yet extremely functional and easy to use
  • Comes with a DryFlex grip for easy handling
  • Luminous markings for easy night use
  • The needle is crafted from finest Swedish steel
  • Ideal for adventure activities like camping, hiking, exploration, etc.


  • The compass misses out on adjustable declination!


1. Is this compass packed with liquid?

Yes, this compass is filled with liquid.

2. Where is this compass manufactured?

It’s made in China, according to the packaging!

3. Is the declination adjustable?

No, not on this model.

The Explorer 2.0 Clear Compass is a great choice for anyone looking for an easy-to-use compass. It comes with a DryFlex grip for easy handling and luminous markings for easy night use.

The needle is crafted from finest Swedish steel, making it ideal for adventure activities like camping, hiking, exploration, etc.

General FAQs

1. Do I really need a compass for Backpacking?

If you’re an experienced hiker or backpacker, you may be wondering if a compass is really necessary. After all, can’t you just follow the trail and find your way back to your tent or camp?

While it’s true that a compass isn’t always required for hiking, there are certain situations where having one could mean the difference between getting lost and finding your way home safely. Here are 3 reasons why carrying a compass on your next adventure is a good idea!

  • Weather conditions can change quickly in mountainous regions, making it easy to lose sight of the trail. A compass can help you orient yourself and stay on course even when visibility is low.
  • If you get separated from your group or become injured, being able to navigate with a map and compass will increase your chances of being found by search-and-rescue teams. Being able to give rescuers accurate information about your location will also help them reach you faster.
  • In remote areas without cell phone reception, GPS devices might not work properly. However, as long as there’s no magnetic interference, compasses will continue functioning correctly – meaning they could be vital for helping you find your way out if you get lost!
2. Is a liquid filled compass better?

A liquid filled compass is a type of compass that uses a liquid to dampen the movement of the needle, providing for more accurate readings. There are several benefits to using a liquid filled compass over a traditional dry compass.

  • One benefit is that because the needle is dampened by the liquid, it will not swing wildly back and forth as you move around, making it easier to take an accurate reading.
  • Another advantage is that liquids do not compress like air does, so your readings will be more precise even at high altitudes where atmospheric pressure can cause inaccuracies in dry compasses.
  • Finally, most liquids used in these compasses (such as kerosene) have low freezing points, meaning they won’t freeze up and become unusable in cold weather like some other types of fluids would.
3. Can you use your phone as a compass while hiking?

If you’re an avid hiker, then you know that having a compass is essential for navigation. But what happens if you forget your compass at home? Can you use your phone as a makeshift compass?

The answer is yes! But Only if you have signal, if you have a smartphone with GPS capabilities, then it can definitely act as a Compass when needed. Here’s how!

  • Open up the Maps app on your phone and find where you are currently located.
  • Then, draw a line from your location to where you want to go.
  • The angle of the line will give you an approximate bearing (direction), which will help guide you on your hike!
4. Are cheap compasses any good?

There are a lot of different types of compasses out there, and they all have their own pros and cons. But one thing that is always important to consider is whether or not the compass you’re using is accurate. After all, what’s the point in having a compass if it can’t tell you which way is north?

So, are cheap compasses any good? In short, it depends. Some cheap compasses are just as accurate as more expensive ones, while others may not be quite so reliable. It really varies from product to product.

That being said, if you’re looking for a compass on a budget, there are definitely some options out there that will serve you well. Just be sure to conduct research prior to making a purchase!

5. How do you pick a good compass?

There are a few things to consider when choosing a compass.

  • First, you need to decide what type of compass you need. There are three main types: baseplate compasses, lensatic compasses, and liquid-filled compasses.
  • Once you’ve decided on the type of compass you need, the next thing to consider is accuracy. Most Compass manufacturers will list the accuracy of their product in degrees or arcminutes. The higher the number, the more accurate the compass will be!
  • Another important consideration is durability. You want a compass that can withstand being dropped, stepped on, or otherwise abused.

Additional Resources

If you are looking for more tutorials, walkthroughs and troubleshooting about camping and enjoying the outdoors, here are some additional posts to check out:

The Bottom Line

So, there you have it! In my honest opinion, these are the 6 best compasses that are ideal for hiking or any other adventure activities such as camping, exploration, mountaineering, backpacking, etc.

Having the right gear is essential for enjoying your trip and also stay safe. The 6 compasses on this list are all excellent options for people who want to be prepared for whatever comes their way.

Whether you’re just starting out or have been doing it for years, these compasses will help you find your way home again when things get tough! I hope you enjoyed this article and if you think I forgot something or if you simply want to share a story or some advice, feel free to leave a comment below. But for now… Be Safe And Have Fun.!

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