Choosing a Good Compass for Hiking and Backpacking

A compass, map, and navigating abilities are some of the most crucial equipment to have while going on a trip. If you are lost on a path and don’t have phone service or your GPS equipment fails, a compass and a map may be all you need to go home safely. But how can you find a Good Compass for Hiking that is ideal for you?

One of our main aims is to make it easier for you to complete your hiking gear checklist. In this article, we’ll go over various hiking compasses, characteristics to look for in a backpacking compass, and how to find the best compass for backpacking for you out of so many options.

Benefits Of a Good Compass For Hiking:

A compass is the best tool for helping you keep on track, and that’s precisely what it does. Its fundamental function is to steer you in the proper direction and to teach you how to stay on that route.

When you hike with a compass, you never have to wonder which way you’re going. The compass will tell you which way to go, so you must understand how to read it, particularly if it has a rotating bezel.

Compasses are also excellent trekking tools since they are light and do not need batteries. A luminescent compass has been created with lighting capabilities that will glow in the dark after a lengthy period of exposure to sunlight.

How To Choose a Good Compass for Hiking?

You should consider a few factors while selecting the best compass. Are you seeking the best hiking or backpacking compass? A transparent baseplate with a magnetic needle contained in a fluid-filled housing is the same in contemporary compasses.

They are often made from ethyl alcohol, mineral oil, or lamp oil. The fluid makes sure the needle displays a correct bearing, and you should avoid cheap compasses without fluids.

There are two types of baseplate compasses: standard baseplate and sighting/mirror. The most popular compasses are those with a baseplate for essential outdoor navigation and general purpose usage.

The bigger models have a longer focusing needle, which improves accuracy. Some sighting/mirror compasses have a foldable mirror that allows you to see your landmark while reading your compass. Adjustable declination is one of the options. The lanyard connects to the adjustable screw.

Some of the more advanced compasses incorporate a clinometer to aid in determining the steepness of a slope in the event of an avalanche.

Things To Consider Before Buying a Hiking or Backpacking Compass:

Types Of Compasses for Backpacking:

Understanding different functions of compass before looking at specific brands or features is essential. Hiking compasses classify into three types such as baseplate, mirrored baseplate, and lensatic. You can use all of these to navigate through the wilderness. Here’s a short recap:

Baseplate Compass:

Because it works well with a map, a baseplate compass is ideal for hiking and backpacking. The needle is present in a liquid-filled housing that rests on the top of a transparent baseplate, as the name indicates. Because of the liquid, the needle may move slowly and gently.


You can look through the transparent baseplate to the map to set destinations and position the compass to the north. A straightedge and a ruler attach to the plate’s side so that you may draw lines between waypoints and measure distances.

Mirrored Baseplate Compass:

A standard baseplate compass with a mirror offers flexibility by allowing the user to view both the compass dial and the backdrop simultaneously. The joint at the direction-of-travel arrow unfolds the mirror, and there is typically a v-notch on the mirror base that the user may use as a vision for detecting things in the field.

You may align the compass to a target by gazing through the notch and then aligning the orienting arrow to the north arrow by maintaining the mirror at a 45° angle. It improves accuracy while also increasing difficulty. As a result, a standard baseplate compass is preferable for novices.

Lensatic Compass:

When used correctly, the Lensatic Compass is an excellent tool for individuals who are familiar with its usage. They are often inflated with air, resulting in a quicker moving needle and a more lasting compass.

This compass type is more complex to use with a map and is mostly used to determine a site bearing. On the other hand, the military Lensatic compass is more robust, has night capability, and is more precise than its baseplate counterparts.

Features To Look for in a Good Compass For Hiking:

There are several hiking compass manufacturers to pick from, but choosing the finest among them may need more than a little thorough study. When looking for the best hiking compass, keep the following aspects in mind:


When shopping for a compass, make sure to check for backlighting as one of the first features to consider. You want to make sure the compass has the appropriate illuminating characteristics. A backlit compass will prove helpful when hiking at night or in low-light conditions.

It will prevent you from grabbing a flashlight every time you need to use the compass. A non-backlit gadget is only functional during the day and may become outdated in low-light circumstances if you forgot to bring a flashlight.

Analog Vs. Digital:

Digital compasses come with a plethora of additional features and are a typical characteristic of hiking watches. However, are they the correct gadget for you?

Digital compasses run on batteries. You must be prepared to replace or charge the batteries. If you neglect to bring your batteries or a portable charger, your gadget may fail. It might leave you without a navigation tool at a crucial stage.

Analog gadgets do not need an external power source. You can store an analog compass for months (or even years!) and still function. When using an analog compass, you don’t have to worry about it running out of battery when you’re in a rush. These are factors to consider while selecting the best compass for you.


Declination Adjustment:

When navigating, you should be aware of the difference between “true north” and “magnetic north.” The path to the geographic North Pole is known as the true north. The magnetic North Pole locates in this direction.

Declination is a measurement of the degree of difference between these two places. The declination angle is not a fixed value. This angle varies depending on your location and might alter from year to year.

What does it mean? Your compass needle may point east or west even if you are looking for true north. It may not create a change in your navigation on short hikes. However, neglecting declination may throw you several miles off course on extended voyages.

Compasses having a declination adjustment feature may readily accommodate these variations. How? By varying the declination of the compass bearing. You may cruise without constantly calculating the declination once the correction is made.

Global Needle:

Not every analog compass is usable everywhere around the globe. Many compasses calibrate for magnetic variation in a specific hemisphere. If you take a calibrated compass from the United States to Australia, you’ll notice that the needle drags and sticks.

Look for a compass with a worldwide needle if you want to use it when traveling worldwide. Global needles intend to compensate for variations in magnetic deviations. These compasses work well no matter where you are on the globe.


Finding a compass that will stand the test of time is the essential factor. Choose a strong type that will not readily break. A compass is made up of numerous components, as we shall see in the next sections, so make sure they don’t shatter if you drop it or knock it against another object in your survival kit.

A compass with an anodized aluminum housing is recommended for long-term use this will guarantee that it will lasts. Because anodization protects metal from rusting, the compass lasts considerably longer. The compass should also resist adverse circumstances such as sand particles or immersion in water.

Sighting Mirror:

Choose a compass with a sighting mirror. Making readings more precise allows you to see your compass and your surroundings simultaneously

This feature decreases the possibility of your compass misdirecting you. You may also use the compass to signal for aid when you are in a tight spot.


Depending on where you want to hike, a clinometer is essential. It helps and makes it easier to determine the slope and character of the path you are encountering. If you’re hiking in the winter, it might warn you about the likelihood of an avalanche and assist you to avoid it. When climbing or hiking in cold circumstances, it is proven to be an indispensable gear.


Some compass types have a whistle, which might be a lifesaver if you find yourself in an emergency. A whistle is a survival gear that can alert other hikers to your situation if you need assistance.

It may also use to provide a warning to your troops about a dangerous situation. Hikers usually have their style of communicating; for example, one sharp whistle signifies STOP, whereas two sharp whistles imply COME TO ME. Three times mean COME TO ME IMMEDIATELY!

Reciprocal Scale:

A reciprocal scale helps you locate yourself on a map. It depicts the polar opposite bearing of the direction you are traveling in. For example, it is possible to find mountains at 200 degrees and warehouses at 340 degrees.

As a result, the opposing bearings will be 20 and 160 degrees, respectively. Draw lines from the mountain at 20 degrees and the warehouse at 160 degrees to find your position. Your position is at the junction of the two lines.

Silicon Feet:

Finally, make sure the compass you’re purchasing has silicon feet. These improve the compass’s hold on the map and avoid slippage while reading instructions.

It might be helpful in harsh situations when you wish to save time reading the map without getting lost.

Taking Care of Your Compass:

SUUNTO Compass

After you’ve picked the best hiking compass, take care of it so that it can take care of you. Here are a few suggestions to make your compass last a long time.

1. Keep the compass away from any metal tools or gadgets in your bag. It’s OK to keep it in an outside pocket or even wear it around your neck.

2. Check the alignment of the compass regularly. The needle’s polarity may decrease somewhat. Check to see if you can restore the needle’s magnetism or replace the compass.

3. Examine the compass carefully at the end of the day or after a long trek. Keep an eye out for sand and grime around the sighting mirror and the baseplate.

4. Examine the area around the needle for bubbles. If the air bubble is too large, it will restrict the needle’s travel. A compass like this should not be in your survival or trekking pack.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

1) Do I Need a Compass with a Rotating Bezel?

No, a rotating bezel is not necessary for good hiking navigation. It’s a helpful feature that may make it simpler to follow the correct path, but it is not necessary for any compass.

2) What Is the Difference Between a Digital Compass and an Analog One?

A digital compass employs sensors to provide a numerical readout of the direction. This number reflects your angle to the direction you’re aiming. An analog compass employs a magnetic needle to determine the magnetic north, which tells you the direction you’re facing.Whether you’re using a digital or analog compass, the reading will assist you to identify the direction you need to go.

3) What Is the Price of The Best Compass?

The cost of a compass varies greatly depending on its quality and features. A decent compass may range in price from $15 to $100. A good, dependable hiking compass, such as the Silva Explorer or Suunto A-30, costs between $20 and $30. If properly cared for, they may endure a lifetime of experiences.

4) Do Compasses Lose Their Accuracy with Time?

If you keep your compass near a powerful magnet, the needle may get demagnetized over time. The most frequent reason for a new compass is wear and tear from being jammed into a backpack, tumbling into rocks, or enduring significant temperature variations. A decent compass may easily last a lifetime if properly cared for.

5) Is A Liquid-Filled Compass Preferable?

A liquid-filled compass isn’t always preferable, but it does offer advantages. Because the needle is revolving in a liquid, most baseplate compasses are filled with liquid. It causes the needle to slow down, making it less sensitive to movement in your hand. However, forceful motions, such as banging about in your backpack or dropping, might cause bubbles in the liquid or leaks, reducing the compass’s accuracy.

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:


There are several compasses to pick from. The sort of compass you should use will be determined by the type of hiking you will perform. To know more about compasses, you can read the “Best Compass for Backpacking! The Top 6!

If you want to perform mild hiking in local areas, you should have a basic compass. However, if you want to go to other regions of the nation or perhaps the globe, you should choose a quality compass, such as a Lensatic compass or an electronic compass (GPS). I hope this article helped you to choose your compass, if you want to share a story or tips, feel free to leave a comment below…but for now, Be Safe and Happy Hiking.!

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