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The 5 Best Hiking Compasses
The best hiking compass is a necessity if you plan on going hiking in the wilderness instead of playing card games around a camping table. It’s a scene from countless movies: the hero is lost in the woods, but just when the audience thinks she’s done for, she pulls out a compass to guide her back home. While compasses may not work exactly like in the movies, if you get lost, having a compass can reorient you so you can find the way back to camp, and they are an essential piece of camping gear for hiking. Here are our best compass for hiking reviews and ratings.
In This Article
Best Choice: Eyeskey Multifunctional Military Metal Sighting Navigation Compass
The Eyeskey Multifunctional Military Metal Sighting Navigation Compass is one of the best hiking compasses because it’s extremely sturdy and has a lot of features that basic compasses don’t have.
The Eyeskey Multifunctional Military Metal Sighting Navigation Compass is built like a tank, and it provides you with everything you’ll need to navigate rough hiking trails in the middle of nowhere. When you’re out hiking, it’s very possible that you’ll drop your compass or expose it to similar types of abuse. The Eyeskey is waterproof, shockproof, sand-resistant, and resistant to extreme temperatures. In fact, it can reliably work in -20 degrees Celsius or 50 degrees Celsius. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll end up hiking in more extreme temperatures.
A clinometer is included with the compass to allow you to measure slopes accurately. This can come in handy when you’re hiking the sandy cliffs of Arizona or the mountains of Colorado.
Finally, the dial and extra measurement features are colored with a fluorescent paint. The paint allows you to accurately read the compass during the darkest hours of the night, and it makes traveling in low-light conditions with a camping lantern easy.
Item Key Features:
- Fluorescent markings
- Built to last
- Can measure slopes
- Fluorescent paint only lasts five years
Premium Pick: Garmin Foretrex 401 Waterproof Hiking GPS
The Garmin Foretrex 401 Waterproof Hiking GPS is one of the best hiking compasses because it provides a lot of information and uses a GPS to track your location instead of just cardinal directions.
The Garmin Foretrex 401 Waterproof Hiking GPS isn’t a traditional compass by any means. It’s a wrist-mounted electronic compass, and it relies on GPS to receive information.
Its digital interface makes it very easy to read. The direction you’re facing, your altitude, the time, and several other functions are presented in their own little sections on the screen, and an LED light illuminates the screen to make it easy to use at night. It also uses TracBack technology to allow you retrace your steps if you ever get lost.
Since the compass is completely reliant on GPS signals, Garmin has installed the best possible receiver into the Foretrex 401. The receiver allows the Foretrex to receive signals even when it’s in the worst conditions.
One small drawback is that the Foretrex relies on two AA batteries. The batteries last a long time, but it’s still a good idea to buy the best batteries possible, and keeping a set of spares is a necessity when traveling long distances.
Item Key Features:
- Lots of features
- Easy to read
- Has a comfortable wrist strap
- GPS is very accurate
- Battery reliant
Best Value: Orienteering Hiking Backpacking Compass – Advanced Scout Compass
The Orienteering Hiking Backpacking Compass is one of the best hiking compasses because it’s easily affordable and reliable, so it’s great for campers and hikers who really want to get back to basics.
The Orienteering Hiking Backpacking Compass is cheap, reliable, and easy to store just about anywhere. It doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles that a military-grade compass has, and it doesn’t have any electronic functions, but it can get you where you need to go when you’re lost.
The compass is extremely accurate, but there’s not much more to it. It points north, and that’s about it. However, it does have a magnifying glass and a small ruler built into its base. The extra features make this reliable compass a little more versatile, and they’re a nice addition considering its extremely low price.
- Extremely inexpensive
- Compass is very accurate
- Versatile bonus features
- Very basic
Editor’s Choice: Sun Company TempaComp – Ball Compass and Thermometer
The Sun Company TempaComp is one of the best hiking compasses because the compass being positioned on a carabiner clip makes it extremely handy for clipping to a backpack to help carry other camping supplies.
The Sun Company TempaComp Hiking Compass is another great budget option, and it’s a little more robust, too. It’s designed to function as a carabiner clip. The actual compass section of it isn’t overly large, but it sits right at the tip of the clip, and it’s an accurate ball design.
A mercury-based thermometer also sits along one of the clip’s sides. That produces a little bit of a risk if you shatter it onto your skin or in a closed environment, but the base of it is cushioned to prevent that.
One thing that you should consider is that, while it’s designed to function like a carabiner, it is not safe for rock climbing. So, don’t think that you’ll be able to safely tie yourself off while you’re hiking in the mountains with your trusty compass.
- Can be clipped to anything
- Ball compass
- Built-in thermometer
- Not safe for climbing activities
- The thermometer can break
Honorable Mention: IMPHOM Survival Bracelet Paracord Military Accessories Kit
The IMPHOM Military Survival Bracelet With Compass is a great military survival bracelet that comes with a good backup comass to go in tandem with a primary compass.
The IMPHOM Military Survival Bracelet With Compass isn’t designed to primarily function as a compass, but it’s a great option to go in tandem with another compass. It has some different tools that make it great for surviving if something doesn’t go according to plan.
The IMPHOM is made from woven strands of 550 paracord, and each strand can be gutted to make use of 7 individual inner strands. The cord can be used for fishing, creating tourniquets, and anything else that you might need cordage for.
On top of having plenty of cordage, it also contains a knife, a fire starter, and a whistle. The small clasp has a button compass on it, and that’s why it’s on this list. Button compasses aren’t usually as good as larger compasses, but they can help you find north and navigate.
It’s probably not best to use this as your primary navigation tool, but it’ll work very well as a backup option due to its large amount of tools Consider supplementing it with other tools, like a more advanced compass, a camping hatchet, and other camping equipment.
- Has several different survival tools
- Made of 550 cord
- Great as a backup
- Button compasses aren’t great as primary navigation tools
Picking the Best Hiking Compass
Your camping compass is one of the tools that you’ll rely on a lot while you’re hiking. You’ll need it for general navigation purposes on long trails, and you’ll definitely need it if you get lost.
However, buying a camping compass that you can rely on isn’t the easiest thing in the world. You have to keep an eye out for low-quality products, and some different designs aren’t suitable for certain types of hikers.
Here are the things we recommend keeping an eye out for when you’re looking for the best compass for hiking.
How to Pick the Best Compass For Hiking
The best compass for hiking is the compass that takes care of all of your needs without adding unnecessary weight to your pack.
If you frequently hike long trails in remote areas, you’ll want to bring along a compass that is extremely accurate to bring you to where you want to set up your campsite. You’ll also want it to have extra features like thermometers, clinometers, and other features that allow you to gather information about your environment.
If you hike in areas that are less remote, or if you only go out on short hikes, you might want to focus on a more simplistic option.
You most likely won’t need all of the fancy features on the more robust options, and they’ll likely add quite a bit of weight to your kit. The budget option that we reviewed is probably the best compass for hiking the easier trails.
You might also want to consider a backup compass. A backup camping compass isn’t the best compass for hiking, but it can help you out if you break your primary compass or lose it.
The survival bracelet and clip-on compasses that we reviewed are great backup options. They don’t have really advanced compasses on them, but they have several other tools that can come in handy, and they can be stored on the side of your pack. The survival bracelet conveniently wraps around your wrist.
What to Look Out For in a Hiking Compass
While there are a lot of great options on the market, you should keep your eyes open for duds. Any company can make a compass, and a lot of companies fail to do it properly. You can’t always judge compass based on price, either. The cheapest item on our list has one of the most accurate compasses.
You don’t want to look for really inexpensive compasses that have tons of features. If it’s less than ten bucks, and it has a lot of features, corners were probably cut during its construction.
Reviews and ratings can also help you figure out if a compass is reliable or not. Just try not to look to deeply into them. A lot of great products have a handful of negative opinions attached to them.
Hiking Compass Precautions
Depending on the camping compass you pick, you might want to take precautions while using it or carrying it. If you remember our review of the clip-on compass by Sun Company, you’ll know that we were slightly concerned about the mercury-based thermometer.
Mercury thermometers are perfectly safe in most situations, but if they break, they can poison you. If you do have a compass with mercury in it, it’s a good idea to avoid dropping it or exposing it to extreme heat. It’s an even better idea to get one that uses sensors instead of mercury.
Some compasses are also designed to look and function like carabiner clips. It’s important to realize that these clips aren’t built to be used for climbing or hooking heavy objects together. Doing so can cause the carabiner to break, and it can cause your death or a serious injury when it does. However, the design is great for connecting keeping a backup compass attached to your pack or belt loop at all times, and they can be great for clipping your mess kit, camping cooking utensil set, or other lightweight items to your backpack.
Finally, you should be careful not to expose your camping compass to magnets. Most traditional compasses work because their needles are magnetized, and introducing new magnetic fields to a compass can cause it to give you inaccurate readings until you remove the compass from the vicinity of the magnet. Also, try to keep your compass away from more powerful electronics and other items that use strong magnets.
All of the hiking compasses on this list are great and offer different advantages and disadvantages, but we chose the Eyeskey Multifunctional Military Metal Sighting Navigation Compass as our top pick. It’s the best compass for hiking because of its vast array of features, tank-like construction, and unparalleled accuracy. It simply outperforms the other compasses on our list in nearly every way. While it’s heavier than the other options, it outperforms them as well, and having such a durable compass while hiking is a great investment.
It’s important to pick a compass that will help you navigate the terrain that you like to hike in, and if you want the best compass for hiking, you’ll likely want to pick one from our list to ensure that you get the best compass for hiking in any situation.