Written by 10:13 am Survival, Tactical Gear

The Best Survival Compass in 2020

Image of a hand, a survival compass in a palm, with blurred woods background.

Whether you’re a casual camper, or enjoy long hikes through the wilderness, you don’t want to be stuck with a compass you can’t operate. In a survival situation, having a compass you can rely on is especially important – no one wants to realise they’ve been headed in the wrong direction for hours.

The best navigation compasses will make sure you find your way home in any situation. They’ll guarantee accurate readings, and will be easy to use in all conditions. You can even find compasses that are tailored to your specific outdoor activities, which are sure to make your experience even more enjoyable.

However, with so many different compasses for sale, it can be hard to know which model is the best fit for you. There are some excellent devices available with some really impressive features – but it’s important to keep your needs in mind, so you’re not slowed down by unnecessary bells and whistles.

Luckily, this little guide has all the information you’ll need to find the best survival compass for your requirements. We’ve selected the highest quality compasses for different activity, size, and performance needs – so making the right decision will be effortless. If you’ve got any further questions, scroll to the bottom for our handy Buyer’s Guide.

Finding the Best Compass

When you’re looking for the best compass for your needs, it’s a good idea to keep in mind certain factors that will assist you in making the right decision. Here’s our list of the most outstanding compass types and brands for your every need.

Top Compass Brands

Selecting a survival compass from a company with a good reputation is one of the best ways to ensure you’ve selected a high quality piece of kit.

Compasses from top standard brands often come with a great range of extra features, so you can really tailor your gear to your activities. With that in mind, here are a few of the very best compass brands to look out for:

  • If you’re looking for the most reliable model possible, try Cammenga compasses. They’re the manufacturer of choice for the US Military, and are even made domestically, so they’re easy to get hold of. With excellent quality design, a Cammenga compass is a guaranteed good investment.
  • Suunto are another great manufacturer that deliver premium compasses in a variety of styles, to suit many different budgets. Their compasses deliver high level accuracy, and are incredibly ergonomic, too.
  • Silva have over 85 years of experience in crafting compasses, which is reflected in their sleek and high quality products. With models to suit a range of different outdoor activities, their impressive extra features will help take your survival compass to the next level.

Types of Survival Compass

Once you’ve found your favorite compass brand, you’ll need to consider the different types of compasses available.

Each kind of compass has its own advantages, and some will suit your requirements better than others. If you’re feeling unsure, here’s a list of the top 3 most common compass types, and why they might be the one for you:

  • Base Plate Compasses are sleek, easy to operate, and often have handy extra functions. They’re excellent if you need an orienteering compass, as the clear base plate makes it excellent for using with a map. They often include a magnifying component and even different scales to make it easy to quickly read navigation info. Overall, this type of compass is ideal if you need to be plotting a course, or have a long hike ahead.
  • Button Compasses are a really compact option. Due to their size, they’re easy to fit in your pack or attach to the rest of your gear, but they can make it tricky to take an exact reading. If you’re experienced with orienteering, or know your environment well, a button compass might be the right pick for you.
  • Lensatic Compasses are ideal for those who need a durable and extremely reliable compass. They’re often used by military personnel, so you can be sure that they’re a long-lasting and accurate investment. They can come with several extra functions which might be confusing for beginners – but they’re excellent for wilderness enthusiasts and dedicated hikers.

The main idea is to select a compass that’s easy to use and reasonably accurate. If you don’t enjoy using your compass, or find it confusing to operate, then it’s unlikely to assist you in a survival situation. The best survival compass for you will be the one that you can rely on to get you to safety in any situation.

The Top 5 Best Compasses

With so many compasses for survival available on the market, narrowing down your options can be tricky. Here’s our list of the top 5 best options to help you make the right decision.

The Best Compass for Survival

This is an image of the Camengga heavy-duty compass in green color, with cover, black-colored dials.

 Item Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 3 inches | Waterproof housing

As the US Military’s brand of choice, Cammenga deliver some of the best compasses for survival. The Lensatic 3HCS Military Compass includes a premium selection of functions that are guaranteed to make a difference in almost any survival situation.

The compass is domestically made, and boasts quality construction. The sturdy aluminium frame is powder coated for a better grip, and is also damage and shock resistant. The clam clasp design keeps your gear safe, while the handy scale edge makes orienteering effortless.

The Tritium micro-lights ensure excellent visibility for an incredible 12 years of use, so you’ll be able to find your way in the darkest of environments. With additional scratch and splash resistance, you can be sure that this compass will work well in the vast majority of weather conditions, too.

The quality compass incorporates a non-liquid filled design, so you won’t have to worry about fluctuating temperature. In fact, the manufacturer guarantees great functionality between -50° F and 150° F, which should cover almost every environment.

Accuracy won’t be an issue either, with the included copper damping ring which ensures your needle is always steady. The dial covers both degrees and mils, and is color coded to make everything easy to read. With an additional magnifying lens and sight wire, Cammenga truly have covered every user requirement.

It’s important to remember that you will have to purchase different devices depending on whether you’re in the northern or southern hemisphere. However, due to its high quality construction and impressive extra functions, the Cammenga Lensatic 3HCS compass is well worth the investment, and is certainly the best compass for survival available.

The Best Compass for Hiking

Item Dimensions: 48mm x 12mm | Includes: 360 Degrees Rotating Bezel

When you’re hiking, having a compass that’s easy to carry and suits your navigation needs is always an advantage. For these reasons, the Sharp Survival Camping Compass is our pick for the best compass for hiking, and it’s sure to make your time on the trails even more enjoyable.

At just 48mm across and 12mm thick, this compact compass is perfect for fitting in your pack or pocket, and won’t weigh you down on a long hike. The copper casing is sleek and durable, and the clam clasp design ensures that your gear is protected. The useful copper handle is also perfect for attaching your gear to a belt or backpack.

A 360° rotating bezel ensures you’ll find your bearing quickly, whilst the classic illustrated dial design is a unique touch that helps boost readability. The face itself glows in the dark, so you’ll even be able to find your path in low light conditions. This feature is especially useful for hikers, who may find themselves in dark forested areas, or on the trails after sundown.

Overall, the sleek construction and easy-to-use design makes the Sharp Survival Camping Compass one of the best options for hikers. It’s sure to assist you in a survival situation, and will allow you to take quick readings in all conditions. The classic copper exterior and detailed face makes it a wonderful gift idea, too.

Best Compass for Backpacking

This is the image of a Camengga 27CS compass in green color.

Material: Aluminum | Water-Resistant | Package Dimensions: 8.75 x 6 x 2.25 inches

When you’re backpacking across a long distance, a reliable compass is a vital addition to your survival kit. Cammenga’s high quality compasses are always a good investment, and the Lensatic 27CS Compass is an excellent selection for backpacking enthusiasts.

Cammenga’s compasses are all made in the US, and are always incredibly durable. The clam compass construction includes a cast-aluminium frame and powder coating that’s sure to survive even the toughest situations. Guaranteed sand and splash resistance is guaranteed to put you at ease, and ensures great functionality in adverse weather conditions, too.

The luminescent dial is able to glow in the dark for several minutes, but you will need to expose it to light in order to get this effect. Once the dial has begun to glow, it’s incredibly easy to read, so you’ll even be able to find your path in the dark. A belt clip and carrying pouch guarantees that your compass will always be secure, too.

The copper damping ring and color coded degrees/mils dial ensures effortless and accurate readings, while the magnifying lens and built-in scale makes map-reading easy. The construction does not incorporate liquid, so you’ll be able to get great use out of your compass in conditions ranging from -50° F to 150° F. It’s certainly a great option for backpackers, no matter the climate.

The compass doesn’t include a global needle, so you will need to ensure that you purchase something that is tailored to your hemisphere, but this is unlikely to impact the majority of users.

Overall, the Lensatic 27CS Compass is ideal for backpackers. The durable design means you won’t have to worry about changing weather conditions, whilst the incredibly accurate and easy to use dial makes orienteering simple for all.

Best Small Compass

An image of a button compass in typical yellow-green text descriptions.

Package Dimensions:  3.5 x 3.25 x 0.25 inches | Water-resistant up to 100 m

If you enjoy packing light, then a miniature compass can allow you to get your bearings without needing to carry a large device with you. The Button Compass from Best Glide ASE is quite literally the size of a button, and is perfect for finding your path when you don’t have the space for an entire survival kit.

The compass itself is just 20mm across, making it ideal for even the smallest of pockets. For such a small device, it’s incredibly durable. The pressurized, oil-filled interior is resistant to most interference, and it’s also watertight for up to 100 meters of submersion, which is sure to put you at ease.

The glow in the dark face ensures that the compass is easy to read in all weather conditions, despite its miniature size. It’s not suited for taking highly accurate measurements or plotting detailed courses, but is the perfect option for casual campers who want a convenient way to find their bearing.

Best Compass for Orienteering

This is an image of a SUUNTO compass, made of acrylic, with red and black color prints of numbers.

Item Dimensions: 2.24 x 4.49 x 0.39 inches

When you’re orienteering, using reliable gear is vital. Suunto deliver high quality compasses for survival, and the A-30 Metric Compass is no exception. With a selection of excellent functions in a compact case, the A-30 is an incredibly effective device that comes with an impressively low price tag.

The compass is crafted with high quality clear acrylic, to ensure long-lasting performance. It weighs just 32 grams, and is slim enough to fit into your pocket or even be worn around your neck, with the included snap-lock lanyard. Built-in metric scales and a magnetic declination scale are great extra features, too.

The needle itself is steel, and is stabilized with liquid for easy operation. The compass incorporates a jewel bearing and built-in magnifying lens to ensure that both compass and map reading is effortlessly accurate. The construction even includes holes to mark control points, which is an invaluable feature when you’re working with a map.

The face is luminescent, making the compass easy to read in darkness or low light environments. The additional scratch and water resistance ensures perfect reliability in all weather conditions, so the A-30 metric compass is a truly versatile device.

The compass is balanced for the northern hemisphere, but also includes Suunto’s two-zone system, meaning that users should enjoy good accuracy in the southern hemisphere, too.

Overall, Suunto have truly considered everything you might need as an Orienteer, and have delivered a high quality tool to make even the most complicated trips effortless. With its variety of extra features, and durable construction, the A-30 Metric is certainly one of the best compasses for orienteering.

Buyer’s Guide to Survival Compasses

When you’re looking for a compass for survival purposes, there are few important factors to consider. Here’s our handy Buyer’s Guide to help you find the best compass for your needs.

Size and Weight

When you’re in a survival environment, you don’t want to have to carry weighty gear. A good compass will have all the features you need, and still be easy to take with you.

In many instances, you may not have the luxury of a full survival kit. For this reason, having a survival compass that fits easily into your pocket can be a great advantage. A button style compass is often just a few millimetres wide, and it certainly won’t weigh you down as you move. If you’re more concerned with convenience than plotting a detailed course, then definitely consider a smaller compass.

However, it’s important to remember that the smaller a compass is, the harder it will be to get an accurate reading.

Button compasses are excellent if you’re looking for a discreet option, but they tend to be harder to read, and are definitely most suited to helping you head in a general direction. If you’re looking for something with a few extra features, you will need to select compasses that are slightly larger. A broad selection of survival compasses will still be able to fit in your hand or bag, but they won’t be as discreet as a button-size compass.

Lensatic or orienteering compasses tend to strike a good balance between convenience and functionality. Many options will fit easily into your pocket, but will make it effortless to take clear readings and plot courses. They only weigh a few grams, and will still be an invaluable tool in a survival environment.

Overall, try to select a compass that meets your needs, and isn’t too difficult to carry, in order to get the best experience possible.

Readability

When you’re in a survival situation, you don’t want to waste time trying to understand a confusing compass. Selecting a compass that’s easy to read when you’re under pressure is vital, and will definitely make a difference when it matters.

Firstly, it’s important to make sure that your chosen survival compass performs well at all times. No matter how well your compass works in the day time, if it’s hard to read in low light or at night, you just won’t get the best use out of it.

Survival compasses come with a variety of ways to make taking readings easier. Some options will have luminescent paint, which is a great option. Keep in mind that you may have to expose the paint to light for a few seconds in order to activate it – so this might not be the most useful if you’re travelling light and won’t have a flashlight to hand.

The most reliable survival compasses will be glow in the dark, or even have their own lights. If you need to be certain your compass will be readable in all conditions, this is definitely an excellent option.

You should also choose a survival compass that will be easy to take a reading from. Regardless how many special features your compass has, if you can’t get a quick reading every time, it won’t be very useful.

Try to select a compass with a color-coded face, with clear markings to help you find your bearing. Intricate designs may be aesthetically pleasing, but a simple, functional face will be the most useful in a survival situation. A rotating bezel can also make quick readings effortless, so it’s definitely something to look out for.

Reliability

When you’re using a compass for survival, you want to be sure it will always point you true north in any environment. A compass that’s difficult to operate will be less reliable, and you won’t enjoy using it either.

If you’re under pressure, you don’t want to find that your compass is getting confused. A global compass will often be the most reliable option, as you can be sure it will always help you find your path, regardless of your location. You can also find compasses that are balanced for the north hemisphere, but which still function well in the south hemisphere, so this might be something to consider.

You also want to be certain that your compass is giving you an accurate reading. If you’re an orienteer, or are plotting a complicated route, try to select a military grade compass. These survival compasses are used for plotting exact locations, so you can be sure they’ll always give you a reliable reading.

You may also want to consider your compass’ damping system. A survival compass with a shaky needle will be hard to read when you’re under pressure, so choosing a model with a dependable damping system will be a great advantage.

Liquid-filled systems can work well in most situations, but can be affected in extreme temperatures. If you need your survival compass to guide you in almost any environment, try to find one that uses a copper damping ring. It won’t be negatively affected by changing temperatures, and will ensure you get a dependable reading every time.

Durability

One of the most important features of a survival compass is that it’s able to withstand anything you throw at it. If your compass can’t keep up with your outdoor activities, it’s unlikely to be the right pick for you. Here’s our list of the most important durability features to look out for:

  • Water resistance: This feature is a must for every survival compass. Whether you select a model that’s splash proof or water resistant to 100m, having some form of water protection will ensure you get the most use out of your investment.
  • Scratch Resistance: You don’t want to invest in a quality compass, only to find that you can’t read the dial because it’s too scratched. Selecting a device that’s sand proof will ensure your compass stays readable for longer, and means you won’t have to worry about wear and tear.
  • Strong Casing: Survival compasses come in all sorts of casing, and the style you choose will largely come down to preference. However, you will need to make certain that it’s able to keep your compass safe. For metal compasses, try to select cast aluminium models, as they’ll be lightweight and strong. If you prefer plastic varieties, ensure they’re crafted from durable acrylic for the best performance. Finding a good compass that’s certified shock-proof is always an advantage, too.
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