How to Choose the Right Compass for You

Your Guide to buying the best Compasses


A compass is an essential tool to have on any outdoor trip or adventure. Whether you’re a hiker, camper, or navigator, having a reliable compass is crucial. But with all the compasses available on the market, it can be difficult to determine which is the best choice for you. This buying guide will provide insight into the different types of compasses, their features, and tips for choosing a compass that best meets your needs. We’ll also cover how to use a compass and provide valuable advice on taking care of your compass.

Key features

  1. Type of Compass – Select the type of compass thats best for the intended use. Options include both traditional compasses with a needle and modern digital compasses.
  2. Size & Weight – Consider the size and weight of the compass and ensure it is light enough to carry.
  3. Material & Durability – Compasses vary in terms of material and durability; choose one that is rugged enough to withstand the intended environment.
  4. Accuracy & Reliability – Research the accuracy and reliability of the compass to make sure it works correctly.
  5. Additional Features – See if the compass has any additional features like a digital display or a GPS navigational system.
  6. Price – Compare the price of the compass to other options, and opt for a balance of features and value.

See the most popular Compasses on Amazon

Important considerations


  • Accuracy - Compasses provide an accurate reading of direction and orientation, making them essential for navigation.
  • Durability - Compasses are designed to withstand the elements and can last for years if taken care of properly.
  • Versatility - Compasses can be used for a variety of activities, from fishing and camping to hiking and orienteering.
  • Affordability - Compasses are relatively inexpensive and are available in a wide range of prices to fit any budget.
  • Portability - Compasses are lightweight and compact, making them easy to carry or store when not in use.


  • Cost: Compasses can be quite expensive, especially those with higher precision built-in features such as a digital display.
  • Size: Some compasses can be bulky and awkward to carry around, making them difficult to transport and use in remote areas.
  • Battery Life: Many compasses require batteries which need to be replaced every so often, meaning you must always have a few spare batteries on hand.
  • Accuracy: Depending on the brand and model, some compasses may not be as accurate as more expensive models, meaning you may have difficulty navigating with it.
  • Durability: Compasses are designed to be used outdoors, so they must be durable enough to withstand harsh weather conditions. Cheaper models may not be as durable as more expensive ones.

Best alternatives

  1. GPS Devices - Devices that use a satellite signal to accurately determine a location.
  2. Smartphones - Cell phones with built-in GPS capabilities.
  3. Maps - Printed or electronic maps that can be used to plot a route.
  4. Navigation Apps - Mobile apps that use GPS data to help users navigate.
  5. Compass Apps - Apps that use the device’s built-in compass to help users stay on track.

Related tools, supplies, and accessories

  • Compass - A tool used for navigation that measures the direction of magnetic north.
  • Map - A visual representation of a region or area used to locate places, landmarks, and features.
  • Protractor - A tool used for measuring and drawing angles.
  • Baseplate Compass - A compass set on a plastic baseplate which is used to take bearings and draw route lines.
  • Lensatic Compass - A military-style compass with a lid used to accurately measure and follow bearings.
  • Clinometer - A device used to measure angles of inclination or declination.
  • Mirror-Sighting Compass - A compass with an extending arm and mirror used to view distant objects while keeping the compass level.
  • Surveyor’s Compass - A precision instrument used in surveying, mapping, and mining.
  • Declination Adjustment - A feature on some compasses used to compensate for the angular difference between true north and magnetic north.

Common questions

  1. What are the different types of compasses? The two main types of compasses are baseplate compasses and sighting compasses. Baseplate compasses are the most common type, with a flat base and a clear baseplate that allows you to easily see the map underneath and mark your current location. Sighting compasses provide more accuracy and precision for taking bearings, with a sighting mirror that allows you to aim the compass at your destination.
  2. What features should I look for in a compass? Look for compasses that have a baseplate that is durable and easy to read, a reliable needle and adjustable declination settings. Additionally, if you’re looking for a sighting compass, make sure it has a sight line and a sighting mirror.
  3. What is declination? Declination is the angular difference between true north and magnetic north. It varies from place to place and can cause a compass to give inaccurate readings if it is not adjusted for the correct declination.
  4. Do I need to buy a compass with a built-in clinometer? A clinometer is a device used to measure the slope of a hill or mountain. While some compasses come with built-in clinometers, they are not necessary for basic navigation, so you can save money by buying a basic compass without one.
  5. What is the best way to care for and store my compass? Make sure to keep your compass away from magnets and other sources of interference. When not in use, store your compass in a cool, dry place and make sure the lid is closed to prevent moisture from collecting inside the compass.


A funny fact about compasses is that historically, compasses were made from a lodestone, which is a naturally magnetized piece of the mineral magnetite. What made this particularly interesting is that lodestones were often found in the stomachs of sheep! This is because magnetite is believed to act as a digestive aid for these animals, so they would often eat it by mistake. (Source)

Disclaimer: This buying guide was not created by humans, and it is possible that some of it's content is inaccurate or incomplete. We do not guarantee or take any liability for the accuracy of this buying guide. Additionally, the images on this page were generated by AI and may not accurately represent the product that is being discussed. We have tried to convey useful information, but it is our subjective opinion and should not be taken as complete or factual.