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Thread: Compass Recommendation

  1. #1
    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
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    Compass Recommendation

    I've been looking for a new compass with some features my current model doesn't have and I'm curious to get some opinions here because I know there are some hard core navigators on the site. I am currently using a Silva model with the flip up sighting mirror (not sure of the exact model. I've had quite awhile and I don't see any model info on it anywhere). It gets me where I want to go but as I've gotten older my up close vision has gotten to the point where I have a hard time reading the bearings with the lines so close, especially in low light conditions. Also, I'm not sure if it is the design or I damaged it at some point but when I spin the dial I can actually shift the whole dial off the center a bit which I am sure is not great for accurate readings.

    So I am looking for a model that has bullet proof construction, some ability to magnify the readings and a luminous dial for reading in low light or at night now that I do a lot more sunrise/sunset/night hiking. I've come across models that are described as "military style" and have a sighting lens and luminous dials but it is unclear if the sighting lens is magnified in any way. Several models I looked at also had a second dial outside the 0-360 dial that appears to be a subdivision of some sort - is that what that is? They also seem fairly thick and are not clear so setting down on a map to plot directions seems like it would be a little more inconvenient.

    Anyone have any thoughts on a brand or model that might help me out with these features? The Silva compass I have now is pretty much the only compass I have ever used so I'm not sure where it stands among other brands quality wise. Appreciate any feedback on the subject.
    NH 48 4k: 48/48; NH W48k: 48/48; ME 4k: 2/14; VT 4k: 1/5; ADK 46: 6/46; Cat 3.5k 10/35

  2. #2
    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
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    This is an example of a compass with some of the features I mentioned in case I was unclear what I was describing: https://www.amazon.com/Professional-...ywords=compass
    NH 48 4k: 48/48; NH W48k: 48/48; ME 4k: 2/14; VT 4k: 1/5; ADK 46: 6/46; Cat 3.5k 10/35

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    Senior Member iAmKrzys's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DayTrip View Post
    This is an example of a compass with some of the features I mentioned in case I was unclear what I was describing: https://www.amazon.com/Professional-...ywords=compass
    This compass looks cool but it is hard to tell from the description whether it has a way to adjust for magnetic declination. This may not matter if the maps that you are using have magnetic grid lines drawn on them but personally I prefer to have it in case I need it. I currently use Brunton True Arc 3 ( https://www.rei.com/product/877062/b...uarc-3-compass ) that has an easy-to-adjust center plate (no tools necessary) but it does not have other bells and whistles that you probably care about.

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    Senior Member Jazzbo's Avatar
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    I use my compass all the time. My compass is pretty low tech. I look for high visibility text and well marked north shed for visibility in low light. If I was in market for new compass I would probably pick Silva Explorer Pro High Visibility Compass. You can google this and probably find it pretty quick. I use my compass so much the text around dial usually wears out due to my constantly dialing in new bearings. I always carry 2 compasses as once in while lanyard comes undone and compass disappears who knows where. That can be a real pain being off trail and suddenly with out a compass.
    Last edited by Jazzbo; 02-11-2018 at 04:07 PM.
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    Senior Member ChrisB's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DayTrip View Post
    So I am looking for a model that has bullet proof construction, some ability to magnify the readings and a luminous dial for reading in low light or at night now that I do a lot more sunrise/sunset/night hiking.

    Anyone have any thoughts on a brand or model that might help me out with these features? The Silva compass I have now is pretty much the only compass I have ever used so I'm not sure where it stands among other brands quality wise. Appreciate any feedback on the subject.
    I am a fan of Sunto. I have used a model similar to this one for many years. It is simple, easy to use and rugged in the field. Off trail I wear it around my neck and shoot bearings as I go.

    I prefer working in Metric units as I find that simpler and more accurate than degrees, seconds, etc. and this compass has a ruler to support that use.

    I also carry a backup compass... just in case.

    cb
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  6. #6
    Senior Member Nessmuk's Avatar
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    Suunto M-3 (various similar models), without question. Silva, the ones now being sold in the USA, are not of the quality they used to be and I can no longer recommend them.
    "She's all my fancy painted her, she's lovely, she is light. She waltzes on the waves by day and rests with me at night." - Nessmuk, Forest and Stream, July 21, 1880 [of the Wood Drake Canoe built for him by Rushton]

  7. #7
    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nessmuk View Post
    Suunto M-3 (various similar models), without question. Silva, the ones now being sold in the USA, are not of the quality they used to be and I can no longer recommend them.
    I have looked at some of their models but I don't see any with some ability to magnify the readings of the compass. Awhile back I had come across a compass that had a magnifying bubble on the bezel so the bearings were easier to read. Wish I had bookmarked it. Can't remember who made it.

    Have you ever used the military style units? Is that viewfinder magnified for easier reading? Biggest issue right now is bigger numbers for easier reading. I guess I may have to start carrying a magnifying glass.
    NH 48 4k: 48/48; NH W48k: 48/48; ME 4k: 2/14; VT 4k: 1/5; ADK 46: 6/46; Cat 3.5k 10/35

  8. #8
    Senior Member DougPaul's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DayTrip View Post
    Have you ever used the military style units? Is that viewfinder magnified for easier reading? Biggest issue right now is bigger numbers for easier reading. I guess I may have to start carrying a magnifying glass.
    The military unit that you linked looked like a gimmicked-up lensatic. (I read somewhere that lensatics are designed for directing artillery fire...) According to wikipedia, lensatics generally have an electrically-damped rotating card in an air capsule. They are subject to moisture getting in the capsule which can freeze. They don't have a protractor. IMO, not the best design for hiking...

    I recently researched compasses (including reading customer reviews)--many of the newer versions of the old reliables (eg my Silva Ranger CL Type 15, purchased in the 1970s and still in fine shape) have gone down hill. The Suunto M3 looked like the best of the modestly-priced current units. If you want a mirror compass, the Suunto MC-2G looks like it might be a reasonable choice.

    I have seen compasses with a magnifier for reading the map, but never for reading the numbers on the compass. I suggest that you deal with that separately from the compass.

    Doug

  9. #9
    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DougPaul View Post
    The military unit that you linked looked like a gimmicked-up lensatic. (I read somewhere that lensatics are designed for directing artillery fire...) According to wikipedia, lensatics generally have an electrically-damped rotating card in an air capsule. They are subject to moisture getting in the capsule which can freeze. They don't have a protractor. IMO, not the best design for hiking...

    I recently researched compasses (including reading customer reviews)--many of the newer versions of the old reliables (eg my Silva Ranger CL Type 15, purchased in the 1970s and still in fine shape) have gone down hill. The Suunto M3 looked like the best of the modestly-priced current units. If you want a mirror compass, the Suunto MC-2G looks like it might be a reasonable choice.

    I have seen compasses with a magnifier for reading the map, but never for reading the numbers on the compass. I suggest that you deal with that separately from the compass.

    Doug
    Yes I just grabbed that photo because it was the first one I came across with the features that interested me (the sight, the luminous dial). There are many, many models made by many, many companies I have never heard of in the category. There are better quality ones in that style (including apparently the official military use model) with operating temp ranges of -50 deg F to 150 deg F, sandproof, freeze proof, blah, blah, blah. I read a variety of reviews on this style of compass and a handful of "better ones" seemed to emerge at the top of lists on several sites. If the viewfinder is not magnified for reading the bearings than this style is of little interest to me. That was my biggest hope in finding a different style of compass. Amazon has many of these models for cheap enough money though so I may go ahead and get one anyway just to try out and have some familiarity with the style to compare.
    NH 48 4k: 48/48; NH W48k: 48/48; ME 4k: 2/14; VT 4k: 1/5; ADK 46: 6/46; Cat 3.5k 10/35

  10. #10
    Member MikeB's Avatar
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    I can't help with a specific compass per-se, but will mention that I finally broke down and admitted to myself that my near-field vision isn't what it used to be and purchased some sports-specific bifocal glasses. Now I can read the tiny compass numbers (and map details) again! Dual Eyewear (https://www.dualeyewear.com/) has a reasonably priced (and stylish) selection - I wear the SL2's cycling and hiking and am much happier!...

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    I have suunto sighting compass that I use for running lines and bushwhacking http://www.thecompassstore.com/51kb20360r.html. I have the cheap plastic version and have to deal with declination adjustment on the fly. It does have a focus dial on it but I dont think it magnifies. Its is much easier to stay on bearing then the alternative.

    I expect good compass skills have taken a backseat to "follow the beep" GPS hiking where staying on bearing is far less important.

  12. #12
    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeB View Post
    I can't help with a specific compass per-se, but will mention that I finally broke down and admitted to myself that my near-field vision isn't what it used to be and purchased some sports-specific bifocal glasses. Now I can read the tiny compass numbers (and map details) again! Dual Eyewear (https://www.dualeyewear.com/) has a reasonably priced (and stylish) selection - I wear the SL2's cycling and hiking and am much happier!...
    I got my first pair of reading glasses about 6 months ago and have found that without my close up vision went from poor to non existent. I really don't want to start dragging my glasses around for hiking (lost, damaged, fogging up, etc) especially considering how infrequently I'd need them. I suppose maybe a cheap magnifying glass of some sort I can clip to the same lanyard as my compass will probably have to do the job. Haven't been able to find anything else.
    NH 48 4k: 48/48; NH W48k: 48/48; ME 4k: 2/14; VT 4k: 1/5; ADK 46: 6/46; Cat 3.5k 10/35

  13. #13
    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by peakbagger View Post
    I have suunto sighting compass that I use for running lines and bushwhacking http://www.thecompassstore.com/51kb20360r.html. I have the cheap plastic version and have to deal with declination adjustment on the fly. It does have a focus dial on it but I dont think it magnifies. Its is much easier to stay on bearing then the alternative.

    I expect good compass skills have taken a backseat to "follow the beep" GPS hiking where staying on bearing is far less important.
    I came across a high end Suunto version of this compass for $165 (which I will not be getting). It must magnify somewhat to read 1/2 degree with 1 deg marks versus the standard 2 deg on most models?

    I generally navigate with map and compass but you can't deny the added benefits a GPS brings, in particular knowing the elevation and getting bearings from waypoints to your actual location. I always treat the map/compass/gps combination as a system. Don't have to have a GPS but it sure expedites many things (assuming you can use a map and compass to start with and understand the information the GPS is giving).

    EDIT: Thanks for the link to this website. It has models with the feature I want, which apparently is called a "flip up magnifying optic". At least now I know what manufacturers call it so maybe I'll find more models.
    Last edited by DayTrip; 02-12-2018 at 05:15 PM.
    NH 48 4k: 48/48; NH W48k: 48/48; ME 4k: 2/14; VT 4k: 1/5; ADK 46: 6/46; Cat 3.5k 10/35

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    Senior Member Nessmuk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DayTrip View Post
    I always treat the map/compass/gps combination as a system. Don't have to have a GPS but it sure expedites many things (assuming you can use a map and compass to start with and understand the information the GPS is giving).
    i don't discourage learning the 'system" of navigation tools, but i will say that addition of a GPS does not expedite learning how to accomplish and enjoy the skills of traditional navigation with M&C and using brain power without the crutch of GPS. I will also say that GPS is an indispensable additional tool used with M&C on several recent SAR incidents I have participated on.
    "She's all my fancy painted her, she's lovely, she is light. She waltzes on the waves by day and rests with me at night." - Nessmuk, Forest and Stream, July 21, 1880 [of the Wood Drake Canoe built for him by Rushton]

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    Senior Member iAmKrzys's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DayTrip View Post
    I came across a high end Suunto version of this compass for $165 (which I will not be getting). It must magnify somewhat to read 1/2 degree with 1 deg marks versus the standard 2 deg on most models?
    IMHO the super accurate markings on a compass are of limited use. Maybe if you are on a top of a mountain where you know exactly your position and you try to distinguish between two peaks far away from you but otherwise clustered nearby then maybe that 1 degree scale and notch & reticle sighting can help you determine what you are looking at. When it comes to off-trail hiking the reality is that in any nontrivial terrain walking in a perfectly straight line is almost impossible and that 1 degree won't matter anyways. If you have some time to spare do this experiment - go to some unfamiliar place where you could walk for half a mile in the woods to some landmark (e.g. a trail intersection) get a bearing from your map or gps and try to walk directly to this point using compass. Don't look at your gps until you think you walked for 0.5 mile and then review your track. Contrast this with 1 degree deviation from straight line.

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