Best Compass for Hiking (Buying Guide)
Yes, you could use your smartphone to navigate your way through the great outdoors or use some fancy GPS devices. But when it comes to navigation, the reliability of a high-quality analog compass is hard to beat. Plus, there’s something thrilling about finding your way using a topographic map and an analog compass.
So leave your phone in your pocket and explore uncharted territory the classic way: by investing in a Best Compass for Hiking.
In a hurry? Here are the test winners after 10 hours of research (one budget, one premium):
And here’s an overview of the best compasses for hiking:
Ironically, navigating your way towards the Best Compass for Hiking can be quite the challenge. Because with so many different types of compasses on the market, how do you know an analog compass lives up to and exceeds expectations? That is exactly why our experts have selected the best-value, top-rated analog compasses in one handy overview. Saving you time, and money, when buying a hikers’ compass.
Every product on this Best Compass for Hiking overview ticks the most important boxes: they are high-quality, easy-to-use, durable, and great value-for-money. We’ve ensured to only include compasses with high-ratings in Amazon reviews. Because other hikers that have tried the compasses, always provide the best indications of whether a product is up to scratch.
Discover our favorite backpacking and hiking compasses below, and upgrade your gear collection with this classic piece of outdoor equipment.
Best Compass for Hiking
Reliable Outdoor Gear Field Compass
The Reliable Outdoor Gear Compass features a simple baseplate with a magnifying glass, a small ruler and scales (standard and metric). The rotating bezel on this basic compass is simple to rotate and makes it easy to adjust the inclinometer bearings on a 2-degree scale.
Though cheap, the Reliable Outdoor Gear Compass is surprisingly durable, thanks to its strong plastic acrylic baseplate construction. This budget-buy even includes a lanyard to keep it close at hand. Weighing just 2.4 oz, you won’t even notice you’re carrying it!
Granted, this type of field compass is very basic, but for some hikers, basic may already be sufficient. If you want a simple compass with basic functionality, and don’t plan on using it for survival, merely for fun: this could be your match!
- Great for beginners
- Easy to use
- Metric and standard scales
- Includes lanyard
- Made of strong acrylic
- More for fun, not survival
- No advanced features
- Ruler/scales very small
- Not heavy-duty
Brunton TruArc 3 Baseplate Compass
If you want a compass that can navigate you in both the northern hemisphere and the southern hemisphere, you need a product with a global needle. One of our budget-friendly favorites is the Brunton TruArc 3: an affordable, compact and lightweight baseplate compass that works anywhere in the world.
The Brunton TruArc 3 is a great entry-level choice for hikers new to analog compass navigation. This compass perfectly lends itself for basic orienteering, without too many distraction features and functions. The style features both imperial and metric scales, plus tool-free declination; which makes it easy to use, even for less-experienced explorers.
The base plate compass features a TrueArc Global Needle, which is accurate in both the northern and southern hemispheres. The tool-free declination adjustment operates on a 2-degree increments scale for finding true north. The compass its two-unit measurement system (standard and metric) makes it compatible with nearly all maps, ideal for those hikers planning a backcountry adventure abroad.
According to Amazon customer reviews, the Brunton TruArc 3 may be affordable, but it, fortunately, doesn’t compromise on performance. The design is great at resisting magnetic interference, whilst its high-quality construction makes it a trusted compass for everyday usage.
The Brunton TruArc 3 baseplate compass is also very portable and lightweight. The style only weighs 1.1 ounces and comes with a nylon lanyard included. Another perk is that the TruArc 3 compass is made by Brunton right here in the USA. The brand manufactures its products in Wyoming, which gives you the peace of mind the compass lives up to a premium US-quality standard.
- Global needle
- Tool-free declination adjustment
- Metric and standard scales
- Easy to use
- Quality construction
- Great value-for-money
- Made in the USA
- Not the most heavy-duty
- No fancy features
- Too basic for mountaineering
Eyeskey Military Lensatic Tactical Compass
The Eyeskey Military Lensatic Tactical Compass features a base and cover constructed of quality metal for extra toughness and durability. According to the manufacturer and Amazon reviews, the compass is waterproof and shockproof, making it suitable for use in extreme conditions, for example during mountaineering. This high-quality lensatic compass comes with a floating dial in a liquid-filled chamber. The design also features a bubble level to improve its accuracy, whilst the sighting window and optical eyepiece make it easy to aim and read your location.
Azimuth 360 and reversed 360 scale
We like that this hiking compass has both an azimuth 360-degree and a reversed 360-degree scale. This enables you to either take bearings from the compass to objects or reverse bearings from objects to you: whatever fits your preference best. Another perk is that the Eyeskey Military Lensatic Tactical Compass absorbs light and glows in the dark. This ensures that the fluorescent-lit north arrow and display are perfectly readable, even in low light and after dark conditions.
Further high-end features on the Eyeskey Military Lensatic Tactical Compass include a handy conversion chart on the back of the compass. This chart applies to angles, gradient, and distance, ideal for when you need to quickly convert units on the go. The Eyeskey Military Lensatic Tactical Compass also comes with the option to lock in your bearing using the rotating bezel ring, making it easy to set a course and head in the right direction.
And that’s not all. The Eyeskey Military Lensatic Tactical Compass includes a lanyard and a strong carrying pouch for easy handling. The design also features a tripod mounting hole at the base of the compass, enabling you to attach it to a tripod if desired.
- Temperature Resistant (-50ºF to 150ºF)
- Bubble level to improve accuracy
- Handy conversion chart on the back
- Made of quality metal
- Metric and standard scales
- Azimuth 360-degree and a reversed 360-degree scale
- Includes lanyard and storage pouch
- Tripod mounting hole
- Fluorescent-lit north arrow and display
- Option to lock in your bearings
- Does not come with a clinometer
- Heavy (8 ounces)
- A bit bulky
Suunto MC-2G Mirror Compass
The Suunto MC-2G Mirror Compass is a first-class design with a balanced global compass needle with jewel bearing. This Global System compass is suitable for use in both the northern hemisphere and southern hemisphere, meaning it works anywhere, anytime, regardless of your location in the world. The compass comes with a magnifier on the side of the module, which helps you ‘zoom’ in on topographic maps and set a clear focus on your target. The clear baseplate of this high-quality compass also features luminous markings that ‘light up’ in the dark, making it easy to read even in low light conditions.
Though we’d classify the Suunto MC-2G hiking compass as a clear baseplate model, this style is a slightly more upgraded version than the previously listed baseplate compasses. Why? Because this compass comes with a retractable sighting mirror that covers the module. Not only does it help the accuracy of the compass, but it also makes it also allows for signaling in emergency situations. The Suunto MC-2G compass also comes with a special sighting hole to further increase accuracy, with the compass accuracy and resolution both reported as 2-degrees. The style also has a 20 degrees tilt margin for easier readings.
Includes clinometer for mountaineering
Other perks of the premium Suunto MC-2G hiking compass is that this style comes with an adjustable declination correction tool. This means that once you’ve set the local declination, you do not need to manually adjust the declination scale for every compass reading. The compass also includes a clinometer, ideal for mountaineering. The clinometer allows you to measure the angle of elevation or angle from the ground. This enables you to get an accurate reading of the height of things around you, such as hills, mountains, boulders, or simple a steep incline on a path. For climbers and mountaineering, a clinometer is an essential tool, so its a perk you already get it included with this quality compass by Suunto.
A word of warning: the Suunto MC-2G hiking compass is splashproof, but not fully waterproof, so be careful in heavy-rain conditions. That said, besides it only being splashproof, and its quite hefty pricing, there aren’t many cons to this quality compass.
Though packed with features, it’s still very lightweight at just 2.56 oz, whilst the attached lanyard improves its portability. If you want a premium, high-quality that allows you to always find the magnetic north, no matter on which continent you are, and even measure the height of inclines: this well-balanced option with a clinometer is one of the best hiking compasses you can get.
- Global needle with jewel bearing
- Adjustable declination correction
- Sighting mirror for quick bearings
- 20 degrees tilt margin for easier readings
- Sighting hole for extra accuracy
- Metric and standard scales
- Luminescent markings for low light visibility
- Magnifying lens
- Lanyard included
- Rubber feet for stability on a surface
- May be ‘too fancy’ for some hikers
- Not the most suitable for beginners
- Only splashproof – not waterproof
Tip: If you like the style of the Suunto MC-2G hiking compass, but don’t need all of its fancy compass features, consider the Suunto A-10 instead. This more affordable, base model still has the same high-quality standard, yet it is slightly more suited to beginners to compass navigation and map reading.
Every compass in this overview could be ‘the best’, depending on where and when you plan to use it. For example, for hikers that are new to compass navigation and map reading, and want to experiment with this fun way of exploring the outdoors, a basic and affordable option such as the Reliable Outdoor Gear Compass and/or Brunton TruArc 3 Base Plate Compass could already offer more than sufficient functionality. That said, for hikers that want to go hardcore off-grid, and are looking for a compass that they can rely on at all times, a more advanced option is a much better fit. In this case, the Eyeskey Military Lensatic Tactical Compass and/or Suunto MC-2G are more suitable choices. These two top-grade compasses come packed with extra functions and features, such as a clinometer to measure altitude and luminescent markings for readings in low light or after dark conditions.
Rest assured: each product on this list can help you find your bearings with ease, though some are more heavy-duty than others. All you need to do is decide which compass fits your specific hiking adventures best.
As a budget-friendly buy, the Brunton TruArc 3 Base Plate Compass offers excellent value-for-money. Yes, it’s basic, but for most hikers, it should be more than sufficient to navigate their way in the great outdoors. This clear baseplate compass is easy to use, accurate, lightweight, and highly-rated on Amazon. We also like that the design is made right here in the USA, as it means it adheres to high-quality standards as set by US-regulations. Cheap, yet cheerful: this delivers maximum bang for your buck.
As an advanced compasses option, the Suunto MC-2G is our winner. This fancy compass is loaded with high-end functions and spoils you with functionality. From adjustable declination correction to a clinometer, a sighting hole and notch for accurate bearings to an adjustable tilt margin for easier readings: this gem has it all. Yes, it is a bit pricey. And yes, for beginners to map reading and leisure hikers it may be a bit too fancy. But if you want maximum versatility and performance, and don’t mind spending a bit more, this does deliver on all fronts.