My preferred compass is a declination adjustable sighting compass like the trail proven “Silva Ranger.” (Silva, Brunton and Suunto all make good compasses.) The key is that this type of compass can be adjusted for magnetic declination and that keeps your wilderness navigation simple. You can expect to pay roughly $35.00 - $60.00; a cheap compass will not serve the hiker well.
My experience is that most sales clerks are compass illiterate and have little navigation experience. While looking at a compass ask the clerk to remove it from the plastic container/packaging. Check the compass to ensure:
- The dial moves freely and does not stick. There are no bubbles internal to the compass housing.
- Information engraved on the base plate must be legible. If there is a magnifying glass verify that it is clear and not scratched.
- The tick marks on the dial are in two degree increments. The tick marks should be readable.
- The base plate, rotating dial assembly, and mirror are not chipped or broken.
- The sighting assembly hinge allows freedom of movement without excess side to side movement at the hinge .
Packaging should clearly state that the compass is declination adjustable. Adjustable compasses may have a small metal tool that allows for setting the declination. If the packaging states that the compass has declination marking but does not use the word adjustable move to another model.
After purchase visit the website www.magnetic-declination.com to determine the declination of the area the hiker will be traveling through.
Remember that the red magnetic needle will always point to magnetic north. With a declination adjustable compass the rotating dial has been adjusted so that the information provided by the compass is now in degrees true.