Map, Compass & GPS

Map, Compass & GPS
Wild flowers along Fall Creek on the way to the Green Lakes - Oregon

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Selecting a Magnetic Compass

I felt fortunate to have been invited to attend a presentation on compass navigation by a senior Boy Scout troop leader.  It was a quick overview on the key components of a compass and its use in land navigation.  The troop leader quickly touched on purchasing a compass.  His overview made me consider just what an outdoorsman should look for in a good compass.

My experience has been that most sales clerks in the large box stores and major retail outlets have no experience in the use of a compass.  Their assistance is generally along the line of “…they are on aisle 12, half way down on the right;” and their knowledge isn’t that great.  The folks at REI are generally dialed in and best of all, their selection is better.  With a little research you will find a nice selection available at REI, Cabelas, and most of your outdoor stores that specialize in hiking and backpacking.

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to buy a good quality compass.  Consider the following when looking for a compass:

  • Brunton, Sunnto, and Silva all make good compasses.  There are other companies, of course, but these manufacturers can be found nationwide.  Prices start at about $20.  Each company has less expensive models but I would pass on those.

  • The compass dial (the circular component with the degree markings) should be “graduated” in two degree increments.  Those models with 5 degree increments or the small ball compasses (with the large safety pin type of clip) will give you a trend of direction through the woods but fall short when being used for serious land navigation.
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