Best Compass for Camping, Hiking, and Backpacking

BestCompassIn today’s world of smart phones and dedicated GPS units, the amateur hiker, camper, and backpacker doesn’t even think about bringing a compass. After all, what is the point when your phone or handheld unit tells you exactly where to go? They think compasses are “old school” and will laugh off the suggestion that they should include on in their kit.

But you know better. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned outdoorsman, you realize that going into the bush without a compass and map is an invitation for trouble.

Here at AdvenSport, we’re big believers in skills – being able to do things by yourself without electronics and technology. We believe using a compass and map is a skill that will benefit people who simply enjoy traversing the wilderness and those people who find themselves in emergency situations.

Other than being able to do things yourself with a compass and map and having a useful skill, imagine if you lost GPS signal for some reason, or your batteries died, or the satellites stopped transmitting. What on earth are you supposed to do if you’re 10 miles into the forest, having followed an electronic guide, having not paid attention to where you were going because you had the crutch of GPS to lean on? Good luck getting out of there or knowing which direction to start off in.

A compass will help keep you honest, keep you paying attention, and will more often than not help you find where you need to go, no electronics or batteries needed. There’s a manly sort of reverence we show to compasses, so we’ve put together a helpful interactive chart to find you the best compass.

Top Compass Comparison Guide and Key

CompassShipping WeightRatingPrice% 5 Star
Cammenga 3H Tritium Military Compass
8 oz4.8$$$$87
Suunto M-3 D/L Pro Compass
2.4 oz4.8$$85
Cammenga Model 27CS Olive Drab Lensatic Compass
12.8 oz4.7$$$81
Suunto MC-2G Mirror Sighting Global Compass
4.8 oz4.6$$$71
Suunto A-10 Field Compass
0.3 oz4.6$70
Military Prismatic Sighting 1.6 oz Compass w/ Pouch
4.8 oz3.8$50
Professional Multifunction Military Army Metal Sighting Compass High Accuracy Waterproof Compass Green Color
2.4 oz5.0$$100
SODIAL(R) Classic Pocket Watch Style Bronzing Antique Camping Compass
2.4 oz4.2$61
Suunto A-30L Field Compass
1.6 oz4.5$$63

Included in the matrix are 5 columns:

  • Compass brand and name/model & Picture (click to view more details or to purchase)
  • Shipping weight – The weight of the compass and included materials when it is sent in the mail
  • Rating – The average user rating on Amazon.com. This is a helpful statistic in deciding if people are satisfied with their purchase
  • Price – These are approximate prices from Amazon.com. They change frequently based on availability, promotions, and more. Generally speaking: $ = under $20, $$ = $20 to $40, $$$ = $40 to $60, $$$$ = $60+
  • % 5 Star – Percentage of reviews on Amazon.com that gave the product a perfect 5 out of 5 star review. This is a good way to see how popular the item is with people who actually use it

+ Click on any of the columns to sort the data to help make your decision easier

Top 5 Compasses

1. Cammenga 3H Tritium Compass

This is the absolute top of the line compass that you can buy today. Manufactured for the US military, this model, available to civilians, will stand up to absolutely anything you throw at it. Tested to the max in a variety of extreme conditions to ensure it was suitable for military use, this is one of the most versatile and high-quality units on the market (that means that yes, it’s waterproof, and yes, you can use it accurately from -50 degrees to +150 degrees…you know, just in case, right?).

This model utilizes Tritium for illumination, so you will even be able to use this in low-light conditions, ensuring you’ll never be in too dark a situation to figure out where you’re going.

The 3H is made out of aluminum, has a magnifying glass and sight wire, as well as being equipped with a dial that reads in both Degrees and Mils for ultimate accuracy. The copper dampening system settles the needle and makes for a very smooth rotation without using liquids.

What’s most impressive is the overall quality and usability of this unit, which is reflected in reviews from owners of the compass. Rated a 4.9 out of 5 from real users on Amazon.com, 93% of people gave this a perfect 5 star rating. That is almost unheard of in terms of nearly unanimous consent that this is the best piece of navigational equipment you can find.

Click here to see pricing, ratings, and reviews on Amazon.com.

2. Suunto A-10 Field Compass

The Suunto A-10 is the best selling compass on Amazon, and only came number 2 because of how impressive the Military compass above is.

This model is lightweight yet made of durable, scratch-resistant acrylic and comes with a lanyard and detachable snap-lock for easy removal for the times you need to take it off and use it with your map. It’s designed specifically to fit comfortably in your hand and is see-through (clear) so as to function at a high level when using it in conjunction with a map.

Using Suunto’s two-zone system to compensate for the horizontal component of the local magnetic field line, this compass will give you accurate readings no matter where you are and how close to magnetic north you go. They add a bit of weight to the end of the needle that works specifically to alter the movement slightly when it comes across different magnetic areas, meaning you will get an accurate reading no matter of the slight shifts in magnetization you come across.

The compass is great to use while moving due to the balancing Suunto does to each unit and can easily be used accurately at a shallow angle. Users rave about it’s simplicity and ease of use (including the short time it will take you to get familiar with using it). Most reviewers gave it a perfect 5 star rating and it currently sits at a 4.3, making it a very solid compass for a very reasonable price.

Click here to see pricing, ratings, and reviews on Amazon.com.

3. Suunto M-3 D/L Pro Compass

Just like the best-selling A-10 at Number 2, the M-3 D/L Pro utilizes Suunto’s two-zone system for unparalleled accuracy.

This model, other than being very accurate and convenient, boasts a large and liquid filled capsule, which gives the needle a smooth ride and stops it from jittering here and there while you’re moving, and helps it come to a stop quicker than air-filled compasses. It has an adjustable declination correction scale to help you deal with the angle between true north and magnetic north.

The easy to read serrated bezel ring that shows the readings is very easy to turn (even when it’s cold) and is easy to see on account of it’s clear font and the fact that it is luminous, or emits a bit of light, which will keep it easy to read even as the sun starts to dip over the horizon or if you enter thick cover.

Like other Suunto compasses, it is comfortable to use, fits in your hand nicely, and is easy to use with a map. Like our Number 1 pick, it boasts a 4.9 out of 5 star rating from people who have bought and used it, which is absolutely phenomenal. 92% of people gave it a perfect rating, so you know you simply cannot go wrong with it.

Click here to see pricing, ratings, and reviews on Amazon.com.

4. Cammenga Model 27CS Olive Drab Lensatic Compass

Everything we can say about this, we’ve already said with our first pick, above. The only difference is that this is the phosphorescent model, where the glow of the dial will come from a few seconds of exposure to light (like a flash light at night, for example). The other model uses Tritium, which is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen (basically it just naturally glows).

The thing is, Tritium is very rare and expensive, so the small amount used in the other compass means that it’ll cost you more.

The model we’ve got at number one simply will glow for years, so you get the extra benefit of not needing to keep shining a light on it for it to give off a bit of light. If you come into an emergency situation where you have no source of light and need to read your compass right away, that one is the safer choice.

However, this model is exactly the same in all other respects, so it is basically a matter of how important your luminescence abilities are – do you pay for the Tritium model or do you go for this, knowing it’s just as good, cheaper, and only comes with that one small area of inconvenience? The choice is yours, but we absolutely had to include both of the models in this list because they are so good.

Click here to see pricing, ratings, and reviews on Amazon.com.

5. Suunto MC-2G Mirror Sighting Global Compass

Are you seeing a pattern here? Suunto makes good compasses and offers a wide variety for you to choose from.

This compact unit has a mirror and allows for incredibly accurate readings, part of which can be attributed to the fixed declination adjustment, which helps keep things even when you’re in an area with varying degrees of magnetization (or magnetic variation, if you’d like).

Like some of the other units, it has a helpful magnifying glass on the base of it. One of the perks of this model is that it works anywhere on the planet, not just in the Northern hemisphere, thanks to some clever engineering by Suunto.

The markings and bevel are luminescent for dark/night time use. Basically, this is just as accurate but more versatile than the other models on this list. It has more features, and is therefore more expensive, but gets an amazing 4.5 out of 5 star rating from actual people who have owned and used this model. If you’re looking for the more ‘basic’ compass but still want to have a lot of options and ‘extras’, this is our top pick for you.

Click here to see pricing, ratings, and reviews on Amazon.com.