How to choose a compass

When your GPS device runs out of battery and your phone loses its cellular signal, the only thing you can rely on is the compass. This device has been known from time immemorial and still has not lost its relevance, providing the ability to navigate even in conditions when the sky is covered with clouds, and around – an impenetrable forest. Of course, only if the compass is selected and configured correctly, and the traveler himself knows how to use it.

choose a compass

The best manufacturers. Which compass to choose?

In technical terms, a modern compass is a device that does not have any supernatural mechanisms, and therefore high-quality devices are on sale. When choosing a compass, you should give preference to trusted manufacturers:

  1. Silva;

  2. Suunto;

  3. Brunton International;

  4. Sonar Inc.

You should also pay close attention not only to the characteristics of a particular model, but also to the features of working with it, to the advantages and disadvantages. The easiest way to find useful information is on the Internet, only there are many reviews describing the real state of affairs.

Types of compasses

All modern compass models can be divided into three main groups

Liquid compasses

Liquid compasses

The most simple and at the same time accurate devices. They represent a compact container with liquid, on top of which a copper or aluminum coil with a ferromagnetic needle is fixed. On either side of it are two magnets that create a magnetic field. By rotating the compass horizontally, you can determine the exact location quickly enough. The liquid gives additional stabilization to the pointer, significantly increasing the accuracy of measurements.


  • Compact dimensions;

  • Low cost;

  • Does not require adjustment and calibration;

  • High accuracy of measurements;


  • Tanks are usually made of glass and must be handled with extreme care;

  • Do not tolerate sharp shocks and shaking;

Magnetic compass

Magnetic compass

The good old device, known to each of us. It is a compact 'round' with a dial fixed inside and a rotating hand, the red end of which is magnetized and always points north. Determining your own location in this way, knowing where the north is, will not be difficult even in the darkest night.

The magnetic compass system is widely used not only in universal tourist compasses, but also in highly specialized models – military, geological, navigation devices, astronomical and other compasses.


  • Small and easy to operate;

  • Low price;

  • Unpretentiousness;

  • High accuracy of readings;

  • Ease of use;


  • May give incorrect readings in the presence of strong magnetic fields nearby;

Electronic compass

Electronic compass

A modern analogue of the classic model with extended functionality. The role of the hand and dial here is performed by a backlit LCD display, and direction determination is carried out using ingenious information evaluation algorithms. On sale you can find extended models equipped with a GPS navigator and a capacious battery that works for 4-6 days.


  • Exact determination of coordinates;

  • The presence of a GPS navigator for advanced models;

  • Ease of use;

  • Compact dimensions;

  • High functionality;


  • The battery needs to be charged;

  • High price.

The main criteria for choosing a compass?

compass selection criteria

Case dimensions and characteristics

When choosing a device of this class, you should pay close attention to its dimensions. The compass should be compact and not cause discomfort during transportation and use. Preference should be given to models protected from moisture and made in a shock-resistant case;

Compass type

When choosing a specific compass, you should focus on the above characteristics. If the device is purchased as a kind of insurance and backup option, it is best to purchase a compact water or magnetic compass. In the case when the compass will become the only device designed for orientation on the terrain, it is best to prefer a high-precision digital compass with a built-in GPS navigator. Such devices allow not only to quickly determine the cardinal points, but also display the coordinates of your location.

Availability of additional functionality

Advanced military or geological compasses can be equipped with an engineering ruler, a magnifying glass for ease of use, an illumination designed for use at night, as well as a vizier to facilitate navigation in the field in the field. More functional are electronic compasses, on board of which various devices are present, up to a full-fledged GPS navigator and chartplotter, which provides full navigation and allows you to plot a route.

The presence of a gyroscope

Compasses equipped with a gyroscope are not needed by everyone. However, such devices are indispensable for river navigation, as well as for aeronautics. The presence of this device allows the compass to determine not the magnetic, but the true north pole, which maximizes the accuracy of navigation and negates the negative influence of all kinds of electronic devices that distort the readings.

Barometer and altimeter

These devices are extremely useful for mountain climbing and multi-day expeditions. A barometer is a device that measures pressure, and from its readings, you can predict changes in weather conditions. A sharp drop in pressure will certainly mean rain and thunderstorms, and constant, consistently high pressure means clear and cloudless weather. The altimeter is designed to measure altitude relative to sea level, this device is extremely useful for travelers who conquer mountains. With its help, it is enough to simply monitor the progress of the expedition and analyze the height to which it was possible to climb within a certain period of time.

In the following articles, our experts will tell you how to choose a tourist lantern and the secrets of choosing binoculars.

Attention! This material is the subjective opinion of the authors of the project and is not a purchase guide.

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