Best Compasses for Hunting, Camping, Hiking and Backpacking in 2018: Reviews


Whether you spend a lot of time outdoors bowhunting, kayak fishing or hiking just for fun, a fun adventure can quickly turn into a potentially dangerous situation requiring you to have a well thought out arsenal of survival tools.  A sudden shift in weather, an accidental injury or any other unexpected event can mean you’ll need to find civilization quickly.

There are a few tools that every outdoors enthusiast should have in their arsenal.  This list usually includes but isn’t limited to a first aid kit, a pocket knife, a good walkie-talkie or two way radio, a water purification kit and enough food to last at least two extra days over your planned trip.

One additional key item you can add to this list is a good compass. With a compass, you’ll always be able to orient yourself and determine where you need to go.

Not all compasses are created equal which is why we’ve given you a detailed breakdown of the features on 10 of the highest rated compasses for camping, hiking and backpacking on the market today.

Our Comparison Table:

View on Amazon:Type:Our Rating:
Cammenga Phosphorescent Clam Pack LensaticMilitary/Survival
SE CC4580 Military Lensatic Sighting CompassMilitary/Survival
Eyeskey Military Compass with InclinometerMilitary/Survival
Suunto A-10 CompassBasic
Neon® Metal Waterproof Pocket Military CompassMilitary/Survival
Coleman Compass with LED LightBasic
Gerber Bear Grylls Compact CompassMilitary/Survival
Ultimate Survival Technologies Deluxe CompassBasic
AUFO Military Waterproof CompassMilitary/Survival
PPbean Classic Pocket Style Camping CompassBasic

How to Choose a Compass:

Many hikers, campers and other nature enthusiasts – even experienced ones – are leaving the compass at home and relying only on a GPS. This is actually a pretty dangerous mistake. A GPS can run out of power or lose signal. If you need to navigate through unknown (or even known) terrain, there is nothing more reliable than a topo map and a compass.

With a compass, you can pinpoint your position, identify geographic features and orient a map. You’ll want what’s called a “floating needle compass.” This is when the needle housing is steadied inside the compass by a liquid (usually alcohol or a type of oil). While digital compasses do exist (even in watch form), they pose the same power-related problems found with GPS devices. For a compass you can depend on, choose either a floating needle or a dry compass. A dry compass is like a floating needle compass only without the liquid.

The magnetized needed in a compass aligns with the Earth’s magnetic core. This means you need to store you compass carefully otherwise the needle can become demagnetized. Avoid storing your compass near any stereo speakers, since speakers contain powerful magnets. Also keep your compass away from your smartphone.

The Three Basic Types of Compasses:

1. Basic Compass:

These are no-frills compasses perfect for day hikers, backpackers, fisherman and other people who aren’t going off-trail for days at a time. A basic compass has all the features you need for navigation and orientation.

2. Advanced Compass:

These are compasses with additional accessories beyond the basics. Usually these accessories help improve navigation and accuracy. Some features you might find include a signaling mirror, a magnifier, a flint and other survival tools. These compasses are usually more expensive but they’re worth consideration.

3. Accessory Compasses:

These are small compasses usually found on a keyword or watch. They’re usually small globes which don’t have a base plate. While they’re accurate enough to point you towards magnetic north, an accessory compasses isn’t something you want to rely on while navigating through the woods. You can pick up a basic compass for roughly the same price and that will serve you much better in an emergency.

Compass Features To Consider:

Durability: If you’re carrying around a compass for emergency use, you’ll want something which can withstand cold, water, snow, wind or other hazardous elements. Additionally, since you won’t be using this compass during every outing, you’ll likely store it in a backpack, glove compartment or other out-of-the-way spot.

Your best bet here will be metal, although some hard polymer compasses will also be very durable. Be careful, too – not all compasses are waterproof! You’ll want water-resistant at the very least.

Size: You’ll also need to consider the size of the compass. The compass should be small enough to comfortably carry or hang around your neck with a lanyard. At the same time, a larger compass is more readable.

Most compasses are a circular shape. However, some compasses are rectangular. We’ve even included a kidney-shaped compass on the list below. Sometimes extreme weather conditions can make handling the compass a bit difficult. We recommend using a lanyard or cord. This way you can loop the compass around your wrist or neck and it won’t drop to the ground in wet or windy weather.

Luminescence: A sudden storm can darken even the sunniest skies. So even if you never plan on camping or hiking at night, you probably want a compass which you can read in the dim light or even total darkness.

There are generally two types of illumination: battery-powered and light-powered. Light powered compasses use either the sun or portable light, such as a flashlight, to hold a charge. As long as you properly charge the compass, this type of power can be renewable as you hike.

Battery-powered compasses also work find. In many cases, they actually create more light for the compass. The downside is that batteries will eventually run dry. If you don’t use your compass too often, batteries can be easy to forget about. 

Type of Arrow: You can choose between either a fixed orienting arrow or an adjustable arrow. A fixed arrow requires you to make manual adjustments for each new measurement. An adjustable arrow allows you to set the compass once.

Don’t worry if you’re not sure how to use a compass. All of the compasses listed below include basic instructions. Learning how to use a compass might seem difficult, but most people pick it up pretty quickly. Let’s take a look at some compasses you should consider:

The Top 10 Compasses for Camping, Hiking and Backpacking:

Cammenga Compass1.  Phosphorescent Lensatic Compass by Cammenga

This compass is accurate, indestructible and suitable for military and other high-stress situations. You can take this compass anywhere.

It’s waterproof with both a carrying pouch and belt clip. The luminescent paint lets you use the compass even in the pitch dark. Simply shine a flashlight on the compass for a few seconds and the dial will glow for several minutes.

This is a dry compass with a sapphire bearing. The entire dial turns with the direction arrow – which is a feature not found in every compass.

Navigation is very easy and dependable. While this is a higher priced compass, it’s also suitable for heavy-duty use in the toughest conditions.

SE CC45802.  SE CC4580 Military Lensatic Sighting Compass with Pouch

SE is known as a manufacturer of low-cost, reliable compasses. Their CC4580 is no exception. A relatively compact 3” by 2” by 5”, this compass weighs a light 3.7 ounces.

The compass has an attractive, functional metallic-gray color. It can be easily attached to a backpack or the included 36” lanyard.

The compass face is 2 1/8” marked in 5-degree increments. The compass is accurate and durable while the cost is affordable for practically any budget.

This probably isn’t the compass you want to take along if your main outdoor activity involves orienteering. But it is a compass you can pack with you while on camping trips and walks through the wilderness. If you need a compass, the CC4580 is one you can rely on.

Eyeskey3.  Eyeskey Multifunction Military Army Sighting Compass with Inclinometer

The Eyeskey Multifunction is compact, lightweight and extremely accurate. Built for all climates and conditions, this compass will guide you up mountains, down the trail or wherever your adventures take you.

Made of sturdy metal, the compass is a portable 287g. The compass is green with a military-like style.

There is a notable difference between this compass and a traditional military one, however. This compass does not have a flip-up optic, like what you’d find in a lensatic compass.

Instead, this model has a true sighting optic. You can read the internal compass card in the capsule directly. There’s a clinometer to measure height differences, too. If accuracy is one of your main concerns, this compass is worth checking out.

Suunto A-104.  Suunto A-10 Field Compass

This compass isn’t going to win any design awards. But as long as you have a topographical map and some basic orienteering knowledge, you just need a compass which you can count on. And you can count on the A-10.

This is a solid, straight-forward compass which is practically indestructible. You can take it with you through basically any condition including rain, snow, ice and heat.

This compass is white with clear red centimeter and inch measurements. The dial is easy to manipulate and the compass easy to use even under severe weather conditions.

The compass includes an instruction pamphlet. If you’ve don’t know how to read a compass, don’t worry – the pamphlet will tell you everything you need to know.

Neon Waterproof5.  Neon® Metal Waterproof Professional Pocket Military Army Geology Compass Navigator with Foldable Metal Lid

This compass is ready when you need it – even in pitch dark! The special fluorescent light lets you use all the features and read the data in the dark.

Even better, the fluorescent light charges up in the sunshine so you don’t need to worry about battery failure.

This compass is also extremely durable. The high-strength metal matrix stands up to rain, wind, snow and other harsh weather.

You can safely take this compass out on the water, into woods and practically anywhere else! The bubble level is also extremely accurate. Also includes a detailed instruction booklet on compass use.

Coleman6.  Coleman Compass with LED Light

This compass is small, powerful and ready for any situation. The push-button LED backlight lets you use the compass in the dark.

The light is also useful for personal navigation. Note that the light is powered by a CR2016 coin-cell battery.

This liquid-filled compass shows the eight directional points and a rotating bezel. Users can mark the compass in two-degree increments.

A lanyard is also available. This is a small, dependable compass you can pack away as a back-up device for emergencies.

Bear Grylls7.  Gerber Bear Grylls Compact Compass

From the legendary survivalist himself, this Bear Grylls Compact Compass is a portable, durable compass which works well as a reliable back-up.

Perfect for hunting, camping, industrial use and practically any other situation. Each product is field tested.

This isn’t a compass you’ll want as a primary compass for exploring the unknown. But with a length of 2.28 inches and a lightweight design, Bear’s compass can easily be stored in a pocket, backpack or on a boat.

This makes it very useful as an emergency compass.

Ultimate Survival8.  Ultimate Survival Technologies Deluxe Map Compass

Not every situation calls for a compass with all the fancy bells and whistles. The Ultimate Survival Technologies Deluxe Map Compass has everything you need at a very affordable price.

The extended, clear base plate allows for improved map reading.

There are also multiple measurements scales which allow for accurate route planning. The swivel bezel lets you move the face easily even in cold, windy conditions.

This low-priced, reliable compass is perfect if you need to buy multiple compasses for a camp, troop or school.

AUFO Tactical9.  AUFO Tactical Waterproof Professional Multifunction Military Army Metal Sighting W/Inclinometer

This is a heavy-duty military compass suitable for practically any situation. There are a variety of features including a thumb hold, magnifying viewer and a sighting window with line.

Made of sturdy metal, this compass can withstand rain, snow, mud and more.

The AUFO is “old school” and proud of it. There are no batteries, electronics or anything else which might lose power. This is a compass perfect for military use or extreme outdoors adventure.

At the same time, it’s reliable and easy to use, which makes it perfect for less strenuous outings such as fishing trips and day hikes.

Classic Pocket Compass10.  Classic Pocket Style Camping Compass

This compass is inexpensive, durable and has a classic, unique style.  Approximately 2” by .5”, this compass can easily slip into a backpack, jacket pocket, tackle box and more.

The compass has a sensitive precision dial and is made from a strong aluminum alloy.

But the look of this compass is really what makes it stand out. With a classic gold color and circular shape, this compass resembles an old-fashioned pocket watch.

More than simply decorative, this compass not only looks great, but performs well and is extremely durable.

Wrap Up & Decisions:

Whether you are a bass fisherman, beginning bow hunter or an avid survivalist, a quality compass is an absolute must have for anyone that ventures into wild consistently.

They make a great addition to any hiker’s backpack for basic hiking but can also be a great compliment to any hunter’s arsenal of top notch hunting gear.

Whenever you plan your next excursion into the great outdoors, you should always bring a top quality compass with you – just in case.

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