A good orienteering compass will always have two markings, namely an orienting arrow and a direction of travel arrow. These are the bare minimum to ensure that you’ll be able to navigate with it. You can immediately disregard any compass that does not meet this requirement, regardless of how affordable it is.
Occasionally, you might see compasses that have additional markings that look like crosshairs. This is by no means a deal-breaker on its own and it’s still possible to navigate with such a compass (although the process will be more difficult and prone to error).
Another quality of an orienteering compass is that it has adjustable needle damping. This will give you the ability to adjust the stiffness of the needle so that it doesn’t oscillate excessively when you try to place it on a map or a bearing, which would affect your accuracy.
Another important aspect is how well the compass housing can pivot out of its normal, static position. If this cannot be done with ease, it’s difficult to use the compass as intended. Also, be sure that there are no moving parts inside as they can jam or break off pretty easily.
You should also check how well the needle can settle on its rest and look for a good-size bearing arc (30 degrees is preferred). The quality of any other markings ought to be judged by how useful they are to you personally. It’s still possible to navigate using a compass, even if it has no markings worth mentioning.
You should also check the quality of the material used for making the housing and other components as these can influence whether or not your compass will be durable enough for whatever situation you put it through. All in all, these are the features that you should look for in any good orienteering compass.
With this in mind, read on to discover our top picks for this category:
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Top 4 Best Compasses For Orienteering On The Market 2017-2018
Below, you’ll see more detailed reviews but you can also click links above to check current prices and read other customer’s reviews on Amazon.
So let’s dive right into it! As always, we’ll start with a short summary of each item reviewed.
Suunto A-10 Compass – Editor’s Choice For 2017/18
The top of our list belongs to a compass from the well-known brand, Suunto. Without a doubt, this is one of the most professional orienteering compasses you can find on the market today. It is specifically designed for demanding arctic conditions with a rugged, easy-to-read scale.
It’s an adjustable needle compass which means you can adjust the stiffness of the needle to your liking (although it is quite stiff by default). Another great feature is its magnifying lens with reticule, which makes it easier for you to track your position accurately when navigating through dense vegetation or fog.
Sealed housing gives you the ability to use this compass in any weather condition with confidence. It is also easy for you to calibrate it, so no worries about long sessions of fine tuning before using it. There are also two options for how you can hang the lanyard (around your neck or on your wrist), which further increases its versatility.
With such high quality construction and numerous features, this compass certainly justifies the price you pay for it.
Suunto Leader M-3D – Best Compass Runner-Up For 2017/18
Runner-up in our list of best orienteering compasses goes to a slightly less expensive model from Suunto. It is a three-in-one compass, which means it offers the ability to measure direction in three different formats: with a mirror, by using a lensatic sight, and without any additional features (your standard needle compass).
It has a unique design that allows you to flip between all 3 measurements with ease. You can also calibrate it so no need to worry about long sessions of fine tuning before using it in the field. It is an adjustable needle compass which means you can adjust the stiffness of the needle to your liking (although it’s pretty stiff by default).
This compass comes equipped with a magnifying lens, which makes it easier for you to track your position accurately when navigating through dense vegetation or fog. The housing is sealed, giving you the ability to use this compass in any weather condition with confidence.
The only real drawback of this model is that it’s slightly less accurate than its more expensive sibling (the A-10). However, accuracy difference between models from the same manufacturer is usually small.
Cammenga 3H Tritium Military Compass – Best Budget Option For 2017/18
Despite its low price, this compass is quality orienteering equipment that offers a few features more than most compasses in the same category. It has a tri-lobe jewel bearing and adjustable declination in order to make your experience more smooth and accurate.
It is a lensatic orienteering compass, which means it comes with a magnifying lens to make it easier for you to track your position in dense vegetation or fog. The housing is also sealed which gives you the ability to use this compass in any weather condition with confidence.
The major drawback of this compass is that it does not feature an adjustable needle. So although the stiffness of the needle can be adjusted slightly, you will most likely struggle with it in demanding conditions.
Otherwise, this is a great compass for orienteers just starting out, as well as experienced navigators who do not want to spend too much money on their equipment.
Silva Starter – Best Beginner Compass
Although it is a very basic orienteering compass, Silva Starter is a good choice for beginners and occasional navigators who prefer simplicity over extra features. It features a magnifying lens, which makes it easier for you to navigate through dense vegetation or fog.
What distinguishes this model from most compasses in the same category is its adjustable needle. This means that you can choose how easily the needle turns, which can help you with accuracy in demanding conditions.
It comes with a lanyard so you don’t have to worry about dropping it during training sessions or races . Despite being made from plastic, it is surprisingly water resistant considering the price of this model.
Silva Starter is a good choice for beginners, as well as experienced navigators looking for something more lightweight and affordable.