3 Best Compasses for Hiking

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Hey hikers and welcome to my post where we will check out my three best compasses for hiking to keep you on track with this year. Even in today’s technologically advanced world, any experienced hiker understands the value of carrying the best compass before tackling a trail. Yes, there are compass applications, but since phones can malfunction, lose service or even run out of battery, there’s no substitute for a reliable compass when venturing off the main road.

And of course as with anything to do with the outdoors there are a number of choices out there so to help you out, I have had a good look around and come up with three decent options below.  

Let’s check them out…

My three recommended compasses for hiking

I will review these in more detail below, but if you just want to get moving without all the carry-on, my recommended products are listed here for your convenience: 

02/19/2024 02:14 am GMT Lasso Brag

What are compasses for hiking?

The sole function of a compass is always to indicate your direction of travel so that you can reduce the chances of getting lost. Compass navigation is typically used by hikers and backpackers when they step out into the wilderness by allowing them to always find true north.

The hiking compass, however, has additional unique features that make path-finding easier such as a built-in ruler and nautical markings.

Check out these: GPS Systems for hiking

best compasses for hikers - compass

What should you be looking for?

The following factors should be considered as you look for a good compass to suit your hiking needs.

  1. Type of compass
  2. Compass needle
  3. Durability
  4. Sighting mirror
  5. Declination scale
  6. Additions

Type of compass

The three primary types of compasses are the basic compass, the sighting compass and the baseplate (or orienteering) compass whilst some compasses have components of each of the three.  These are outlined below:

  1. Basic compass: The needle on this type of compass only points toward magnetic north. It comes in handy when you merely need to know your general location. They frequently cost little money, making them advantageous to keep around as a backup.
  2. Sighting compass: This compass is known for its ability to enable users to take bearings from a far-off object, such as a nearby summit. Simply said, locate your intended position using the sight notch, align the bezel with the needle to determine the direction you need to travel to get there, and then follow the heading.
  3. Orienteering compass: The third kind of compass, also known as a baseplate compass, is used with a map since the base rests directly on the map, making triangulation and orientation simple.

Compass needle

The needle is the most crucial component of the compass and are often hemispherical, which means you need one for the northern hemisphere and another for the southern hemisphere. However, certain compasses are fitted with a so-called global needle that functions appropriately regardless of location, allowing these devices to be used everywhere on the planet. 

Because of differences in the Earth’s magnetic field in different places, the needle handles can tilt up to 20 degrees and hence do not drag on the top or bottom of the capsule.  Choose the model that matches the trekking destinations you will be traveling in.


Your compass will inevitably get some bumps and scrapes while traveling so choose one with the capability to withstand these situations. The toughest ones have a metallic cover that protects the compass from dents and scratches and some feature a clear cover pane that lets you see the compass while protecting it from the elements.

Sighting mirror

Sighting compasses make for accurate readings using a sighting mirror.  You can hold the compass at arm’s length from the body and get a highly accurate fix on your intended landmark while trying to gain a bearing or a rear bearing.

best compasses for hikers - girl using compass

Declination scale

This feature allows you to compensate for the fluctuating disparity between magnetic north and true north. Magnetic north (where a compass needle points) denotes the direction of the North Pole, whereas true north represents the direction of the Earth’s magnetic lines.

Because of the dynamic structure of the Earth’s core, magnetic declination changes from place to location. To compensate, many compasses allow you to modify your compass readings to account for your location’s magnetic declination.


Other potential additions include:

  1. Clinometer: This part of the compass measures slope angles (steepness) and helps determine object heights and avalanche threats.
  2. Magnifying lens: This add-on allows you to detect minor details on the map you have with you.
  3. Luminescent indicators: These indicators allow you to use the map with ease, even at night.

My three recommendations broken down

So based on the information above and my own experience, I recommend the following options:

1. TurnOnSport Orienteering Compass

This first option is a manual compass with the necessary features to help the uninitiated learn proper navigation in the absence of handheld GPS. It is inexpensive yet advantageous to those learning the basics of compass navigation. See its specifications below:

  • Brand: TurnOnSport
  • Type: Orienteering compass
  • Construction material: Durable acrylic
  • Weight: 0.11 pounds
  • Geography: Global
  • Dimensions: 8.23 x 3.9 x 0.67 inches

Other inclusions:

  • Magnifying glass
  • Integrated compass ruler
  • Compass scale

Why have I chosen it?

This orienteering compass provides all the characteristics required for learning compass-and-map navigation without the hefty expense of more expensive options. The sturdy acrylic baseplate features an adjustable bearing, a compass ruler, a magnifying lens, and a 1:24,000 scale, all of which are useful for navigating the terrain. 

The liquid-filled needle housing offers a rapid, responsive magnetic north bearing and the waterproof bearings allow it to be used in all weather conditions. A great option for beginners and experienced hikers alike.

2. Sportneer Military Lensatic Sighting Compass

My next recommended compass navigates, orientates positions, measures slopes, angles and scales and locates direction with a sturdy build and a lensatic function to increase the reading’s accuracy . See its specifications below:

  • Brand: Sportneer
  • Type: Sighting compass
  • Construction material: Metallic construction
  • Weight: 0.45 pounds
  • Geography: Global
  • Dimensions: ‎4.57 x 3.39 x 2.05 inches

Other inclusions:

  • Measurement scales for inch and centimeter
  • Sighting lens
  • Table of measurement
  • Clear sighting line
  • Fluorescent dial

Why have I chosen it?

This compass comes with a metallic cover that protects it from corrosion and scratches and a transparent cover glass that lets you see the compass clearly without exposing it to harsh elements. The window also has crosslines for more precise readings, and the read sight includes a magnifying lens that enlarges the card dial.

When the sun goes down, a neon directional arrow and dial allow you to preserve your readings and a shockproof, waterproof shell keeps the compass intact if you accidentally drop it.

3. AOFAR AF-4074 Military Compass for Hiking

My last recommended compass is a multi-functional pathfinding instrument that comes with several useful features such as a floating compass dial with 360° scale and adjustable prism lens. It also can take the punishment of your hiking adventure, thanks to its durable construction as well. See its specifications below:

  • Brand: AOFAR
  • Type: Sighting compass
  • Construction material: Zinc alloy
  • Weight: 0.75 pounds
  • Geography: Global
  • Dimensions: ‎‎3.1 x 1.8 x 4.3 inches

Other inclusions:

  • Clinometer
  • Waterproof
  • Fluorescence design
  • Ruler units (centimeters and inches)

Why have I chosen this?

The compass is made to last (shockproof, waterproof, and shake-proof) even if subjected to the harsh environments of your chosen hiking trail. With its clinometer, you can determine and measure slopes and it has a luminescent quality which means you can still use it even after sundown. A great option for those heading out a little further.

02/19/2024 02:14 am GMT Lasso Brag


There you have it,  my three best compasses for hiking to help you navigate your hikes this year. I would be pleased to know how this article helped you, and as usual,  let me know of your experiences with them.

Also, please do not hesitate to comment below if you have any questions, concerns, or corrections or would like me to check anything else out for you.

Until next time.

Have fun


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Hi, I'm Paul

I am a passionate fishing, camping and four wheeled driving hobbyist who researches, tests and educates around issues and equipment relevant to them.

I am by no means a professional however my passion is to assist you in making informed decisions about buying and using awesome gear that will give you the best chance of success at whatever you are doing for the best price.

Please get in touch if you have any questions.