best survival compass

Best Survival Compass So You Don’t Get Lost


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Getting lost in the wild is not fun, trust me. I’ve been lost in the Himalayan woods before and it was a nightmare – true story. Lucky for me things didn’t go horribly wrong but they easily could have. So don’t make my mistake – bring along a map and compass so you know where you are going if you go off-trail and don’t have the best sense of direction.

A compass is often seen as an old-school piece of equipment in today’s hyper-techie world where everything is electronic GPS. However, a compass is one piece of survival gear you should hold on to if your headed out in the backcountry, whether you are going on an off-trail hike, an extended backpacking trip, or any type of outdoor adventure where you are going to be away from civilization and and in the wild. A compass is a survivalist’s best friend when you are lost.

In this review, we’ve hand-picked some of the best survival compass’s that we have found that you can be sure will get you back on track.

Survival Compass Reviews

We won’t lie there are a ton of compasses out there that can be used for a survival or emergency situation. The list that we came up with was one that we found by researching, looking at reviews, and when possible testing them out.

There really is no “best” out there. There are definitely better and worse, though it often comes down to personal preference and what exactly you are going to use it for.

What is the Best Survival Compass


1. The Tritium Lensatic Compass

Best Survival Compass

Price: $

Length: 9 x 6 x 3 inches

Weight: 1 Pounds

Material: Synthetic

Pros: Waterproof, Has microlights making navigation possible in the dark, Durable and can survive extreme situations, Very accurate, Sealed to debris (Sand proof)

Cons: The dial can get stuck sometimes

Description: The Tritium Lensatic Compass stands as our favorite compass. As it is the US military’s official manufacturer you can be sure it has been tested in every form of extreme environment. It is made in the USA, is accurate, easy to read, and built to last just about any stress test. If you are looking for a rugged durable compass that won’t break under pressure, the Tritium Lensatic Compass is for you.

The Tritium Lensatic Compass’s defining feature if we can say that, has microlights that glow in the dark making it so that you do not need any external light to read the compass in low light conditions which can be nice especially if you really do get lost. It also comes with a magnifying lens, which helps you navigate better and get exact measurements right.

This Compass is used by military and security forces around the world so it is often referred to as a tactical compass which means it is more rugged and often more able to withstand rough enviroments. If you are a hiker or camper this will do more than you ask for. It is manufactured with an aluminum frame, is waterproof and can withstand freezing rain and even underwater.

The Tritium Lensatic Compass is military-grade that has passed through serious testing and has been used extreme environments. This compass is the real deal. We liked this compass as it is much more durable than the Suunto and is still super cheap.

The Tritium Lensatic Compass is one of the best compasses you can find. Whether you plan on going hiking mountains or finding your way back home on a Friday night from the bar, this compass with see it does its job. Your search stops here.

Why we like it? thing is that it looks like your classic compass. It’s light, cheap and just plain works. We used to use this thing as a boy scout back in the day, so it has a bit of a nostalgia factor.


2. Suunto A-10 in Metric Recreational Field Compass

Best Budget Compass

Price: $

Dimension: 11.5 x 5.25 x 1 inches

Weight: 1.41 ounces

Material: Acrylic

Pros: Lightweight makes it easy to carry, Scratch-resistant, Takes a really accurate reading

Cons:  Liquid filled capsule (more fragile)

Description: The Suunto A-10 Metric Recreational Compass is made of durable acrylic material, is scratch-resistant, is small and easy to carry and fits perfectly in the palm of your hand. It also has a detachable snap-lock, which allows you to wear it around your neck. This Compass makes use of a unique two-zone system, which enhances its accuracy and reliability. It is your basic standard compass. Simple design and lines and that’s why we like it.

It is a popular brand made and you have likely seen it everywhere as it seems to have done a great job marketing itself in the early days. The company originally is from Finland and have been making compasses since 1936. So one thing is for sure, they know compasses. So much so that you will see them listed on here a few more times, as they just have the best compasses out there. They are rigorously tested and are as durable as they come.

This Compass is very accurate in its navigation which is why many still opt for this type, and may just be your saving grace when you have lost your way. This compass is another quality compass manufactured by Suunto and one compass you can rely on to get you out of a tight spot.


3. Suunto Mc-2g Global Compass

Best Compass For Land Navigating

Price: $$$

Dimension:3.98 x 0.71 x 2.56 inches

Weight: 0.05 Kilograms

Material: Plastic

Pros: It has a global needle making it accurate irrespective of your location, Glows the dark with a luminescent dial that helps you see even in the dark, It has an inbuilt inclinometer

Cons: The needle can get stuck on the inclinometer

Description: The Suunto MC-2G Global Compass has a global needle that works without a hitch despite no matter what part of the world you are in. This compass also glows in the dark, so you needn’t fear of navigating in the dark as the light will show you the way. 

The compass also has comes with a magnifying lens and an adjustable declination correction scale which is a few more little addons to our first Suunto pick. The compass outshines its competitors through its inbuilt inclinometer, which can measure diverse terrains, slopes, heights, and angles which makes it handy if you are hiking or out in unfamiliar terrain. 

MC-2G is another quality Suunto compass and was manufactured to survive in the most challenging and extreme conditions. It is another great compass from Suunto and can be used for any type of outdoor adventure; from leisurely to extreme. 

The Suunto MC-2G Global Compass is a compass that comes highly recommended; it is well crafted and will get you through whatever mother nature throws at you.


4. Suunto M-3 G Compass

Best Intermediate Compass

Price: $$$

Dimension: 8 x 4 x 1 inches

Weight: 0.1 Pounds

Material: Plastic

Pros: Global needle, It can find the North easily, Luminescent markings, which aids navigation, Declination adjustment, It has a lanyard that makes for easy carrying

Cons: The dial can come loose with heavy use

Description: Like the MC-2G Compass, the Suunto M-3 G Compass has a global needle that can work anywhere in the world and it may not come as much of a suprise that this one also has luminescent markings, which aids in navigating in the dark or low lighting conditions. It also has an adjustable declination and a magnifying lens, which makes for easy navigation. 

The M3 G compass also comes with a clinometer and a declination as well as a UTM grid scale. Another quality product from Suunto, with only a slight difference from Suunto MC-2G Compass in that is a bit faster in locating North.

This compass fulfills most intermediate expeditioners who are only looking for basic navigation. You will notice as we go through these reviews the Suunto products are getting a bit fancier and more expensive. While our number two pick is the simplest and cheapest one out there, the M-3 G definitely has more capacity and features that we would recommend for a more skilled navigator or someone using it for backcountry use rather than every day or around the house use.


5. Suunto A-30 Nh Usgs Compass

Best Classic Upgrade

Price: $

Dimension: 2.24 x 4.49 x 0.39 in

Weight: 0.1 Pounds

Material: Synthetic

Pros: Lightweight, Durable and scratch-resistant, Two-zone system making readings very accurate, Luminescent markings, Magnifying glass 

Cons: More Delicate than others

Description: The Suunto A-30 NH USGS like its predecessors also has luminescent markings, making for easy navigation for when its night time. This compass is also very accurate in its readings, is durable, can withstand harsh conditions and is scratch resistant. It also has a two-zone system, which makes it able to work in any part of the world. Accompanying it is a lanyard that you can use to hang it around your neck, making it easy to use.

Another high-quality compass from Suunto which can be used in all parts of the world for serious hiking and orienteering. Like some of the others, it is lightweight and designed to fit just into your palms and has a high-grade steel needle with a baseplate.

Like other Suunto compasses, this one is also easy to carry and has good reviews across the board. Though this is not an expert-level compass and is not as durable as some of the others it is perfect for the light-user who may find themselves in a sticky situation.


6. Sharp Survival Glow in the Dark Camping Compass

Best Classic Compass

Price: $

Dimension: 1.95 x 1.95 x 0.35 inches.

Weight: 0.14 Kilograms.

Material: Copper

Pros: Fluorescent light design that glows in the dark, 360-degree rotating bezel, Degrees are marked, Good bargain for its price tag

Cons: Can break easily

Description: Sharp Survival Glow in the Dark Compass is a classic copper compass that has a nice rustic feel. Its a multi-usage compass that can be a nice every day item or alternatively – hiking, camping, backpacking, or any outdoor activity. It has a fluorescent light design that glows in the dark and can be used in any weather. It also has a 360-degree rotating bezel, which helps you to find your way quickly and accurately.

This Compass is manufactured by Sharp Survival has a premium feel because of its copper material which we really like over most of the other plastic ones on the list. It is an old-fashioned model that is a reliable brand and model wherever in the world you may find yourself. The compass is perfect for any survival kit or emergency bug-out bag.

We are a sucker for aesthetics and we can’t help but feel like we are wild survivor man with this thing. There is something about non-plastic materials that makes you feel more raw.


7. Ueasy Military Prismatic Sighting Compass

Best Tactical Compass

Price: $

Dimension: 2.6 x 2.1 x 1 inches

Weight: 0.2 Kilograms

Material: Aluminium alloy

Pros: Lightweight makes it easy to carry and handle, Strong and durable and can survive under extreme conditions, Accurate readings, Fluorescent design making it navigable during the dark

Cons: Lines do not align with the Compass

Description: The Ueasy Military Prismatic Sighting Compass looks like a tactical or military-grade compass which usually means durable and weather resistant and its the aluminum alloy that does this job and making it super durable and ensures it will work in extreme weather and circumstances. What makes this product a bit different than some of the others listed is that it possesses a sighting telescope, which allows for accurate positioning. 

It comes with an inbuilt bubble level, which improves its accuracy to navigate. As it is a military-grade compass it does fine in harsh weather conditions, and because it is waterproof needn’t worry if you get caught in a rainstorm or if you need to take it on a rafting trip. This Compass also has a special fluorescent light that absorbs sunlight and lights up the dial when it is dark, making it navigable when it is dark.

The Ueasy Military Compass is a multifunctional compass that is great for outdoor or any wilderness bound expeditions. The compass comes with a thirty-day guarantee together with a lifetime warranty, makes it an easy buy.


Buyers Guide to Finding the Best Survival Compass

Why You Need a Compass?

If you lose the trail, get stuck in the wilderness or stranded on a mountainside you are likely going to be SOL (shit-out-of-luck) if you don’t have any survival gear with you. While you may need more than a compass to survive, (ie. wilderness survival kit) a map and compass can be a saving grace if you are lost. In any wilderness environment, you likely will not have any wireless connection which is why it’s always wise to carry some simple navigation equipment with you – which means stick to an ole’ fashioned compass.

classic compass

Yes, it’s old-fashioned, but it’s much more reliable, and reliability is the name of the game in any survival situation.

Although you might just think that you can just bring your cell phone or GPS device on your trip, however, it is likely that you may not get reception where you are going and if you have never been there before, it’s difficult to know what the terrain will be like. A compass will pay back its weight in gold when all hope seems lost. When you are lost and unable to find your way it can point you to safety.

Knowing the right direction of where to go is incredibly important in an emergency situation. Even if you are stranded somewhere with a map, the topography may not be identifiable. With a compass, you are sure to not be completely helpless.

Even the military realizes the importance of a compass. Army rangers, green berets and even navy seals carry with them a compass when they go on expeditions. Any time you go into the backcountry you will be faced with unknown situations. The idea of any wilderness preparedness 101 is to reduce the number of unknowns by being prepared as much as possible, by having the right gear and knowledge so that you will be ready, for whatever may come. 


See more: Wilderness Survival Kits

How Does a compass work?

The basic idea of a compass is to find your location on the planet by using magnetic poles and curves. There are three types of compasses:

  • button
  • baseplate
  • lensatic
  • Button compasses – Can be stand-alone or built into any type of survival gear
  • Baseplate compasses – Can be rigid or foldable and are the most common for orienteering
  • Lensatic compasses – These are more often for military use

What to consider before buying a survival compass?

Before buying a compass some things to be aware about:

Declination Adjustment

Declination has to do with the distinction in the angle between the true North and the magnetic North and dependent on the particular location you are presently in. A compass needs to have a declination adjustment where you set it once then you can let it work its magic. 

Global Needle

A compass with a global needle will be able to work accurately and effectively in any part of the world. A compass that does not possess a global needle may not be accurate in the northern or southern part of the world. 

Sighting Mirror

A sighting mirror helps you have a clear view of your location on the Compass; it allows you to see the compass dial and the background simultaneously. 

Luminescent Markings

You have no idea the situation you will find yourself in when you need a compass. If your lost in the dark being able to see where you are going is a huge! A compass that is glow in the dark or has luminescent markings is very handy. 

Clinometer

This optical device is used to measure the height or vertical angle of a slope or other objects.

Water-Proof

Having a waterproof compass helps tremendously. This is an essential feature especially if you are going on any hiking during the rainy seasons or in any canoe or kayaking trips. 


Survival Compass FAQ

How do I know if my compass is accurate?

You can tell if your compass is right by testing it against a GPS. You can use a stand-alone device or one on your phone.

Why is my compass reading backward? 
compass for directions

A backward reading is caused by a condition called reverse polarity. When a personal electronic is in the room, it can make your needle go in the wrong direction.

How do you correct a compass? 

If your compass is reading backwards, you might need to readjust it. Use a strong magnet to do this.

Why is a compass good for survival?

A compass is good for survival as it will help you overcome any emergency survival situations, if you are lost, need to find a specific location, navigate during bad weather a compass can help you find your way. You might use it on a hike, or if you are new to the place.

How to use a compass?

A compass tells you where north is. All of the surface area on earth has a magnetic field that comes from two poles, one north and one south. A compass will help you in pointing you in the right direction

What is a good compass?

A good compass is flat and has a long straight edge. You can use it to draw lines and take measurements on your map.

Conclusion

Survival compasses are great tools for navigation. They’re widely available and inexpensive, which means that they can be a lifesaver if you get lost or stranded in an emergency situation. We hope this review of some of the best survival compasses will help you choose one to keep with your camping gear, hunting equipment, backpacking kit – wherever it needs to go. Which type do you think is right for you?

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Bram Johnson
Hi, My Name is Bram, the Editor of Survival Artist. Here you will find all things Wilderness, Survival, & Primitive Living. I grew up in the backcountry and got hooked on the simple chop wood carry water lifestyle. If you know anything about me then you know you can find me either running up mountain trails or sipping coffee over a book of philosophy.