Choosing the right compass can seem like a daunting task. But with the right know-how, you can make the selection process simpler and easier. Whether you are an avid hiker, a professional mountaineer, or a beginner who’s just starting to explore the outdors, these four tips will help you choose a compass best suited for your needs.
1. Consider Your Activity Level
When shopping for a compass, it is important to consider your activity level. If you’re a casual hiker headed out for a quick one-day trip, you’ll likely need a basic magnetic compass. If, however, you’re a frequent low-level adventurer, you should consider a more advanced baseplate compass. These offer more features, such as greater accuracy, additional macro and micro details, and sighting mirrors.
A. Choose the Right Magnification
If you’re looking for a baseplate compass, think about the desired magnification of the lens. Expert hikers usually opt for smaller lenses because larger lenses can add unnecessary weight to their packs. However, for navigating in low-visibility conditions, you might want to choose a larger lens. Consider the landscape and climate you’ll be navigating in order to make an informed decision.
B. Consider a Global Needle
If you’ll be travelling or hiking outside North America, a global needle compass can work to your advantage. This type of compass compensates for differences in declination (the angular difference between specific points and true north) in areas other than your home. Global needle compasses are more expensive than standard magnetic compasses, but the extra expense is worth the added convenience and security.
2. Look for Quality and Durability
When shopping for compasses, look for products that are made of durable materials. Most compasses are made of stainless steel or brass and are designed to withstand harsh weather conditions. Look for compasses that also come with protective cases that can keep the device safe and secure. Additionally, opt for a compass that is waterproof and dustproof.
A. Select the Right Baseplate Material
The baseplate of a compass is the main interface when navigating, so it’s important to choose the right material. Most baseplates are made of tough, lightweight fiberglass and plastic. If you’re often in the outdoors, consider a baseplate made of transparent plastic as it makes it easier to take precise readings.
B. Get a Device With Glow-in-the-Dark Markings
For navigating in low-visibility areas, you should look for a compass with glow-in-the-dark markings. This feature allows you to make precise course readings even in darkness. This can save a whole lot of time and make it easier for you to find your way in the dark.
3. Consider Other Accessories and Attachments
When purchasing a compass, opt for models that come with a few handy extras. It’s important to buy a proven, reliable product that comes with a useful set of accessories. For instance, some compasses come with compasses that feature a built-in ruler or protractor so that you can take faster and more precise readings. These types of devices can make or break your trip.
A. Look For a Compass With a Clinometer
If you’re a serious hiker or camper, consider a device with a built-in clinometer. Clinometers measure vertical angles, which can come in handy when navigating steep terrain or checking topographic maps. It’s important to buy a compass with a clinometer that is accurate and can read a wide range of angles.
B. Look for an Electric Compass With a Backlit Display
For those who want the most up-to-date features and precision, look for an electric compass with a backlit display. This type of device allows you to make readings in fatigue light or low-light conditions. Look for a compass with a multi-line display that can show you the direction of north, east, south, and west simultaneously.
4. Consult a Professional Before Purchasing
For a smoother navigation experience, consult your local outdoor store or a professional at the store to pick out the right type of compass for your needs. Professionals are trained to give accurate advice on which type of compass suits your needs and terrain best. They can even offer usage instructions and provide advice on how to care for and use the device effectively.
A. Read Product Reviews and User Manuals Before Using
Before you make a purchase, you should read up on product reviews. This will help you narrow your choices and get an idea of the features and functionalities available. Once you’ve chosen a compass, make sure you read the instructions and user manual thoroughly. This will help you make sure you’ve set up the device correctly and know how to use it safely and accurately.
B. Look For Models With Warranty
Look for a good warranty when purchasing a compass. A good warranty can help to protect you in case of faulty parts or repair needs. Some manufacturers also offer extended warranties on their devices, so make sure to check that as well.
People Also Ask
Q: Can I use a compass while hiking?
Yes, a compass can be a useful tool while hiking. It is important to pick the right type of compass for your activity level and terrain.
Q: What type of compass should I buy for off-trail hiking?
For off-trail hiking, you should consider buying a baseplate compass for more features, such as greater accuracy, additional detail, and sighting mirrors.
Q: How do I calibrate my compass?
Most compasses can be calibrated by holding them level and rotating them in a full circle until the needle is aligned with the true north. Read the user manual for specific instructions for your device.
Q: How do I take a bearing with a compass?
To take a bearing with a compass, align the north arrow of the compass needle with the orienting arrow. Then, turn the bezel until the pointer points to the destination you want to reach.
Q: How often should I check for accuracy?
It’s recommended that you check the accuracy of your compass regularly, particularly if you use it a lot in off-trail areas. Accuracy can be impacted by weather, terrain, and other factors.
You don’t have to be a professional outdoorsman to choose the right compass. By following these tips, you’ll be sure to find a compass well suited to your needs. Make sure to read reviews and user manuals before purchasing, as well as consult a professional to choose the right type of compass for your purposes. With the right device and know-how, you will be equipped with the tools you need to navigate anything.