Best compass???

12:36 p.m. on October 11, 2007 (EDT)
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2 forum posts

I'm new to compasses. I need one to keep me oriented hiking through the N Ga moutains, but there is almost a million choices.

So which one??? Which brand??? I like german made products and took a liking to K&R's line of compasses but I can't find hardly any info on their credentialls! Does anyone know about their products? It seems nobody buys thier compasses. The swedish Silva was my second choice until I found out they're not swedish anymore and if you want a swedish Silva you can buy a Brunton Nexus. So I'm kinda confused. What are the pro and cons of the different brands? Is a saphire pivot bearing really better? I've mostly decided the features I want, but I don't know which brand. Like I said, I like the K&R's but I don't think even sells them! Any experienced info will be greatly appreciated and thanks for your time!!!

2:40 a.m. on October 13, 2007 (EDT)
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1,757 forum posts

Compasses are like most other pieces of gear-lots of choices, but no one "best" compass for all purposes. I have several, but am far from an expert. I have a Silva 27 (a small mirror compass) I like a lot. I also have a big Suunto MC2-G, but after getting it, I realized it's more than I need for most trips.

For most applications, a small mirror compass or a plate compass would be fine. The important thing is learning how to use it and a read a map. The big differences I think is between plate and mirror models and ones that are adjustable for declination or not. My Suunto is adjustable, but the Silva isn't.

Some people use an orienteering compass-simple and small and you wear it on your thumb like a big ring.

1:13 p.m. on October 15, 2007 (EDT)
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As Tom says, a simple compass will work just fine for hiking and backpacking. A small baseplate compass from Brunton (owned by Silva Sweden), Suunto, or Johnson Worldwide Associates (which has the rights to the Silva name in North America, but the compasses are made by Suunto), which can be had for about $10 is more than adequate. If you are going to do some serious mapping (not survey level), then a mirror compass is useful (the ones from Brunton, Suunto, and JWA Silva with the number 15 in the name, all basically the same design are pretty good for this). The so-called "prismatic" compass (military style) are good if you are trying to aim artillery or mortars, but not really suitable for navigation of the hiking or backpacking variety.

The "orienteering compass" that Tom mentions is actually called a "thumb compass". That's what I (and most advanced level orienteers) use for serious orienteering competitions. They aren't really suitable for backpacking and hiking unless you have a highly detailed, highly accurate map of 1:10,000 scale or larger ("larger scale" in map terms means the details are larger), like those made especially for orienteering (also oriented to local magnetic north, since most thumb compasses do not have scales on the bezel).

2:02 p.m. on October 15, 2007 (EDT)
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Bill wrote: "The so-called "prismatic" compass (military style) are good if you are trying to aim artillery or mortars, but not really suitable for navigation of the hiking or backpacking variety."

Well, they work for me. ;)
I think the best compass is one that always points to where it's supposed to and the user can use & understand. After that I think the details are a wash.

July 23, 2014
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