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Brunton TruArc 3

rated 3.5 of 5 stars
photo: Brunton TruArc 3 handheld compass

Inexpensive, accurate, precise, and compact compass with a global needle and adjustable declination. A compass you’ll likely pack everywhere. Not loaded with features, but all the features you must have to navigate any terrain with your map. You can trust this item to do what you need it to do.


  • Global needle
  • Tool-less adjustable declination
  • Price!


  • Lack of grid reference alignments on bottom of needle housing

I've heard the TruArc 3 referred to as a training compass, a starter compass, and a beginner's compass. I take exception to that because there really is no such thing. Yes, there are basic base plate compasses and more advanced base plate compasses, but that does not relegate a compass to use by either beginners or experienced land navigators.

Land navigation is first and foremost a mind game little improved with gadgetry beyond the basics needed — a good topo sheet in a useable scale, an accurate compass, and knowing the magnetic declination for the area you are in. The TruArc 3 might be basic, but it does everything it should with some features only much more expensive compasses have, namely the ability to set the declination and a global needle. All that for $10.

I’ve been using compasses and topo sheets for four decades starting with a Silva Type 5 as a teenager and a SandY (Stoker and Yale) lensatic and Silva Ranger 15 for a couple of decades in the Army. In the last year I couldn’t find my old Silva Ranger so I shopped around thinking I’d get another Silva Ranger. That's when I came across Brunton’s TruArc line of compasses. I was floored to find a compass with a global needle and adjustable declination for only $10. TEN BUCKS! 

I last traveled to the Southern Hemisphere 17 years ago so I’ve not used this compass in multiple magnetic zones, but with the needle’s pivot and the depth of the housing I have to assume the compass can handle the magnetic dip of other magnetic zones without dragging the needle. The needle is also rapidly responsive and quickly dampens. This is a fast compass to use. 

Brunton advertises this compass as having a 2 degree resolution/accuracy and with my use of it I have no reason to believe otherwise. I don’t know what specific steel is used, nor do I know the expected life of the needle, but Brunton is known for using top-notch magnetic cobalt steels for needles that remain accurate for many years. 

I must admit that at first I just couldn't get the hang of the tool-less declination adjustment. Just squeeze the top and bottom of the housing with your thumb and forefinger of one hand and twist the housing's bezel with your thumb and forefinger of your other hand to set the declination.  Took me a while to figure out just the right amount of pressure to apply. I nearly gave up, but I've got it now.  It's so simply, I'm a bit embarrassed to admit I couldn't get it at first. Once the declination is set there are no worries about it inadvertently shifting.

I haven’t tried setting the declination with gloved hands and probably never will.  I'm just never out where I need a compass when it's that cold.  If I do find myself in that situation I imagine I’ll need to remove a glove to set the declination. If that’s the case while wearing gloves, I’ll just revert to adding/subtracting the declination angle as appropriate. 

And for you gram and ounce counters — 31 grams, just a hair over one ounce. 

If you are intrigued but want more features, the TruArc 10 has all the pros of the TruArc 3, but with a larger base plate which includes scaled protractors for 1:10K, 1:24K, 1:50K, 1:62.5K, and 1:63.36K at the attractive price of  $30-$35.

That said, I don't regret passing on the TruArc 10 for the TruArc 3 as the TruArc 3 has everything I need.  This will probably be the last compass I buy in my lifetime. Short of losing or breaking it or wearing off the bezel's degree markings, I just can’t see a need for another compass.

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $10

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Price Current Retail: $23.95-$49.95
Historic Range: $11.96-$49.95
Reviewers Paid: $10.00
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