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Suunto Arrow 20

rated 4.0 of 5 stars

The Arrow 20 has been discontinued. If you're looking for something new, check out the best handheld compasses for 2024.

photo: Suunto Arrow 20 handheld compass

Simple, effective baseplate compass with fast-settling needle.


  • Fast settling needle
  • Easy to read dial


  • No declination adjustment
  • Expensive

I purchased the Suunto Arrow-20 for general wilderness navigation and occasional orienteering events. The Arrow-20 is a conventional baseplate compass fitted with a millimeter scale and an oddball 1:15,000 map scale (probably intended for maps commonly used in orienteering competition). Circular and triangle cut-outs in the baseplate allow the orienteer racer to pencil in control markings on the map.  

The Arrow-20 has a large rectangular orienting gate for capturing its blocky, rectangular magnetic needle, along with meridian (orienting) lines in the base of the capsule so that the compass may be used as a protractor to measure bearings from a map. The Arrow-20 has a fairly long baseplate that is advantageous when marking lines of travel on a map, and is fitted with a hole for a lanyard.  The compass is marked 0-360 degrees in two-degree increments, and can be read to 1 degree of accuracy without difficulty.  

The main advantage of this compass is its very stable magnetized needle, which doesn't shake about and settles almost instantaneously — under 1 second. Unlike the wobbly needle or dial found on many competitive compasses (Cammenga, K&R), you can actually walk or jog with this thing and get fairly accurate compass bearings on the move.  This feature is also great for use aboard other types of wilderness transport, such as kayaks or canoes.  

For what it costs, this compass has one notable omission — there is no way to preset or pre-adjust magnetic declination — you'll have to compute that each time when transferring your magnetic bearings to the map or when taking a map bearing for use with the compass.

The Arrow-20 is not well-suited to navigation in darkness, as this model lacks any luminescent paint on the direction-of-travel indicator, orienting gate, or north end of the needle (you can of course use a small flashlight to illuminate the dial). At least the 'hi-vis' orange paint on the north end of the needle is fairly visible in overcast or dim light.  

Anyone who needs a high quality compass with a fast-settling needle, but who has no need for adjustable declination or a compass dial readable in darkness should definitely try out the Arrow-20.

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $66

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Price MSRP: $66.95
Historic Range: $49.97-$66.95
Reviewers Paid: $66.00
Weight 33 g / 1.2 oz
Dimensions 57 x 114 mm / 2.2 x 4.5 in

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