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Suunto M-3D Leader

rated 4.5 of 5 stars
photo: Suunto M-3D Leader handheld compass

The Suunto M-3D Leader Compass simply meets my detailed traditional requirements for use with my USGS Quad topo maps and my Garmin eTrex Venture HC hand held GPS (that is still available for about $100.00) for hiking on trail, off trail, scrambling and for bagging peaks in summer and sketchy winter weather. It is great for snowshoers, skiers, snowmobile riders, hunters and horsemen!


  • Works best with traditional USGS topo map and handheld Garmin GPS, about $100


  • Will only work in North America for about $25. The global needle model works around the world for about $80!

The Suunto M-3D Leader Compass simply meets my detailed traditional requirements! Here is why:

1. A reasonably long, transparent plastic base-plate for pointing the compass at objects in the field and for joining points on the map and it has a prominent index mark indicating the direction of travel. (The three little rubber feet help you use the edge of the compass to find and draw your bearing on the paper map.)

2. A big rotating compass needle housing marked in two degree increments. The housing has a transparent base which is marked with true north-south meridian lines which, together with the long compass edge, form a protractor for use on the map. (With one exception, the base plate compass is a protractor when it lies on the map - the needle is disregarded. The one exception is when the housing is dialed in to true north and the compass is placed on the edge of the map to orient the map in the outdoors, to north and south using the magnetic needle.

3. An adjustable "north indicator arrow" (the red shed), which is set independent of the true north-south indicator lines. Your compass can be adjusted for the magnetic declination in your area! You make your adjustment by turning a "micrometer" screw on the bezel, accurately setting you current declination to one degree using a separate scale marked on the reverse side of the bezel. This virtually eliminates dangerous math in the field. (The 30 year old Silva Ranger was, for many years, the only compass to have this special feature.)

4. The compass needle is designed for specific locations of the globe (M3D is designed for North America) and liquid dampened to slow oscillations and allow fast accurate readings. (Compasses designed for other areas of the globe may suffer drag from "needle dip". Global needle models cost an unnecessary $80.)

5. The big rotating compass housing dial is marked in 2 degree increments, from 0 to 360 degrees, clockwise (an azimuth compass). (Beware the engineer's "quadrant" compass marked in 90 degree increments which requires lots of dangerous math in the field)

6. The base plate edges are marked with mile (and meter) scales based on the USGS 1:24,000 quad map scale.

7. It has a base plate graphic marked with a scale for the 1:24,000 UTM/UPS (military) 1,000 meter grid system squares.

8. It has a magnifying spot for your bad eye.

9. The base plate is ergonomically rounded at the back end that is held in the hand (to discourage attempts to hold the compass backwards) and an adequate hole provided for a waist length lanyard to go around the neck (beware of choking!)  The lanyard should also hold your loud plastic whistle, near your mouth. Lose the shorty red cord!

10. The Suunto M-3D Leader Compass compass is simple, well designed and made and light weight.

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $27

This is a great compass and may be your lifesaver. It is compact, non-electronic, luminous, magnifier lens, and has the ability to adjust for the regional declination.


  • Compact
  • Adjustable for the regional declination
  • Luminous
  • High quality


  • Strap is a little weak for my needs so I replaced it with parachute cord

This could be your lifesaver when you need it the most (lost, injured). Suunto is a primo leader in compasses. Combine it with your GPS system and with your maps and you should be able to keep out of trouble in the outdoors.  

It is a high quality product from a leader in the field. I highly recommend the compass and I highly recommend that you take some training in navigation so that you are getting all the benefits of this product.

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $35

Very good well made compass. Hard to see in dim light. Nice choice for regular long distance navigation use. Unlike old model, new models lack outline box to center southern portion of needle over. I like the older model.


  • Well made
  • Reliable


  • Declination adjustment requires a little tool
  • Large space between tip of compass needle and capsule is wasted accuracy or weight. They could have either used a smaller capsule or longer needle.
  • "Luminous" bezel and points are a gimmick. The old white letters on black bezel were easier to read in dim light. The luminous bezel and dots are not luminous for long and no one walks in total darkness anyway. Easier to see in dim light would have been better. The black southern end of the needle does not show as well as the white southern end on competitors' compasses.


Experienced navigator

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $35

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Price Current Retail: $65.00
Historic Range: $44.00-$65.00
Reviewers Paid: $27.00-$35.00
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