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Whether you’re hiking, biking, or hitting open waters, you’ll always be able to navigate home.
If you spend ample time outdoors, a reliable compass is a must-have tool in your pack. Whether you’re hiking, camping, mountain biking, or kayaking, there’s always a chance of getting turned around in a spot without a cell signal, and a compass will help you find your way back to safety.
Compasses come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but they all serve the same basic purpose: pointing north so you navigate. They don’t require any electricity or battery power, as the compass needle simply points toward the top of Earth's magnetic field, which is why they’re an invaluable tool for any type of outdoor adventure.
There are a wide range of compasses that you can buy today, and the best option for your needs depends on your experience level and intended use. Less expensive compasses are often less accurate, while more expensive models offer features like declination correction, which allows for extremely precise readings. Additionally, most compasses have map-reading features built-in, including rulers and magnifiers—both of which are helpful if you’re using physical maps to plot your route.
You'll also want to take into account the outdoor activities you enjoy. For example, not all compasses are waterproof, so it’s important to select one that can withstand getting wet if you plan to use it while boating. There are also options specifically designed for activities like kayaking, biking, and even scuba diving.
To find the best compasses for all types of outdoor exploration, we looked for top-rated models from reputable brands like Suunto and Coghlan’s. We compared the features and price points of each, prioritizing options that offered the most versatility and value. We also scoured dozens of user reviews for each product, looking for issues that might make the compass challenging to use. Also, every compass we write about has an average customer rating of 4 stars or more.
This durable bestselling compass is a top choice for casual outdoor enthusiasts. The durable construction is both waterproof and shakeproof, and it features a case and belt loop attachment.
The compass has a fluorescent dial so you can use it in the dark, and the lensatic design allows you to read your bearings while sighting objects through the lid. Also, the base has metric and imperial scales to help you read a map.
While the compass is extremely well-priced and a fantastic value, it's a bit heavier than some other options. Still, it gets an average 4.6 stars from more than 6,800 customers.
The TurnOnSport Orienteering Compass is lightweight, inexpensive, and comes in green or orange, but keep in mind that it's for more advanced users (and doesn't come with printed instructions).
It features an acrylic base and neck lanyard, with a 360-degree rotating bezel as well as metric and imperial scales along the top for reading maps. There’s also a magnifier built into the baseplate, and the whole thing can easily be tucked into your pocket as needed.
This bracelet has a stylish, rugged look, and is more than just a compass. It's also a ferro rod and striker, an emergency whistle, and is made with 12 feet of military-grade paracord, which has a multitude of uses.
The lightweight bracelet adjusts from 8 to 10.5 inches and secures with a buckle clasp. It comes in a two-pack that's a great value. Keep one and give the other to a friend or family member. Several customers say that the compass works well and is fairly accurate. The downside is that it's small and may be hard to read for some.
If you’re planning on taking out the kayak or canoe, it’s a good idea to strap this waterproof compass to your boat. The front-reading compass comes with adjustable nylon straps that allow you to secure it to the deck of your kayak, but keep in mind that it does require perimeter deck rigging to attach to.
It’s held in place by quick-release buckles, and its rubber base keeps it from shifting around in rough water. The compass itself is marked in 5-degree increments.
This liquid-filled jewel bearing compass is about inch in size and weighs less than an ounce. It features a clip on the back that allows you to attach it to a watch strap, map, backpack, or virtually any other surface.
The compass is balanced for the northern hemisphere, and it has luminescent details that are easy to see in low-light conditions. However, the marked in 10-degree increments, so it’s not the most precise option out there.
If you're in the market for a high-quality compass, this one from Suunto is one of the top brands available.
The rugged compass is designed for use in the northern hemisphere, and it has a high-grade steel needle and a liquid-filled capsule for excellent performance. It even offers adjustable declination correction, allowing you to get the most accurate reading possible.
The baseplate features a magnifying lens, as well as metric and imperial scales, and it comes with a detachable snap-lock lanyard for easy carrying.
Here's a compass that you can literally keep close at hand. It's from Suunto, founded in 1936 by a Finnish explorer, and delivers exceptional quality for an astonishing low price point.
It features an adjustable Velcro wrist strap and a durable waterproof design, plus has a glow-in-the-dark face so it's easy to read in the dark. The wristwatch compass is balanced for the Northern Hemisphere and backed by a lifetime guarantee against defects.
If you’re looking for a compass with vintage vibes, this is your best bet. The handsome piece features an antique bronze finish and attached chain, and the back is engraved with the words “So you can always find your way home.”
It stores inside a hand-stitched, genuine leather case that's embossed with mini helms and other nautical designs, and has a sewn-in belt loop. This compass is definitely more for aesthetics than function, as it doesn’t offer precise readings, but does make a great gift.
This inexpensive compass is a great choice for reading maps. The see-through baseplate has multiple sighting lines, as well as several marking holes and a magnifier—all useful when it comes to plotting your hiking route or camping destination.
The lightweight design comes with a lanyard, as well as an instruction booklet, and it has integrated inch and millimeter rulers, as well. A luminous pointer allows you to read the compass at night, but keep in mind that it is slightly larger than some other options.
You can teach kids ages 6 and up the basics of navigation with this inexpensive compass, which comes in a variety of colors and designs. The lightweight compass hangs on a break-away lanyard and features a very simple design that’s easy to read.
The back of the compass is fluorescent to help kids see it low-light conditions, and there are centimeter and inch rulers on either side of the baseplate to assist in map-reading.