If you enjoy exploring the backcountry and going off-grid, a reliable compass is one of the most important items to have. By showing you the direction, it keeps you from getting lost and ending up in a dangerous situation. Even though GPS devices and smartphones often have this function too, a traditional compass doesn’t require a signal or batteries which is why it’s still the most trusted option.

When looking for the best compass, the first things you need to consider are its accuracy and construction quality. After you have this covered, you should think about other useful features like sighting optics, rulers, and inclinometers among other things.

To help you decide, we’ve selected the highest-rated models for both beginners and experienced survivalists. In addition, our buying guide will discuss everything that requires your attention when buying, so you can easily find the best compass for hiking, mountaineering, or any other outdoor activity.

How To Choose A Compass – Buying Guide



Since there are several different types of compass available, the first step towards finding the perfect one is to determine which type is right for you.

Baseplate compasses have a transparent base, which makes map reading easy. They are all-purpose navigation compasses that suit beginners and recreational explorers.

Liquid filled compasses have fluid inside the needle housing. The fluid acts as a buffer that steadies the travel compass needle to make sure that the readings aren’t off due to erratic movements and vibrations.

A lensatic compass (prismatic, sighting) features a floating dial and has a lid with a sighting notch. The user can align the sight with a distant landmark and establish accurate bearings using the dial.

Orienteering compasses are meant for advanced compass navigation and deliver a high level of accuracy. A compass for orienteering will have a clear baseplate and various measurements for reading topographic maps.


For mountain climbing or backcountry skiing, a navigation compass with a clinometer will enable you to assess the steepness of slopes. On the other hand, the compasses for exploring should have a sighting optic to find locations easier, while compasses for orienteering needs to have superior needle stability.

Luminosity and Readability

A compass needs to be easy to read. While almost every compass is easy to read during the day, many models in our compass reviews feature luminescent backlighting so you can easily use them in low-light conditions too.


The best hiking compass should be resistant to shocks and impacts because a crack will cause the fluid to leak rendering it inaccurate or useless. A metal housing is the strongest, while plastic and acrylic are a bit weaker and can break in some situations.



Q: What Is The Difference Between Digital And Analog Compass?


A digital compass is powered by batteries, while an analog compass relies only on the magnetic field. An analog model is more dependable in the wilderness because it can’t run out of power.

Q: What Are The Advantages of Carrying A Compass? Can I Just Use My Phone’s Compass?


The main advantage of carrying a traditional compass is reliability – it works using the Earth’s magnetic field, without any batteries. On the other hand, the phone has a limited battery charge and often you might end up in the woods with no power and no signal.

Q: Do I Need Some Special Lessons For Using A Compass?


Basic navigation doesn’t require special lessons, but it does require some practice. If you need help with improving your navigation skills, you can ask a more experienced navigator or watch instructional videos online.

Q: Can My Compass Be Thrown Off?


Yes, many things can throw a navigational compass off - vehicles, buildings, cell phones, power lines, lava fields, and metallic objects to name a few. The best place to use a compass is in an open and clear area.

Q: What Kind of Compass Do I Need To Triangulate My Position?


If you wish to determine your location using triangulation, you’ll need a compass with a high level of accuracy. The best compass in this situation is an orienteering fluid-filled compass equipped with a good sighting lines system.

Globosurf Overview

Many things can make outdoor navigation difficult– a beaten path, difficult terrain, or poor visibility among other things. A compass and a map are powerful tools that will help you find your way in the backcountry. Because of this, buying a compass shouldn’t be taken lightly. We hope that our reviews helped you find a compass that you can rely on every time you venture into the wilderness.

More Backpacking/Hiking Reviews:

Which of the compasses in our compass reviews is your top choice? We would love to read your thoughts or experience with the travel compasses we’ve reviewed! Feel free to share in the comment box below!

Globo Surf
My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!