Selecting the Right Compass

December 27, 2013 by | 1 Comment

The compass has been a tool of great importance for centuries. Every navigator considered it a crucial part of his or her arsenal, and for good reason. The world is a big place, after all, and one can become easily lost without the ability to find the four cardinal points. As technology has evolved the compass has seen various adjustments in size, utility, and efficiency. Today’s mobile phones are even capable of performing the duty of a compass. A wise route-finder, however, will want to recognize that such a medium is readily prone to elemental damage. Real compasses are still the most reliable option. There are three traditional archetypes available for staying on course today:

Lensatic compass

Lensatic CompassThe most robust style on the market; a lensatic compass can withstand formidable abuse. The majority come with aluminum framing—preventing rust—and particularly durable plastic protecting the instrument itself. Adding to the virtual immunity to elemental damage, these models often offer photo-luminescent technology enabling visibility in low-level lighting conditions. The lensatic sight can also be used to determine an objective’s exact bearing. This is the most dependable model for the survivalist – made apparent by its ubiquitous tradition amongst armed forces units. These benefits do not come without a price, however, as the user must sacrifice utility for a rather unwieldy size. This is not a compass that can be tightly compacted and slipped into a small space. Though its immense utility certainly makes up for any shortcomings.

Map compass

Map CompassThe map compass is very refined and primarily designed to permit extreme precision. These models tout a protractor feature and a transparent base. When used in conjunction with a map, the protractor enables a taking of bearings directly from the paper itself. The rectangular shape can make this model cumbersome if it becomes awkwardly positioned in a large pocket, but its flattened side-profile certainly offers advantages of its own – permitting storage in tight pouches. Nearly all models of map compass will have a lanyard; this permits an easy method of attachment via jacket button holes or belt loops whilst carrying.

Compact compass

Compact CompassThe advantage of a compact compass is that, by its very nature, it is designed around being easy-to-store and carry with you. The quality isn’t going to be nearly so great as the other options, but will be quite sufficient for the novice outdoorsman, or suburban enthusiast. The main function of this model is to provide you with an ordinary bearing, and it performs that function adequately. With the compact compass there is no ability to finely determine direction, but that is seldom a problem for those who are engaging in day trips of no more than a few miles, occasional campers, or hunters.

The type of compass you choose will be entirely up to your individual requirements. There are numerous models available that almost universally fall into one of the three above-listed varieties. Each has their strengths and weaknesses, but all are effective.

Melanie Swick (a.k.a. Survival Chick) grew up wanting to be a rocket scientist, but when she realized she that required way too much math, she took to her second dream—spending time in the wilderness. Today, when she's not hiking, camping, or hunting, she's blogging about it. You can connect with Melanie on Facebook.

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1 Comment

  • Mr. Survivor says:

    After 18 years of service, countless free vacations to some of the most remote and exotic places I’ve heavily relied on my military issue compass. My dependence has turned into a crutch as I’ve become older, considering I’m not a fan of change. Great article and I thinks its time for me to increase my skills with a map compass. Never know when it will be the only thing around.

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