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After more than 16 hours of research and testing, the best compass for hiking is the Cammenga 27CS Lensatic compass. It is super accurate ( within +/- 40 mils.) with an easy-to-read dial, sight tab to lock in your compass readings, and works equally good in extreme hot or cold temperatures (operating temperature between -50 F to +150 F.) You can also browse our best camping gear guide for more camping or hiking items.
Choosing the best compasses for hiking could mean the difference between getting lost or arriving at your destination safely. Our evaluation focused on accuracy, construction, ease to read/use, and auxiliary features such as glowing in the dark and sighting lenses for reading elevation angles. Keep reading to learn more about the Cammenga 27CS Lensatic Compass for Hiking and five others that made the grade.
Award: TOP PICK
WHY WE LIKE IT: This is the best military compass, thanks to a rugged cast aluminum frame construction and accuracy to within +/- 40 mils (2.25 degrees.)
Used by the U.S. Military, this compass is very easy to integrate into your outdoor lifestyle. Simply set your compass arrow to the intended direction and close down the sight tab to pin the wheel, preventing the compass from shifting. This is critical with repeated bounces and stress during expeditions. Kudos for not being liquid-filled, which makes it less susceptible to temperature or sudden accuracy changes. Every degree counts, after all.
This is the best compass for survival, thanks to being highly durable, shock, sand, and water-resistant. With an operating temperature between -50 F to +150 F, this compass is equally effective in blistering or sub-zero temperatures. This compass will be a must among your best camping/hiking gear. It will also help you when hunting if you have already packed the best camping stove to prepare your meals.
Award: HONORABLE MENTION
WHY WE LIKE IT: This compass for hiking comes with a base plate and a detachable snap-lock lanyard for easy hanging on one’s neck, making it a great choice for anyone needing quick access out on the trails.
This Suunto compass for hiking is made using a jewel bearing, steel needle, and a scratch-resistant acrylic bezel, measuring only 56mm by 104mm by 10mm, making it easier to hang using the provided detachable lanyard. A red scale makes it easier to pin and read on any map. Accuracy is rock solid, reading to within 2 degrees.
Although this hiking compass is durable (with operating temperatures down to -40 F), it does include a liquid capsule, which makes it prone to occasional bubbling, unlike our #1 pick, the Cammenga 27CS. Thus, using a flashlight is highly recommended, as the dial contains no backlighting. Pack this along with your best water bottle and you’ll be ready for your next hike.
Award: BEST FOR BEGINNERS
WHY WE LIKE IT: This hiking compass is great for kids and first-timers, featuring an inch/cm ruler for mapping and a durable acrylic base plate.
This hiking compass is very easy to use. Like the Suunto A-10, it uses a baseplate with scale markings to plot on a map, along with a bright red travel arrow to point towards your destination and a north-south orientation arrow to align the needle. The baseplate is made using strong acrylic, which can withstand a drop or two without getting damaged.
Thanks to this hiking compasses’ baseplate, we like it for cartographic mapping, which works well while in survival mode out in the backwoods. Bonus points for including a lanyard, making it easy to hang on one’s neck. Take this along on your next camping trip with your best two-person tent and you’ll never be lost.
Award: BEST ON A BUDGET
WHY WE LIKE IT: This budget-friendly model is one of the best hiking compasses for beginner explorers thanks to a measurement-marked baseplate, which is helpful for plotting map routes.
This hiking compass works best for beginner-level scouts who love to map. A clearly marked baseplate includes a centimeter ruler and the straight baseplate edges also help orienteers draw lines and triangulate. It is also accurate to within two degrees, which is great.
On the durability side, this hiking compass uses an acrylic base plate, which holds up well to heavy wear and tears. With no backlighting, we also recommend it for daytime use or accompanied by a flashlight. We love this hiking compass for beginners who are using a compass for the first time. Don’t forget to bring along the best flying insect spray.
Award: BEST FOR TRACKING WILDLIFE
WHY WE LIKE IT: This hiking compass comes with a sighting clinometer and super durable metal construction, making it ideal for hunters who want to measure height and slopes.
This hiking compass is very durable, consisting of an aluminum metal case and lid to protect the dial plate. It also boasts an IP65 waterproof rating, which means it can be exposed to occasional water splashes with no issues, including accidental drops in a river or lake. Kudos for being easy to read with a glow-in-the-dark arrow and dial.
We really like this hiking compasses’ utility, with two graduated scales for centimeters and plotting to measure distance on a map. Its sighting clinometer also measures slope angles in degrees from a 0 to 90-degree range, which is especially useful on rugged terrain. If you’re worried about being able to start a fire on your next camping trip, take a look at the best all-weather matches.
Award: MOST PORTABLE
WHY WE LIKE IT: This military compass comes with a sighting lens for elevation angle measurements and a strong die-cast aluminum construction, making it great for hunters who regularly trek on different elevations.
This military compass is very durable, encased in zinc die-cast aluminum which is wear and scratch-resistant. It is also waterproof and shake-proof, a must when out in the wilderness. Dials are easy to read, glowing in the dark at night time for improved visibility.
Like the #6 Proster IP65 Compass for Hiking, it also comes with a sighting lens that helps measure elevation angles, used to determine the height of various landmarks (e.g. hills) making it especially useful for hunters. Kudos for coming with an included waterproof pouch, lanyard, and a carabiner, making it a great starter set for beginner hunters. And if you want to hunt or work with ease at night, use the best headlamp.
In determining the best compasses for hiking, we explored accuracy, construction, ease to read/use, and auxiliary features such as glowing in the dark and sighting lenses for reading elevation angles.
We looked for hiking compasses with an accuracy of at least +/-1° for trekking in the wilderness and +/-2° for general orienteering, such as when you are hiking in the woods for the purposes of recreation.
Construction is also very important. Our preference is for aluminum or metal construction, followed by acrylic. The latter is less prone to chipping and cracking, especially on hard expeditions. We also prefer non-liquid dials, as they tend to form bubbles within the fluid from time to time and affect readings.
For experienced hikers, look for compasses that support blistering or sub-zero temperatures, as is the case with our #1 pick Cammenga 27CS, which supports operating temperature between -50 F to +150 F.
The best compasses for hiking should also be easy to use. Baseplates should have clearly marked measurements for centimeters to properly plot on a map and compasses should boast extra features such as sight tabs for wheel pinning, thus allowing your reading to stay stable while walking.
Kudos for hiking compasses with sighting lenses that also allow users to measure elevation, popular with hunters who frequently trek rugged terrain for the perfect catch.