The best way to avoid getting lost in the wild is by bringing along a map and compass. If you don’t have either one, then make sure your sense of direction isn’t too bad before going off-trail or exploring unknown territory.
A compass is often seen as an old-school piece of equipment in today’s hyper-techie world where everything is electronic GPS.
However, a compass is one piece of survival gear you should hold on to if you are headed out in the backcountry, whether you are going on an off-trail hike, an extended backpacking trip, or any type of outdoor adventure where you are going to be away from civilization and in the wild.
A compass is a survivalist’s best friend when you are lost.
In this review, we’ve hand-picked some of the best survival compasses that we have found that you can be sure will get you back on track.
Best Survival Compass – Short List
- Best Survival Compass –The Tritium Lensatic Compass
- Best Budget Compass –Suunto A-10 in Compass
- Best for Land Navigation –Suunto Mc-2g Compass
- Best Intermediate Compass –Suunto M-3 G Compass
- Best Upgraded –Suunto A-30 Nh Usgs Compass
- Best Classic Compass –Sharp Survival Glow in Dark Compass
- Best Tactical Compass – Military Prismatic Compass by Ueasy
Best Survival Compass – The Long Version
We won’t lie there are a ton of compasses out there that can be used for a survival or emergency situation. The list that we came up with was one that we found by researching, looking at reviews, and when possible testing them out.
There really is no “best” out there. There are definitely better and worse, though it often comes down to personal preference and what exactly you are going to use it for.
1. The Tritium Lensatic Compass
Best Survival Compass
Length: 9 x 6 x 3 inches
Weight: 0.5 Pound
Pros: Waterproof, Has microlights making navigation possible in the dark, Durable and can survive extreme situations, Very accurate, Sealed to debris (Sand proof)
Cons: The dial can get stuck sometimes, a bit heavy
Description: The Tritium Lensatic Compass stands as our favorite compass. As it is the US military’s official manufacturer you can be sure it has been tested in every form of extreme environment.
It is made in the USA which is always a plus, is accurate, easy to read, and built to last just about any stress test. If you are looking for a rugged durable compass that won’t break under pressure, the Tritium Lensatic Compass is for you.
The Tritium Lensatic Compass’s defining feature if we can say that, has microlights that glow in the dark making it so that you do not need any external light to read the compass in low light conditions. It also comes with a magnifying lens, which helps you navigate better and get exact measurements right.
This Compass is used by military and security forces around the world so it is often referred to as a tactical compass which means it is more rugged and often more able to withstand rough environments.
If you are a hiker or camper this will do more than you could ask for. It is manufactured with an aluminum frame, is waterproof and can withstand freezing rain and even underwater.
The Tritium Lensatic Compass is military-grade which means it has passed through serious testing and has been used in extreme environments. This compass is the real deal. We liked this compass as it is much more durable than the Suunto and is still super cheap.
The Tritium Lensatic Compass is one of the best compasses you can find. Whether you plan on going hiking mountains or finding your way back home on a Friday night from the bar, this compass with see it does its job. Your search stops here.
Why we like it: It looks like your classic outdoorsy compass. It’s light, cheap and just plain works. We used to use this thing as a boy scout back in the day, so it has that bit of a nostalgia factor.
2. Suunto A-10 in Metric Recreational Field Compass
Best Budget Compass
Dimension: 11.5 x 5.25 x 1 inches
Weight: 1.41 ounces
Pros: Lightweight makes it easy to carry, Scratch-resistant, Takes a really accurate reading
Cons: Liquid filled capsule (more fragile)
Description: The Suunto A-10 Metric Recreational Compass is made of durable acrylic material, is scratch-resistant, is small and easy to carry and fits perfectly in the palm of your hand.
It also has a detachable snap-lock, which allows you to wear it around your neck. This Compass makes use of a unique two-zone system, which enhances its accuracy and reliability. It is your basic standard compass. Simple design and lines and that’s why we like it.
It is a popular brand made and you have likely seen it everywhere as it seems to have done a great job marketing itself in the early days.
The company originally is from Finland and have been making compasses since 1936. So one thing is for sure, they know compasses.
So much so that the Suunto will be on this list a few more times as they just have the best compasses out there. They are rigorously tested and are as durable as they come.
This compass is another quality compass manufactured by Suunto and one compass you can rely on to get you out of a tight spot.
Why we like it: This Compass is very accurate in its navigation which is why many still opt for this type, and may just be your saving grace when you have lost your way.
3. Suunto Mc 2g Global Compass
Best Compass For Land Navigating
Dimension:3.98 x 0.71 x 2.56 inches
Weight: 0.05 Kilograms
Pros: It has a global needle making it accurate irrespective of your location, Glows in the dark with a luminescent dial that helps you see even in the dark, It has an inbuilt inclinometer
Cons:The needle can get stuck on the inclinometer
Description: The Suunto MC-2G Global Compass has a global needle that works without a hitch despite no matter what part of the world you are in. This compass also glows in the dark, so you needn’t fear of navigating in the dark as the light will show you the way.
The compass also has comes with a magnifying lens and an adjustable declination correction scale which is a few more little addons to our first Suunto pick.
MC-2G is another quality Suunto compass and was manufactured to survive in the most challenging and extreme conditions. It is another great compass from Suunto and can be used for any type of outdoor adventure; from leisurely to extreme.
The Suunto MC-2G Global Compass is a compass that comes highly recommended; it is well crafted and will get you through whatever mother nature throws at you.
Why we like it: The compass outshines its competitors through its inbuilt inclinometer, which can measure diverse terrains, slopes, heights, and angles which makes it handy if you are hiking or out in unfamiliar terrain.
4. Suunto M-3 G Compass
Best Intermediate Compass
Dimension: 8 x 4 x 1 inches
Weight: 0.1 Pounds
Pros: Global needle, It can find the North easily, Luminescent markings, which aids navigation, Declination adjustment, It has a lanyard that makes for easy carrying
Cons:The dial can come loose with heavy use
Description: Like the MC-2G Compass, the Suunto M-3 G Compass has a global needle that can work anywhere in the world.
It may not come as much of a surprise that this one also has luminescent markings, which aids in navigating in the dark or low lighting conditions. It also has an adjustable declination and a magnifying lens, which makes for easy navigation.
The M3 G compass also comes with a clinometer and a declination as well as a UTM grid scale. Another quality product from Suunto, with only a slight difference from Suunto MC-2G Compass, iss a bit faster in locating North.
This compass fulfills most intermediate expeditioners who are only looking for basic navigation. As we go through these reviews, you will notice that the Suunto products are getting a bit fancier and more expensive.
Why we like it: While our number two pick is the simplest and cheapest one out there, the M-3 G definitely has more capacity and features that we would recommend for a more skilled navigator or someone using it for backcountry use rather than everyday or around the house use.
5. Suunto A-30 Nh Usgs Compass
Best Classic Upgrade
Dimension: 2.24 x 4.49 x 0.39 in
Weight: 0.1 Pounds
Pros: Lightweight, Durable and scratch-resistant, Two-zone system making readings very accurate, Luminescent markings, Magnifying glass
Cons: More Delicate than others
Description: Like its predecessors, the Suunto A-30 NH USGS also has luminescent markings, making for easy navigation for when its night time.
This compass is also very accurate in its readings, is durable, can withstand harsh conditions and is scratch resistant. It also has a two-zone system, making it able to work in any part of the world. Accompanying it is a lanyard that you can use to hang it around your neck, making it easy to use.
Another high-quality compass from Suunto can be used in all parts of the world for orienteering. Like some of the others, it is lightweight and designed to fit just into your palms and has a high-grade steel needle with a baseplate.
Why we like it: Like other Suunto compasses, this one is also easy to carry and has good reviews across the board. Though this is not an expert-level compass and is not as durable as some of the others it is perfect for the light-user who may find themselves in a sticky situation.
6. Sharp Survival Glow in the Dark Compass
Best Classic Compass
Dimension: 1.95 x 1.95 x 0.35 inches.
Weight: 0.14 Kilograms.
Pros: Fluorescent light design that glows in the dark, 360-degree rotating bezel, Degrees are marked, Good bargain for its price tag
Cons:Can break easily
Description: Sharp Survival Glow in the Dark Compass is a classic copper compass with a nice rustic feel. It’s a multi-usage compass can be a nice everyday item or – hiking, camping, backpacking, or any outdoor activity.
It has a fluorescent light design that glows in the dark and can be used in any weather. It also has a 360-degree rotating bezel, which helps you to find your way quickly and accurately.
This Compass is manufactured by Sharp Survival has a premium feel because of its copper material which we really like over most of the other plastic ones on the list.
It is an old-fashioned model that is a reliable brand and model wherever you may find yourself in the world. The compass is perfect for any survival kit or emergency bug-out bag.
Why we like it: We are a sucker for aesthetics and we can’t help but feel like we are a wild survivor man with this thing. There is something about non-plastic materials that makes things feel raw.
7. Military Prismatic Sighting Compass by Ueasy
Best Tactical Compass
Dimension: 2.6 x 2.1 x 1 inches
Weight: 0.2 Kilograms
Material: Aluminium alloy
Pros: Lightweight makes it easy to carry and handle, Strong and durable and can survive under extreme conditions, Accurate readings, Fluorescent design making it navigable during the dark
Cons:Lines do not align with the Compass
Description: The Ueasy Military Prismatic Sighting Compass looks like a tactical or military-grade compass which means durable and weather resistant.
Its the aluminum alloy does this job making sure it will work in extreme weather and circumstances. What makes this one a bit different than some of the others listed is that it possesses a sighting telescope, which allows for accurate positioning.
It comes with an inbuilt bubble level, which improves its accuracy to navigate. As it is a military-grade compass it does fine in harsh weather conditions, and because it is waterproof needn’t worry if you get caught in a rainstorm or if you need to take it on a rafting trip.
This Compass also has a special fluorescent light that absorbs sunlight and lights up the dial when it is dark, making it navigable when it is dark.
Why we like it: The Ueasy Military Compass is a multifunctional compass that is more rugged than some of the Suunto compasses. The compass comes with a thirty-day guarantee together with a lifetime warranty, which makes it an easy buy.
Buyers Guide to Finding the Best Survival Compass
Why You Need a Compass?
If you lose the trail, get stuck in the wilderness or stranded on a mountainside you are likely going to be SOL (shit-out-of-luck) if you don’t have any survival gear with you.
While you may need more than a compass to survive, (ie. wilderness survival kit) a map and compass can be a saving grace if you are lost. In any wilderness environment, you likely will not have any wireless connection which is why it’s always wise to carry some simple navigation equipment with you – which means stick to an ole’ fashioned compass.
Yes, it’s old-fashioned, but it’s much more reliable, and reliability is the name of the game in any survival situation.
Although you might just think that you can just bring your cell phone or GPS device on your trip, however, it is likely that you may not get reception where you are going and if you have never been there before, it’s difficult to know what the terrain will be like.
A compass will pay back its weight in gold when all hope seems lost. When you are lost and unable to find your way it can point you to safety.
Knowing the right direction of where to go is incredibly important in an emergency situation. Even if you are stranded somewhere with a map, the topography may not be identifiable. With a compass, you are sure to not be completely helpless.
Even the military realizes the importance of a compass. Army rangers, green berets and even navy seals carry with them a compass when they go on expeditions.
Any time you go into the backcountry you will be faced with unknown situations. The idea of any wilderness preparedness 101 is to reduce the number of unknowns by being prepared as much as possible, by having the right gear and knowledge so that you will be ready, for whatever may come.
See more: Best Wilderness Survival Kits
3 Different Types of Compasses
The basic idea of a compass is to find your location on the planet by using magnetic poles and curves. There are three types of compasses:
- Button compasses – Can be stand-alone or built into any type of survival gear
- Baseplate compasses – Can be rigid or foldable and are the most common for orienteering
- Lensatic compasses – These are more often for military use
What to consider before buying a survival compass?
Before buying a compass some things to be aware about:
Declination has to do with the distinction in the angle between the true North and the magnetic North and dependent on the particular location you are presently in. A compass needs to have a declination adjustment where you set it once then you can let it work its magic.
A compass with a global needle will be able to work accurately and effectively in any part of the world. A compass that does not possess a global needle may not be accurate in the northern or southern part of the world.
A sighting mirror helps you have a clear view of your location on the Compass; it allows you to see the compass dial and the background simultaneously.
You have no idea the situation you will find yourself in when you need a compass. If you are lost in the dark being able to see where you are going is huge! A compass that glows in the dark or has luminescent markings is very handy.
This optical device is used to measure the height or vertical angle of a slope or other objects.
Having a waterproof compass helps tremendously. This is an essential feature especially if you are going on any hiking during the rainy seasons or in any canoe or kayaking trip.
Survival Compass FAQ
How do I know if my compass is accurate?
You can tell if your compass is right by testing it against a GPS. You can use a stand-alone device or one on your phone.
Why is my compass reading backward?
A backward reading is caused by a condition called reverse polarity. When a personal electronic is in the room, it can make your needle go in the wrong direction.
How do you correct a compass?
If your compass is reading backward, you might need to readjust it. Use a strong magnet to do this.
Why is a compass good for survival?
A compass is good for survival as it will help you overcome any emergency survival situations, if you are lost, need to find a specific location, and navigate during bad weather a compass can help you find your way. You might use it on a hike, or if you are new to the place.
How to use a compass?
A compass tells you where north is. All of the surface area on earth has a magnetic field that comes from two poles, one north and one south. A compass will help you in pointing you in the right direction
What is a good compass?
A good compass is flat and has a long straight edge. You can use it to draw lines and take measurements on your map.
Survival compasses are great tools for navigation. They’re widely available and inexpensive, which means that they can be a lifesaver if you get lost or stranded in an emergency situation.
We hope this review of some of the best survival compasses will help you choose one to keep with your camping gear, hunting equipment, backpacking kit – wherever it needs to go. Which type do you think is right for you?