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.)
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.
Top 6 Best Compasses for Hiking
#1 Cammenga 27CS Lensatic Compass for Hiking
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.)
- Comparable to the U.S. Army compass
- High degree of accuracy
- Sight tab keeps compass reading in place
- More expensive than some picks on list
- Bulkier than many compasses on list
- Phosphorescent not as bright as tritium
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.
#2 Suunto A-10 NH Metric Recreational Field Compass for Hiking
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.
- Best for map navigation
- Snap lock lanyard for convenience
- Includes fixed declination correction for more accurate readings
- Luminosity could be a lot better
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, theCammenga 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.
#3 Orienteering Compass for Hiking
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.
- Works great with cartographic mapping
- Easy to read & clear markings
- Durable acrylic body
- Bubbles may form in the liquid dial
- Needle may stick from time to time
- Bevel a bit tighter than other compasses tested
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.
#4 Boy Scout Compass for Hiking
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.
- Very accurate (+/- two degrees)
- Great for beginners to learn orienteering
- Includes lightweight paracord strap
- The needle could be better quality
- No adjustable declination
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 tear. With no backlighting, we also recommend it for day time use or accompanied with 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.
#5 Proster IP65 Compass for Hiking
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.
- Great for measuring elevation
- Durable aluminum metal casing
- Glow in the dark arrow and dial
- No adjustable declination; only fixed
- Rotating bezel not fully protected by the cover
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.
#6 Aofar AF-4580 Military Compass
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.
- Durable die-cast aluminum construction
- Accurate elevation angle measurements
- Included waterproof pouch and lanyard
- Glowing magnet arrow could be brighter
- Camo pouch could use stronger fabric
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.
How We Decided
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 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.
Best Compasses for Hiking Buyer’s Guide
The Most Important Features to Consider
The golden standard for accuracy clearly belongs to our #1 pick Cammenga 27CS, accurate to within +/- 40 mils or 2.25 degrees. For experienced hikers, look for hiking compasses with an accuracy of at least +/-2.25°. For beginner orienteers like Cub Scouts, +/-5° or greater is more than enough for simple excursions in the woods or a backyard.
Our favorite hiking compasses have all metal or aluminum bodies with lids for protecting the dial plate. Our #1 pick Cammenga 27CS is a shining example, designed and used by the U.S. Military with a heavy-duty cast aluminum frame that can withstand temperatures between -50 F to +150 F, Acrylic dark or clear backplates are also moderately durable, but prone to chipping and cracking with excess wear and tear on the trails.
- Easy to Read & Use
Our recommended picks have extra features that make it easy to read and use, such as clearly marked measurements on baseplates, glow in the dark dials for improved nighttime visibility, and sight tabs that allow users to pin compass reading in place. Some of our picks even include lanyards, which make it comfortable to hang on the neck for easy access.
Compasses for Hiking FAQs
What can mess up a compass?
Try to avoid having your hiking compass in contact with steel, telephones, and other hard objects, some of which are magnetized and can mess up readings. It is also very important to not expose liquid dial compasses to extreme temperatures, which can form bubbles in the fluid from time to time.
What compass does the US military use?
The U.S. Military uses our #1 pick Cammenga 27CS. Cammenga is also the official supplier of the Army and Marines. This gives us all of the confidence in the world the compass will work as intended.
Can a compass be wrong?
Yes, even the best compasses like the Suunto A-10 field compass can be wrong from time to time. Compass needles could be affected if exposed to a magnet, since the compass needle is a magnet. By default, compass needles point north and this reading is affected when exposed to another magnet.
Do I need a compass for hiking?
Compass’ are highly useful for hiking. A map and a compass allow you to better orient yourself in the event you get lost. Note, GPS-enabled cell phones and other devices may drop reception if you are trapped in the wilderness, but a compass never loses its function unless it gets damaged.
What is the most accurate compass?
Generally, the most accurate compass’ are accurate plus or minus two degrees. There are many compass’ on the market that meet this criterion. Of our recommended picks, the #1 #1 Cammenga 27CS Lensatic Compass for Hiking does an exceptional job, accurate to within +/- 40 mils (2.25 degrees)
Who are the best compass manufacturers?
We think all of the above companies manufacture excellent compasses for hiking. Other products that nearly made our list include the REI Compass, the Silva Ranger 515 Compass.