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Which compass is best for me?

Silva • Gear guides • Jun 23, 2022 • 5 mins

Compass buying guide from Silva

In some sense, all compasses do the same job but not everyone uses them for the same purpose. There are many different models with variations in features, accuracy and functionality. We take a look at some of the best on the market to help you decide which compass is right for you.
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A compass is a compass, right? Points to north, allows you to find a bearing, helps get you from A to B etc. Surely they're all the same?

Well... yes and no. For sure, in a basic sense, all compasses do the same job but people need them for different activities whether that’s walking, orienteering, biking, trail running, or major expeditions. That’s why you’ll find different models with variations in features, accuracy and functionality.

We've compiled a list of your favourite outdoor activities and the best compass for the job to help you save time and money when choosing your next compass.

Best compass for walking in the British countryside

Silva Classic compass

Silva Classic compass

Silva Classic compass

This is Silva’s entry-level compass, designed to meet the needs of schools, youth groups and those requiring a basic model. Its baseplate features map measuring in millimetres and 1:25k and 1:50k map scales, the same scales used on OS Maps. It has a standard rotatable housing and a declination scale inside the capsule, allowing you to compensate for local magnetic variation. The compass is supplied with a detachable safety-release lanyard.

Another great compass for casual walking in the British countryside in the Silva Field Compass ...coming soon!

Best compass for hill walking in our National Parks

Silva Ranger compass

Silva Ranger compass

Silva Ranger compass

A top quality, no-nonsense model from Silva, the Ranger is perfect for general UK outdoor use as it features 1:25k and 1:50k map scales, as per OS maps. The rotating bezel has a rubber grip for easy handling, and the baseplate is curved at the back-end for a perfect fit in the hand. Red and black north-south lines in the capsule bottom ensure easy and safe map-setting. There’s a magnifying lens to help with map detail, and a declination scale inside the capsule, allowing adjustment for local magnetic variation. The distinct arrow, clear scales and markings combine to make navigating easier, with luminous markings to help navigation in low-light conditions. The Ranger comes with a detachable lanyard with 1:25 and 1:50 marked scales, so you can use it to measure distances on a map.

Another great compass for a day out on the hills is the Silva Expedition 4 (see below).

Best compass for the Duke of Edinburgh Award

Looking for a compass suitable for the Duke of Edinburgh Award? The Silva Ranger compass and the Silva Expedition 4 compass have both been recommended by DofE.

Best compass for a navigation course or qualification

Silva Expedition 4 compass

Silva Expedition 4 compass

Silva Expedition 4 compass

A more advanced-level baseplate model, the Expedition 4 is designed to work with international mapping. There’s map-measuring in both millimetres and inches, plus scales of 1:25k, 1:40k and 1:50k, allowing use with maps from most regions. Like the Ranger there’s a magnifying lens, a rotating bezel indented for easy handling, a declination scale inside the capsule, and red and black north-south lines in the capsule bottom. The Expedition 4 also has luminous markings, and comes with a detachable lanyard.

Another great compass if you're doing a navigational course or qualification is the Silva Expedition S (see below).

Best compass for a European-based trip

Silva Expedition S compass

Silva Expedition S compass 

Silva Expedition S compass

Designed for experienced users and professionals, Silva’s Expedition S compass is a global leader when it comes to accuracy, precision and durability. The first thing you’ll notice is the mirror mounted in the hinged lid; this allows you to sight a direction or an object with the compass capsule visible at the same time. The Expedition S also features an easy-handling Dryflex™ housing, and silicone rubber feet which give greater precision against a map.

There’s map measuring in mm and inches, plus a wide selection of map scales: 1:24k, 1:25k, 1:40k and 1:50k. In particular the Expedition S comes with a clinometer for measuring slope angle, useful for detecting avalanche risk and to establishing how challenging your journey will be. By determining the slope, you can also work out the extra distance you will travel due to the slope. The Expedition S lanyard has 1:25 and 1:50 marked scales.

Best compass for a global expedition

Silva Expedition Global 360 compass

Silva Expedition Global 360 compass

Silva Expedition Global 360 compass

If you plan to use your compass in different parts of the world, it’s important to know that there are three different zones for compasses (Magnetic Equator, Magnetic North and Magnetic South) and most compasses work in only one. If you use your compass in the wrong zone, it will show the wrong north. However, Silva’s Expedition Global 360 compass has a global needle which works in all three zones, meaning you can use it anywhere in the world. Like the Expedition S it also features map measuring in mm and inches, scales 1:24k, 1:25k, 1:40k and 1:50k scales, a magnifying lens, DryFlex™ rubber grip, an adjuster for magnetic declination, luminous markings, a slope card plus a 1:25, and 1:50 marked distance lanyard.


These are just five of the compasses we have available, giving you a flavour of how specialist features and design play a part in determining which compass will be right for you and your favourite activities.

Learn how to use a compass in our free guide to using a compass plus find out more about the different types of features in our beginner's guide to the compass.

Silva

Silva are a Swedish outdoor brand founded in 1933. Since then, they've been developing compasses, headlamps and other outdoor equipment that help you enjoy the outdoors even more.

Published: Jun 23, 2022 Edited: Jun 23, 2022

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