Browse By

Guide to Magnetic Compass

Deserts, seas, jungles and mountain passes are a challenge to navigate when you are lost and wherever you look it is the same scenery.  These environments are infamous for testing the human spirit.  Challenges here are not only dealing with dangerous large and small animals but it is with nature and the struggle of finding.  Even when you are able to deal with all of the prior issues the best course of action is to find a way out of this.

Surely there are proven ancient ways of navigating with the stars and the sun, but these become useless when the sky is covered with grey clouds.  You may be thinking that my trusty GPS will get me out of this and you may be right but only if the battery of the device lasts this predicament.  The only safe tool to get you out is a magnetic compass.

That is right, a magnetic compass, something people have been using for over a thousand years.  A compass is an instrument which is used for navigation and orientation of a landscape.  Compass was originally invented by the Chinese Han Dynasty around 206 BC.

Types of Compass

Compass comes in various types.  This is actually dependent on how these are built and their purpose.

  • Dry Compass:  This type was invented in Europe around 1300’s.  This simply consists of three elements of which there is a freely pivoting needle on a pin enclosed usually in a small box.
  • Bearing Compass:  This is a magnetic compass where the needle is mounted in such a way that it allows taking of bearings of objects by aligning them  with the fixed line (lubber) on the compass.  This line represents 0 degree angle or the zero point relative to which the bearings of the other objects are measured.  Example of such a compass is a surveyor’s compass.
  • Liquid Compass: In this design the needle is immersed in a liquid to dampen the motion thus protecting against excessive swing or wobble.  The main use for this design was aboard a ship.  The heavy weight of this design limited its use.
  • Sun Compass:  It uses the position of the Sun  in the sky to determine the directions of the cardinal points allowing for adjustments for the local latitude and longitude and time of day. A simple sundial can be used as a very good Sun compass.  Limitations of this design is the calculation involved as well as the need of Sun to be shining.

Today’s modern compass are devices which are either filled with air or some sort of a neutral liquid (such as lamp oil, mineral oil or ethyl alcohol).

List of Recommended Compass




CMMG Official US Military Tritium Lensatic Compass Box

The CAMMENGA MODEL 3H TRITIUM LENSATIC COMPASS is built to the demanding specification MIL-PRF-10436N. Battle tested through rigorous shock, water, sand proof, and functional from -50o F to +150o F. Seven Tritium Micro Lights allow for navigation in low-light conditions, without the need for a flashlight or any other light source. Tritium Micro Lights remain luminous for over twelve years, maintenance-free. Equipped with a magnifying lens, sight wire, and dial graduations in both degrees and mils to ensure accurate readings. The Copper Induction Damping System slow the rotation of the magnet without the use of liquids. Built to last with an aluminum frame and waterproof housing. The CAMMENGA COMPASS is depended on by fighting forces, government agencies, and adventurous outdoor enthusiasts around the world.

Brunton F-BOSS70M Mirrored Baseplate Compass The 70M is the re-evolution of the award-winning Eclipse 8099. Still featuring the three clinometers system, combined clear base plate for mapping and mirror for sighting, and a round level bubble for more accurate measurements, the 70M has been fitted with our new Brunton O.S.S. alignment system for even greater precision and reliability.
Silva Ranger CL – Compass

The Silva Ranger 515 CL and Ranger 515CLQ compass deliver superior accuracy, even in the most demanding conditions. The split-sighting mirror ensures superior accuracy when navigating on distant landmarks. The baseplate has three scales for quick, easy plotting with a topographic map. Silicone feet provide positive grip on a map. The geared declination allows you to set and forget the declination for the area you are in, ensuring constant compensation for this variable when taking bearings. A clinometer lets you measure angles of inclination.1:24,000 map scale.1:25,000 and 1:50,000 romer scales.Clinometer.Magnifiying lens.Luminous markings for use a night.Geared declination adjustment.Silicone feet keep the compass from sliding on a map.Includes lanyard with screwdriver to set declination.dimensions: 4X2.5″.Weight: 2.4oz.

SE CC4580 Military Lensatic Sighting Compass with Pouch (1) Thermo-elastic liquid-filled capsule with floating dial
(2) Rotating bezel ring
(3) Ruler units on the sides measuring in both inches and centimeters
(4) Built-in bubble level
(5) Folding thumb ring
(6) Tripod screw hole on base
(7) Adjustable diopter sighting lens
(8) Sighting lines on cover
(9) Conversion chart for angle, gradient & distance on back plate
(10) Heavy-duty digital camouflage print cover
(11) 36” lanyard
(12) Water-resistant nylon pouch
Professional Multifunction Military Army Metal Sighting Compass High Accuracy Waterproof Compass Pocket Military Army Geology Compass Camouflage Color Offering a little different style to the traditional Military style compass, there is no flip up optic to peer through (like in a traditional lensatic compass). This model uses a true sighting optic that allows you a direct read of the internal compass card housed in the fluid filled capsule. And the vertical lubber line of the sighting optic lets you take full advantage of the 1 degree resolution used on the compass card.
Brunton Geo Pocket Transit Compass with 0-360 Degree Scale

Taking suggestions and ideas from working professionals, the Brunton Pocket Transit Geo Compass is the most advanced reincarnation of the legendary Transit compass to date. A design that has been refined since Geologist DW Brunton created the first Pocket Transit in 1894, the Pocket Transit Geo Compass is set in a stout and waterproof aluminum billet and has a sapphire jewel bearing, leveling bubbles, and an induction damped needle for quick and accurate readings. Buck horn style sights increase the accuracy when sighting azimuth or vertical angles. The single NdFeB magnet readily resists demagnetization. Unique to the Pocket Transit Geo is an inclinometer located at the hinge, which is accurate within plus or minus two degrees. The adjustable needle is fitted with a locking mechanism, while the magnetic declination adjustment allows East or West declination settings. Made in the USA, the Pocket Transit Geo Compass has a simple and solid construction that will last a lifetime and won’t let you down when you need it most.

SE CC4580 Military Lensatic Sighting Compass with Pouch

Leave a Reply