Whether you are exploring the woods or hiking the trails, a hiking compass is an essential piece of kit to easily navigate the wilderness.

A smartphone, watch with built-in GPS, or handheld GPS unit can help to navigate the more difficult and out of the way trails. But, for the most reliable tool to navigate the hiking trails the compass can rarely be beaten.

A hiking compass is easy-to-use and shows several measurements, bearings, and directions (N, S, E, W). Plus, the compass gives the option to triangulate to help establish the location.

By combining the compass with a local map, it shouldn’t be difficult to navigate the local area even for those with minimal navigation skills.

Characteristics of a Good Hiking Compass

Here are four of the qualities to expect from the best hiking compass:


A fast and reliable compass has the ability to quickly show north. A slow or old compass are certain to make progress through the wilderness that much slower.

A hiking compass that gives the desired direction quickly is certainly needed to help those in a rush or experiencing issues with bad weather.


A hard and resilient hiking compass is essential for the outdoors because of the rough and difficult terrain. A compass easily needs to be able to accept the occasion drop to the ground without breaking or showing signs of damage.

Plus, it must be more resilient to the changing weather conditions that are likely to be experienced out on the trails.


A hiking compass should include a variety of practical features. Hiking compass can benefit from having add-ons like a magnifier or declination scale.

A magnifier is certain to benefit those needing help with reading small print or markings on the map. Plus, this should also make it easier to read the map in low-light conditions.

A ruler is a practical addition to make it possible to determine the distance.

A large size bezel is useful because it means the hiking gloves don’t need to be removed when using it.

A great feature for the more skilled navigator is the clinometer with its ability to determine slope angles.


A hiking compass doesn’t need to be an expensive piece of equipment. A basic unit with a base plate and the ability to adjust the declination can cost in the region of $15-$18.

Many of the compass models with a baseplate and a mounted clear plastic unit are referred to as orienteering models.

Other options for navigating the trails

Lately, the hiking GPS device and iPhone (or other Smartphones) have become a popular option to help navigate in the wilderness.

While the dedicated GPS unit is hard-wearing and able to handle the difficult conditions, the regular cell phone isn’t built for these conditions and will soon stop working if it gets dropped, gets wet, or the batteries run out.

By using the compass you have the added benefit of being able to walk with the trail ahead while also noticing the wide-ranging natural elements in the distance. This makes is possible to notice the changing conditions and environment.

But, with a GPS unit there is a greater chance of spending a lot of time looking down at the display and not noticing what is taking place around you.