Survival Guru

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Q: What's the best compass?

Which compass is better, the Silva Ranger or the Suunto MC-2?
JonahtHuntington
New York

By: Question from: ,

Free Newsletters

Dispatch This week's featured articles, reviews, and videos. Sent twice weekly.
News From the Field The most important breaking news from around the Web. Sent daily.
Outside GOOur hottest adventure-travel tips and trips. Sent occasionally.
Outside Partners Outside-approved deals and special offers from select partners. Sent occasionally.

Subscribe
to Outside
Save Over
70%

Magazine Cover

iPad Outside+ App Access Now Included!

Advertisement

Four-Star Camp Food

$ad.smallDesc

$ad.smallDesc

$ad.smallDesc

A:

I use both in my courses but prefer the Silva Ranger as the bearings and tickmarks on the compass housing are easier to read. Remember that a compass of any kind can be drastically affected by iron ore deposits in the ground, mining activity (which can be commong in places like Alaska and Canada), powerlines, if used inside your vehicle, proximity to a jacket's metal zipper, and in one case I know of, when read to close to a woman's wire-rimmed bra.

If you aren't versed in land navigation and map-reading, consider taking a short course to familiarize yourself with the basics of shooting a bearing, adjusting for declination, boxing, triangulation, and barehanded methods. You will also want to find out what the current magnetic declination is for your state as most topo maps are 10-40 years old and have an outdated declination. Adjusting for magnetic declination is critical or you will end up lost! Go to www.usgs.gov for more information on your region.

With the arrival of GPS, map and compass skills have languished or disappeared amongst outdoor explorers and in some cases, amongst professional guides. There is no substitute for being able to navigate through the wilds with a baseplate compass and a 7.5-minute topographic map. Outdoor gear shops like REI offer 1-2 day courses in the basics and chances are that there is an orienteering club in your region that provides weekend events. Short of that, everyone should have a copy of the classic book "Be Expert With Map & Compass" at their disposal. This will show you the baseline skills for coupling a compass with a topo map. One last note, a compass that gets a bubble in the liquid housing should be discarded.

More at Outside

Next in Adventure (59 of 101)

What should you do if you're injured while backcountry skiing?

Read More »
Current Issue Outside Magazine

Subscribe and get a great deal! Two free Buyer's Guides plus a free GoLite Sport Bottle. Monthly delivery of Outside—your ultimate resource for today's active lifestyle. All that and big savings!

Free Newsletters

Dispatch This week's featured articles, reviews, and videos. Sent twice weekly.
News From the Field The most important breaking news from around the Web. Sent daily.
Gear of the Day The latest products, reviews, and editors' picks. Coming soon.
Outside Partners Outside-approved deals and special offers from select partners. Sent occasionally.

Ask a Question

Our gear experts await your outdoor-gear-related questions. Go ahead, ask them anything.

* We might edit your question for length or clarity. If it's not about gear, we'll just ignore it.