Do You Really Need a Compass?

18th Feb 2016

When planning to go hiking and/or camping do you really need a map and compass if you have a GPS? Should you keep a compass in your emergency kit? In today's world of high tech devices there are purpose-built GPS devices as well as many of our everyday devices such as our phones that have a built-in GPS. We have become highly dependent on them but what happens if they fail and you are out on that long hike away from camp? Driving on some unfamiliar roads? The short answer is yes, you should at least carry a compass if not a topo map as well.

Primary Tools for Navigation

A detailed topo map and a compass are still the primary tools for navigation in the wilderness. A compass helps you orient the map, identify land features, and locate your position. You may hike for days on a trail and never even use the compass. Take a wrong turn and then a compass suddenly becomes one of the most important tools in your pack. The ability to navigate with map and compass is a crucial skill, especially if you hike and travel off-trail. You can take a class on land navigation or utilize the many resources on the internet to become familiar with basic land navigation techniques. This is a skill you should learn and practice regularly as someday it may save your life.

While today we will not be going into details about how to perform any actual land navigation we are just focusing on the need for the tool itself, the compass. When looking at purchasing a compass you should look for a good quality compass and not one of those accessory compasses such as a key ring compass. You will want something like a lensatic liquid filled compass, preferably one that folds up and offers protection for itself when packed away. Once you have found the compass that you like take the time to learn how to use it as we mentioned earlier it may someday save your life.

Examples of Good Compasses:

  • Lensatic Liquid Filled Compass
  • Most Military Style Compass
  • Folding Map Compass
  • Many other kinds of compasses

Written by Stephen Faykus of
A long term IT professional and outdoor enthusiast. Military background that truly compliments both professional and personal life. Is very knowledgeable in many areas including outdoor experiences such as hiking, camping, survival etc.