/ Compasses - what to buy

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Oujmik - on 06 Jun 2014
Looking to pick up a standard hillwalking compass for general navigation (old one broken). The Silva Expedition 4 seems to be the standard, but is it really the best? What makes it good?

I have to admit that I don't really do much map and compass navigation so I don't have much opinion on what makes a good compass. The only features I know I need are a needle that points north and, the rotating dial for bearings and a straight edge to lay on the map, but I can get that for 5 (unless the needle doesn't point north on cheap ones!)
davidbeynon - on 06 Jun 2014
In reply to Oujmik:

There's always something better, but the Silva 4 is a good all rounder & as good as anything you will find for the same price.
Bob_the_Builder - on 06 Jun 2014
In reply to Oujmik:

Its nice to have the scaled rule on the side as well. Silva 4 works well for me.
The Ex-Engineer - on 06 Jun 2014
In reply to Oujmik:
> The Silva Expedition 4 seems to be the standard, but is it really the best?

In a word yes.

Anything with a smaller baseplate is worthless if you use 1:25,000 maps. The Silva needles are better magnetised and their compasses are generally more robust than cheaper alternatives. The dial and baseplate markings are fairly permanent. There are luminous markers on dial and baseplate and finally all the markings on the baseplate are logical and useful - metric and imperial rulers, romers for 25K, 40K & 50K maps, plus a stencil hole for map marking.

I got at least a decade out of my last one and I bought a replacement with no hesitation.

If you are concerned about cost, Go Outdoors will knock 10% of whatever the cheapest price you can find online. [Although Alan et al will no doubt quite sensibly suggest you should support your local specialist retailer.]
sbc_10 - on 06 Jun 2014
In reply to Oujmik:

I use one with a protective cover for the rotating components. Yes a bit heavier but lasts for years. Has more uses and functions to boot as well.

eg. http://silva.se/sites/default/files/products/110131_Fiskars%204454.jpg
highclimber - on 06 Jun 2014
In reply to Oujmik:

like most things it's worth spending more to get a better product. The Silva 4 is the standard by which I judge all other compasses. There are other makes of similar standard like Recta and Suunto but I invariably use my Silva and recommend it to others.

My only criticism of the silva is I find the bezel quite stiff to turn though mine is quite a few years old now and could be a symptom of that. Anyone else have the same issue?

Anyway, Get a silva 4.
TMM on 06 Jun 2014
In reply to Oujmik:

I prefer the Silva Expedition 54. I find the prismatic sighting mechanism very useful for detailed navigation.
davidbeynon - on 06 Jun 2014
In reply to TMM:

I used to have one of those. It was pretty good for navigating, but the extra height of the sighting unit was a bit of a liability as I discovered when I accidentally knelt on mine in a tent and snapped the base plate.

I was tempted to get another, but ended up just going for the standard model.
Toerag - on 06 Jun 2014
In reply to Oujmik:

I bought some of whatever Millets sell for a tenner (Recta?) a couple of years ago for my scouts - one has lost most of it's damping fluid, and the black plastic ring which has the direction of travel markings spins with the bezel on them if you're not careful....so don't buy any of those!
MFB - on 07 Jun 2014
In reply to Oujmik:

silva field - smaller , basic, points north
m0unt41n on 08 Jun 2014
In reply to Oujmik:

"Best" compass for navigation I have found are ones with very stable and fast setting needles, otherwise you are waiting for the needle to stabilise.

The Silva with a Jet needle

Or one of the Moscow Compasses - they have one of the very few Thumb compasses with a graduated rotating housing. Particularly the Type 2 Fast ones

captain paranoia - on 09 Jun 2014
In reply to Oujmik:

Suunto compasses seem to be highly regarded, and there is a suggestion that Silva quality has dropped in recent years.

Here's an entire forum section devoted to compasses...

climber34neil - on 09 Jun 2014
In reply to Oujmik:

I have a silva with the mirror in the lid (can't remember the exact model), it cost about 50 when I got it, it's getting on for 15 years old and has been excellent and still is. Mirror is useful for back bearings and doing your make up on the hill !
peas65 - on 10 Jun 2014
In reply to Oujmik:

It si worth bearing in mind that some silva compasses have a 5 year guarentee which if you use them a lot is very useful as you can just return it for a new one when it breaks. Very good customer service too .
ScraggyGoat on 10 Jun 2014
In reply to Oujmik:

Can't go wrong with a type 4, the only other consideration is if you are long sighted, or advancing years are taking thier toll, in which case think about looking for similar but with a larger magnifying glass.
Oujmik - on 10 Jun 2014
In reply to Oujmik:

Thanks all, have ordered a Silva 4 based on your glowing reviews. Now I really need to practice using the flipping thing more before I have to do it in white-out on a summit.
StuDoig - on 10 Jun 2014
In reply to Oujmik:

Exped 4 is a great compass - I like the large base plate, and mine has lasted a long time, though suffered the reverse polarity issue earlier this year so has been replaced. This was my fault though for not thinking about where it was stored! Though despite it being about 10 years old, it was replaced FoC by Silva even though I never asked them to (returned it to store to see if it could be re-magnetised / calibrated).

Cheap compasses never last or work as well imo, and always seem to take an age to settle - a real issue during nav in crap weather when your patience wears thin.

A lot of the Sunto compasses don't have romers as well so watch out for that! Though I've a friend with one and it does seem like a good piece of kit, and their orienteering / racing compasses are definitely the match, or better for Silva.

Type 54 is excellent but at 90, I don't think it's worth the extra cash. If you need a prismatic compass, get a mirrored one, they are generally easier to operate for sighting anyway. Having a disc, rather than a needle it also takes longer to settle.



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