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Best mini compass?

Discussion in 'Other Every Day Carry Items' started by David L. Holt, Jul 31, 2012.

  1. David L. Holt

    David L. Holt Loaded Pockets

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    I've tried a ton of little plastic button compasses, and few work wonderfully. Other than the super-expensive NATO compasses, any recommendation on where to get good, reasonably accurate mini compasses? I want to eventually recess one into my Mora as well as have one in several different mini kits.
     
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  2. xtrajack

    xtrajack Loaded Pockets

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    I started a similar thread myself, and I got exactly no responses.
     
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  3. LausDeo

    LausDeo Loaded Pockets

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    I'm having the same troubles, I would like a decent one for EDC. I'm looking at several wenger watches that have them built into the watch but as far as button compasses are concerned I believe they are all junk and would lead you to walk around in circles in the forest. Your only guide would be the sun. With all that being said.

    I recently ordered this one, haven't got it yet but hoping it's somewhat decent. I have a button compass on a nylon strap for my carabiner that holds my keys - but again. Useless.

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/Outdoor-activity-Favor-Compass-Design-Pendant-Key-Chain-Fob-Ring-keychain-Gift-/190708901722?pt=US_Unisex_Accessories&hash=item2c6722e75a
     
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  4. xbanker
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    xbanker Geriatric Admin
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    Small, inexpensive, plastic button compasses, by their very nature, don't lend themselves to quality. Their diminutive size, materials (usually plastic housing) and inexpensive manufacturing process work against them. The costly (for its size) NATO button compass mentioned by OP, with brass housing, is an exception — for a price.

    The plastic varieties are typically offered in so-called grades of B, A and AA, each priced differently. One might assume the higher grade (AA) means higher quality and greater reliability. As far as I have been able to determine (by questioning retailers), the difference isn't in direction-finding accuracy or long-term reliability. Rather, the difference is in water-tightness, the period the dial remains luminous (e.g. 8 hours vs. 45 minutes), and dry vs. liquid-filled. Still the same basic compass.

    I've been told that the vast majority of these no-name B/A/AA button compasses are manufactured in a small number of factories in China. No, I'm not a "if it's not made in the US, it ain't no good" kind of guy. Just sharing a fact. So, the odds are good that the AA button compasses offered by your two favorite retailers — despite one $5 and the other $9 — came from the same factory, and the price difference has nothing to do with differences in quality.

    If I had to buy an inexpensive button compass, I'd get one of these from Best Glide or this Explorer button compass from a BCB International retailer (stockist if you live on other side of the pond :)). Why these? Why Best Glide? Because they have a reputation for selling good stuff (and I've never been disappointed) and according to their product description, these two button compasses are military-issue. That suggests some level of quality. Likewise, BCB offers quality gear.

    My first choice for a "mini compass" (not button) is the TruNord here. I've owned the 150C for close to 15-years ... carried on backpacking trips, ATV riding and whitewater rafting. It's as good as the day I bought it. Built like a tank (brass)! No, not as inexpensive as the aforementioned button compasses, but it's a well-built, reliable compass in a small package, suitable for PSKs (unless a really mini-size kit), or non-imposing carry. Note that they will set declination for your area prior to shipping if you request it.

    In years past, I would've also recommended the Marbles Pocket Compass. Also made of brass, similar to the TruNord and ~$10 cheaper. They have a great reputation and a long history BUT I've read more than a few reviews and comments (Amazon, forums) that don't speak favorably of the current version ... bubbles forming in the liquid, cheaply made internals once you "get past the brass." Not having owned one, can't comment. A lot of these have been sold over the years for a reason, and a lot of reputable retailers sell them, so I'm undecided. Perhaps others on EDCF can share their experience.
     
    Last edited by xbanker, Aug 1, 2012
  5. Gnarly
    • In Omnia Paratus

    Gnarly Loaded Pockets

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    Suunto made the best ones on the planet....but 'made' is past-tense.
    They were used in the fine K&M Matchcases for years.

    Last I heard: Keith & Marge were still looking for an even comparable substitution.
    Might check with them?
     
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  6. xbanker
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    xbanker Geriatric Admin
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    That was my first thought too. Those of us who have followed Keith's search for suitable Suunto replacement know was a challenge (What's up with that? Is it manufacturing cost that prevents a company from filling this void in the market?)

    Here is the compass he found and is currently using. No name on the face. And here is Keith's discussion of the trials and tribulations experienced while trying to find a replacement for the Suunto. As he says, they finally settled on a Chinese-manufactured unit.

    We can be confident that Keith put a lot of time, research and knowledge into his search. Underscores the crux of the issue: quality button-style compasses are rare ... very rare.
     
    Last edited by xbanker, Aug 1, 2012
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  7. DBR

    DBR Loaded Pockets

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    No quick or easy answer here my friends. :(

    I have the NATO - Peyser and it's worth the money. It's a dry button compass so it is flighty and takes a few seconds to settle down but I never really understood that criticism of it because if there is one situation where you need to calm down and settle down and take your time...it is in ANY survival situation...even Escape and Evasion (E&E) situations. If you want an excellent "buy it and forget it" pocket sized survival kit, get one from Penrith and read their description carefully as the slightly more expensive one has the brass NATO compass in it and it's really a GOOD deal. Perhaps Jon should investigate carrying the Penrith kits because the only distributor in the States that I have ever heard of is TAD and I have not looked on their site to see if they even still sell them.

    Other than that, the Suunto Clipper Compass...which as XB and Gnarly pointed out via the K & M Matchsafe/Matchcase connection, has been discontinued. You can get them from time to time on forums, etc. The last place I bought one from was John McCann's survival gear website but I doubt if he has any of the left.

    The Suunto, the Tru-Nord and the Peyser are the epitome of the design, it really doesn't get any better than that. All of the rest are truly "thataway" compasses, they just give you rough direction...and they are great for that. Better that little plastic button compass than nothing. In that light, they are worth the money and the weight and space.

    I wonder if Suunto is gearing up to make some other compass of that general size...the Clipper Compass sold well for them I think and companies usually don't discontinue good sellers unless something else is up their sleeve but the trip up the sleeve of a company can be measured in years.
     
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  8. DBR

    DBR Loaded Pockets

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    I tend to be very critical of our trade deficit with China. I detest Wal-Mart, for example. But this, as far as I can tell, is the truth - China can make absolutely wonderful goods but they have to be told exactly how to do it, precisely what is expected of them, or they go the cheap route like almost any other business. I have a friend that is a Luthier and he is/was having a line of guitars made in China and I've played them, they are excellent! So, they can do excellent work, you just have to tell them precisely what you want and a lot of companies just are not doing that...like Wal-Mart.
     
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  9. xbanker
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    xbanker Geriatric Admin
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    Entirely accurate statement (including like almost any other business). I've read repeatedly that companies who have their own QC inspectors on-site (at the factories) have superior products produced vs. those who pretty much leave factories to their own devices.

    [Off-topic aside: close monitoring also helps to discourage knock-offs by the very factory manufacturing the originals. Read how a good company, Otter Box, was nearly destroyed by not paying close attention: Made in China for the Lowest Cost Backfires on Otter Box.]
     
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  10. elkhills

    elkhills Loaded Pockets

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  11. DBR

    DBR Loaded Pockets

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    That link goes to a bizarre page now, it is otherwise unavailable. As a side note, I don't really believe in "free trade" as it has existed for over two decades now. I don't think that Americans can compete with Chinese slave labor...and that's what it is. I mean, we have real rent here, after all. That being the case, when a company "goes to China" and they get pillaged, they get what they deserve. ;)
     
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  12. DBR

    DBR Loaded Pockets

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    That's basically a slight twist on the Suunto Clipper design. I wonder how good it is? For $3.85 it might be worth a look...but I don't know. It's probably as good as other, similar, compasses in that price range.
     
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  13. barlow666

    barlow666 Loaded Pockets

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    I don't know if this will fit the defination of "mini," but I have carried a Marble's brass pocket compass for years. It is a jewel! I don't know how long this outfit has ben making has been making them, but they are beautifully made and, as far as I know, made in the U. S. of A.!
     
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  14. saniterra

    saniterra Loaded Pockets

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    I am fortunate to have a K&M matchcase with the Suunto compass as well as a Suunto Comet Keychain compass. I can attest to their quality as well as small size. This company www.cspoutdoors.com/suuncom.html shows the Suunto Comet Keychain compass on its website and will even allow you to add it to the cart. That being said, I have no knowledge of or experience with the company, and it may well be that you can order the compass only to have them charge your credit card and sometime later advise you that the compass is not in stock, etc. But the Comet Keychain is a very good small compass with a thermometer on it as well. I have checked the accuracy of the thermometer and have found it within 1 degree of my Ambient Weatherstation. Take all that for what it's worth.
     
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  15. 320

    320 Loaded Pockets

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    i've used the k&m match cases for years. the silva still points north, though it will bubble from time to time.
    i have a couple with the larger diameter tube and suunto compass they are still working well.

    for pocket compasses i've used the marble's for at least the last twenty years and it continues to point north.

    this spring i picked up a couple of brass-cased knockoffs at agrussell. so far so good.

    if you can find them in working condition the hunter case military pocket compasses are seriously cool.
    i found a nice one in a shop in southern missouri several years ago.

    last but not least, i have a button compass that dad brought home from germany after ww2. it's beaten and battered but it still points north.
     
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  16. xbanker
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    xbanker Geriatric Admin
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    It's good to read positive feedback on the Marbles compasses.
    Teddy Roosevelt carried a Marbles in Brazil back in 1913 and Lindberg was totin' a Marbles on his historic 1927 flight. The company itself dates to 1892.
     
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  17. DBR

    DBR Loaded Pockets

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    I forgot to mention Marbles! By the way, as an interesting sidenote, do you know what other survival-related item they were pioneers of?
     
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  18. xbanker
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    xbanker Geriatric Admin
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    matchsafe.jpg
     
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  19. DBR

    DBR Loaded Pockets

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    Yes, Marbles was probably the most popular match safe, but it was a trick question! So, you get 50%. :D
     
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  20. TARFU
    • In Omnia Paratus

    TARFU EDC!!!!! Junkie

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    From what I understand, Marbles was bought out by a Chinese company and the quality is no longer there. I'd stay away.
     
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