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#15120 - 04/20/03 02:49 PM New Compass
Zip06 Offline

Registered: 03/10/03
Posts: 14
Loc: Oregon
Its time to replace/upgrade my compass. My previous one was a plain basic compass with a declination scale (but no adjustment). I am in the woods quite a bit and do up to 4 day hikes. My compass/map skills are above average. What do you guys use/recommend?

#15121 - 04/20/03 04:02 PM Re: New Compass
AyersTG Offline

Registered: 12/10/01
Posts: 1272
Loc: Upper Mississippi River Valley...
Since you're in the NorthWest US, I suggest a Silva Ranger 15 TDCL. My local declination is currently about zero, but I haven't messed with declination conversions in various parts of the world for decades - adjustable compasses keep me on track (sorry for the pun). There are better compasses, but IMO the Ranger 15 TDCL is a very good value - I'm on my 3rd one and now that I'm retired from the Army I don't expect I'll destroy this one. I like these very much. I keep a basic orienteering compass in my gear as well because that's what I use to teach Scouts and newbies with - the Ranger 15 is not a good teaching compass. Silva Site Navigate products to outdoors to Ranger.

This is reaching back a ways, but... I've used a Ranger 15 in a ~30 degree declination area to lay in 81mm mortars well enough to get 2nd or third round "Fire for Effect" at near max range, so they are usefully accurate. Not as accurate as a Brunton pocket transit (US M2 compass), but much less expensive and immensely more useful in the normal "real world" of land navigation than the more sophisticated compasses like the Brunton.

I have found these accurate enough that it is worth setting them up on a local surveyed declination station if you can locate one in your area. Check with your local ARNG - maneuver units and artillery units in particular *should* have surveyed declination stations at their armories. Occasionally I have found stations in National Forests but all I have found were knocked loose by someone and/or not seasonally maintained - YMMV.

While I'm on that topic - if you DON'T have an adjustable compass, you really ought to check it on a current declination station - it is amazing how much error there is in mass-produced compasses, even fairly expensive ones. Put it on and off the station at least three times and average the observed error, then scribe it somewhere on the baseplate. The best compass check stations have three or four azimuths on them, as some compasses have different errors in different quadrants. My guess is that GPS vulgarity is going to shove this sort of finer points of land navigation & map reading into obscurity; not sure what I think about that...

Probably 99% of the time decent compasses are close enough for most of us, but sometimes one simply must be right on the money and an unchecked compass can really ruin your day (or worse, night).

If you don't have a local declination station you can check compasses like the Ranger against the North star but it's not as accurate - the sighting system is not as precise as something like an M2. OTOH, that's a way to reasonably dial in real local declination fairly close. You need something to lay the compass on when you do this, as hand-holding it for that is too fraught with wobbles for me at least.

Edited by AyersTG (04/20/03 04:15 PM)

#15122 - 04/20/03 08:34 PM Re: New Compass
Doug_Ritter Offline


Registered: 01/28/01
Posts: 1996
Take a look at the Brunton Eclipse series. If you are adept with a map and compass, you'll appreciate some of their features that make use easier compared to a traditional baseplate or mirrored compass.
Doug Ritter
Equipped To SurviveŽ
Chairman & Executive Director
Equipped To Survive Foundation

#15123 - 04/21/03 04:06 AM Re: New Compass

My favorite for many years has been a Suunto KB-20, primarily because it can easily be read to one-half a degree. It is simple, foolproof, light, and reliable. I have found it useful both on land and sea. It formerly was cheap, but the current price at REI is $70, which seems excessive. There is an aluminum case version which is very sturdy, but it is even more costly.

#15124 - 04/21/03 10:52 AM Ranger vs. Eclipse
Blues Offline

Registered: 05/27/01
Posts: 30
Here's a link to a review I wrote some months ago about the pros and cons of the Ranger style compass vs. the Eclipse. You may find that it helps answer some of your questions:

Ranger vs. Eclipse Review

Live Free Or Die

#15125 - 04/21/03 03:15 PM Re: New Compass (why not a GPS)
SonexN36SX Offline

Registered: 02/07/02
Posts: 43
Hi Zip,

For not much more than the price of a high quality compass you can get a GPS unit like the Garmin eTrex. If I was ever lost in the woods I would take a GPS over a compass any day but of course I never am lost in the woods because I always carry my Garmin GPS (and spare batteries). <img src="images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />

#15126 - 04/21/03 07:18 PM Re: New Compass (why not a GPS)
Blues Offline

Registered: 05/27/01
Posts: 30
Not trying to be flip but hopefully you have a compass that you know how to use if the malfunction with the GPS is related to something other than batteries.

Live Free Or Die

#15127 - 04/21/03 09:01 PM Re: New Compass (why not a GPS)

There's nothing wrong with that plan. Even in a nuclear war, those GPS satellites are still going to be up there in orbit sending timing signals from their on-board atomic clocks. The military designed them that way for a reason.

But as with any electronic device, make sure you have a backup plan if things go horribly wrong. A cheaper compass and the knowledge to properly use it are appropriate. If you have those as your backup, I don't think anyone will disagree with the idea. <img src="images/graemlins/cool.gif" alt="" />

#15128 - 04/21/03 10:05 PM Re: New Compass (why not a GPS)
Zip06 Offline

Registered: 03/10/03
Posts: 14
Loc: Oregon
Blues - I read your reviews of the 8099 and the 25TDCL with interest. That 25TDCL looks pretty close to a Silva Ranger 15. Brunton lists the Ranger 15 as the 15TDCL. They have a great buy on the 25TDCL I am going to order one. Thanks for the insightful eval under field conditions.

Oh yes, I do have a GPS (Garmin 12XL) and while really handy they are no replacement for a map and compass. I use mine to check my navigation twice a day when on a hike. I'm paranoid about some sort of battery related failure.

#15129 - 04/22/03 12:16 AM Re: New Compass (why not a GPS)
Schwert Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 03/13/02
Posts: 905
Loc: Seattle, Washington
I read Blues review and agree with his conclusions. I have both the Brunton 8099 and a Suunto Global ranger type which is nearly identical to the Silva 15. If I had to choose only one it would be the Suunto for the exact reasons Blues outlines in his review. The Suunto Global needle is very nice for travel...works anywhere not just NA.
Suunto MC-2G here

I also never depend on GPS only. It is useful to tell you where you are, and can tell you which direction to go, but cannot point you in that direction. Two different tools all together.

For a good downloadable declination calculator, useful world wide check out the GeoMagnetic Calculator

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