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#268672 - 03/28/14 03:53 PM Re: Button Compass -- Thoughts and Recommendations [Re: buckeye]
ireckon Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 04/01/10
Posts: 1613
Loc: Northern California
I also disagree with the idea that I always have a sense of direction. When I travel the windy roads to Tahoe and get out of the car, I find that north is often in the opposite direction that I feel like it is. Even after checking a compass, I still don't feel the north. It's a humbling feeling. If I'm the navigator of the group, I will have to check a compass regularly.

People relying on their internal sense is probably why people sometimes get horribly lost.
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#268675 - 03/29/14 12:37 AM Re: Button Compass -- Thoughts and Recommendations [Re: ireckon]
hikermor Offline
Geezer in Chief
Geezer

Registered: 08/26/06
Posts: 5923
Loc: southern Cal
I wasn't very clear. I am not talking for an "internal sense of direction." What I am talking about is a sense of direction based on clues like sunrise/sunset, orientation of the street grid, topography, and the like. I agree that dense vegetation cover and unfamiliar urban terrain can render direction finding difficult.

But in terrain with any kind of distinctive features, maintaining orientation is quite easy. I use a compass about a hundred times more often than on land.

Even though I rarely use a compass, I almost always carry one, because you never know. I just make sure that it is a really good one.
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#268686 - 03/29/14 09:48 AM Re: Button Compass -- Thoughts and Recommendations [Re: buckeye]
buckeye Offline
life is about the journey
Member

Registered: 06/03/05
Posts: 152
Loc: Ohio
Thanks everyone for the feedback so far.

I should have stated in my original post, that my main intention for use of a button compass was for quick general direction in big and/or unfamiliar cities (I used to travel 45-50 weeks per year) and woodlands (as backup).

In some of the larger cities, buildings will block and/or reflect the sun, making it difficult to tell direction quickly.

While I'm in relatively flat and deforested central Ohio now, eastern part of the state where I grew up is still quite green and has a lot of hills (foothills of the Appalachians) and it can be tough to get a bearing from the sun at times as it may be blocked by a hill or obscured by overcast skies.

One thing about Ohio, while it is relatively safe from most major natural disasters (knock on wood), I think many of you would be surprised how grey and overcast it is here, especially Fall through Spring, and more-so in the mid-latitude part of this state. We can go weeks where we may be lucky to get an hour total of the sun being clearly visibly in a day, and sometimes that's an hour or two per week.

I've had friends move south (Fla./Ga.) because they couldn't handle they seemingly continual grey skies here. As the DW and I get older, it's finally to get to us too. Looking forward to a day when we can at least turn into snowbirds.
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#268728 - 03/31/14 02:13 PM Re: Button Compass -- Thoughts and Recommendations [Re: hikermor]
Mark_F Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 06/24/09
Posts: 714
Loc: Kentucky
Originally Posted By: hikermor
When you pull out the compass, you generally need a more precise determination. On one occasion, I needed to differentiate between 40 and 20 degrees, something a bit tricky with a tiny little button thingy....


yes indeed. don't get me wrong, I am not advocating a button compass as a primary compass, just a back up, when for some reason your primary gear and compass have been compromised [insert your favorite survival scenario here] and a general sense of direction is all you need (the river runs north to south, and I am east of the river, so if i travel in a westerly direction I will eventually run into it).
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#268731 - 03/31/14 02:56 PM Re: Button Compass -- Thoughts and Recommendations [Re: buckeye]
chickenlittle Offline
Member

Registered: 06/06/10
Posts: 102
Loc: Canada
I found the little compasses on zipper or key fobs useful.
Usually they have a small inaccurate thermometer with them. The point I like about them is they can be clipped to a zipper, a belt loop, or to the inside of a pack.

The button compasses that are just by themselves tended to get lost on me but that does not stop me from having a few scattered around.

I still keep an eye out for those small round button compasses that are attached to disposable products like cans of bug spray.
Usually they are really bad quality though sometimes they are a bit better than you would expect.
They are easily separated from the packaging before you dispose of the empty containers.

Sometimes it is better to have a poor compass than no compass at all.

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#268830 - 04/06/14 05:42 PM Re: Button Compass -- Thoughts and Recommendations [Re: Mark_F]
Brangdon Offline
Veteran

Registered: 12/12/04
Posts: 1201
Loc: Nottingham, UK
Originally Posted By: Mark_Frantom
Let me explain about the accuracy check a moment. I don't mean to compare them to another compass I think should be accurate. I mean to compare it to a known direction. Sun rises in the east and sets in the west, for my area I know which way is north, it's a fairly quick and simple thing to take each button compass and test it.
Another test is to turn the compass on its side, vertically, and then turn it about the vertical axis, and then lay it flat again so it has to find north from scratch. If it swings around quickly and confidently, then it's still strongly magnetised and pivoting OK. The slower it is, the weaker and less reliable. Do this more than once and check the result is the same each time.

You can use this to test compasses in a shop when deciding which/whether to buy, and you can use it in the field even if you don't know where north is. Obviously, if you do know where north is, you should verify that's what the compass is indicating, but in practise if it strongly indicates a direction at all, it's probably due to magnetism so it's probably north. (It might be south if the magnetism gets reversed, but that's not a likely failure mode unless someone is playing a trick on you.)
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#268831 - 04/06/14 05:55 PM Re: Button Compass -- Thoughts and Recommendations [Re: hikermor]
Brangdon Offline
Veteran

Registered: 12/12/04
Posts: 1201
Loc: Nottingham, UK
Originally Posted By: hikermor
I wasn't very clear. I am not talking for an "internal sense of direction." What I am talking about is a sense of direction based on clues like sunrise/sunset, orientation of the street grid, topography, and the like.
For me it's often the opposite. I'll find the street, or a fence, or even a stream, but I won't know which way to walk along it without a compass. So the compass gives me rough orientation and topography gives me exact direction. (Using the sun is great, but you can't rely on being able to see it in the UK.)

Quote:
But in terrain with any kind of distinctive features, maintaining orientation is quite easy.
Well, this is partly about how much preparation you get. If you know in advance you are going to need orientation, then you can look around and decide on landmarks - and you should also take a better compass than a button. An every-day-carry button compass is for when you find yourself geographically embarrassed unexpectedly.

Quote:
Even though I rarely use a compass, I almost always carry one, because you never know. I just make sure that it is a really good one.
Good ones tend to be bulkier. There's a trade-off on how much bulk to allow for a tool that you don't expect to use. This started with the Watch thread, and part of why I like to wear a watch with a built-in compass is that the compass feature adds no bulk and yet is always with me. If I didn't have that and EDC'd a compass instead, it would need to be a very small one. Preferably a "really good one" within that constraint, which is where this thread started.
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#268848 - 04/07/14 09:25 PM Re: Button Compass -- Thoughts and Recommendations [Re: buckeye]
ducktapeguy Offline
Enthusiast

Registered: 03/28/06
Posts: 358
Originally Posted By: buckeye
Thanks everyone for the feedback so far.

I should have stated in my original post, that my main intention for use of a button compass was for quick general direction in big and/or unfamiliar cities (I used to travel 45-50 weeks per year) and woodlands (as backup).

In some of the larger cities, buildings will block and/or reflect the sun, making it difficult to tell direction quickly.


For urban travelling, I've tried a bunch of different types and I've settled on using those cheap carabiner type compasses that you can pick up for about a dollar. The more expensive name brand button compasses didn't seem last any longer, so I figured it's easier to just replace them regularly. They lose direction every so often, I have a bunch of them and just do a quick check before I leave on a trip.

When you're in an unfamiliar city, all you really need is to know is a very general direction when exiting a subway, or which direction to orient a street map. Even if the cheap compass fails, it's usually just a minor inconvenience, not a life threatening situation.

While hiking on established trails, the carabiner compass is usually enough to let me know which direction to head. Only when going off trail will I pull out a normal compass for better accuracy, but even that's rare because if it's a planned excursion I'll probably have a GPS.




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#268857 - 04/08/14 03:29 AM Re: Button Compass -- Thoughts and Recommendations [Re: buckeye]
ireckon Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 04/01/10
Posts: 1613
Loc: Northern California
Since a few people have mentioned compasses in a city, I can't say I have needed a compass in a city. There are always plenty of people to ask "which way is A Street" or whatever. I enjoy taking advantage of the reason to interact with people anyway.
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#268879 - 04/09/14 02:51 AM Re: Button Compass -- Thoughts and Recommendations [Re: buckeye]
Pete Offline
Veteran

Registered: 02/20/09
Posts: 1307
button compasses are a great last-ditch survival tool, in principle. mostly made worthless because the people who make them go CHEAP. if anybody truly knows a GOOD RELIABLE button compass, please post!!

Pete

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