Equipped To Survive Equipped To Survive® Presents
The Survival Forum
Where do you want to go on ETS?

Topic Options
#37964 - 02/25/05 02:05 AM Compasses: Baseplate vs Lensatic
KenK Offline
"Be Prepared"

Registered: 06/26/04
Posts: 2141
Loc: NE Wisconsin
The lensatic compass in Hutch4545's EDC photos got me to wondering ...

Aside from the space/storage advantages of the little button compasses, what do you prefer - a baseplate compass or a lensatic compass? Why?

I definitely have my own preference - being raised as a good little Boy Scout. Or is it just ignorance? I have absolutely zero hands on experience with lensatic compasses.

I guess I'm interested in is learning about lensatic compasses and more specifically what you see as the advantages or disadvantages of these two types of compasses.

Thanks for any insight you can offer.

#37965 - 02/25/05 03:22 AM Re: Compasses: Baseplate vs Lensatic

I've always like the baseplate compass, but I consider "map and compass" almost a single item - if I need one I probably need the other.

I prefer to lay it down on the ground and step back to make sure I am not throwing it off with anything I'm carrying. This works well for sighting across the compass also.

#37966 - 02/25/05 04:31 AM Re: Compasses: Baseplate vs Lensatic
Schwert Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 03/13/02
Posts: 905
Loc: Seattle, Washington
I have used both and for me the baseplate is just easier and friendlier. One with adjustable declination, mirror and useful scales on its housing just works...less expensive generally too.

The lensatic is more accurate with the sighting wire and lens but you need to remember to compensate for declination, and the increased accuracy is not something I have ever found necessary in my uses which do not include laying out artillery fire.

For me compass/map work is easier with a compensated baseplate.

My favorites in this group are the Suunto Global Ranger, the Recta matchbox, and the old Michael's (Leupold) Sportsman crusing type compass.

I rarely take the lensatic out.

Edited by Schwert (02/25/05 04:36 AM)

#37967 - 02/25/05 05:22 AM Re: Compasses: Baseplate vs Lensatic
Chris Kavanaugh Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 02/09/01
Posts: 3824
Randy will never have to worry about redundancy in his kits <img src="/images/graemlins/tongue.gif" alt="" /> I use an old Silva Ranger as my primary unit. I would only add that if given the chance to mess with a lensatic do so. Odds are slim, but passing familiarity with different systems may come in handy someday, much like firemaking tools.

#37968 - 02/25/05 07:45 PM Re: Compasses: Baseplate vs Lensatic
KenK Offline
"Be Prepared"

Registered: 06/26/04
Posts: 2141
Loc: NE Wisconsin
I llke the picture. I have several of these. I avoid compasses that don't have adjustable declination, since at times I am math-challenged and I don't like drawing true-north lines on my maps. I REALLY wish all USGS Topo maps had UTM lines pre-drawn. What a pain!!!

My favorite simple baseplate compass is the Suunto M-3 Leader, which I think is the clear compass in the upper right of your picture. For the last several years, we've given Suunto Leaders to our Webelos when then graduate to Boy Scouts. Fantastic compass for around $20 ($19.25 at forestry-suppliers.com).

I also have the fancy Brunton Eclipse 8099 compass in the upper left. It is pretty amazing - very accurate sighting, but when using without the rubber boot, the boot & cards are kind of obnoxious. It is my favorite when working with a GPS. I also have a Brunton 15TDCL, which is the former Silva Ranger compass, but find the Eclipse easier to do sight bearings with. Overall though the 15TDCL does seem much more rugged than the Eclipse 8099

FYI - the compass sold outside the U.S. as the Silva Ranger is sold in the U.S. as the Brunton 15TDCL. The Compass sold in the U.S. as the Silva Ranger is actually made by Suunto. The mirrored compass in the middle looks like a Ranger cousin.

I also have the Bruton Eclipse GPS compass, which is the competitor to the Suunto GPS compass that is in the lower right corner of your picture.

I'm a huge fan of using a combination of map, compass, and GPS. Here is my method, which I haven't read too much about. Only really in a book called GPS Land Navigation, by Michael Ferguson (nice book though the GPS guide is a bit dated).

To figure out where you are, get UTM coordinate from GPS, use Topo Map and UTM grid () to locate position on map.

To figure out how to go to point X, use map & UTM grid to identify coordinate of X, enter it into GPS (easiest to do that via PC at home, but not bad in the field), get bearing & distance to X from GPS, use compass to follow bearing and sometimes to determine proximity to X. I never leave the GPS on while hiking. It only gets turned on when I want to get a position.

If the batteries on the GPS dies, I can always flip back to the older map/compass methods.

#37969 - 02/25/05 09:00 PM Re: Compasses: Baseplate vs Lensatic
Schwert Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 03/13/02
Posts: 905
Loc: Seattle, Washington
All the baseplates, but the Brunton 8099, in that shot are Suunto compasses. I have Silvas also but for some reason when I took this I could only dig up my Suunto's.

I agree that the declination adjustment is a must have. It makes all map work easy and effortless.

The 8099 is a nice compass but mine has given me no end of trouble at high elevation. I have replaced the compass capsule 3 times...every time I took it to 7000' or more it developed a huge bubble that prevented the compass card from turning.

I consider it unreliable for any trip where elevation gain is part of the equation. Too bad really as its operation is quite good other wise, and Brunton keeps assuring me they have corrected the liquid expansion issue, but it no longer makes any trips to Montana.

The Ranger type baseplate compass is my workhorse. I like the compact size folded, the mirror for sighting and the mirror for other purposes like looking in your eye, as a secondary signal mirror etc. That is a Global needle Suunto Ranger type compass in the middle. I also really like the Global needle.

I do not use my GPS much but the 3 together is a fun excerise, and adding waypoints at home from the map is pretty good training in itself...then it is fun to see how good you were when you are (or think you are) standing in the spot located from the map at home.

The backwards dial Forestry compass is another one of my favorites...somewhat for its unique use of walking a bearing. However it is not one I would recommend as the primary compass to most folks. The Lensatic, for me, is a similar special purpose compass....fun and accurate but not my recommendation for the "first" compass.

#37970 - 02/26/05 05:37 AM Re: Compasses: Baseplate vs Lensatic
NealO Offline
new member

Registered: 11/18/02
Posts: 34
Loc: SF Bay Area, California
*I* like the image of your hand in the mirror of one of the compasses. How many attempts did that take? <img src="/images/graemlins/smile.gif" alt="" />


#37971 - 02/28/05 07:51 PM Re: Compasses: Baseplate vs Lensatic
Schwert Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 03/13/02
Posts: 905
Loc: Seattle, Washington

I got lucky on that image. I had the instruments spread on my desk top and was holding the camera braced on the shelf above...the mirror just looked too "blank" so I decided to wave at the audience. My recollection is that I got the shot in one or two takes.

Thanks, this image is one of my favorites.

#37972 - 02/28/05 08:01 PM Re: Compasses: Baseplate vs Lensatic
KenK Offline
"Be Prepared"

Registered: 06/26/04
Posts: 2141
Loc: NE Wisconsin
Hmmmm, my Brunton Eclipse is on its second capsule - because of a bubble. Actually this was kind of a nightmare. The compass had a bubble, so I read to put it under a lightbulb (heat) for a while. I did so - tested the amout of heat with my hand before leaving it. I came back maybe 5 minutes later only to find the capsule had melted enough to be unusable. Argh!

I sent an e-mail to Brunton asking if there was anything I could do to fix it. They fixed it - replaced the capsule - at no cost. That was nice of them.

Question: Which do you find yourself using more: a sighting compass (ranger-style) or a baseplate compass?

#37973 - 02/28/05 08:12 PM Re: Compasses: Baseplate vs Lensatic
GoatRider Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 08/28/04
Posts: 835
Loc: Maple Grove, MN
I always use a baseplate compass. Most of the time when I need a compass, I'm canoeing in the BWCA. I get a heading to the next portage or channel off the map, lay the compass along the keel, and turn the canoe until the needle lines up. I look up and pick a shore reference over the bow, and steer for that.
- Benton


Moderator:  Alan_Romania, Blast, cliff, Hikin_Jim 
Su M Tu W Th F Sa
1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30
Who's Online
3 registered (Ren, M_a_x, Eugene), 289 Guests and 3 Spiders online.
Key: Admin, Global Mod, Mod
Newest Members
Bishop68, Tin, Knobco, manimal, Sherette
5330 Registered Users
Newest Posts
Offline: Be ready
by Nomad
1 second ago
Increase in infrastructure attacks
by wildman800
Today at 11:34 AM
Offline Maps App Thoughts
by rafowell
Today at 04:40 AM
Dash Cams
by MartinFocazio
Today at 01:34 AM
Helping our ETS Community
by dougwalkabout
Today at 12:41 AM
Hiker missing for two weeks in Zion found alive!
by rafowell
Yesterday at 10:12 PM
What did you do today to prepare?
by Jeanette_Isabelle
Yesterday at 08:26 PM
Our local hospital started vaccinations today!
by Nomad
Yesterday at 02:52 PM
Newest Images
Tiny knife / wrench
Handmade knives
2"x2" Glass Signal Mirror, Retroreflective Mesh
Trade School Tool Kit
My Pocket Kit

WARNING & DISCLAIMER: SELECT AND USE OUTDOORS AND SURVIVAL EQUIPMENT, SUPPLIES AND TECHNIQUES AT YOUR OWN RISK. Information posted on this forum is not reviewed for accuracy and may not be reliable, use at your own risk. Please review the full WARNING & DISCLAIMER about information on this site.