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The 4 Best Hiking Compasses for Outdoor Adventures

Person holding up best hiking compass with view of mountains

One of the most important tools a person can carry while hiking is a compass. Choosing the right hiking compass can make a world of difference when it comes to navigating various landscapes, especially when there is no cell phone reception available. 

A good hiking compass needs to be both precise in its directions and durable enough to endure a lot of use and survive rugged terrain. Keep reading to learn more about the best hiking compasses for outdoor adventures, and discover the key features consumers will be looking for in 2024.

Table of Contents
Global market value of hiking gear
Best hiking compasses for outdoor use

Global market value of hiking gear

Person holding compass in gold casing during autumn

In today’s society, many consumers are actively taking an interest in spending time outdoors, both for leisure as well as for physical activities such as hiking and running. Hiking gear like backpacks, compasses, and even tents for consumers who are planning on camping as well as hiking are all in high demand, and as modern versions of classic hiking equipment hits the market sales are only expected to increase.

Map on floor surrounded by types of hiking equipment

By 2023 the global market value of hiking gear reached over USD 4.4 billion. That number is projected to increase to at least USD 9.6 billion by 2030, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.2% during that period. In the US alone, the market was already valued at USD 1.2 billion by 2022 and China is set to reach a market size of USD 2.3 billion by 2030. As well as people spending more time outdoors and taking an interest in their overall health, the growth of e-commerce platforms is helping to drive sales around the globe.

Best hiking compasses for outdoor use

Classic small compass sitting on gray linen sheet

A compass is designed to provide accurate navigation for the person using it which is crucial for planning a hiking route as well as in emergency situations. Compasses are also great tools for teaching beginner hikers and young children how to find their bearings and use a map and compass together. Whether the hikers are heading out on an enjoyable easy hike through the forest or are going more off the grid and enjoying the purest form of nature, a compass is a must-have hiking accessory.

Small magnetic compass held up against folded map in forest

According to Google Ads, “hiking compass” has an average monthly search volume of 1900. Between June and November searches remained steady at 1900 with the most searches coming in December and January at 2400. 

When looking at the best hiking compass on the market, Google Ads shows that consumers are searching for “digital compass” the most, with 12100 searches. This is followed by “lensatic compass” with 5400 searches, “button compass” with 2400 searches, and “baseplate compass” with 1300 searches. Keep reading to learn more about the key features of each of these compasses.

Digital compasses

Small digital compass sitting next to magnetic compass and map

Digital compasses come in a variety of styles and each one offers various levels of technology and features that will appeal more to different levels of hikers. What’s unique about the digital compass is that it can detect the earth’s magnetic field using electronic sensors in order to provide accurate readings even in harsh or secluded environments. 

Some other key features that consumers will be looking at include the battery life and the source of the power, how easy it is to use for all skill levels, if the compass includes a barometer and altimeter, and whether there is GPS integrated into the design which can be useful for finding routes as well as roads. For consumers hiking in less than ideal weather conditions it’s also important that the digital compass is at least water resistant, but ideally waterproof, so it can continue to be used in rainy weather.

Google Ads shows that over a 6 month period, between June and November 2023, searches for “digital compass” increased 18% with the most searches coming between February and April as well as August and December at 12100.

Lensatic compasses

Man holding lensatic compass at sunset next to small lake

The lensatic compass is a very popular type of hiking compass that is also used in the military due to its high level of precision. This is a more difficult type of compass to use than others so it will require the consumers to either be trained in using it from previous experiences or be willing to learn how to read it accurately before heading out on a hike. The compass itself consists of a floating dial within a strong metal case, with a magnetized needle that sits within a capsule on a pivot.

The compass also consists of a sighting mechanism so the user can aim the compass at a particular marking or landmark and is made of a durable material so that it can withstand harsh outdoor elements and still offer precise directions. Some lensatic compasses have also incorporated glow in the dark markings on them for use in low lighting conditions. 

Google Ads shows that over a 6 month period, between June and November 2023, searches for “lensatic compass” increased 18% with the most searches coming between September and November at 6600.

Button compasses

Button compass attached to keychain sitting on denim bag

The button compass is often referred to as the mini compass and is a popular tool to have as a backup in case a larger, more reliable compass breaks or becomes lost while on a hike. The compact size of the button compass makes it easy to add to zippers, keychains, or attach to backpacks without taking up additional space or making the hiking gear bulky. They’re very simple to use and don’t often have additional features such as sightings or fancier mechanisms, but the magnetized needle is still able to accurately detect north.

Google Ads shows that over a 6 month period, between June and November 2023, searches for “button compass” increased 45% with the most searches coming in November at 2900.

Baseplate compasses

Baseplate compass sitting on map of national park

Considered by many to be the best hiking compass, the baseplate compass is a fantastic navigation. The compass itself sits on an often transparent baseplate that will have ruler markings along the side as well as other measures that can be used alongside a map. Rather than having one arrow, the baseplate compass has two arrows – one for orienting and one for the direction of travel. The compass is surrounded by a rotating dial with degree measurements so the user can mark specific bearings.

Google Ads shows that over a 6 month period, between June and November 2023, searches for “baseplate compass” increased 47% with the most searches coming in October at 2400.


Military compass opened sitting on top of map

Choosing the best hiking compass will depend on the individual and the skill level of the hiker, but all of the compasses mentioned above are able to detect true north and provide accurate orientation readings to ensure a safe hike. 

Some styles of compasses are simple by design whereas others will have additional features added to them for the more advanced outdoor adventurers. With hiking growing more popular by the day, consumers now have a lot of compass options to take into consideration. 

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