Is it stil worth carrying a compass?

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Full Member
Sep 6, 2011

Please don't eat me alive, I have as much love and sentiment for a good magnetic needle as anyone.
But between offline maps navigation (view ranger or locus map for outside of UK), compass in my garmin watch and looking at the sun I have not used any of my manual compasses in like 15 years. The thing is it's only usefull with a paper map and who buys them anymore (especially abroad).

Reviewing my kit and I have been carrying several of them in my various kits for years and they just take space, weight and money...

Any honest opinions will be very welcome.


Jan 6, 2017
Here There & Everywhere
An electronic device can go wrong in all sorts of ways - you can drop it and smash it, it could fall in water, the batteries could die, the software could throw a spanner, etc.

I suppose it all depends on where you are.
If you're in the local woods and your Garmin goes wrong then it's not really a problem.
However, if you're somewhere truly remote and it ditches then I do think it was a bit irresponsible for setting out without a compass and printed map and making sure you know how to use them properly.

So if you are someone who does like the occasional trip into the wild I think it's good to go out with a map and compass and use those, just to keep skills up to scratch, even if you are on familiar territory - just for the practice. So when you do go somewhere truly remote, and you may well have a GPS with you, you know how to use the compass and map if the GPS goes all Pete Tong.

But if you don't go anywhere particularly remote then, no, there's probably no good reason to have a compass (except for the pure pleasure of knowing how to use it).


Full Member
Dec 31, 2005
I always carry one when out for the day. Maybe scale down the one you carry. There was an earlier thread where the guy just wanted one to orient the map. The Silva Ranger is small and has most of the capabilities needed in a small package. I know it would be an additional cost to buy one though.
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Full Member
Jan 18, 2009
Mid Wales
I don't just use a compass with a map. From a good vantage point you can take a bearing on an object and continue on that bearing when you lose sight of it. OK, you can do that with an electronic compass but I don't find it so easy and certainly not as accurate. I consider the very small weight and the size to be well worth the value.

And anyway, come the day they turn the satellites off you'll wish you had one :)


Aug 18, 2005
Yes. you can guarantee those days you don't have it you will need it or maybe give it to someone else who's lost.


Full Member
Feb 13, 2016
A good compass comes in handy if you want to leave a stash somewhere, and then pick it up on the way back, as you can pinpoint exactly the location, assuming the weather is not against you, fog, cloud etc.


Full Member
May 15, 2012
I have one in my bag, probably used the ruler and magnifying glass more than the actual compass of late though. The weight for me is negligible


Oct 6, 2003
Hi Matt,
I would agree that I have used my compass less over the last few years, making more use of my phone and Viewranger, and that buying maps overseas is a real pain, and expensive! However, my experience with using a phone has been limited to day hikes, single over nights and road trips. On trips that are longer than two days, keeping a phone charged becomes a concern. I have a battery pack that will recharge my phone maybe two times, but I have to be very careful with the phone to eke out the battery life, otherwise it can be flattened in a day and a half.

If the day comes when I can travel again, I doubt I will leave my compass at home, even if I leave my map.
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Apr 19, 2018
I get where you are coming from, I think, and have thought about it myself. It depends on where you are and where you are going really. Your phone works to a certain extent. Your Garmin is way more effective. If you know where you are ... ish ... and are familiar with how the terrain works you might be fine. But, if you are off into bits that you don't know so well, if it is flat or featureless, or very woody, heading out with just your Garmin is a bit of a high wire act, without a net. :lol:

I like the Garmin because you get so much more info, other people's notes and photos etc if you upload the right maps. You find tons of stuff you may have missed otherwise. But, I really like the more intimate, one-to-one sensibility you get with just a map and compass - gives you an odd sense of ownership of where you are and how you got there. (And, that MC-2 is lovely to use - like the HDS, or the Sebenza of compasses :))

I don't really get the weight advantage of not taking one, especially given the Garmin weighs like half a brick.
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Oct 6, 2003
One day I hope to make proper use the old KB14 I bought. That is a lot of fun, but not so easy to use with a map as a baseplate model.

Woody girl

Full Member
Mar 31, 2018
Two is one, one is non, if anything goes wrong with the electronic tech, with a map and compass, you have a reliable back up,...providing you keep in practice.
I always have a map and compass now, along with a small booklet on how to read a map, I got caught once thinking I knew my stuff in an unexpected fog where I was navigating blind in the end, over moorland, and I realised I'd forgotten how to use a compass properly. Many hours later, I hit quite by accident a road I knew well, and was able to get back ok, but to be honest, I was about 2 miles away from where I thought I was.
It was a long trek, made longer through my belief that I didn't need to keep a skill alive, and inability to use my tools properly.
My friend who had a Garmin said not to worry as it would get us back, but it died within half an hour of use, as he not recharged it before we left, as we knew the area extremely well, and never figured we would need it.
We both felt very foolish. six or so miles from home, and totaly lost.!


Full Member
Dec 23, 2006
To my mind it's a no brainer. If you go to the great outdoors take a map and compass and know how to use them. If not stay at home. Too many people relying on tech and then phoning for help when it goes wrong!
Just my little rant. I'll calm down soon.
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Full Member
Oct 19, 2006
My experience of trying to rely on electronic nav. things has prompted me to have a compass with me whenever I'm out and about. They are simple, reliable and the process of using them just makes me smile, adding to the profound pleasure I get from being outdoors. That said, I do tend to choose things that are 'simple' and have one stated function so, my watch is automatic, I use a Thommen altimeter when in the hills and a Suunto compass and, occasionally, pacing beads - none of which relies on batteries or signal and all of which are 100% reliable.
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not sure if that's still the case but i was told 20years ago (whilst wearing camouflage and lugging an assault rifle) that the owner of gsp can change the satellite position in case of a military conflict...
and given how many times the satellite navigation sent us wrong during my time in Darwin we finally binned the crap and went back to our road maps....

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