The 9 Best Lensatic Compasses

Updated May 15, 2018 by Jordan Melcher

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We spent 44 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top selections for this wiki. Perfect for maintaining your bearings and preventing you from getting lost on hikes, camping trips or even military missions, these rugged and long-lasting lensatic compasses will steer you right every time. Boasting durable housings and coming in at a range of price points, there's one here for every type of adventure. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best lensatic compass on Amazon.

9. UEasy Pro Sighting

The UEasy Pro Sighting is a multifunctional military grade clamshell-style option that has a lined sighting window to help you take fast and accurate measurements. It's available in multiple cover prints that'll suit almost any taste.
  • bubble level to help keep it flat
  • reference table to estimate distance
  • doesn't have a thumb loop
Brand Ueasy
Model SOGEK1
Weight 8 ounces
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

8. Under Control Tactical Military Grade

The Under Control Tactical Military Grade has a digital camouflage print on its case that modern outdoorsmen and survivalists will appreciate. Its liquid-filled dial gives quick and accurate readings, and it's extremely lightweight.
  • foldable metal lid
  • includes a long lanyard
  • dial tends to stick
Brand Under Control Tactical
Model Best-Survival-Compass
Weight 3.2 ounces
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

7. Vonoto Professional

The Vonoto Professional has a water- and shake-proof design, so it will still perform reliably even after long days of hiking or if you ever find yourself caught in a rainstorm. It uses phosphor powder to achieve a glowing effect after being exposed to light.
  • ruler etchings on each side
  • includes a handy carrying pouch
  • directions are poorly written
Model pending
Weight 8 ounces
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

6. Coghlan's 8164

Extremely basic, but cheap and useful, the plastic Coghlan's 8164 is designed for effective damping, and has bright letters indicating the cardinal directions. It's a good choice for kids just beginning to take an interest in exploring the outdoors.
  • brass hanging loop
  • wire-lined viewing window
  • can be a bit difficult to open
Brand Coghlan's 8164
Model pending
Weight pending
Rating 4.2 / 5.0

5. Silva Ranger 515

The Silva Ranger 515 is impressively accurate, making it a great choice for long outings in the backcountry. It features a brightly colored dial for easy readability and a mirrored case for checking its measurements at an angle.
  • built-in map magnifier
  • lanyard with adjustable sliding clip
  • comes with detailed instructions
Brand Silva
Model 2800517
Weight 5.6 ounces
Rating 4.4 / 5.0

4. Suunto MC-2G

The Suunto MC-2G is a tough and compact option with a global needle, so it works anywhere on the planet, making it a good choice for backpackers and travelers headed to multiple hemispheres. Its dial has luminous markings for nighttime use, too.
  • adjustable declination scale
  • mirrored case with sighting hole
  • anti-slip rubber base pads
Brand Suunto
Model SS004252010
Weight 4.8 ounces
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

3. SE CC4580

The SE CC4580 has a sapphire-bearing sighting lens system, and can be attached to a tripod if need be. If you find yourself wandering the wilderness in the dead of night without so much as a matchstick for illumination, you'll surely appreciate the glow-in-the-dark arrow.
  • includes a conversion chart
  • a built-in level
  • very budget-friendly
Brand SE
Model CC4580
Weight 7.8 ounces
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

2. Eyeskey EK4076

The Eyeskey EK4076 has an adjustable eyepiece and an inclinometer that lets you know at what angle you're moving relative to flat ground, making it more versatile than many other options, yet it's affordably priced. It comes with a lanyard and a carrying pouch.
  • lanyard ring can lock the case
  • great for mountain hiking
  • works well in severe weather
Brand Eyeskey
Model pending
Weight 4 ounces
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

1. Cammenga 3HCS

The Cammenga 3HCS boasts a sturdy green cast aluminum case and comes with a matching protective pouch, making it a great gift for the orienteering enthusiast in your life. It's built to military specifications and is waterproof, should you get caught in the rain.
  • can operate in extreme temperatures
  • liquid-free damping system
  • tritium illuminated
Brand Cammenga
Model 3H
Weight 3.2 ounces
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

How To Find Your Way

Not everybody has a good sense of direction, and, as folklore suggests, leaving a trail of breadcrumbs in your wake doesn't exactly solve the problem. I mean, if everybody did that, we'd eventually have no way of knowing whose breadcrumbs belonged to whom.

Stopping and asking for directions has its drawbacks, as well. For starters, the doctrine of western masculinity forbids it. If you should choose to subvert this doctrine, you'd still have no idea whether you could trust the directions you got. These are strangers we're talking about here, and even if they don't mean you harm, they might just be stupid.

It falls upon us, then, to have the tools to find our own way, and a lensatic compass, often paired with a good map, is the best way to accomplish this. Of course, these are useless if you don't know hoe to use them.

A lensatic compass traditionally unfolds into three components. The first of these, which sits at the top of the folded compass, is the sight wire. This lines up with an index marker on the compass face. All you have to do is line up some object in the distance with the sight wire and look through the third element–a folding lens–to see the exact bearing of the distant object.

This is a great way to get a sense of the direction you choose, so you can keep track of your movements should you need to retrace your steps. If you have a map telling you the specific direction in which you must travel to reach your destination, all you have to do is swap two of the steps.

First, you turn your body until you line up the index marker on the face of the compass with your intended bearing. Then, simply glance up through the sight wire to an object in the near distance that you can approach. Stop there, measure again, find a new object and repeat. By this method, you will reach your destination without fail.

A Compass In The Dark

Most of the lensatic compasses on our list follow the traditional design associated with the compasses issued by the US military. In fact, two of the compasses on our list are the very units contracted for production by the US government.

That doesn't mean that there's no room for innovation, though, nor does it mean that this type is the right type for you. For example, traditional lensatic compasses require you to look through a small lens to view the compass face and get your bearing.

There are models on this list that use mirrors instead of sighting wire, or that employ bubble levels and horizon demarcations on a cross-hair sight to evaluate the field before you. If you're a purist, you'll want to reach for the original US-issue compass, but don't let that sense of purity cause you to write off other technologies.

Then, there's the question of visibility in the dark. If you left all these compasses out in the sun, then brought them into a cave and tried to use them, you'd be able to see all of them clearly. Conversely, if you left them in a cave for a day, then took them out at night and tried to navigate, only a few would have visible faces.

That's because the glowing elements in these compasses are either made from phosphorus or tritium. Phosphorus absorbs light and holds it as energy, which is why it's one of the chemicals used in the construction of solar panels. Tritium, on the other hand, is actually radioactive.

Don't freak out, though. Tritium radiates beta particles that can't penetrate the skin, and its biological half-life is short enough that you could ingest enough tritium to fill 100 compasses and probably never notice. The downside to tritium is that is has a half-life of approximately 12 years, meaning that if 25 years go by before you pass this compass down to your child, it likely won't give off a glow any more.

Directed To The New World

Before the discovery of polar magnetism and its application to navigational compasses, travelers by land and sea alike relied on charts, maps, landmarks, and celestial bodies to find their way. Of course, being lost at sea under incessantly cloudy skies made for some interesting navigation.

The magnetic compass first appeared in China during the Han dynasty. This was sometime between the 2nd century BCE and the 1st century CE. The funny thing is, the device wasn't first used for navigation at all. Instead, the erection of new buildings relied on magnetic properties to guide the flow of energy through a space as per the tenets of feng shui. The Chinese wouldn't adapt the compass for navigation until the 11th century.

Most historians believe that Arabs in the Middle East introduced the compass to eastern Europe, and that it made its way west for there. Written evidence exists that references the navigational use of a magnetic compass in the English Channel as early as 1187. About 300 years after that, a rather well-known Italian explorer pointed his compass west from Spanish shores, and the rest is an eventful and bloody history.

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Last updated on May 15, 2018 by Jordan Melcher

Born in California, Jordan moved all over the country before deciding that maybe he should just come back to the Golden State and stay for a bit. He’s a writer and musician who holds strong opinions about most things.

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