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question on compass
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Martin Clark
(Marty_Mcfly) - F

Locale: Southeast US
question on compass on 03/19/2013 19:36:46 MDT Print View

Forum members,

i'm looking for a adjustable declination compass for a navigation class I have this weekend. I will also be taking this compass with me on the PCT and want to make sure that I pick the right one.

I was trying to decide between these two:

Suunto M3-Leader:
Suunto MC-2 Pro Compass:

how important is it to have a mirror for accurate sighting?

Thanks in advance!

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: question on compass on 03/19/2013 19:44:27 MDT Print View

I would check with the instructor for the class.

The mirror makes it easier and (usually) more accurate to take a sighting and triangulate your position. IMHO, either one will serve you well for many years.

I like having the mirror for secondary use as an emergency signal, grooming, etc.

Do you know why compasses have a mirror? So you can see who is lost!

Todd T
(texasbb) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: question on compass on 03/19/2013 19:50:46 MDT Print View

"how important is it to have a mirror for accurate sighting?"

For the PCT (aka Interstate 2000), I'd say it's unnecessary weight and bulk. In fact, even for most off-trail hiking, it's not really necessary. Most of us are usually looking for things like lakes a quarter mile wide, so the additional accuracy of a mirror is of dubious value. It's a bit different if you're doing lots of resections or looking for geocaches, I suppose. My $0.02

Rob Lee
(roblee) - MLife

Locale: Southern High Plains
Re: question on compass on 03/19/2013 20:03:04 MDT Print View

My experience and corroborated by what I read you can navigate just as accurately using a baseplate at chest level as you can with a mirror at eye level. A mirror adds: a mirror, some level of protection when closed, about $10-$20, signaling device, about 1 ounce. The MC-2PRO adds a clinometer. The Brunton O.S.S. 10, 20, 30 models have no-tool declination adjustments, are cheaper, and lighter. I use a Brunton Classic, removed the mirror cover and love the big dial. Works great

Edited by roblee on 03/19/2013 20:04:30 MDT.

Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Suunto MC 2 on 03/19/2013 20:17:38 MDT Print View

FWIW I'm going through the SAR academy right now and about 2/3 of the class is using the MC-2; there are a couple Bruntons and no U.S. made Silvas. Mirror isn't necessary but I can shoot an azimuth with it with more precision. The markers for our most recent land nav courses were a few inches below the surface of the ground so that level of precision was a must. With my failing eyes, I've come to love the magnifying glass on it. The baseplate is a nice size for plotting grid coordinates. The MC-3 would be my next choice if I were to buy one without a mirror.

The only issue I've run across with it is that the clinometer on my MC-2 was sticking. I was the only person in my class with that problem so I returned it to REI and my new one is perfect. Overall a well loved compass but like anything else in life there will be an occasional dud. Check the needle swing of the compass and clinometer to make sure they swing freely and save yourself a trip back to the store.

I rarely ever use a compass when trail hiking (always bring one though) except to occasionally orient my topo map. 99% of my trail navigation is with terrain association. You can buy a cheaper/lighter compass later for the PCT. I'll always bring my MC 2 or one with a magnifying glass as it is my back up if I break my reading glasses.

Have fun.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: COMPASSES ARE NOT HEAVY on 03/19/2013 21:03:25 MDT Print View

Compasses in general are not heavy. I really went for broke on bulk and weight and got a Suunto MC-2G. At 2.6oz and the size of an iPod, I don't think it is heavy or bulky, especially considering that I bet my life on it working when I need it!

FYI, point and shoot camera cases are great for a compass case. A freebie eyeglass case works for a baseplate compass.

Suunto MC-2G

Suunto MC-2G

compass on 03/19/2013 21:05:34 MDT Print View

Generally speaking, the compass will weigh less than the map, of which it is nearly useless without.

Christopher Kuzak
US Made Silva on 03/19/2013 21:35:28 MDT Print View

Just got a US made Silva base plate Explorer Pro. It's 1 oz, but quality isn't at the level of Suunto, something I knew going in. It works so far and weighs .6 oz less though.

Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Two zone vs global on 03/19/2013 22:05:33 MDT Print View

Since we're on the topic, I was hoping someone could shed some light on what the difference is between the MC-2G and MC-2D. I understand that the MC-2G is "global" so the needle will work in the southern hemisphere but I'm reading conflicting reports at to what the "D" indicates. One page refers to it as Dual Zone and then explains how it will work in the southern hemisphere as well. There's obviously a distinction between the two but I'm not googling my way to an answer. I snooped around on Suunto's website as well but I didn't find the answer (I'm known for overlooking the obvious on occasion.)

A classmate has a MC-2D and the baseplate shows different markings so maybe it's ideal for some other mapping system beyond UMS, UTM, MGRS?

I just bought the plain ol' MC-2 as that is all they had in our local REI when I was shopping.

Edit I should've checked BPL first!

Edited by IDBLOOM on 03/19/2013 22:08:20 MDT.

Erik Basil

Locale: Atzlan
Get the sighting compass on 03/19/2013 22:11:50 MDT Print View

of those two, I'd suggest the sighting compass. It's easier to shoot a good line for a bearing, heading or triangulation and it's multiuse: it's your mirror.

By the way, sighting compasses can be light and small for the ultralighter. The Brunton Trooper is 23 grams.Brunton Trooper compass

Stu Pendious
(Beeen) - MLife

Locale: California
Re: question on compass on 03/20/2013 11:55:56 MDT Print View

I had both, and kept the MC-2 and gave my dad the M3. Mainly I just like being able to see myself. Especially before hitch hiking to make sure I don't have a streak of soot on my face.

I haven't found any great benefit for taking readings with the mirror, except it becomes moderately more useful in the desert when getting misdirected by mule trails and washes... but I don't think it would be a huge handicap not to have. Maybe if I needed to use a compass more it would be really worth it... but right now, it is just a way to bring a mirror and not have my friends make fun of me.

Sometimes I miss having a more slender compass that I could palm out of my pocket and read in an instant. With the MC-2 it takes a little more effort to bother, and most the time I don't.

Edited by Beeen on 03/20/2013 12:16:06 MDT.

Hamish McHamish
(El_Canyon) - M

Locale: USA
- on 03/20/2013 15:30:20 MDT Print View

Another benefit of the MC2's mirror is that when opened flat it provides a nice longer straightedge for map work, though this is likely not needed if you're sticking to trails and not doing more advanced landnav.

You can also open up the mirror flat and still use the center hold aiming method, you don't have to always sight with the mirror. Do the center hold for a quick easy azimuth check or sight with the mirror for more precision. Versatile.

Even if you stay in North America the Suunto global needle is worth having IMO. It is highly visible, fast dampening, and tolerates a less-than-perfect hold nicely.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Less, much less. Or more. But much less for the PCT. on 03/20/2013 15:58:45 MDT Print View

For the course (props to you for taking a course!), get what most everyone else is using. A mirrored, sighting compass is classic, versatile, and with care, any quality compass lasts forever, so I'm teaching my kids on the compasses I myself learned on, 40 years ago.

BUT, for UL BPing on the PCT, I'd bring on a little button compass, something on a zipper-pull, or nothing at all. 90% of the time, I can tell north to 10-15 degrees from the sun, stars, and terrain, and in the remaining cloudy times, there's this well-traveled north-south trail to go by.

For BPing with a little off trail, I'd go for the smallest, lightest mirrored compass in part because the mirror is useful for some self-assessment and first aid at times. Something like:

For geocaching, cave surveying, relocating a fishing hole or butchered carcass, etc; I go with the most accurate small compass I've found, the $160, 108 gram Suunto KB-14 optical sighting compass:

Not cheap, but I can read it, quickly and accurately, to 1/2 degree. The Suunto style is more accurate, lighter and a quarter the price of the $600 Brunton Pocket Transit that EVERY geologist I've ever worked with got for their summer field camp and now proudly owns the worlds most expensive shaving mirror.

Or in plastic by Suunto at $80, 39 grams.

Or a Harbin knock of the aluminum Suunto at $64.

I've never tried the optical Deruite at $38.50. I might get one to play with since I'm planning some scouting skills lessons with the kids (plus friends' kids) this summer.

Stephen Barber
(grampa) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
re: question on compass on 03/20/2013 20:57:47 MDT Print View

Good one on the button compass for PCT and other trail work. I have a button compass mounted on the sternum strap of my pack, and if I'm hiking trails it's all I really need.

On the other hand, I "grew up" hiking following topos with a mirrored compass. If I have any doubt about the route I'm taking, I have a mirrored compass handy because I know I can use and trust it.

Daryl and Daryl
(lyrad1) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest, USA, Earth
Re: Re: question on compass on 03/20/2013 21:55:11 MDT Print View


Thanks for the laugh. I liked it enough to repost it in Chaff.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: question on compass on 03/20/2013 22:08:43 MDT Print View

The first one is perfectly adequate for all navigation, imho.I do not carry anything more complex.

Mirrors - only for secondary functions, like shaving or signalling.


Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Less, much less. Or more. But much less for the PCT. on 03/20/2013 22:39:17 MDT Print View

"BUT, for UL BPing on the PCT, I'd bring on a little button compass, something on a zipper-pull, or nothing at all."

No, no, no, NO, NO, NO. NO!!!!! NO!!!!

I think this is very bad advice. Everyone should have a decent baseplate compass and a map and know how to use them. Period. Button compasses are fine for backup or just general orientation while on the trail. BUT, when you get lost, you need the right tools. In fact of you use the tools right, you won't get lost in the first place.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Re: Less, much less. Or more. But much less for the PCT. on 03/20/2013 23:17:58 MDT Print View

CYOC (carry your own compass). Or not.

While I enjoy using quality gear, just because I love using a K&E Decilon or more so a 4080-5 20in Log Log Duplex Trig or a real (RPN) HP calculator, doesn't mean I can't figure things out to 3 or 4 sig figs in my head.

I found I have less use for first aid gear the more I studied first aid and thought of safety, environmental exposures, and infectious issues. Because the more I considered them, the fewer problems I had and the sooner I was treating companions before things got quite so dire.

Likewise, if I keep assessing which way is north, testing my estimate of the time-of-day BEFORE looking at my watch, and try to predict when I reach each trail junction, I never get so disoriented that I'm having to triangulate my position only knowing I'm (hopefully) somewhere on the quad.

I'm glad the OP is taking a class on map & compass. That, and a lot of use in the field on real trips, is a path to both (1) being very competent when you really need to use it and (2) avoiding most all the situations where you really need to use it.

Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Terrain Association on 03/21/2013 00:08:22 MDT Print View

I'm not willing to make the shift away from carrying a quality compass (or carrying a knife) but to be quite honest I rarely use it backpacking/trail hiking. I've never used a button compass so I can't speak to their reliability.

I do 99% of my navigation with just the topo map and only bust out the compass if I've really turned myself around. The more you learn to use catching features and handrails in the field and translate what you see on the map to what you see on the ground, the less often you'll need to orient your map with a compass.

For SAR, military, and surveying applications then a precision instrument is a must but I'd be ok with something which will generally tell me which way north is in pea soup fog. As David mentioned, the higher your skill set the less you need.

BLUF I think the MC2 is a fine compass for the money and I don't mind carrying it even if it's overkill. My only regret is that I didn't order the Global version.

Edited by IDBLOOM on 03/21/2013 00:09:00 MDT.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Silva Ranger on 03/21/2013 00:19:32 MDT Print View

I've had a Silva Ranger for decades. The mirror is great for precision and for seeing what foreign object is in your eye (not to mention checking to see if your eyeliner is on OK ;o)

The inclinometer is a must when travelling in avy country in winter.