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Silva Type 54 Compass

in Navigation Gear & Accessories

Average Rating
5.00 / 5 (3 reviews)

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Scott Ashdown
( waterloggedwellies )

United Kingdom
Silva Type 54 Compass (AKA Brunton Nexus 54 LU Combi Compass) on 08/17/2005 04:37:59 MDT Report Post Print

Rating: 5 / 5

Having looked for a a good compass over a long period of time, I evenutally settled for the Silva Type 54. The compass it's self is a base plate type compass so it's ideal for taking bearings direct from the map, especially as the base plate is a bit longer than many others. The compass ring on the housing used for taking readings is accurate to one degree, not the normal two degrees often found on compasses. Instead of a needle, it has a needle card (A free spinning disk with the needle printed on it), so its perfectly weighted. There are luminescent markings for night time use as well. What makes this compass unique though is that it also comes equiped with a optical viewer through which you can take bearings. Simply hold the base plate up to eye level, look through the lense in the side of the compass housing and place the sigting hair that appears against the object in the distance that you wish to take a bearing from. No need to have to line up mirrors etc, just look straight at the land mark and read the bearing that appears in the viewing lense. It also displays your back bearing as well and both are shown against a luminescent backdrop for easier night time use. The compass used this way for taking bearings is accurate to half a degree!!!! The bearings are printed on the needle card and are magnified through the lense (similar concept to prismatic compasses). No mirrors to break, this compass is without doubt the best I have ever owned. This is the second one I have had. The first one I owned, the luminescent dot on the needle card "Floated Off". I had had the compass for quite a while and no longer had the receipt. However, Silva instantly sent me a replacement with a note to say that mine was only the fourth Type 54 they had ever had returned and the first time with the problem I had described. Reassuring. Their support service was fantastic and I have complete faith in the product. It also has, like many other compasses, three silicon / rubber feet on the base plate to grip the surface of the map when taking bearings etc. I would have prefered four feet personally as the baseplate can rock "slightly" on the map surface when taking a bearing although not enough to hinder use. I originally gave this compass four out of five due to my preference of wanting four feet but have since reconsidered and decided that this really shouldn't hold this compass back. For a base plate compass, this is great. Five out of Five.

It can be viewed on the Silva website :


There are various retailers around the world, I've listed the first two I found on the the net below.



The above links were just two of many that came up in a search engine. There were lots from the UK, i'm not sure if this is simply because i'm based in the UK and they listed first or if its because they are sold predominantly there. You may find suppliers cheaper elsewhere. Try searching on "Silva Type 54 Compass" in a search engine. They come in two types, either with Degrees or Mills. Not sure if they sell in the USA, if I can find a supplier I will update this post. Happy hunting!!!

Edited by waterloggedwellies on 08/05/2006 06:46:31 MDT.

Price comparison from GearBuyer: Silva Compasses priced at: $6.99
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eric levine
( ericl )

Northern Colorado
Ordinary looking best overall Compass on 02/06/2007 21:38:16 MST Report Post Print

Rating: 5 / 5

The Brunton (Silva) combi 54 is the best all around compass I’ve seen. Overall, it has proven itself better than my old Suunto KB-14, commonly regarded as the most accurate sighting compass around.

The problem with most sighting compasses is that one needs a separate tool for translating that accuracy onto a map, and my homemade protractors never equaled the Suunto.

The problem with flat base compasses is that acquiring consistently accurate bearings is more an art than a science.
Ray Jardine says in his Pacific Trail Guide that a skilled person can get 1.5 degree accuracy with a common base compass. After experimentation I found that’s just what I could get. The problem was that one out of every dozen or so of my readings was off by 2.5 degrees, and more rarely even as much as 5 degrees. Vigilant practicing did not improve my results.

The hinge mirrored compasses represent a pretty good compromise, but their short base length limits ease and accuracy on maps, while their tilting mirror sighting adds some ambiguity to field bearings.

The Silva and Brunton (same compass – different brandings, as Silva now owns Brunton) combi 54 is a very lightweight accurate map and field compass. Its length measures nearly 5 inches, compared with 3 inches for my Silva 16 mirror compass. To sight with the 54, one looks into the small window on the rotating dial. A mirror built inside the liquid filled dial directly reads out degrees on a vertical sight line. Everything is internal and there are no moving parts beyond a standard base compass. Readings and backbearings are marked in degrees and thus consistent half degree bearings are easily achieved.

Like my KB-14, I’ve mounted a small cotangent table on my combi 54, and with it I can do some fun things that not even my GPS can. By walking a long enough baseline, I can estimate the distance to a distant landmark. If interesting landmarks are off your field maps, save your bearings to identify them once you are home.

One last point is the amazingly bright glow in the dark points, which permit full sighting and mapwork.

Nothing is perfect, and a listing of a few downsides is in order.

1. Expensive – I paid $60 at Kooters. (

2. Three base feet rather than 4. (minor)

3. The large NSEW dial points are nice but take space better made available for map work. (minor)

4. There is no declination adjustment. I’m in Colorado, declination about 10 deg. East, so First Man Adam = Field to Map, Add. A better trick may be to draw magnetic north lines on your map, spaced a regular distance i.e., ½, or 1 mile intervals. Don’t forget to update, since declination is now changing rapidly.

5. My most important scale is missing, namely the 1:40680 scale of those great Trails Illustrated Maps.

6. Though sighting is to ½ degree, the dial has no magnifier like some premium baseplates, so you can’t get map work better than 1 degree. (probably minor point)

7. Light but no ultralight, at 1.3 oz w/o lanyard.

In all, a rather common looking compass with the best feature set and precision I know.

Price comparison from GearBuyer: Silva Compasses priced at: $6.99
Michael Davis
( mad777 )

South Florida
Brunton 54LU / Silva Explorer 54 on 08/13/2008 04:52:36 MDT Report Post Print

Rating: 5 / 5

This Brunton 54LU compass is also the called the Silva Explorer 54. Brunton USA and Silva of Sweden are the same company. The product is manufactured in Sweden.

I am extremely pleased with the Brunton 54LU. Generally speaking, it's a pretty standard, all transparent, baseplate compass with many usefull map scales:
1:63,360 (1"=1 mile)
mm scale and inch scale

It has a magnifying lens for map reading, three "sticky" spots on the bottom to keep the compass from sliding across your map and a small, circular cutout for marking your map. The compass has two roses, one interior for sighting and the common exterior one for orienting. The North arrow and baseplate have luminescent, glow in the dark spots to line up in the dark so you can find you way back to you tent after watering the bushes at night.

Here is the separator though; sighting through this compass is so easy. It is an absolute pleasure to use this way. The markings are extremely easy to read to 1/2 degree. You read both the ahead bearing (in larger font) and the back bearing (in smaller font) simultaneously.

The sighting device consists of a small prism located at one edge, inside the bezel and a small magnifying lens located on the opposite side. Simply hold the compass horizontal, bring it up to your eye and sight to your target. The ahead & back azimuth will be clearly shown on the interior compass rose.

The quality and workmanship appear to be top notch. So much so, that I made a small envelope from bubble wrap to protect it!

The only additional item I could think of for this compass is to add a declination adjustment, but life's not perfect.

All my other compasses are now put away, this is my "go to" instrument.

Note: there is a very nice review of the Brunton 54LU at

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