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I bought this years ago back in college when I went on a camping trip and one of the things on the "to pack" list was a compass for the orienteering activity. I was in a rush to get one as I was leaving in a few days so I don't remember where I got this from but I do know it was really cheap - only £1-2. They can now be found on Amazon for just £1.96 and even though my college days are behind me, I still use mine regularly when I go hiking.
This compass is made by a brand called Highlander. It is easy to use by simply holding the compass flat in the palm of your hand, lining up the red needle with North and you'll be pointing North. The black text on the white background in the dial makes it easy to read and N, S, E and W are boldly marked in larger text. There is also an arrow pointing North just in case you still miss it!
For such an inexpensive item it is packed with plenty of really useful features. One of the best of these is a luminous red dial in case you need to use it at night or in low light levels. Also great are the two rulers with a scale of 1 to 50,000 or 1 to 25,000 which you can use for measuring angles and distances, especially when reading a map. These are formed from yellow-green transparent plastic which extends either side of the main compass and the measurements are clearly visible in black. Like most compasses there is also a vivid yellow-coloured neck cord so you can wear the compass like a necklace for a convenience which stops it getting lost and means it is within arms reach if you need to use it frequently. The dial can be also adjusted to ensure that your readings are as accurate as they can be.
The quality if isn't great and I have quite a few scratches and markings on the plastic now. However, at that price the compass is easily replaceable and overall I really like this compass, it has been a surprisingly useful addition to my hiking kit.
I have been lost a couple of times a long time ago, when I was probably more adventurous so I like to have a compass with me as part of my kit when I am away on a trip or even just out away walking or off for a climb for the day, away from main roads and signs.
I am not one of these experts who know everything about the outdoors and survival, but I have quite a bit of experience and with my Dad being in the Army, we were taken on 'training' holidays to the lake district and Scotland as children climbing every hill and mountain.
What really got me involved was when we camped at Fort William, ready to climb Ben Nevis, I was 14 and we had our full kit loaded up, we didn't need a compass that day but we had a place to meet an an idea of how to get there, so when we went back on our own nobody was worried.
I tend to go on my own and am not a group walker or climber, so having a compass and basics like food, extra clothing, water are essential.
This compass shown here is actually the Gelert Orienteering map compass which I bought off the internet, but you can get from Argos at £4.99 or Amazon at £4.99 plus postage.
I have seen an almost identical version of this compass in a local hardware / value type shop for just £1 this week, but I already had this one.
A lot of watches have a compass built in now, and you can get a free compass app for those who do not want to buy one. This has the advantage of not running out of batteries, having a clear scale to read off ( although its rare you need to read a scale ) and although the needle is luminous the actual compass isn't so you cannot really see where the needle is pointing.
It has a bright yellow cord attached which makes it easy to find, and also the sharp plastic it is mounted on also make it easy to find in your pocket or bag.
If you buy one of these and put it in your pocket, it wont be much use unless you know which direction you want to go. The basic idea is you line up the magnetic north of the compass with the north on the map, then you know where north is and can see from the map where everything else is.
My advice is don't buy a map unless you like orienteering or like spending hours studying maps and looking at a compass
I use it as a periodic check to against marked points on the map and land marks, and to keep looking back and be planning my route back.
It can also be fun and is very easy to use as a basic compass just move the compass aroud until the North is ligned up with the red needle, as that is of course pointing north.
Then you can either use it with a map or just use it as a guide to which way you are moving.
As someone that goes walking a lot I find that many compass are simple rubbish so I decided that I'd try one from Argos instead of getting one of the big brands that have failed me in the past. As Argos have never let me down before I thought that this was a great addition to the collection of things I've bought from them.
The compass itself comes with two scale rulers on two other sides - one at 1 to 50,000 and the other at 1 to 25,000. This is great for all you like me that aren't an expert you simple need to match the scales of the map to the scales on the ruler. So if your like me and have only learnt though school this will be something your used to but do learn how to use it before you set off as getting lost in the middle of the wood really isn't fun I can tell you.
When it come to build quality of the I have to say it is a let down and it cheap plastic really does mean that is water proof but is incredible easily cracked. In addition to cracking its also a big problem as mine came with a rope string which I find is incredible difficult to get clean and mine is now stained
So overall for the money you really do get a good product even if you do get the chance to use it once or twice a year.
~Days of Mud and Rain~
In my student days I went on a lot of geology field trips and learned the myths about outdoor life. One of these was 'If it rains long enough you'll stop feeling wet' and the other was 'You can't get lost if you've got a compass and a map'. I think everyone who's ever stood in a river up to their knees in a downpour will know instinctively that the first of these is untrue but fewer people will be aware that it is not only possible but also quite easy to get lost with a map and a compass. Neither will help you much if you are surrounded by fog and unable to see any landmarks or even in full clear daylight if you don't have the first idea where you are.
On a recent trip to India I found myself wishing I had a compass with me. I had a map and I knew which Metro stop I'd just emerged from. Problem was I didn't know which exit I'd used or which direction I was facing. I turned to my husband and said "If I knew which was North, then I'd know exactly where to go". I returned home and bought an orienteering compass to keep in my handbag. I didn't especially want or need an orienteering compass, and I could have just hunted out my old geology compass (it has additional features that you don't get on a standard one) but it was available and I picked it up for just a few pounds. From memory, I may well have bought it in Aldi.
This compass is well over specified for what I need - I really just want to know where's north and I can work out the rest, but if you have one and you know how to use it, it can help keep you safe outdoors. Features on mine include a transparent base through which you can read your map, a ruler down one side for straight forward measurements and scaled rulers on two other sides - one at 1 to 50,000 and the other at 1 to 25,000. So long as you know the scale of your map, so it's easy to work out how far you need to go. My compass has a luminous needle and a smooth running bezel as well as a neck cord so you have no excuse for not being able to find it when you're walking around on the hillside looking like a real dork with your compass and your waterproof map bag hanging round your neck..
~ It's only useful if you know how to use it~
I'm going to make the (possibly dangerous) assumption that you aren't going to buy a compass unless you know how to use it or plan to find out before you find yourself half-way up a mountain. Please make sure you've practiced before you go off-road with one of these and make sure you - or someone with you - knows how to use a compass or it really will be less than useless. Half way up a mountain in the fog is not the time to decide it's time to figure out how to use your compass. The most basic rule is to be sure you're holding it totally flat so that the needle can move freely and can easily rotate to find north. The second basic rule is to make sure you know WHICH end points north, and the third rule is that it's no bloomin' use if you leave it at home or in your youth hostel.
I've already had cause to bless the wisdom of carrying one of these several times, usually when my husband has 'borrowed' my TomTom and the M56 has been blocked and I've had to take off over the hills of Cheshire in search of alternative routes. Repeatedly when this happened in the past I would think to myself "If only I knew which direction I'm going in" and now I do. I just pull over in a lay-by, whip out my compass and check. In an emergency if I have no compass but I've got the sun and a watch with hands I can also find north but a compass makes it easier. It's a handy trick and I recommend everyone learns to do that too.
Everyone should know how to use a compass - you never know when you might really need that knowledge.
Clear in colour.