Navigating Nature: A Review of the Best Compasses and GPS Devices for Camping 2023


To fully enjoy the tranquillity of the great outdoors and ensure safety while navigating through unfamiliar terrain, having the best compasses and GPS devices for camping is essential. Camping offers the perfect chance to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of city life and embrace freedom and a connection with nature.

One such indispensable tool is a reliable compass or Global Positioning System (GPS) device, which not only aids in accurate route-finding but also enhances one’s overall camping adventure. This article aims to provide an extensive review of some of the best compasses and GPS devices available on the market for camping enthusiasts. A thorough examination of their features, capabilities, accuracy, and ease of use will allow potential users to make informed decisions when selecting a suitable navigation aid for their next wilderness excursion.

By utilising these cutting-edge devices, individuals can confidently explore vast landscapes while maintaining a sense of direction and security – ultimately achieving that much-desired sense of freedom that comes with being one with nature.

best compasses and gps devices for camping

Garmin Montana 700i

garmin 700i

The Garmin Montana 700i offers advanced navigational capabilities with its built-in inReach satellite technology and glove-friendly touchscreen, providing outdoor enthusiasts with an indispensable tool for exploring the wilderness. This handheld GPS device features rugged military-grade construction that can withstand harsh conditions while maintaining optimal performance.

Users can easily navigate various terrains with multi-GNSS support, including GPS and Galileo, preloaded TopoActive maps, and City Navigator street map navigation. The device’s navigation sensors, such as the 3-axis compass and barometric altimeter, further enhance its outdoor capabilities by providing accurate directional data and elevation readings.

In addition to its navigational prowess, the Garmin Montana 700i allows users to trigger an interactive SOS to GEOS 24/7 monitoring centre for emergency assistance when needed. Two-way messaging via the Iridium satellite network ensures communication even in remote locations (with active satellite subscription).

The unit is also compatible with ANT+ technology, Wi-Fi connectivity, and BLUETOOTH wireless networking for seamless integration with other devices and services like BirdsEye Satellite Imagery downloads, location sharing through Connect IQ app support or managing waypoints using the Garmin Explore website or app.

Product Specs:

  • Built-in inReach satellite technology
  • Glove-friendly 5′ colour touchscreen
  • Multi-GNSS support (GPS & Galileo)
  • Navigation sensors: 3-axis compass & barometric altimeter
  • Wireless connectivity: ANT+, Wi-Fi & BLUETOOTH


  • Rugged military-grade construction ideal for outdoor use
  • Comprehensive navigational tools, including preloaded maps
  • Versatile communication options via satellite network


  • An active satellite subscription is required for inReach messaging features.
  • Possible regulation or prohibition of use in some jurisdictions

Suunto 9 Peak GPS Sports Watch

suunto 9

In the realm of GPS devices for outdoor enthusiasts, the Suunto 9 Peak GPS Sports Watch stands out due to its ultra-thin design, long battery life, and robust features that cater to a wide range of sports and activities. Manufactured in Finland using 100% renewable energy, this watch is designed with durability while being environmentally friendly.

With over 80 sport modes available and intelligent battery modes providing up to 170 hours of battery life, this watch is ideal for those seeking adventure in the great outdoors. Its barometer feature accurately measures altitude and supports sleep tracking for overall well-being.

The Suunto 9 Peak offers more than just navigation assistance; it also includes heart rate measurement and blood oxygen monitoring for altitude acclimatisation. The device can be easily connected to the Suunto app or other favourite apps and services, allowing users to share their experiences with communities or access specific training analysis and guidance. Furthermore, the device boasts music control from your wrist and is waterproof up to 100 meters.

With such versatility packed into an ultra-thin frame made from titanium and sapphire glass, it’s no wonder that outdoor enthusiasts are drawn to this high-performing GPS sports watch.

Product Specs:

  • Ultra-thin design: Thinnest & smallest GPS watch by Suunto
  • Long Battery Life: Intelligent Battery Modes (25 -170 hrs)
  • Durable Material: Sapphire glass & Stainless Steel


  • Over 80 sports modes supported
  • Waterproof up to 100 meters
  • Accurate altitude measurements through a barometer feature


  • No built-in map display like some competitors
  • Higher price point compared to some similar models
  • Requires separate CR2 batteries

Garmin GPSMAP 66i

Garmin 66i

Exploring the outdoors becomes more efficient and safe with the Garmin GPSMAP 66i, a handheld GPS device and satellite communicator offering many features to support adventurers’ journeys.

This device is equipped with TopoActive mapping and inReach Technology, allowing users to access detailed topographical information and communicate via the 100% Global Iridium satellite network. The 3-inch sunlight-readable colour display ensures visibility in various lighting conditions, while preloaded Garmin TOPO mapping with direct-to-device Birdseye satellite imagery downloads enhances navigational capabilities without requiring an annual subscription.

The Garmin GPSMAP 66i also provide cellular connectivity for active weather forecasts and geocaching live, ensuring real-time updates for better decision-making during outdoor activities. Compatibility with the Garmin Explore website and the app allows users to manage waypoints, routes, activities, collections, use tracks, and review trip data from the field.

With up to 35 hours of battery life in 10-minute tracking mode (display off) or 200 hours in Expedition mode with 30-minute tracking intervals, this device is designed for extended adventures without compromising performance.

Product Specs:

  • Dimensions: 16.26 x 6.6 x 3.56 cm; Weight: 36.29 grams
  • Display: Sunlight-readable colour display
  • Battery Life: Up to 35 hours (10-minute tracking); Up to 200 hours (Expedition mode)


  • Comprehensive navigational features, including TopoActive mapping and preloaded Garmin TOPO maps
  • Robust communication capabilities through the global Iridium satellite network
  • Compatible with Garmin Explore website and app for managing data


  • Some customers reported issues with customer service
  • Instances of receiving incorrect regional maps (USA instead of UK)
  • Reports of software bugs causing unexpected shutdowns

Garmin eTrex 10 Outdoor Handheld GPS Unit

garmin etrex

Experience the great outdoors easily and confidently using the Garmin eTrex 10 Outdoor Handheld GPS Unit, a reliable and user-friendly device designed to withstand harsh elements while providing accurate navigational assistance. This versatile GPS handheld offers a worldwide base map, redesigned ergonomics, paperless geocaching capabilities, and an easy-to-use interface that ensures users can navigate their surroundings efficiently.

The high-sensitivity EGNOS-enabled GPS receiver and HotFix satellite prediction technology allow for quick location tracking in various environments, including heavy cover and deep valleys. The Garmin eTrex 10 is the first consumer-grade receiver capable of simultaneously tracking GPS and GLONASS satellites for enhanced accuracy.

Its monochrome display remains easily readable in any lighting situation, making it perfect for outdoor explorations. The device’s durable waterproof construction ensures it can handle even the most challenging weather conditions while continuing to operate effectively. With features such as paperless geocaching support through GPX files and a clear screen pointing towards chosen destination waypoints, this handheld GPS unit is ideal for outdoor enthusiasts seeking adventure off the beaten path.

Product Specs:

  • 2.2-inch monochrome display
  • Waterproof design
  • High-sensitivity EGNOS-enabled GPS receiver with HotFix satellite prediction
  • Supports paperless geocaching via GPX files
  • The worldwide base map included


  • Durable construction built to withstand harsh environments
  • Easy-to-read monochrome display suitable for all lighting situations
  • Quick location tracking with simultaneous support of GPS and GLONASS satellites


  • Limited map details on included worldwide base map
  • The monochrome display may be less appealing than colour displays found on other models
  • No expandable memory or additional mapping capability

Garmin inReach® Messenger Handheld Satellite Communicator

garmin ireach

Discover the power of seamless global communication with the Garmin inReach® Messenger Handheld Satellite Communicator, designed to keep you connected even in remote locations without cell coverage. This innovative device offers two-way messaging and interactive SOS capabilities, ensuring you can stay in touch with loved ones or call for help when needed.

Its small, rugged design and compatibility with various Garmin handhelds, wearables, and other devices make it an essential addition to any outdoor enthusiast’s gear list.

In addition to its messaging features, the Garmin inReach® Messenger also allows users to check in with contacts using preset messages that do not count toward their allotted text messages. It’s seamless switching between Wi-Fi wireless networking and cellular/satellite networks ensures uninterrupted communication wherever you roam. The on-device display confirms message delivery and provides a response in case of emergency situations.

Moreover, the internal rechargeable lithium battery offers up to 28 days of battery life in 10-minute tracking mode and can provide safe charging for your phone if needed.

Product Specs:

  • Dimensions: 7.87 x 6.35 x 2.29 cm; Weight: 113.4 grams
  • Global two-way messaging and interactive SOS
  • Compatible with various Garmin handhelds, wearables, and other devices


  • Uninterrupted communication through Wi-Fi wireless networking and cellular/satellite networks
  • Long-lasting battery life (up to 28 days) in tracking mode
  • Rugged design suitable for outdoor enthusiasts


  • Requires an active satellite subscription (some jurisdictions may regulate or prohibit use)
  • Potential limitations on guaranteed software updates

Suunto A-30 Nh Usgs Compass

suunto a30

The Suunto A-30 Nh Usgs Compass offers a compact and precise solution for hikers and orienteers seeking reliable navigation assistance in the great outdoors. This professional compass is designed with a transparent base plate with a magnifying glass, making it ideal for maps.

The liquid-filled capsule ensures stable operation, while the high-quality stainless steel needle with jewel bearing provides accurate readings. Additionally, the compass features luminous markings for good readability in poor lighting conditions and a fixed scale for declination correction.

Made in Finland, the Suunto A-30 Nh Usgs Compass comes with a removable carrying cord featuring a snap lock and quick-release fastener, allowing users to easily detach it when working with maps. The compass also includes holes for position marking and requires no batteries to operate.

With its durable plastic bezel material and lightweight design (32 g), this compass is an excellent choice for those who want to navigate nature confidently without being weighed down by bulky equipment.

Product Specs:

  • Dimensions: 114 x 56 x 10 mm
  • Weight: 32 g
  • Bezel Material: Plastic


  • Compact and lightweight design
  • Accurate readings due to high-quality stainless steel needle with jewel bearing
  • Luminous markings provide good readability in poor lighting conditions


  • The plastic bezel may not be as durable as metal alternatives.
  • No batteries included (although not required)

TurnOnSport Orienteering Compass

turnonsport compass

Offering reliable navigation for outdoor enthusiasts, the TurnOnSport Orienteering Compass boasts a range of features to enhance accuracy and ease of use in various terrains. The compass has a 360-degree rotating bezel and magnetic needle housed within a liquid-filled capsule, ensuring smooth operation even during movement. Its acrylic baseplate incorporates an azimuth bearing and magnifying glass, useful for reading geological maps and navigating through unfamiliar landscapes.

Designed to be portable, lightweight, and durable, this manual magnet compass is suitable for hikers, campers, scouts, survivalists, kayakers, climbers, wildlife observers – virtually anyone who ventures into the great outdoors. It has a ruler scale 1:24000 for precise route mapping on topographic maps and can be easily carried in pockets or backpacks.

In emergency situations or when electronic devices fail due to low battery or poor signal reception in remote areas, having this high-quality construction compass as part of one’s gear can prove life-saving.

Product Specs:

  • Manual magnet compass with acrylic baseplate
  • 360-degree rotating bezel with magnetic needle housed in a liquid-filled capsule
  • Magnifying glass for map reading
  • Ruler scale of 1:24000 for accurate route mapping


  • Reliable navigation tool suitable for various outdoor activities
  • Lightweight design, easy to carry in a pocket or backpack
  • High-quality construction ensures durability and accuracy


  • Not as technologically advanced as GPS devices (no digital display)
  • Some users may find it challenging to learn how to use it effectively without prior experience or training.

SUUNTO A-10 Compass

suunto a10

Incorporating a range of features designed for recreational sports enthusiasts, the SUUNTO A-10 Compass provides an accurate and robust option for orienteering, hiking, and other outdoor pursuits. Manufactured in Finland, this compass offers quick and easy alignment to the north with its high-quality stainless steel needle supported by jewel bearing. The liquid-filled capsule ensures stable operation, while the fixed scale allows for declination correction. Additionally, there is no need for batteries as the device operates mechanically.

The SUUNTO A-10 Compass boasts a base plate that facilitates its use in various activities like map reading and route planning. Its plastic bezel, and lightweight construction make it comfortable to handle during extended expeditions. For added convenience, it has a removable carrying cord featuring a snap lock that makes it easily detachable when working with maps or charts.

With dimensions of 35 x 81 x 129 millimetres and weighing only 1.1 ounces, this compass is an excellent choice for those who value practicality without compromising performance.

Product Specs:

  • Dimensions: 35 x 81 x 129 millimetres
  • Material: Stainless Steel & Plastic
  • Weight: 1.1 Ounces


  • Accurate and reliable navigation tool
  • Lightweight construction suitable for long treks
  • No batteries required


  • Some users may prefer more advanced features found in GPS devices
  • Limited durability compared to metallic models

Suunto Mirror Compass MC-2 G

suunto mc2

Precision and reliability are exemplified in the Suunto Mirror Compass MC-2 G, a professional-grade compass designed for those seeking high-performance navigation tools in their outdoor adventures. This Finnish-made compass boasts a global orientation feature, adjustable declination correction, and luminous markings that ensure legibility even in poor lighting conditions. The mirror allows users to determine their direction and serves as a signalling device, an added safety measure when exploring the great outdoors.

The Suunto Mirror Compass MC-2 G has a high-quality stainless steel needle with a jewel bearing, a liquid-filled capsule for stable operation, and a plastic bezel. Its base plate features a magnifying glass, metric scales and inch gauge, bearing hole, and rear sight. Additionally, this compass does not require batteries and comes with a detachable carrying cord with a snap lock for easy transport.

The combination of performance-oriented design elements makes this compass an essential tool for adventurers who value precision while navigating through nature’s most challenging terrains.

Product Specs:

  • Dimensions: 65 x 101 x 18 mm
  • Weight: 75 g
  • Bezel Material: Plastic
  • Global Orientation
  • Adjustable declination correction


  • High-precision and reliable functions
  • Luminous markings improve legibility in low-light conditions
  • Mirror serves the dual purpose of direction finding and signalling


  • Slightly higher price point compared to other compasses on the market
  • The plastic bezel may be less durable than metal alternatives.

SUNNTO MB-6 Compass

suunto mb6

The Suunto MB-6 Compass provides a robust and versatile navigation solution in a compact matchbox format, ensuring accurate and efficient orientation during outdoor activities. Equipped with a clinometer for measuring slope angles, this compass ensures precise alignment to the North while offering excellent legibility in poor lighting conditions due to luminous markings. Its high-quality needle made of premium steel with jewel bearings is housed within a liquid-filled capsule, allowing for stable operation even in challenging environments.

Designed for year-round use, the Suunto MB-6 Compass is constructed from durable stainless steel and plastic materials that can withstand harsh outdoor conditions. Including an adjustable declination correction key further enhances its accuracy and functionality during orienteering or navigation excursions. With no batteries required, users can rely on this reliable compass without worrying about power sources or charging capabilities—an essential factor when venturing into remote locations where recharging may be impossible.

Product Specs:

  • Dimensions: 67 x 47 x 22 mm
  • Weight: 55 g
  • Material: Stainless Steel, Plastic


  • Compact matchbox format for easy portability
  • Clinometer for measuring angles of slope
  • Luminous markings ensure good legibility in poor lighting conditions


  • Some users may prefer larger compass models for easier handling
  • Requires manual adjustment for declination correction

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Are there any affordable alternatives to the listed GPS devices and compasses that still offer reliable navigation features for camping?

    Affordable alternatives to high-end GPS devices and compasses are available for those seeking reliable navigation tools for camping without compromising their budget. These budget-friendly options balance cost-effectivenesses and dependable performance, ensuring outdoor enthusiasts can confidently navigate natural environments.

    These alternatives include traditional compasses with added features such as baseplate rulers, magnifying lenses, and declination adjustments to enhance accuracy. Additionally, smartphone applications providing GPS functionality can serve as an accessible means of digital navigation support.

    By considering these economic choices, individuals pursuing outdoor adventures can achieve a sense of freedom while remaining financially responsible.

  2. How can I best maintain and care for my GPS device or compass to ensure its longevity and accuracy during camping trips?

    To ensure the longevity and accuracy of navigation instruments during camping trips, it is crucial to carry out regular maintenance and employ proper care techniques.

    Compass calibration plays a significant role in maintaining the device’s precision; thus, one must check for magnetic declination before each trip and adjust accordingly.

    Waterproof protection should be considered when selecting a compass or GPS device, as exposure to moisture can cause damage to the internal components over time.

    Additionally, it is essential to avoid signal interference from electronic devices or metallic objects that might negatively affect the performance of the compass and the GPS unit.

    By diligently adhering to these guidelines, outdoor enthusiasts can effectively preserve their navigation tools’ functionality and reliability throughout numerous adventures in nature’s vast expanses.

  3. What are some tips for using a compass or GPS device in extreme weather conditions, such as heavy rain, snow, or high winds?

    Extreme weather navigation poses significant challenges for outdoor enthusiasts, as heavy rain, snow, and high winds can compromise the accuracy and functionality of compasses or GPS devices.

    To overcome these obstacles, employing waterproofing techniques is paramount, such as using protective cases or covers specifically designed to shield equipment from moisture while maintaining usability.

    Additionally, wind-resistant gear can provide stability during operation in gusty conditions; securing the device with lanyards or harnesses can prevent loss due to strong winds.

    By implementing these precautionary measures, individuals seeking adventure amidst nature’s unpredictability can confidently rely on their navigational tools to guide them safely through harsh meteorological conditions.

  4. How can I conserve battery life on my GPS device during a long camping trip, and what are the best practices for charging or replacing batteries in the wilderness?

    Battery conservation during extended camping trips is essential to ensure the continued functionality of GPS devices in remote locations. Utilising energy-efficient settings, such as reducing screen brightness and disabling unnecessary features, can significantly prolong battery life.

    Additionally, solar chargers offer a sustainable and environmentally friendly charging solution that harnesses the sun’s power while maintaining device protection against adverse weather conditions.

    Regularly monitoring battery levels and carrying spare batteries further ensures uninterrupted access to navigation tools, ultimately fostering an enhanced sense of freedom and self-reliance amidst nature’s vast wilderness.

  5. Are there any specific navigation or mapping apps that can be used in conjunction with these devices to enhance their functionality during camping trips?

    As the saying goes, ‘Not all those who wander are lost,’ and this adage holds especially true when equipped with reliable navigation and mapping apps to supplement one’s compass or GPS device.

    One key aspect to consider is mapping accuracy, ensuring the topographical information is precise and up-to-date.

    Another important factor is app compatibility with various devices, allowing for seamless integration between one’s smartphone or tablet and the dedicated GPS unit.

    Lastly, offline functionality proves crucial in remote locations without internet access, enabling adventurers to download and use maps beforehand, even when cellular signal strength dwindles.

    By utilising these advanced features in conjunction with traditional navigational tools, individuals can confidently explore the great outdoors while maintaining a strong sense of direction and autonomy.


In conclusion, the exploration of the natural world necessitates the utilisation of reliable navigational tools. The aforementioned devices, encompassing diverse features and designs, offer invaluable assistance to outdoor enthusiasts in their quest for adventure. Furthermore, these sophisticated instruments demonstrate how technological advancements have indubitably revolutionised mankind’s ability to traverse and appreciate Earth’s untamed landscapes.

Selecting an appropriate compass or GPS device is paramount in ensuring a safe and enjoyable excursion into nature’s embrace.

In this intricate dance between human curiosity and terrestrial wonders lies the quintessence of discovery—a timeless testament to our unyielding pursuit of knowledge and understanding.

For more information, see Camping Gear Essentials 2023: A Comprehensive Guide.