It’s only a magnet with a circle attached

I bought myself a new compass yesterday, which was another Silva Field 7 baseplate compass, identical to the one that I lost last October. It’s the most basic Silva compass on the market. It’s often marketed as being “ideal for youth and beginners”. For me it seems to do the job perfectly well and while I’m not a navigation supremo, I’ve been working on it for a while now and I’ve not yet had any issues with having only the basic features. I guess they market it that way to drive people towards the more expensive parts of their range.

For several months I’ve been using a baseplate Coleman compass that I found at Rebel Sport for a quarter of the price, and for me at least it works just as well as the Silva Field 7. It’s slightly larger though, if only because it includes extra features like a magnifier that I never use, and ultimately that’s why I decided to replace it. It’s only after I’d been using a smaller Field 7 compass for a while that I noticed the Coleman compass was actually quite heavy, and that’s why I bought myself another Field 7.

It’s a shame they’re priced at about $35 for something so basic, which I think is more of a branding thing than anything else. If I could get a cheap un-branded compass of similar specifications then I would, but they’re hard to find on short notice. I suppose that all you really need is a magnetically sensitive needle inside a nicely divided circle. It probably helps some people to have a few features like a better grips on the dial thingee and a magnifier for maps (which I’ve personally never used), but I’ve yet to see anyone using something like a typically expensive sighting compass for tramping navigation in New Zealand. Perhaps it’s a consequence of the circles I associate with. They’re in the shops a lot so they must sell, and I’m quite interested to know what sorts of activities people use them for.

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