Features February 2008 Issue

Finding Your Way: Testers Look at Three Types of Hand-Bearing Compasses

Five hockey-puck compasses, four vertical-grip compasses, and one monocular compete for the title of best coastal navigation aid in their class.

In the age of GPS and digital charting, skilled navigators know that visual bearing-taking and careful chartplotting remain a valuable part of any navigation plan. And handy, compact magnetic compasses with built-in sighting mechanisms allow users to accurately fix their position on nautical charts. Practical Sailor testers found, after reviewing 10 handheld compasses, that one size does not fit all, and the nuance in how these units are held, handled, and used is the most important factor in choosing which unit is right for you. PS compared accuracy, price, warranty, and weight, and found the KVH DataScope monocular superior to the other units—but also more expensive. The hockey-puck models by Vion and Weems & Plath scored high marks, as did the vertical-grip compass by Plastimo, the Plastimo Iris 100. Other compasses tested include the Plastimo Iris 50, Ritchie Navigation Sportabout, Vion Axium 2, Brunton Nexus Universal, and the Davis vertical-handle compass.

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