top of page
  • Writer's pictureRob Preston

Tools of the trade: Choosing a compass for Adventure Racing

Updated: Apr 10, 2019

The ability to use a map and compass is absolutely the most crucial skill you need if you want to be a successful adventure racer.  It can mean the difference between a great race and the dreaded situation of being lost for hours, not making friends with team mates and then not finishing.  Navigation training is just as important as physical training, as there is no point in moving very fast but in the wrong direction.

With so many makes and models out there, picking a compass may seem like a daunting task at first.  So, what compass should you choose? 

I use three different compasses depending on the leg (discipline) and the terrain. 

Baseplate compass

A baseplate  compass  is what I recommend as your main compass, especially for beginners.  You can take a precise bearing with it or use it to get a general sense of your direction.  You’ll pay anywhere from $35 for a basic SILVA 7NL baseplate to $138 for SILVA Race Place Zoom. The race plate zoom has a faster settling needle & a magnifying glass. 

Wrist Compass

For long races I use an OMC Silva Wrist Compass $138. These compasses are great for navigation that only requires knowing the general direction instead of a more accurate bearing. With just a glance at my wrist, I know my direction of travel. A wrist compass is fantastic while on the bike or in the kayak so as you don’t need to find your compass in your pack or pocket every time you want to check your direction and it doesn't get in the way of holding handlebars or paddles.

Thumb Compass

When the navigation gets more involved, however, I use a thumb compass. On a tricky orienteering section of a race, the thumb compass allows me to always know my location on the map and my direction of travel by holding the map and the compass together.  The needle settles super-fast for navigating on-the-go, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.  It will cost around $138 but it’s worth it.  The thumb compass comes both in right handed or left handed models depending on which hand you hold the map in. 

Once you decide on a compass, get out there and use it! Too  many people train their tails off running, paddling, and biking, but they often neglect the critical skill of navigating.

Full range of race equipment can be found at

1,013 views0 comments


bottom of page