How to Buy a Compass

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How to Buy a Compass

Many people enjoy the great outdoors, and with the stresses of daily life it is no surprise. Camping under the stars is a return to nature, and the countryside in the UK has much to offer. There are some essential items that are necessary to campers, and eBay always has a wide range of camping gear and accessories. From tents and backpacks to clothes and footwear there is plenty to choose from, and all at excellent prices. Some items are absolutely essential for campers who are taking to the wilds on foot or on a bike, and who are engaging in a little orienteering along the way. A good map of the area is a vital part of the equipment, as are sturdy boots and an accurate watch, but by far the most important item may be a compass.

The compass has been around for hundreds of years; a rudimentary device that, as every schoolboy knows, reliably shows the way to magnetic north, a compass can be a vital safety aid in situations where the walker needs to know exactly where they are. These days, however, compasses have become somewhat more sophisticated. It is still possible – and many advise it as best to do so – to buy a simple, plain and ordinary magnetic compass, but the advent of electronic devices with GPS (Global Positioning System) technology has taken orienteering to an entirely new level. Buying a compass is about deciding on the one that is right for the purpose, and there are many things to consider.

Different Types of Compass

While buying a compass may, at first, seem like a simple choice, the sheer number and variety of these items on offer at eBay gives a good indication of the difficulty that may be encountered. To begin with, anyone looking at buying a compass should consider the following:

  • The use the compass will be put to
  • The sophistication level needed
  • The budget available

While GPS systems are excellent, and provide accurate results in most cases, it may be that there are locations where a signal is difficult to get. Relying on technology is not always reliable, but a mechanical, unpowered compass is most likely to be. Now, about the different uses for a compass; they can be used for the following:

  • As safety devices in case the user gets lost
  • As direction finders
  • In conjunction with a map
  • For sporting use

In general terms, the simpler the compass, the more reliable it is likely to be. Concentrating on traditional style compasses, here are some of the more popular types:

  • Pocket watch compasses – the traditional style is a circular dial with a needle encased in a sturdy casing for protection; cost effective, easy to use and reliable.
  • Protractor compasses – used with maps to determine the terrain or destination ahead; useful when orienteering or searching for a camp site.
  • Clear Base Plate – there are many compasses that come attached to a clear base, the latter for use by laying upon a map; these are very useful for reading maps and planning routes.
  • Sighting Mirror – one of the most popular of all types of compass, this version allows the user to concentrate on the reading with greater accuracy, and is very easy to use.

Those are the main types of traditional non-powered compasses, and they are all affordable and readily available on eBay. However, there are certain advanced features of compasses that the buyer should consider, especially if the compass is for regular serious use on a more elaborate expedition.

Special Features to Look Out For

A compass serves a simple purpose: it points the way north. However, it has already been mentioned that, in fact, the traditional magnetic compass points not to true north, but to magnetic north. Accuracy is paramount, however, and while this is not a problem to the experienced camper, it can present a problem in certain circumstances. There are two particularly useful features that more advanced compasses use:

  • Declination Adjustment: The north displayed by a magnetic compass is not true north; the amount of iron in the Earth’s crust causes a deviation from the real north, and this varies in different places and at different times of year. In fact, a compass can be as much as 30% off true north – a real problem for the user. As maps are always drawn to represent true north the experienced orienteer will be able to calculate the difference. However, there are now compasses available with a declination adjustment feature. This allows for the user to dial in their location and other information, and the compass will then indicate true north. This is, quite obviously, a very useful feature.
  • Needle Dip Correction: another curious aspect of the earth’s magnetic field is that it will affect the pull on a compass needle according to where it is in the world. The closer to the poles, the more pronounced the effect. For this reason there are compasses that are specially made for different parts of the world, which have needle dip correction built in to their workings. There are five officially recognised magnetic areas of the earth, and each has compasses specially allotted.

Buying a compass on eBay needs careful consideration, and it may also be worth looking at the option of a rotating bezel; this will allow for north to be aligned with the needle for more accurate readings. Also, look for compasses that have a liquid filled needle for greater speed and accuracy, and make sure the compass is correctly calibrated.

Benefits of GPS

While a traditional magnetic compass is still a useful and accurate tool, especially in the more advanced forms, great strides have been made in direction-finding equipment thanks to the advent of technology. A Global Positioning System is a very accurate type of compass that uses satellites orbiting above the earth to determine the position of the device. These small, electronic devices are extremely accurate and are becoming more popular. It is possible to find GPS systems incorporated in mobile telephone handsets. The system needs four satellites in conjunction – at least – to provide a reading: more, and the accuracy is increased. It works by taking a location reading from each of the satellites, and calculating the actual location of the unit. The accuracy can be quite amazing and they are widely used in military circles.

However, the GPS system has one major drawback over the traditional compass: it needs a power source to operate. If the batteries run down it becomes a useless artefact. Some use rechargeable batteries, others long life ones, but in both cases there is a finite operating time. The other drawback is if not enough satellites can be accessed for an accurate reading. GPS has its place, but it has yet to take the place of the traditional compass, and is unlikely to do so anytime soon.

How to Buy A Compass On eBay

There are many compasses for sale at any one time on eBay, and many other camping accessories too. A quick search will find many different types of compass, tents, clothing and accessories and more, and with many vendors offering free delivery and excellent prices for the best deal. Using eBay is extremely easy; once the buyer has decided upon the type of compass they want they can simply go to and choose the Camping section under the Sporting Goods header. Now look for the section titled Accessories, and you can add the word ‘compass’ in the search box for greater accuracy. The choice of compasses and camping goods is extensive, and buyers can narrow the search down by entering a brand name or model number into the search box, or by selecting types and other details on the drop down menu to the left. If further advice on buying a compass on eBay is needed, visit the Search Tips page, and it may help to look in the eBay Stores section for more choice of compasses at eBay.


A compass can be a lifesaver; many a walker has been heading for a particular destination when, all of a sudden, the weather changes and visibility is hampered. It is all too easy to be stranded without help in such a situation, and picture the scene in a location where there is no mobile phone signal. Affordable, easy to use and reliable, compasses offer excellent direction finding – even in the very worst weather – and should be considered an absolutely essential part of the walker or campers equipment. There is no doubt that anyone venturing out of the safe and secure surrounds of suburbia will, at some point, need a compass. Buying a compass on eBay is quick and simple, and the choice covers all the different types, from the most basic to the advanced. Whatever the budget available, searching for the right compass – new or used – has never been easier, and there are many more camping goods and accessories also on offer.

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