Hiking Compasses

Hiking Compasses

Despite all the jokes people in other countries might tell, Australian compasses point north just like everyone elses. The truth is that since all compasses simply align the needle with the Earths magnetic field, they all point both north and south no matter where you are in the world. Thats why hikers in every country should carry a good hiking compass no matter where they are in the world.

Hemispheres Matter

Even though they all work the same way: you want a different compass in the southern hemisphere than they use in the northern hemisphere. The issue is that since the magnetic field lines drop into the Earth at the magnetic poles, they actually exert a downward force on the end of the needle. That means that Australian compasses need a counterweight on the north end of the needle to offset that force. Unfortunately, if you take your standard Australian compass hiking in Canada, that counterweight will add to the magnetic downforce and the needle might scrape the bottom of the compass.

Digital Compasses

One way to avoid the whole issue of weighted needles is to go with a digital compass. The advantage of digital hiking compasses is that they are often easier for novices to read. They also often come with additional features such as an altimeter or barometer. Unfortunately, this extra functionality often comes at a cost. Digital compasses use batteries, which means that you need to keep them charged. Thats fine for short hikes, but not necessarily for emergency equipment.


When it comes to hiking equipment, whether it be a compass or just a walking stick, durability matters. The more durable your compass is, the more likely it is that it will work when you really need it. Waterproof hiking compasses have a built-in advantage in durability because they are already sealed against moisture. Its a wise investment just in case you end up where you shouldnt.


Hikers who travel a lot should consider a compass with a global needle. These needles let your compass work equally well in both the southern and northern hemispheres, so its harder to get lost in Canada. Luminous markings are also a bonus, as they let you navigate on even the darkest night. Finally, consider a sighting mirror. Its both a signal device and a compass accessory.