With the existence of GPS systems and mobile phones, using a compass for navigation while kayaking might seem outdated.
However, technological gadgets might fail you while you’re out in the water for a number of reasons. It could be a malfunction, poor reception, weak signals, solar flare interference, and the most common of them, dead batteries.
So, the reason why compasses are still used by kayakers is that they’re the most reliable when going on long trips as they don’t require any electric power.
It’s recommended for every kayaker to have a good knowledge of how to use a compass and to invest in a good model that fits their kayak.
With many models and options available, it can be overwhelming to choose the best compass. So, here’s a list of some of the best kayak compasses available in the market.
|Brunton 70P Dash Mount Kayak Compass||Deck-Mount||8.3 ounces||4 x 3 x 3|
|Ritchie Navigation XP-99 Kayak Compass||Screw-In Surface Mount or Tie-downs||12 ounces||6.9 x 6.2 x 7|
|Seattle Sports Sea Rover Kayak Compass||Tie-downs||12 ounces||2.5 x 7.5 x 2.6|
|TurnOnSport Suction Dashboard Kayak Compass||Screw-In Surface Mount or EVA foam sticker||11.3 ounces||5.5 x 4.7 x 4.4|
|Ritchie Navigation X-11Y Kayak Compass||Hand-held||4 ounces||2 x 5 x 7|
|Sun Company Seaturtl Kayak Compass||Tie-downs||8.8 ounces||4.1 x 4.1 x 2.9|
List of the Best Kayak Compasses in 2021
Best Overall – Brunton 70P Dash Mount Kayak Compass
The top recommendation on our list is the Brunton 70P Dash Mount Compass which is one of the best kayak compasses on the market.
It’s highly durable as it’s constructed from heavy-duty materials to withstand impact with breaking or detaching from the mount. It also comes with a lifetime warranty.
It comes with a flush-mount design that fits into manufacturer-ready recesses on your kayak which provides a factory-installed look.
It’s impressive and reliable when it comes to readability and accuracy as it features a large direct-reading dial with 5-degree graduations and reciprocal bearing which increases visibility and allows you to read the back bearing quickly and easily while paddling.
Pros VS Cons
- It’s made from durable heavy-duty material
- It comes with a lifetime warranty
- It provides high accuracy with 5-degree graduations
- It comes with a direct-reading dial for enhanced readability
- It features a flush-mount design
- It fits perfectly into manufacturer-ready recesses
- It’s light in weight
- It can be a hassle to transport from one kayak to another
- It might require drilling holes in your kayak to install
The Brunton 70P Dash Mount Compass is the perfect choice for you if you’re looking for a top-quality compass with a low-profile design that can be permanently mounted on your kayak.
2. Second Runner – Ritchie Navigation XP-99 Kayak Compass
Another top recommendation is the Ritchie Navigation’s Kayaker XP-99 model. This kayak compass combines versatility, durability, accuracy, and readability.
This kayak compass from Ritchie Navigation is designed with a built-in diaphragm that is constructed from composite materials which make the compass highly durable and resistant to impact. It also makes it suitable for use in extreme conditions as it can operate in a range of temperatures.
It’s easily installed on your kayaks and you have two options for how you can install it. It can be strapped using tie-down which allows for easy removal if you want to transport it from one kayak to another or it can be permanently fixed on the kayak through a screw-in mount.
The XP-99 compass model features a 2.75-inch direct-reading dial with large clear marking to increase visibility and ensure excellent accuracy and readability while paddling. It also comes with a movable bezel with a memory indicator, which means this compass can “remember” where you’re traveling.
Pros VS Cons
- It’s made from durable material
- It’s suitable for the extreme conditions of sea kayaking
- It operates in a wide range of temperatures
- It provides excellent readability and accuracy
- It comes with a direct-reading dial with large markings
- It features a movable bezel with a memory indicator
- It comes with two installation options and allows for easy removal
- It can be more expensive than other kayak compasses
- It’s considered bulky and heavy in weight
The Ritchie Navigation’s Kayaker XP-99 would be the perfect choice for you if you’re looking for a reliable kayak compass that can withstand rough conditions and allows for fixability when it comes to mounting options.
3. Best on a Budget – Seattle Sports Sea Rover Deck Mounted Kayak Compass
The Seattle Sports Sea Rover is the best Kayak Compass if you’re on a budget. This tie-down model is affordable, reliable, and easy to install.
The Sea Rover is made from heavy-duty marine-grade materials which makes it highly durable and able to withstand rough conditions.
The design provides a high degree of accuracy as it features a 2.4-inch direct-reading dial that sits on top of a simple but sturdy rubber base plate. It has two sets of markings on the dial to enhance visibility whether you’re reading it from the top of the sides.
It comes with two adjustable nylon straps which allow you to easily secure the base plate of the compass anywhere on your kayak’s deck. It also comes with quick-release buckles which allow for easy removal.
Pros VS Cons
- It highly durable and made from heavy-duty materials
- It boasts marine-grade construction
- It’s very easy to install and remove
- It comes with adjustable straps and quick-release buckles
- It features a large easy-to-read dial
- It has two sets of markings to enhance visibility
- It’s budget-friendly
- It’s heavy in weight compared to other kayak compasses
- The clips in the straps are not very durable
The Seattle Sports Sea Rover is the best option for you if you’re looking for a reliable high-quality kayak compass that comes at a reasonable price without having to sacrifice accuracy or readability.
The TurnOnSport Kayak Compass is another budget-friendly option. It has many great features without compromising quality.
The compass is made from ABS plastic material which makes it waterproof, corrosion-resistant, and durable enough able to withstand kayaking in rough conditions.
It’s designed with an easy-to-read dial with large markings to ensure accuracy and a movable top cover that shields the dial from direct sunlight to improve visibility. It also comes with a switch that allows for declination adjustments.
The dial also has a light-up feature that allows you to easily read the compass if you’re kayaking during the nighttime. It comes with 2 power cords that connect the compass to a 12V power source.
It can be easily mounted to your kayak using screws or a sticker made from EVA foam material. This allows the compass to be tightly secured to any flat surface.
Pros VS Cons
- It’s water-proof and corrosion-resistant
- It comes with a backlight feature for nighttime use
- It provides a high degree of accuracy and allows for declination adjustments
- It features a direct-read dial with large markings
- It has a movable cover to shield the dial from sunlight
- It comes at an affordable price
- The power cords can be inconvenient while kayaking
- The light-up feature needs a power supply
- It might require drilling to be installed
The TurnOnSport Kayak Compass is the best option for you’re looking for a cheap compass that you can easily use if you’re kayaking during daytime or nighttime
The X-11Y Kayak Compass is another impressive model from Ritchie Navigation with a simple yet reliable hand-held compact design.
Despite being lightweight and small in size, the X-11Y provides all excellent accuracy at all times.
The compass features a 2-inch direct-read dial with bright yellow housing made from silicon-rubber durable material. It comes with visible markings to enhance readability and tiny glow sticks that illuminate the dial if you’re kayaking at night.
It also comes with a built-in roller diaphragm that allows the compass to operate in a range of temperatures.
Pros VS Cons
- It’s made from a durable silicone material
- It has an easy to read dial that provides high degrees of accuracy
- It has prominent markings to enhance visibility
- It comes with glow sticks for illumination during nighttime.
- It’s compact, portable, and light in weight
- It’s designed for an extended operating range
- It can not be mounted on the kayak
- The glow sticks may lose their effectiveness with prolonged use
The Ritchie Navigation X-11Y Kayak Compass is the perfect choice for you if you value simple straightforward compass designs over high-end features.
The Sun Company Seaturtl Kayak Compass is one of the best tie-down compass models. It’s ideal for sea kayaking and it comes with many features at an affordable price.
The Seaturtl Kayak Compass is highly stable and durable as the housing is constructed from rubber materials while the cords are elastic with ABS clips that won’t corrode easily.
The compass features a liquid-filled dial which makes it easy to read even while paddling in rough sea conditions. It has clear markings
It’s equipped with a built-in hood that serves to shield the dial from direct sunlight and reduces glare. The hood can also be used to protect the compass when it’s not in use.
The four adjustable cords allow for easy installation on both flat and curved hulls. It can also be easily removed so you can transport it from one kayak to another.
Pros VS Cons
- It’s made from a heavy-duty robust rubber
- It comes with 4 adjustable cords for easy mounting
- It suitable for flat and curved kayak hulls
- It has a liquid-filled easy-to-read dial
- It’s equipped with a protective adjustable hood to prevent sun glare
- It comes at an affordable price
- It’s not suitable for night kayaking
The Sun Company Seaturtl Kayak Compass is the best option for you if you own multiple kayaks and looking for a sturdy tie-down compass that can be easily mounted and removed.
Everything You Need to Know About Kayak Compasses
How Does a Kayak Compass Work?
A compass is basically a navigation tool that shows direction relative to the four cardinal points north, east, south, and west.
Here’s how it works:
When the Earth spins on its axis, it creates a magnetic field that flows from one pole to another. The one at the top is the North Pole and the bottom one is the South Pole.
Each compass comes with a thin metal strip that’s attracted the magnetic flow of the Earth. This strip causes the needle of the compass to float and rotate freely then the needle comes to rest when it points to the Earth’s true north.
The majority of compasses have a marking on the needle that helps you look for the true north so you find your way with ease. However, a kayak compass or a marine compass can be different from a traditional compass.
Each kayak compass comes with a magnetized disk that is marked with 360 degrees, it is also known as a degree dial, and it always points to the north. This disk is contained inside an unmarked case that rotates around the disk to point you towards the direction you are headed in.
It is specially designed to be mounted on a kayak and the degree dial is usually larger, so you can easily determine the direction of travel even when the kayak is moving.
Why Use a Kayak Compass?
It’s crucial for every kayaker to know basic compass navigation skills because using a kayak compass comes with many benefits:
- The most obvious and important benefit of a kayak compass is that they help with navigation. It would be very unwise for you to explore an unknown new area in your kayak without any navigation tool.
- They’re just as efficient as electronic navigation devices. They’re also more reliable because most electronic devices are susceptible to failure or interference at some point so, having a kayak compass that won’t break down as a back is always a good idea.
- They ensure you always stay on course when you are on the water and they can be life-saving if you ever get lost while on a trip in a remote area with no service or if your electronic devices run out of battery.
- They are very handy as they are aligned with the kayak’s nose and will remain attached so that you will always be read the compass even when you are paddling.
How to Correctly Use a Kayak Compass?
Adjust The Declination
As mentioned before, compasses are designed to point to the North Pole. However, the magnetic north and true north may not always be the same depending on your geographic location. This is known as local defiance and it happens because of the way the Earth tilts on its axis while it rotates.
This means that you might need to adjust your direction based on the local declination of the degrees of difference between the magnetic north and the true north.
You need to make sure you’re using the specified declination value for the area you’re kayaking in. Local maps will generally line up with the compass in that location, so you won’t need to make any adjustments. Other maps will tell you the declination to use.
Align Your Kayak
You need to align your kayak with your compass by positioning the kayak so that the bow is facing north and the stern is facing south. This will make the north-south line on your compass is aligned with the center of your boat.
You can learn everything about how to keep a kayak’s track straight here.
Orient The Map
You need to make sure the travel arrow is pointing toward the top of your map, then rotate the degree dial until north (N) is lined up with the arrow. Next, you need to align the baseplate with the edge of the chart and position yourself so that the magnetic needle is lined up with the orienting arrow.
Nautical maps are mainly designed to be used with compasses, so they can make it easier to find your bearings. These maps line up with the magnetic north on the inner line of your compass. This allows you to use the maps and compass directly, without having to make any adjustments for true north.
Take The Bearing
Rotate the degree dial so that the orienting arrow is lined up with the magnetic needle’s north end. Then, observe where the travel arrow is pointing and how it lines up with the degree dial. Keep in mind that bearings are always relative to the location you’re kayaking.
Keep In Mind External Interferences
There will likely be some situations where your kayak is swept in a different direction due to the wind of current and that could affect your direction of travel.
Compasses can have a tendency to be thrown off by interferences from phones, gadgets, or any metal accessories. This can cause your compass to deviate from the magnetic north.
How to Choose the Best Kayak Compass?
There are some factors you need to consider to help you choose the best kayak compass:
Your kayak compass needs to last you a long time and be able to withstand abuse so it wouldn’t detach from its mount or leak when subjected to heavy impact.
It’s recommended to go for compasses constructed with tough casing and fluid within that would remain clear after long periods of use and not turn into ice in low temperatures.
Weight and Size
The weight and size of compasses is an important factor to consider.
The compass needs to be the right size so that you can easily read it even while paddling. It also shouldn’t be too heavy to make it more portable.
A few degrees off in your compass reading can be tolerable when you’re kayaking on rivers or lakes. However, if you’re kayaking on the open sea, the reading needs to be meticulous and highly accurate.
It’s recommended to go for compasses that have the option to adjust the declination according to your location.
Some compasses are designed to be read at a specific angle – either straight on or from above. You need to decide first where you’ll be mounting the compass so that you can read it easily.
The markings shouldn’t be too small or you won’t be able to read them, especially if you’re navigating in a tough situation. So, it’s recommended to go for compasses with larger dials that are well-marked to make navigation easier.
Mounting and Removability
Kayak compasses come with several mounting options. You need to make sure the compass is secured so that the case is in line with the keel.
Let’s take a look at the different ways you can mount a compass to your kayak:
- Deck/surface/bulkhead mount – This method allows the compass to be directly mounted to your kayak with screws or via a mounting bracket. Unless the compass comes with a detachable mounting bracket, it will remain fixed in place so it can be very durable.
- Tie-downs – You can connect your compass to your kayaking by attaching tie-down to the bungee cables or rigging mounted on the bow of your kayak. This method makes it easier to attach the compass without drilling, however, it’s easier to break and not very durable.
You also need to consider how easily you can remove the compass from the kayak. It’s better to go for a removable compass if you own more than one kayak to make it easy to transport the compass from one kayak to another instead of buying a compass for each kayak.
Removable compasses are less likely to get damaged when you’re trying to transport them between kayaks. However, they aren’t as durable as permanently mounted compasses.
Frequently Asked Questions
How to Maintain a Kayak Compass?
Kayak compasses do not require a lot of effort to maintain. All you need to do is clean it with fresh water and mild soap. You need to make sure you dry it thoroughly with a soft cloth after each trip. It’s very important that there are no dirt or salt deposits to avoid damaging the casing of the compass.
How Do You Align a Compass?
In order to align your compass, you need to position the longer edge of the compass with the starting point and your destination on the map. Make sure that the travel arrow is directed towards your destination then rotate the compass dial until the north and south lines on the compass are parallel to the ones on the map. Finally, you need to hold out the compass straight out in front of you and turn your kayak so that the red end and the orienting arrow align. The red end represents the north while the direction you need to travel in is represented by the travel arrow.
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