8 Best Kayak Compass In 2020 [Top Reviews & Buying Guide]

best kayak compass

For the past several years, GPS navigation has slowly inserted itself into the navigation space, and many people now pick them over compasses. But, global positioning systems are not infallible. They can die, malfunction, or get weak signals, which can leave you stranded in the middle of nowhere. Compasses, on the other hand, are way more reliable, and they won't malfunction unless north stops being north.

Seasoned seafarers always use a compass even with a GPS because compasses work well during adverse weather conditions, and they are easy to use. If you’re a regular seaman, then you know that a reliable compass is matchless when you’re working in less than ideal conditions because of their readability and reliability. This article lists out some of the best kayak compass available and also a buying guide to help you choose the best one for your lifestyle and boat.

best value

  • Large compass dial
  • Easy to mount/attach
  • Clear dial markings
  • Durable construction

Premium

  • Easy to mount
  • Easy to read
  • Tough construction
  • Reliable

1. ​Ritchie XP-99 Surface Mount Compass – Top Pick

If your priorities as a kayaker are readability and easy mounting, then the Ritchie XP-99 might be the best model for you. This compass has two mounting alternatives you can pick from a tie-down mount and direct deck mount. This makes the compass easy to remove and mount, and the front dial of the compass is black with bright white notches that are easy to see from almost any direction.

The Ritchie XP-99 also comes with an additional 12V battery kit for use at night or in low-light conditions. It has a revolving dial head, so any angle you read from is the direction you are currently on. This compass is known for its reliability and readability, and it is easy enough for anyone to use.

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2. Brunton Dash Mount Compass – Premium Pick

Brunton Dash Mount Compasses fit fluidly into pre-built recesses in the decks of most kayaks because they are the preferred compasses by many kayak owners and manufacturers. This brand produces compasses with accurate readings by 5-degree graduations, and easy to read dials. The dial is also a direct reading disc, so you get a correct reading from most angles.

This compass also comes with a reciprocal bearing on the bulkhead mount. You can easily mount this compass if your boat comes with the deck recess, but if it doesn’t, you need a few power tools to install the compass. Unfortunately, the compass doesn’t come with night vision dials, but it can be used in different rough conditions without fail.

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3. Seattle Sports Sea Rover Deck Compass – Best Value Pick

This portable compass from Seattle Sports is perfect for kayakers that need easy to mount and remove compasses. It attaches to its clear case, which in turn is attached to the kayak’s deck with two buckles that keep it in place during use. The compass has a black face, and the graduations are marked with white for easy readings.

Some users complain about the direction of the heading because it works oppositely from regular hiking compasses, but this design makes it easy to read, especially in rough conditions. You are sure to get accurate measurements with this compass as well as an interactive user experience.

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4. Sun Company SeaTurtl Kayak Compass

The SeaTurtl compass is a tough compass designed to take a lot of hits and abuse without getting bad. It has foam padding underneath its rubber case, which secures it properly to your kayak even when it gets wet. The large dial of the Sea Turtl is easy to read, and it is quite easy to see, and it comes with an adjustable hood that can protect it from sunlight.

With its elastic mount cables, the Sea Turtl is made for different deck sizes, although it only fits snugly if your deck is flat so you can adjust it to fit different boats.

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5. Silva 58 Kayak Compass

Silva is known for its quality compasses, both marine, and hiking, and the Silva 58 compass model is no different. It is a compact compass with a small dial and firm plastic holding clips to attach it to whatever surface is most convenient for you. The dial face has clear white notches to show the graduations and a big yellow marker that shows the bearing from whatever angle you face.

It is easy to remove and mount, and it is protected from impact by a hard plastic cover. This cover makes it a perfect match for rough nautical journeys. The compass is reliable and durable, which makes it a favorite for a lot of kayakers.

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6. Ritchie Navigation X-11Y Kayak Compass

Ritchie compasses are known for their resilience and durability, and the Ritchie Navigation X-11 model is one of their smaller models. Its dial face is small and black with white marks for contrast to read during use. The compass comes with a bulkhead deck mount and has a direct reading dial, which means that the bearing facing you is the one you’re on.

Unfortunately, due to the small size of the compass, reading it may be a pain for some people, but it is still legible enough for most people to read. You can get an additional night use kit that has some chemically illuminated stickers to help you see better at night.

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7. Ritchie Navigation X-10W-M Sport Marine Compass

The Ritchie Navigation X-10W-M sports compass is yet another compass from the Ritchie brand. This model is compact and portable, and very easy to mount on your kayak. With its 2-inch direct reading dial, it is easy to read, especially in bad weather conditions. It also has a glow-in-the-dark dial for low-light/night conditions.

If you are a frequent kayaker, then you should like this compass because of its durable build and casing, which helps it withstand tough conditions and impact. This compass is very affordable, and it works well and gives accurate readings, similar to the others in this article.

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8. Suunto Orca/Pioneer Compass

The Suunto Orca compass comes in 2 different mounting options, depending on which style you prefer. The bulkhead mount is for a more stable attachment, and the tie-down mount is for easy removal. However, the tie-down method is not as secure as the bulkhead mount. The dial is a dark black with white luminescent notches that make the night view easy.

This compass has an accurate reading of up to 25° from a level position, which makes it easy to read at a glance. You can also use this compass easily on land and in rough conditions. Its thermoplastic casing protects it from damage, but in some cases, it can get detached.

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Things to Consider Before Purchasing a Kayak Compass

Before you go shopping for a compass for your kayak, you need to do some research that will help you choose the most suitable model for your lifestyle. Different brands come up with different types of compasses, sometimes with one brand having many models, and this can make buying a good compass difficult. 

However, there are certain factors that you need to keep in mind before buying one. These factors are the same regardless of what brand or model you buy and they can help you avoid a lot of issues.

Durability

Durability is a requirement for most products, but for compasses, it is especially important. Compasses are required to give accurate readings at all times, so a little malfunction can throw off the reading of your compass and leave you stranded. So, always look out for compasses that have sturdy designs and good track records.

The material used in making the compass plays a major role in how long the compass will last. Always look out for tough and wear-resistant materials that are suited for the occasional rough use.

If you pick a compass with fluid, make sure it doesn’t leak after some time; the fluid doesn’t freeze in subzero temperatures, and that the fluid remains clear at all times. These can affect the accuracy of the compass’ reading, and also your ability to read it.

Readability

You need a compass you can read in a split second, especially in bad weather conditions. The two factors that affect readability are the reading angle and the dial markings. You need a compass that maintains a correct reading, and that has a large enough dial that you can read at a glance.

Removability

This is one factor that a lot of kayakers prioritize, primarily if they use more than one kayak. Removable kayaks save you some money since you can use one for multiple boats, and you can also remove it when transporting the kayak to protect it from harm. However, you have to consider that removable compasses aren't always as strong as fixed ones, so they probably won’t last as long.

Declination adjustment

This topic has sparked an argument amongst compass users, but it is mostly due to a misunderstanding. The misunderstanding comes from the position of true north and magnetic north. Now, due to Earth's magnetic pull, true north and magnetic north can differ, so compasses usually require a type of adjustment to be able to locate true north.

While the above is true, especially for hiking compasses, the same is not precisely applicable to marine compasses because nautical charts usually indicate both true north and magnetic north. So, if you use charts, you don't need to adjust your compass. Instead, you'll use the magnetic north indicated on the chart. If you don't use nautical charts, then you might need to adjust your compass.

Mounting options

Marine compasses come with several mounting options, but for kayaks, these options are more limited. A kayak needs a compass that fits properly and can be viewed from the keel. There are a couple of mounting options you can choose from, depending on the size and fit of your kayak and compass.

  • Bulkhead mount: Bulkhead mounts are more secure and well-positioned because they require your compass to be attached by screws to a built-in recess deck. Some kayaks come with custom recesses for specific compass brands and models, and these fit perfectly and look factory installed. You can also get a removable mounting bracket so that you can remove the compass; otherwise, it stays in place.
  • Tie-down: Tie-down mounts are more flexible, and they come with cords and cables that are used to tie the compass down to the bow of your boat. You can even tie it down to other surfaces that may be easier to read from. The easy installation of this mounting option comes with an added disadvantage of weakness. They are not as sturdy as bulkhead mounts, and you may need to replace it within a few years.
  • Avoid bracket mounts, dash mounts, binnacle mounts, and flush mounts because they are not designed to work well with kayaks and other smaller boats. If you use one of them, they may fit, but your compass will be in a bad position that can expose it to impact, which can damage it easily.

    Features

    Compasses come with different features that can make your experience better. Some are made of materials that make them better to use during adverse weather conditions and cold temperatures. Others come with additional features and stylish designs. Ensure that you pick a compass that comes with the correct features that match your lifestyle and frequency of use.

    Price

    As a kayaker, you know that kayaking requires a lot of gear that can cost a pretty sum. Keep in mind that a well-made compass from a well-known brand will most likely cost more than one from a lesser-known brand.

    FINAL VERDICT

    After a thorough and detailed analysis of the kayak compasses on the market, we narrowed the list down to 8 of the best kayak compass available. Our top pick from the compasses on this list is the Ritchie XP-99 Surface Mount Compass. This compass has all the elements and features you need in a compass with its two mount options, accurate direct-reading dial, and additional night view option. You cannot go wrong with this compass, and it comes at a mid-range price.

    Our premium pick is the Brunton Dash Mount Compass. This model gives you great value for its price, which is quite higher than that of other compasses in this list. The compass is legible from whatever angle, dependable, accurate, and durable. There is no doubt why many boats come with a custom deck recess that fits this compass perfectly.

    Lastly, if you’re on a budget, but you still want a compass you can rely on, the Seattle Sports Sea Rover Deck Compass is our best value pick. It comes at a more affordable price, but it delivers excellent quality and accuracy. 

    All the compasses in this list are excellent choices; you just need to pick the one that suits you best.


    4.9/5.0
    Our Rating
    Douglas Keister

    I am an adventure fanatic that loves nature and adventure sports like kayaking, camping and water sports. I have been doing this for almost 10 years now and have learned quite a few tricks. With my experience, I hope to provide you with the most reliable and accurate information for your next adventure.

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