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A kayak compass can be a pretty useful accessory when it comes to finding your way out on the water.
While you might have a GPS or another gadget that can help you pinpoint your location, a compass can be an effective tool, especially your gadgets fail you. But there are some things you might want to consider in a compass for kayaking.
Sneak Peek: Top Choices
7 Best Compasses For Kayaks
1: Brunton Dash Mount Compass (best overall)
- Weight: 8.3 ounces
- Dimensions: 4 x 4 x 3 inches
This Brunton Dash Mount Compass is built for kayaking and is designed to fit into the existing recesses on your boat. This means it can be flush mounted, which can be ideal if you’re looking for a compass that can be semi-permanently fixed in place on your deck.
The compass offers graduations of five degrees for increased accuracy and features a direct reading disc that can allow you to read the directions from the side of the compass. This can come in handy while you’re paddling, meaning you can read it while seated.
It comes with four screws so you can install it on the compass recess on your boat.
- Flush mounted
- Screws included
- Readable from top and sides
2: Ritchie Surface Mount Compass
- Weight: 10.4 ounces
- Dimensions: 3 ⅝ x 2 ⅞ inches
This Ritchie Surface Mount Compass can be mounted directly to your kayak and can be read from both the top and the sides of the compass. The dial itself is 2 ¾ inches in diameter, which can be easy to see, as well as being compact for installing on your boat.
One of the handy features on this compass is the green LED light, which can illuminate the dial for low light or nighttime paddling.
The compass can also be removed from its mount by pressing the two side buttons, allowing you to take it with you or remove it for storage, while leaving the mount in place on your kayak.
- LED light
- Easy to read
- Removes from its mount
3: Sun Company SeaTurtl Kayak Compass
- Weight: 8.8 ounces
- Dimensions: 4.1 x 2.9 inches
This Sun Company SeaTurtl Kayak Compass can be a great option if you’re looking for a compass that is easy to install and doesn’t require any drilling. This one features four tough elastic cords, each with a clip on the end so that you can secure the compass to suitable points on your kayak.
This can be ideal if you don’t have factory recesses or if you want to be able to attach and remove the compass easily, for use on various boats, for example.
The compass features foam pads on the base to prevent scratching your vessel. It also has an adjustable hood so that you can read the dial in bright sunlight and help to shade it from UV rays when you’re not using it.
- Bungee cords
- Protective hood
- Easy to install and remove
4: Ritchie RA-93 Angler Compass
- Weight: 6.4 ounces
- Dimensions: 3.5 x 3 inches
The Ritchie RA-93 Angler features a gray finish with a highly visible blue dial that is designed to offer improved readability because of its anti-glare properties. So this can make it easier to see in bright sunlight. It also has a green LED light so that you can read the dial in the dark.
Another feature of this compass is the movable sun shield to help with readability and to protect the dial from sunlight.
This compass can be installed directly onto the deck of your kayak and you can either use screws to mount the base or you can use the adhesive pad. The compass can be removed from the mount using the push buttons at the sides of the mount.
- Built-in LED light
- Anti-glare coating
- Easy to read
- Weight: 12 ounces
- Dimensions: 2.5 x 7.5 x 2.6 inches
The Seattle Sports Sea Rover Deck Compass can be an ideal choice for mounting on to kayak decks because it comes with its own straps.
It features adjustable straps with buckle closures that can let you secure the compass directly to your deck rigging or storage bags. It has a tough, durable design with a base plate that can help to create a flat surface for the compass.
The compass itself is designed to be easy to read from your cockpit and benefits from having two sets of markings, so that you can read the direction from the top of it and from the sides.
- Easy to install
- Straps and buckles included
- Easy to read
6: Ritchie Navigation X-11Y Kayak Compass (best budget)
- Weight: 4 ounces
- Dimensions: 2 ½ x 1 ¼ inches
This Ritchie X-11Y Kayak Compass is a durable compass with a 2 inch dial that is designed to be easy to read. It’s housed inside a tough yellow silicone case, which can be useful on outdoor adventures, whether you’re packing it into your backpack or wearing it around your neck.
The compass comes with a lanyard and three Chem Sticks which can allow you to illuminate the compass at night or in low light conditions.
You can attach this compass to the deck of your kayak but you will need to purchase additional items separately, including a holder.
- Highly visible
- Illuminating sticks
7: Brunton TruArc3 Base Plate Compass
- Weight: 1.1 ounces
- Dimensions: 3 ½ x 2 ½ inches
The Brunton TruArc3 Base Plate Compass is a lightweight, compact compass that comes with a lanyard that can make it easy to attach to your gear bag or kayak. You could also wear it around your neck if you want to head off for a hike after your paddle adventure.
It has a 2 inch diameter dial and features a TruArc Global Needle System that is designed to point north in both the northern and southern hemispheres. The useful base plate can be placed on a flat surface.
However, it may not be the best choice if you’re looking for a compass to be fixed onto the deck of your boat because, while there are holes on the plastic base plate, they are very small.
- Lanyard included
- Global Needle System
- Flat base plate
Why Have A Compass?
A compass can help you navigate, whether you’re on water or land, and even if you’re flying a plane. Compasses can be useful because they use magnets and Earth’s magnetic field in order to determine which direction is north.
This can be unlike many navigational gadgets, which often rely on satellites or cellular signal to determine location.
A compass can be particularly helpful in situations where you’re in a remote area with no cellular service or if your gadgets have run out of battery, as your compass will always point north.
How Do You Use A Compass When Kayaking?
As you will probably know, compasses are designed to point to the North Pole. But because of the way the Earth tilts on its axis while it rotates, sometimes the magnetic north and true north may not always be the same depending on your geographic location.
This can mean that you may need to adjust your direction based on the local variation or declination of degrees of difference between the magnetic north and the true north.
If you plan to use maps, local maps will generally line up with the compass in that location, meaning you shouldn’t need to make any adjustments. Other maps may tell you the declination to use.
Align Your Kayak
The first thing to do is to align your kayak with your compass. To do this set your kayak so that the bow is facing north and the stern is to the south. This means the north-south line on your compass is aligned with the center of your boat.
Nautical maps are designed to be used with compasses, which can make it easier to find your bearings. Often these maps will line up with the magnetic north on the inner line of your nautical compass. This means you can use the maps and compass directly, without having to make any adjustments for true north.
Effect Of Currents Or Wind
When you’re in a kayak, there will likely be some occasions where your kayak is facing one direction but being swept another. Keep this in mind when paddling in wind or current, as it could affect your direction of travel.
Electronics And Accessories
Compasses can have a tendency to be thrown off by other objects, such as phones, gadgets and metal accessories. This can cause the compass to deviate from magnetic north.
You can check this by using two objects that are in a line and then noting the degrees of these objects before pointing your bow towards the two objects to check the degrees on your compass.
Video: 9 Use Transits to Check Compass Error
If the compass reading is more or less than the degrees you noted beforehand then you may need to adjust your bearings to compensate for the deviation.
What Features To Look Out For On A Kayak Compass
You’ll likely find that there are various ways to mount a compass to your kayak. The best way will be the one that is most convenient for you. So if you want to be able to remove the compass after each trip, you might want to make sure the one you choose can be easily removed.
Some compasses can be mounted directly to the deck of your kayak, with some designed to be screwed into the factory recesses on your boat. This can be useful if you plan to have your compass live semi-permanently on your kayak.
Strap mounts can be useful if you plan to move the compass from boat to boat, or if you want to attach a compass to a rental kayak, for example.
Durability can be an important feature to look for in a kayak compass, or indeed any compass.
The case should be strong and tough enough to withstand your average kayaking adventure, as your compass could become a vital navigation tool while you’re out so you want to make sure it can handle your environment.
This could be particularly important if you plan to throw your compass in a backpack or wear it around your neck for hiking trips.
Your compass will be of little use if you’re not able to read it. A clear dial that is large enough to read from your kayak seat can be a sensible option, otherwise you may find yourself having to strain your eyes or lean over for a closer look at the dial.
Some compasses come with lights that can be used to illuminate the dial in the dark. This can be useful if you plan to paddle in low light conditions but it may not be an essential feature for everyone.
Kayak Compasses: Frequently Asked Questions
How Do You Mount A Compass To A Kayak?
Many kayak compasses will often have straps, bungee cords or clips that can be mounted directly to your kayak using existing points on your boat without requiring additional hardware.
Some compasses can also be flush-mounted onto deck mounts or recesses, which may require screws and drilling.
Does A Compass Help With Tides And Currents?
Some compasses do have features that can help you read tides and currents. Generally, you cannot get this information from standard compasses.
There are many different compasses out there that can be great for kayaking but we think the best option is the Brunton Dash Mount Compass. This one can be flush mounted to the deck of your kayak and can be easy to read.
A close runner-up is the Sun Company SeaTurtl Kayak Compass because it can be easy to install on most kayaks without requiring additional hardware. It also benefits from having a sun shade and an easy to read dial.
Remember, the right kayak compass for you will probably depend on your personal preference, as well as the type of kayak you have and the type of installation you want. Our favorite compasses may not work for everyone.