True North Blog

Invest in Your Gear … You Life Might Just Depend on It

Take a good look at the two compasses in the photograph below.  Can you see any difference between them?

Even though these compasses are each made by different manufacturers, their difference may only be negligible.  After all, they are both lensatic compasses with the same basic frame.  They each have sighting features.  They both have phosphorescent markings.  They are the same color.  And they both have a magnetic needle that points North.

I will suggest that one big difference is the price.  One costs about $75 and the other about $25.

CompassSo, let’s consider that you are in the aisle of a big-box retailer, eyeing these compasses for your next outdoor adventure.  Which one would you buy?  Would the choice be easy? … Buy the cheaper one and save $50?

Would you be willing to stake your safety, and the safety of those with you, while out in the woods?

Presumably, by this point, I don’t need to suggest the other big difference.  One compass points to Magnetic North, and, the other, well, doesn’t.  Even if you’ve never taken a land navigation course, you probably already accept the truism that a compass that works properly, points North.

The compass that is, in fact, pointing North is the one on the left.  It is manufactured by Cammenga, an American company well known for being the official supplier of field compasses to the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps infantry and artillery units.

The compass on the right, is manufactured by a company in China.  A client purchased it last year after registering for our Basic Wilderness Navigation course because he wanted to use his own gear.  Out of eight clients in the group, he alone keep consistently going in the wrong direction.  When I figured out the problem, I exchanged his compass with one that True North supplies it’s clients during outtings.  Then, like magic, he started going consistently in the right direction!

He sheepishly admitted to me afterwards that he wanted to save $50 and felt proud for doing so.  Then, with a smile, he asked me to share his story, “So that others may learn from the err of my ways.”

So, the moral of the story is that there are simply certain types of equipment on which it is worth spending the extra money.

Or, if you don’t mind me substituting a word in a famous quote by Benjamin Franklin, “An investment in gear always pays the best interest.”

Wise words, Ben.


Would you like to learn how to use a map and compass, and learn about quality equipment and resources, then check out our Schedule for an upcoming course.

Erik Kulick leaning aginst wall with True North badge on blue shirt

About the Author

Erik is the founder of True North Wilderness Survival School. He is a police officer, EMS provider, a Wilderness EMT, and a Fellow of the Academy of Wilderness Medicine. He has been featured in national and international media, including CNN, the Associated Press, and Backpacker. To learn more about Erik, visit him on LinkedIn and be sure to follow him on Facebook and YouTube.

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