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old-style (not electronic) compass for car's dash?

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  • old-style (not electronic) compass for car's dash?

    I just browsed Amazon looking for a compass for my car's dash and they're not rated very highly. Some seem to get into the 4-star range, but with a lot of 5 star reviews and also a hefty number of 1 star 'don't buy this' write-ups.

    OR, those that are more highly rated are giant-sized boat compasses that some put in a big truck.

    I'm limited by the size of our small SUV's dash and my wife's general rejection of things attached to the dash. If the only good option is a giant boat compass, I'll toss a picket version in the glove box.

    ...but I'd like something smallish and reliable (size of a small door knob, maybe?).

    Anyone found a model they would recommend?
    Been there, done that. Then been there again several times, because apparently I never learn.

  • #2
    Don't you have a cell phone? If you do you have a compass and more then likely GPS.


    • #3
      Yes--cell phone, with the compass app and all, but I'm kind of a reluctant cell phone-user. And I don't have, and kind of don't want, one of those clamps to hold a cell phone in place on the dash while I'm driving. Seems too distracting, though maybe if I just put in a bit of effort and learn the controls and settings on the darn thing, I'd see that I'm being an old curmudgeon, and it's not that big of a deal to use one, and so on.

      Having an actual compass just seems sort of straight-forward: I look up and see what is shows and I know what I want to know.

      There's one thing that complicates using an old, 'analog' compass: getting it set up in terms of compensating for the car's metal and electronics and how those might distort its reading of 'north'. I was hoping folks here would have some experience with that and say how much of a process that is, and so on.

      (along with recommending a brand or two of compasses)
      Been there, done that. Then been there again several times, because apparently I never learn.


      • #4
        Help me understand better what your hoping to get from a car compass or to try to accomplish with it? do you plan to be off road travelling?

        I'm thinking that unless your truly boon docking full off road style cross country you're going to be on a road, street or highway. from the road signs and a map you should be able to orient yourself and determine direction pretty quickly. As for mag interference, you're not going to be doing precise courses in a car since your limited by where the road goes. So even if a handheld or dash mount was off 5 or 10 degrees, if you just want to know your traveling northerly, westerly, etc... It'll get you there. The rough accuracy will point you on the road going the right direction. Again, bigger thing is having a decent map of where you are.

        Beyond that, barring an EMP/ CME or other TSHTF figure out the map app on your phone. I can't speak to Cr'apples but with a droid pop up the map app and you can type in where your going or even just speak it in and away you go. if you want the compass, download one of the many compass apps out there.

        My car and my truck both have a compass thing in that says N,NE, E, SE, S etc and to be honest I never look at it. A route sign saying US 30E or PA192 W allows me to know a rough general direction.
        Last edited by CountryGuy; 09-27-2017, 10:34 PM.
        I can explain it to you, but I can't understand it for you!


        • #5
          If it is road travel and you know the road number odd or even, you will know your general direction using the sun. or northern star. Odd number roads travel north and south. (5, 95, 75, etc) Even number roads travel east and west. (10,20,40, etc.)


          • #6
            I had an idea this morning. I use an inclinometer for my Jeep as CG brought up. It's cheap, but does the job and has a compass in it. I did a little research and found some higher end inclinometers with a compass.

            Might be an idea for ya.

            I'm not a fatalist. I'm a realist.


            • #7
              Hearing that you all are going with cell-phone based compasses and navigation apps has me wondering a bit about my original idea. I thought you all would want something EMP-proof (which I assume a compass would be, but maybe that's not a for-certain thing?).

              But maybe that possible situation is enough of a whole-nuther-thing that it would mean using a hand-held, rather than driving around with that piece of gear on the dash all the time.

              SO--putting 'learn to (more comfortably) use cell-phone's navigation apps' is on the to-do list now.

              But for the record, this is the sort of thing I had in mind:

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              As far as what I would how I would use it, it comes down to this:

              I'm ok with a dead-reckoning version of navigation. I don't generally get lost and usually ques of where the sun was/is are enough that I can find my way if/when I or whoever is driving gets lost.

              BUT, I'm pretty quickly at a loss if people give me directions like 'go north on X street and then turn onto Y street and head west'. Somehow the dead-reckoning version of knowing where I am/how I've been traveling doesn't allow me to know which way is north, south, east, west.

              So having a compass on the dash seemed like a useful thing.

              And from when I was a kid, I'd see these things now and then and they seemed sort cool. So it's a little bit of a nostalgia thing, too.

              But maybe they're sort of a 'buggy whip' thing, now that we have cell phones with app versions of compasses and navigation aides and so on.

              If, here, of all places, I'm the only one thinking in terms of these, that sort of tells me something about whether or not to bother with them.
              Been there, done that. Then been there again several times, because apparently I never learn.


              • #8
                Originally posted by Schneb View Post
                But maybe they're sort of a 'buggy whip' thing, now that we have cell phones with app versions of compasses and navigation aides and so on.
                I'm not sure a wanna be whipped....but.....



                I'm not a fatalist. I'm a realist.


                • #9
                  Shneb look up compasses for boats. Better quality.
                  "Oh, America. I wish I could tell you that this was still America, but I've come to realize that you can't have a country without people. And there are no people here. No, my friends. This is now the United States of Zombieland"

                  "The constitution does not guarantee our safety, only our liberty!" Robert Steed before congress 3/2013

                  Skills Beats Stuff


                  • #10
                    Buggy--ha! Took me a second to 'get' what you were saying, but then: (How often does that particular pun happen?)

                    Myakka--yes! That's what I was seeing in the Amazon ratings.

                    The car versions were 3 or so stars with a high number of 1 star ratings dragging them down.

                    The marine versions were in the 4+ star range, with not many 1 star ratings.

                    BUT, they're more the size of cereal bowls whereas those for cars are the size of a salt shaker.

                    My wife's kind of wary when it come to me attaching things to the dash, but even I'm reluctant to park something that bulky on our small SUV's dash. (We're a 1 car family so wife's using the car as much as I am.)

                    There are some cheap/low quality compasses with suction cups. Maybe I'll give a $3 version a try and see how well it works. If it's a 1-star version I can chuck it without much loss.

                    ...that and getting more comfortable with the cell phone apps.
                    Been there, done that. Then been there again several times, because apparently I never learn.


                    • #11

                      I like the electronic ease & simplicity, but in the extreme case of an EMP, CME etc... I agree, you need an old fashioned compass. But in my opinion you also need a map. Though not very great detail if on foot, I keep and Rand Mcnalley Trucker Atlas in each of my vehicles. Every time i travel and drive into other states, I'll hit a rest area and grab a few of the free state maps if available.

                      To be honest with you, I think I'd forget the dash mount. I'd suggest that you get yourself a nice basic Silva, Suunto or similar good quality compass for 8-15 bucks and put that in your glove box. Do you keep a car kit, BOB or GHB in your SUV? If so put one in there too. 2 is 1; 1 is NONE. You can also always get one of those small cheap ones that go on your key chain or jacket zipper pull. Those compasses will likely be a lot more accurate than that cheap dash thing. To go with a decent quality marine grade compass what would your cost be? Those things get pricey fast don't they?
                      I can explain it to you, but I can't understand it for you!