The ability to navigate with map and compass is a crucial skill, one that can literally save your life. Your compass and map can also do other helpful tasks like telling you where you are, what’s around you and the best way to get where you want to go.
In the Ten Essentials, the compass and map are both mandatory gear, while a GPS receiver is optional. The quick explanation for this is the adage “never trust your life to a battery.” Dedicated GPS receivers and cellphone apps are amazing tools, but should never be solely relied upon to find your way out of the wilderness.
While all compasses point in their designated direction, they can also have a wide array of additional features. Generally a more feature-rich compass costs more, though the build quality (precision and durability) also factors into the price you pay.
Beware of accessory and digital compasses: Compass lookalikes on keyrings, watchbands or zipper pulls are fun, but not serious navigational tools. Even a compass feature on a multifunction watch doesn’t substitute for a basic needle-style baseplate compass.