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Best Dive Compass – Our Detailed Guide (2021)

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The beautiful underwater world is a no man’s land. You may find navigating underwater difficult due to poor visibility, veering off course, or being separated from your diving buddy or guide. It can be very easy to get lost underwater. Currents can even sweep you away from your current position!

This is where a dive compass comes in as it helps you orient yourself in the water and find your way back to your previous locations. It’s easy to overlook a diving compass as an essential piece of diving gear but not only is it capable of making your dives more enjoyable, it can save your life.

I like that dive compasses are lightweight and affordable. And there is no reason for you not to invest in a quality dive compass.

I’ve carried out extensive research to bring you a list of the best diving compasses available on the market. Below you’ll find a list of the best dive compasses, their pros, cons, and a buying guide to help you choose one that’s right for you. Here we go.

The 7 Best Dive Compasses for 2021

Suunto Sk8 Wrist CompassOur Top Pick

Suunto Sk8 Wrist Compass

$104.95  in stock
4 new from $90.00
Amazon.com
as of September 19, 2021 6:48 am

I start this list off with the Suunto SK8, a popular dive compass renowned for its superb performance. The Suunto SK8 will make underwater navigation a walk in the park thanks to its impressive tilt angle of +/-30 degrees. And this means the SK8 will provide an accurate reading even when the compass face isn’t positioned perfectly horizontal. Not all dive compasses are capable of this.

The surface of this dive compass is made of a phosphorescent material that glows in low-light situations making it easy to read this compass. And the incorporated high-quality magnet allows you to use this dive compass in any part of the globe without losing accuracy.

Sunnto designed the SK8 in such a way that you can mount it on your wrist to easily take readings or instead attach it to your scuba BCD and remove it when you want to take a reading.

 Specifications

  • Mounting: Wrist, Console or Retractable
  • Tilt potential: +/- 30 degrees
  • Side-View Window: Yes

Pros

  • Super stability and accuracy.
  • Can be used with accuracy in any part of the globe.
  • Very responsive.
  • Can be mounted on the wrist or attached to BCD.
  • Solid seal keeps sand and water out.
  • Rugged and durable.

Cons

  • No major shortcomings.

XS Scuba Retractable SuperTilt Compass

XS Scuba Retractable SuperTilt Compass

$94.95
$89.95
 in stock
10 new from $89.95
Amazon.com
as of September 19, 2021 6:48 am

The XS Scuba Retractable Superlit Compass offers an excellent combination of price and functionality. This five compass is very compact and lightweight while being incredibly easy to read underwater.

A stainless steel retractor, which can be used to connect this dive compass to a snap hook or split of your scuba diving BCD, is included in the package. Using the retractor is very easy as you just have to hold the tension to use the compass and release it when you are done to return the compass to its starting position.

Like the Suunto SK8 above, the XS Scuba Retractable Superlit Compass has a high tilt angle of +/-30 that allows you to use this compass even when it’s not perfectly balanced.

However, if you want to mount this dive compass on your wrist, you’ll have to purchase a wrist mount separately.

 Specifications

  • Mounting: Retractable
  • Tilt potential: +/- 30 degrees
  • Side-View Window: Yes

Pros

  • Compact and lightweight.
  • Good readability and visibility.
  • Accurate.
  • Durable.

Cons

  • No major shortcomings.

Aqua Lung Wrist Compass

Aqua Lung Wrist Compass

$89.00  in stock
3 new from $89.00
Free shipping
Amazon.com
as of September 19, 2021 6:48 am

If you are familiar with Aqualung’s products, then you’d have some high expectations about this Aqualung dive compass. And it’s safe to say this dive compass isn’t going to let you down.

I like that the Aqualung Wrist Compass is easy to read thanks to its well-designed display. You also get accurate readings, a feature that’s important for easy navigation in the underwater world.

This dive compass is made of a luminescent material to make reading it easy in low-light situations. And I’ve seen reports of this dive compass performing well at high tilt angles

While the Aqualung wrist compass is designed to be worn on the wrist for easy and quick navigation, there are other models that come with bungee and single module mounting options.

 Specifications

  • Mounting: Wrist or bungee
  • Tilt potential: Not specified.
  • Side-View Window: Yes

Pros

  • Superb display.
  • Easy to read even in low-light situations.
  • High tilt angles.
  • Rugged.

Cons

  • No major shortcomings.

Other Buying Options:

Oceanic Side Scan Compass

Oceanic Side Scan Compass Module w/Clip Mount

$82.95  in stock
14 new from $82.95
Amazon.com
as of September 19, 2021 6:48 am

There’s a lot to like about the Oceanic Side Scan Compass Module as it’s incredibly easy to read while being durable and affordable. This makes this Oceanic dive compass an ideal choice for beginners.

Navigating underwater is as easy as it can get thanks to the well-defined lumber line, clear bearing indicators, as well as the large ratcheting bezel of the Oceanic Side Scan Compass Module.

The standout feature of this dive compass is its incredible luminescence in low-light situations. Thanks to the OceanGlo luminescent floating card incorporated in this dive compass, the Oceanic Side Scan Module is easily among the brightest dive compasses available on the market today.

This dive compass is also very rugged making it suitable for underwater use and it’s very easy to attach to your BCD.

 Specifications

  • Mounting: Module
  • Tilt potential: Not specified.
  • Side-View Window: Yes

Pros

  • Large display for easy reading.
  • Bright illumination.
  • Affordable.
  • Durable.

Cons

  • No major shortcomings.

Sherwood Genesis Compass

SHERWOOD SCUBA Retractable Scuba Diving Compass Ready for BCD Installation

 out of stock
Amazon.com
as of September 19, 2021 6:48 am

The Sherwood Genesis Compass is designed to make underwater navigation hassle-free for scuba divers and it achieves this thanks to its large windows and high-contrast markings.

To make this dive compass easier to read, the dials are made of luminescent material to make them more visible. And there’s a retractable mount in the package that can be used to attach this dive compass to your scuba BCD. This way, you can easily access this dive compass whenever you need it and keep it out of your way when you don’t.

I like the quality of the built-in retractor as it’s very rugged and durable. At the same time, it’s easy to pull it out and there’s sufficient tension to keep the retractor in good shape.

Thanks to the max tilt feature, you can use this dive compass without having to perfectly balance it.

 Specifications

  • Mounting: Retractable mount.
  • Tilt potential: +/- 30 degrees
  • Side-View Window: Yes

Pros

  • Large windows and high-contrast markings.
  • Easy to read.
  • Rugged and durable.

Cons

  • Calibrated to only the northern hemisphere

Scubapro FS1.5 Compass

Scubapro FS1.5 Compass with Retractor

$79.15  in stock
4 new from $79.15
Amazon.com
as of September 19, 2021 6:48 am

The Scubapro FS 1.5 is a quality dive compass that is compact, durable, and accurate. The magnet of the FS 1.5 is separated from the compass-rose as it’s suspended in a pressure-resistant oil-filled polycarbonate housing. And the advantage of this is that this compass has a high tilt angle of 35 degrees.

It’s safe to say Scubapro used high-quality materials to manufacture this compass as many divers have been using it for a very long time. The FS 1.5 is also well suited for diving as it’s very rugged.

The only drawback of this compass is that it’s calibrated to the northern hemisphere and will not work well in the southern hemisphere. More information about the hemisphere calibration of compasses will be given in the buying guide.

 Specifications

  • Mounting: Retractable mount.
  • Tilt potential: +/- 35 degrees
  • Side-View Window: Yes

Pros

  • Compact and durable.
  • High tilt angle.
  • Accurate.
  • Rugged.

Cons

  • Calibrated for only one hemisphere.

Suunto M-9 Wrist Compass

SUUNTO M-9 Wrist Compass

$33.95
$23.36
 in stock
32 new from $23.36
3 used from $20.85
Free shipping
Amazon.com
as of September 19, 2021 6:48 am

The Suunto M9 wrist compass is a compact and portable compass you wear on your wrist just like you would wear a watch. One of the things I like about this dive compass is its affordability and is thus a great choice for those looking for budget dive compasses.

The velcro wrist strap is comfortable to wear and it’s easy to read this compass even in low-light conditions thanks to the luminescent card.

Accuracy is important in a dive compass and the Suunto M9 will never lead you astray. Suunto’s high-quality craftsmanship means you’ll be using the M9 for a long time.

The only drawback of this compass is that it’s calibrated to the northern hemisphere and will not work well in the southern hemisphere. More information about hemisphere calibration of compasses will be given in the buying guide

 Specifications

  • Mounting: Retractable mount.
  • Tilt potential: +/- 35 degrees
  • Side-View Window: Yes

Pros

  • Portable.
  • Affordable.
  • Accurate.
  • Rugged.

Cons

  • Calibrated only for the northern hemisphere.

Best Dive Compasses – The Guide 

Why Do You Need A Dive Compass?

A dive compass is an important scuba diving device that provides you with accurate bearing readings which helps you navigate underwater. This can make your dive more enjoyable and even save your life when you veer off course due to getting carried away by the beauty of the underwater world, poor visibility, carried away by currents, and so on.

Analog vs. Digital Compass

Analog compasses are cheaper, more accurate, and never run out of battery compared to digital compasses. Digital dive compasses are rarely made alone and come as extra functions in dive computers.

If you want a dive compass that’s part of something bigger, then you should go for a dive computer with a digital compass. On the other hand, if you want a dedicated compass that can give more accurate bearings, digital compasses rule all day.

What Is A Lubber Line?

There’s a red line marked on dive compasses (all compasses, in general) that points to the direction ahead. This red line is called the lubber line and you can set it by first holding your hand, with the compass, straight out in front of you and then setting it from there.

You can watch some Youtube videos to have a better idea of how to set your compass. The good thing is that once you’ve set your bearing, you can travel towards your target without having to hold your hand out again.

How To Choose Your Diving Compass?

Below are factors to consider when choosing a dive compass:

Size

An ideal dive compass is compact and convenient to wear while also being easy to read underwater. The dive compasses on this list meet these criteria as they are large enough to be conveniently read underwater and will not become a burden in any way throughout your time underwater.

Readability

What’s the use of a dive compass you can’t read? This is why you should go for dive compasses that have large markings, high contrast, have a simple design, and are made from luminescent materials.

The benefit of luminescent materials is that they glow underwater and allow you to read the compasses in low-light situations. Note that the luminescent materials need to be charged with light and may not be bright if they are not exposed to enough light. But this isn’t an issue as you can easily shine your dive light on the compass briefly to charge the luminescent materials.

Accuracy

Nobody wants a compass that’d point them in the wrong direction! This is why you should buy compasses with strong magnet systems that are calibrated for your hemisphere. More information about hemisphere calibration below.

Tilt Compensation

Generally, compasses have to be held perfectly straight and level for them to work properly. However, it’s not easy to do this when scuba diving as you are underwater. As a result, dive compasses’ manufacturers implement ’tilt compensation’ in their products, a feature that allows you to tilt the compass towards your face for easy reading without compromising functionality or accuracy.

The tilt angle is a measure of how much you can tilt your compass without compromising functionality and the higher it is, the more you can tilt your compass without reducing accuracy.

Hemisphere Calibration

There’s a switch of the earth’s magnetic field when you go from the southern hemisphere to the northern hemisphere and vice versa. Since the magnet in your compass depends on the earth’s magnetic field to function, a magnet calibrated for the northern hemisphere will not work in the southern hemisphere due to the change in the earth’s magnetic field.

Check the hemisphere calibration of the magnet you are buying to ensure you are choosing one that will work in your hemisphere.

Dive compass manufacturers now produce compasses with a balanced magnet system that can work in both hemispheres and you should go for these models if you can.

Mounting Options

Some dive compasses have straps that allow you to wear them like a watch, some come work a retractable clip that can be attached to your BCD, some have hose clips that can be attached to your high-pressure clips, while others come as a module that can be mounted to gauges, wrist housing, or a retractable unit.

The mounting option you go for is a matter of personal preference.

Side View Window

It’s common to see analog dive computers having side windows which makes them easier to use. The benefit of the side windows is that it allows you to have a quick snapshot of your current course without the need to level and read the entire compass.

Durability

An important feature if you intend to get value for your money. Go for dive compasses with a robust and rugged bezel that can take some abuse. Also, it’s important that the bezel of your compass have a tight seal to keep water and sand out.

Final Thoughts

It’s easy to get lost underwater especially when you are exploring caves or shipwrecks. There are other instances, which have been discussed above, that can steer you off course. Getting lost underwater can quickly become a matter of life or death and a dive compass can save your life by helping you get back to your starting position.

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