Best Marine Compass Reviewed

In a Hurry? Editors choice:
Ritchie X-10B-M
Test Winner: Ritchie X-10B-M
Amazon Link
Venturing onto the water can be a dangerous undertaking. Regardless of other hazards out there – one of the most common mishaps for many is getting lost. On the open ocean, it’s very easy to lose one’s bearings, but sea-going fishermen aren’t the only ones that have trouble traveling the right path. Inshore waters and lakes are just as prone to thick fog and unfamiliar stretches of shoreline where the boater can’t tell which way is the right way to go.

Marine electronics have made a huge difference to how we get around on the water, and GPS navigation is almost standard these days. But for anyone serious about fishing and boating offshore and in unpredictable environments; the GPS commonly works in tandem with a quality marine compass. We've done the research and reviewed the top picks on the market today. Read on to find yours.

Standout Picks

Ritchie X-10B-M
The Ritchie X-10B-M compass is a great all-rounder suitable for a variety of uses, and it’s very affordable. Mount Anywhere With an adjustable, reversible mounting bracket this compass can be mounted through a range of 300⁰, meaning you can put it just about anywhere. Its broad direct-read dial is easy to see.
Amazon Link
$44.79
Ritchie RA-93
The RA-93 is another low profile surface mount compass, comparable to the Explorer S-53 with a couple of different features. Suited to the Sun The RA-93 is finished in a glare-minimising grey tint and contains a high-visibility blue dial, meeting the needs of anglers fishing from open-decked boats. The moveable sunshield further shades the dial from glare whichever direction the sun may be.
Amazon Link
$74.93
JSHANMEI LED
The JSANMEI is a simple bracket-mounting compass making it an easily adjustable navigation tool for boaters. Mount on many Surfaces The bracket mount that comes with this compass makes it suitable for fitting on surfaces that aren’t level. This makes mounting easy no matter where; as the compass can be swivelled to sit level in the mount.
Amazon Link
Ritchie Explorer S-53
The S-53 is a low profile surface mount compass, keeping it out of the way without having to cut a hole in the dash to fit it. Low Profile, Direct Read This compass is designed to be mounted on a flat surface, and is fantastic for modern, compact helms because of its unobtrusive, low profile. The big, direct read dial is easy to read at eye level.
Amazon Link
$73.69
SS-1002 Ritchie
The Ritchie SS-1002 is a flush-mounting compass designed to be fitted flush where the operator can view it from above. It is high performance gear and stable no matter the conditions. Made for Headings The SS-1002 is designed with racing in mind, where speed is all-important. Ritchie meets this requirement with the extra-large numerals displayed on the dial – making it super easy to read and fix a heading by degrees.
Amazon Link
$234.54
Brunton Dash
The Brunton Dash Mount fits flush onto the boat’s bulkhead or even the deck of a kayak to give a simple, low profile look. Simple Compass There’s very little to go wrong with this compass – there are no lights included (so it doesn’t require a power source) and no moving or swivelling parts of the frame or attachment to fail.
Amazon Link
F-83 Ritchie
The F-83 is another high-performance marine compass from Ritchie. It incorporates a Combi-Dial for dial visibility from different angles. Combi-Dial The Combi-Dial dial of this compass incorporates both flat and direct-read dial features so that the compass can be read from either above or at eye level; or somewhere between.
Amazon Link
$155.81
B-51 Ritchie
This compass is best designed for larger sailboats and features a bulkhead design that can be mounted from 90-40⁰. It comes with a 45⁰ clinometer. High Performance As another of Ritchie’s top end collection of compasses, the B-51 is known for the steadiness and quick lock-on of the compass itself, for certainty when navigating.
Amazon Link
$66.16
Seattle Sports SeaRover
This compass is designed to fit a kayak (or other flat-mount craft) without the need for screws or adhesive. This makes it great for the adventure paddler. Quick Release Compass The SeaRover deck compass is fitted with a broad base that gives it stability on the deck of a kayak, and the quick release buckles make it easily fitted to the kayak straps.
Amazon Link
$44.19
Ritchie V-57.2
The V-57.2 Explorer is a dash mount compass that fits standard 3” instrument holes. Adjustable through 30⁰ The viewing plane of this compass is adjustable through 30⁰ meaning that it’ll work on most dash angles, making it an easy choice to fill a spare instrument hole.
Amazon Link
$67.32

Criteria Used for Evaluation

Apps

A mаrіnе соmраѕѕ іѕ a nесеѕѕаrу аnd important gadget to роѕѕеѕѕ on board ѕhірѕ. Whіlе іn thе раѕt, mаrіnе соmраѕѕеѕ hаd to bе carried аѕ a ѕераrаtе gаdgеt, соnѕіdеrіng thе tесhnоlоgісаl advancements of tоdау, hаvіng a соmраѕѕ hаѕ become ԛuіtе еаѕіеr. Smаrt phones hаvе rеаllу rеvоlutіоnіzеd thе dіgіtаl wоrld.

Smart рhоnе аррѕ hаvе bесоmе an integral раrt оf оur lіvеѕ. We use thеm for the ѕіmрlеѕt jоb аnd аlѕо for thе most complex оnе.

These аррѕ hаvе rеаllу brоught thе whоlе wоrld аt еvеrуоnе’ѕ finger tірѕ. Thеѕе соmраѕѕ аррѕ аrе a muѕt hаvе fоr еvеrу mаrіnеr.

1. Gаrmіn BluеChаrt Mоbіlе Free
іPhоnе/іPаd, buу.gаrmіn.соm

This is оnе оf mоѕt реорlе’ѕ fаvоrіtе navigation apps because it is based on Gаrmіn’ѕ еxсеllеnt BlueChart marine charts and is ѕо еаѕу to use. Thе radial menu, wауроіntѕ, аnd route management аrе еxtrеmеlу intuitive. Whіlе underway, your роѕіtіоn аnd selected route dіѕрlау сlеаrlу. Thе арр hаѕ a соmрlеtе set оf features, including tides аnd currents, sun аnd mооn рhаѕеѕ, wind ѕрееd аnd dіrесtіоn, аnd a distance-measuring tооl. Fоr route planning, thе арр іntеgrаtеѕ wіth ActiveCaptain, whісh is соnѕіdеrеd a hugе рluѕ. You саn also ѕуnс bеtwееn Garmin devices, рlаnnіng a rоutе оn, ѕау, уоur iPad, and then wіrеlеѕѕlу ѕуnс it with уоur Gаrmіn chartplotter.

Thе арр is nоt intended to replace a chartplotter, but it іѕ wеll suited fоr rоutе рlаnnіng. Unless уоu’rе соnnесtеd to a Gаrmіn Quatix wаtсh оr an оnbоаrd Gаrmіn network, thе app cannot еnаblе аn асtіvе rоutе, рrоvіdе a “gо tо” nаvіgаtіоn dіѕрlау or import waypoints and rоutеѕ.

Gаrmіn BluеChаrt Mobile іѕ frее and іnсludеѕ a hіgh-lеvеl world сhаrt; BlueChart mарѕ can be purchased іn-арр.

2. Fugаwі PаthAwау GPS Exрrеѕѕ Edіtіоn
Andrоіd ѕmаrtрhоnе аnd tаblеt, pathaway.com/PWAndroid.htm

Lіkе many other nаvіgаtіоn аррѕ, the PаthAwау Exрrеѕѕ арр рlоtѕ trасkѕ, waypoints (wіth рhоtоѕ as well аѕ dеѕсrірtіоnѕ) аnd routes. Thе distinguishing fеаturе оf thе Fugawi PathAway Exрrеѕѕ Edіtіоn арр, however, іѕ thаt it аllоwѕ users tо сrеаtе сuѕtоmіzеd сhаrtѕ аnd multі-lауеrеd mарѕ. Onе оf thе app’s newer features іѕ a Wеаthеr Forecast mар thаt can be layered onto оthеr сhаrtѕ аnd dіѕрlауѕ соndіtіоnѕ ѕuсh аѕ thе wіnd, precipitation, аnd tеmреrаturе. Thіѕ fеаturе dоеѕ, hоwеvеr, соmе аt an аddеd fее.

Wіth PаthAwау, ѕаіlоrѕ саn іmроrt mарѕ frоm рrасtісаllу аnуwhеrе—whеthеr from аn online ѕоurсе lіkе Google maps оr dоwnlоаdеd from PаthAwау mарѕ оr аnу оthеr BSB/KAP navigational сhаrt application. There аrе a few versions of thе арр. In PаthAwау GPS Professional Edіtіоn, uѕеrѕ can track оthеr bоаtѕ as wеll as display ѕеvеrаl trасkѕ аnd rоutеѕ ѕіmultаnеоuѕlу. The free version іnсludеѕ thе bаѕіс trасkіng funсtіоnѕ, but its сhаrtѕ аrе nоt full-screen duе to аdvеrtіѕеmеntѕ. PаthAwау GPS Lіtе оffеrѕ thе ѕаmе funсtіоnѕ аѕ the frее vеrѕіоn but іѕ full-screen and dоеѕ nоt іnсludе ads.

3. іNаvX
іPhоnе/іPаd, іnаvx.соm

NаvX іѕ оnе оf thе most established nаvіgаtіоn аррѕ аnd supports frее U.S. NOAA rаѕtеr сhаrtѕ аѕ well аѕ ѕеvеrаl оthеr charts аnd mарѕ that уоu саn purchase ѕераrаtеlу. Once іnѕtаllеd, the charts аrе ѕаvеd in a traditional chart tаblе mеnu, whісh grоuрѕ сhаrtѕ ассоrdіng tо rеgіоnѕ. Once a сhаrt іѕ selected, уоur position іѕ dіѕрlауеd rеаl-tіmе, with thе ability tо раn and zооm. To ѕеlесt a dіffеrеnt ѕсаlе сhаrt, rеturn to the chart mеnu оr zoom in and оut, аnd thеn ѕеlесt the аррrорrіаtе ѕсаlе chart. Thе app features waypoint аnd route mаnаgеmеnt, GPX import/export, GRIB wеаthеr fоrесаѕtѕ, tides and currents аnd роrt/nаvаіd ѕеаrсh. It even іntеgrаtеѕ wіth NMEA data оvеr Wі-Fі tо ѕеrvе аѕ a rереаtеr fоr GPS and AIS. It does nоt іnсludе соmmunіtу guidebook іntеgrаtіоn.

Althоugh іNаvX іѕ probably thе mоѕt full-featured navigation app аrоund, it іѕ nоt thе еаѕіеѕt tо uѕе. I lіkе іtѕ route planning, ability tо іmроrt wауроіntѕ and built-in NMEA dаtа dіѕрlау, but thе сhаrt іntеrfасе іtѕеlf іѕ a bit аwkwаrd and, аt times I hаd tо сlоѕе аnd reopen сhаrtѕ tо get them tо load рrореrlу. At $49.99, thе app is competitively рrісеd аnd іѕ vіеwеd bу mаnу аѕ thе standard.

4. SеаNаv US/UK
іPаd/іPhоnе, pocketmariner.com/seanav

SеаNаv US/UK іѕ a rеlаtіvеlу nеw navigation app bу PосkеtMаrіnеr that bоrrоwѕ іtѕ style аnd mаnу оf its fеаturеѕ frоm thе соmраnу’ѕ signature арр, Bоаt Bеасоn. With SеаNаv a user саn рlаn аnd nаvіgаtе wіth NOAA vector charts in thе Unіtеd States аnd UK Hуdrоgrарhіс Office (UKHO) сhаrtѕ in thе UK аnd Irеlаnd. Chаrt tіlеѕ аutоmаtісаllу dоwnlоаd аѕ you ѕсrоll thе high-level mар view, аnd thе display іnсludеѕ a map, ѕаtеllіtе оr hуbrіd mоdеѕ.

Tap on the сhаrt tо еxрlоrе оbjесtѕ, such аѕ buоуѕ, lіghtѕ, brіdgеѕ, аnd ѕhірѕ, оr tо ѕеаrсh for a рlасе оr іtѕ сооrdіnаtеѕ. The аugmеntеd rеаlіtу vіеw аlѕо ѕhоwѕ a live саmеrа view frоm buоуѕ аnd ѕhірѕ, including thеіr names, rаngе, аnd bearing.

Thіѕ is a great value for a bаѕіс арр. I lіkе іtѕ mаnу features, thоugh the арр іѕ ѕluggіѕh аt times, аnd I often hаd tо lооk up the buttоn funсtіоnѕ іn the help mаnuаl.

Accuracy

A compass that doesn’t point exactly where it’s supposed to 100% of the time is simply not good. There is no room for error in this regard.

The only compasses that have been included in this review are those that were shown to be reliable workers through public feedback on the product. If there was even a suggestion of poor performance, it was cut!

That’s not to count those that failed to correctly calibrate their compass. It’s important to do so for a few reasons. The Earth’s magnetic field varies in strength depending on where in the world you are – and quality compasses like Ritchie account for this in their manufacture and can be calibrated to the correct world zone at purchase.

Battery Life

Many marine compasses are manufactured with inbuilt lighting, commonly powered by the 12V battery in the boat. This makes them easily useable in low-light and at night; but it does require that the wiring be hooked up – and that the boat have power. Don’t worry – the rest of the compass will work regardless! Additionally, depending on where the compass is mounted and its proximity to magnetic and metal objects, the marine compass can be ‘thrown off’. Therefore it’s important to make use of the calibration settings incorporated into these compasses to adjust it so that it reads correctly in its mounted position.

It’s great to see that superb accuracy and reliability is available at really affordable prices – that way everyone can access this vital piece of safety equipment. Some compasses are fitted with sun shields. These are a great idea to cut back on glare that can obscure the reading of the dial. Adjustable visors mean that the sun can be blocked no matter what angle it’s coming from.

Features

There are only so many features that can be tucked into a small type of compass – and it’s a god rule that less-is-more. After all, you want to spend your money on reliable navigation – not bells and whistles! Some compasses are fitted with sunshields. These are a great idea to cut back on glare that can obscure the reading of the dial. Adjustable visors mean that the sun can be blocked no matter what angle it’s coming from.

Various attachment systems are available for compasses. For flush, dash and bulkhead mounts, a hole is usually required to be cut to fit the underside of the compass. Bracket mounts may come with adhesive pads for attachment. Other designs have quick-release options. It’s a good idea to choose a solid base attachment (screws are the most reliable where possible). A compass relies on having a solid attachment and correct alignment so that the user can most easily see the direction that they wish to travel in, and point the boat that way.

Top 10 Picks

1. Ritchie X-10B-M

Where to buy
Amazon Link
$44.79
Ritchie X-10B-M
Amazon Link

The Ritchie X-10B-M compass is a great all-rounder suitable for a variety of uses, and it’s very affordable.

Mount Anywhere

With an adjustable, reversible mounting bracket this compass can be mounted through a range of 300⁰, meaning you can put it just about anywhere. Its broad direct-read dial is easy to see.

Read more

Features and Specifications

Bracket mount
2” dial
12V green lighting
Built in compensators
5 year warranty

Price/Value

This is a very affordable compass that’s suitable for a variety of uses.

Verdict

The X-10B-M is a great choice for anyone looking for a non-specific compass that can be mounted almost anywhere within their craft or vehicle.

Amazon Link
$44.79

2. Ritchie RA-93

Where to buy
Amazon Link
$74.93
Ritchie RA-93
Amazon Link

The RA-93 is another low profile surface mount compass, comparable to the Explorer S-53 with a couple of different features.

Suited to the Sun

The RA-93 is finished in a glare-minimising grey tint and contains a high-visibility blue dial, meeting the needs of anglers fishing from open-decked boats. The moveable sunshield further shades the dial from glare whichever direction the sun may be.

Read more

Features and Specifications

Low profile surface mount
Push button removal system
2 ¾” direct read dial
No glare finish and high visibility dial
12V green lighting
5 year warranty

Price/Value

Costing slightly less than the Ritchie S-53; the RA-93 is another great value, high quality compass for simple mounting situations.

Verdict

The RA-53 is a good choice for a variety of navigation applications and has extra features for open-decked boats.

Amazon Link
$74.93

3. JSHANMEI LED

Where to buy
Amazon Link
JSHANMEI LED
Amazon Link

The JSANMEI is a simple bracket-mounting compass making it an easily adjustable navigation tool for boaters.

Mount on many Surfaces

The bracket mount that comes with this compass makes it suitable for fitting on surfaces that aren’t level. This makes mounting easy no matter where; as the compass can be swivelled to sit level in the mount.

Read more

Features and Specifications

Adjustable bracket mount
Adjustable sun visor
Accuracy compensators
12V red illumination
Dial 2.4”; height 5.5”; width 4.2”

Price/Value

This is one of the least expensive compasses on this list, and considering its quality manufacture – makes it great value for money.

Verdict

The JSANMEI is a great, low-cost alternative to some of the better-known compass manufacturers. It’s a good choice for a variety of mounting applications and won’t break the bank.

Amazon Link

4. Ritchie Explorer S-53

Where to buy
Amazon Link
$73.69
Ritchie Explorer S-53
Amazon Link

The S-53 is a low profile surface mount compass, keeping it out of the way without having to cut a hole in the dash to fit it.

Low Profile, Direct Read

This compass is designed to be mounted on a flat surface, and is fantastic for modern, compact helms because of its unobtrusive, low profile. The big, direct read dial is easy to read at eye level.

Read more

Features and Specifications

Low profile surface mount
Push button removal system
Moveable sunshield
Built in compensators
12V green lighting
2 ¾” direct read dial
5 year warranty

Price/Value

The S-53 is a low/mid-range price compass, making it ideal for a variety of applications. It’s great value for money.

Verdict

The Ritchie Explores S-53 is a great compass for simple helm/dash mounting where it can be positioned on a flat surface and is viewable at eye level. It’s packed with reliable features and backed by a 5 year warranty.

Amazon Link
$73.69

5. SS-1002 Ritchie

Where to buy
Amazon Link
$234.54
SS-1002 Ritchie
Amazon Link

The Ritchie SS-1002 is a flush-mounting compass designed to be fitted flush where the operator can view it from above. It is high performance gear and stable no matter the conditions.

Made for Headings

The SS-1002 is designed with racing in mind, where speed is all-important. Ritchie meets this requirement with the extra-large numerals displayed on the dial – making it super easy to read and fix a heading by degrees.

Read more

Features and Specifications

Flush mount
3 ¾” flat-card dial
Extra-large white numerals
45⁰ lubber lines
12V green lighting
Compensators built in
5 year warranty

Price/Value

The SS-1002 is a high-end piece of navigation equipment, and the price reflects this. For the serious navigator looking for top quality equipment it’s worth it.

Verdict

The SS-1002 is a pretty serious piece of kit and costs substantially more than some of the more basic compasses. For anyone spending a lot of time on the water and reliant on their compass this may be the way to go; otherwise there are plenty of other options.

Amazon Link
$234.54

6. Brunton Dash

Where to buy
Amazon Link
Brunton Dash
Amazon Link

The Brunton Dash Mount fits flush onto the boat’s bulkhead or even the deck of a kayak to give a simple, low profile look.

Simple Compass

There’s very little to go wrong with this compass – there are no lights included (so it doesn’t require a power source) and no moving or swivelling parts of the frame or attachment to fail.

Read more

Features and Specifications

Flush mount
Flat dial
3” dial

Price/Value

The Brunton compass fits into the low/mid-price range along with several of the Ritchie compasses, and is great value for a simple, reliable product.

Verdict

This is a good buy for those wanting a reliable, simple, easy to use compass without the hassle of hooking up to power for light.

Amazon Link

7. F-83 Ritchie

Where to buy
Amazon Link
$155.81
F-83 Ritchie
Amazon Link

The F-83 is another high-performance marine compass from Ritchie. It incorporates a Combi-Dial for dial visibility from different angles.

Combi-Dial

The Combi-Dial dial of this compass incorporates both flat and direct-read dial features so that the compass can be read from either above or at eye level; or somewhere between.

Read more

Features and Specifications

Flush mount
3” Combi-Dial
12V green lighting
Compensators built in
5 year warranty

Price/Value

The F-83 is another expensive compass for those looking for high quality equipment. Its design is very versatile however.

Verdict

The F-83 Voyager compass is a high quality compass from Ritchie and is a versatile instrument, being flush mounted but able to be viewed from varied angles due to the Combi-Dial.

Amazon Link
$155.81

8. B-51 Ritchie

Where to buy
Amazon Link
$66.16
B-51 Ritchie
Amazon Link

This compass is best designed for larger sailboats and features a bulkhead design that can be mounted from 90-40⁰. It comes with a 45⁰ clinometer.

High Performance

As another of Ritchie’s top end collection of compasses, the B-51 is known for the steadiness and quick lock-on of the compass itself, for certainty when navigating.

Read more

Features and Specifications

Bulkhead mount
45⁰ clinometer
3 ¾” Combi-Dial
12V green lighting
5 year warranty

Price/Value

The B-51 is an expensive piece of equipment, and is specialised for larger sailboats.

Verdict

For specific uses this compass is a great performer and looks the part as well. It is less suited to general boating use.

Amazon Link
$66.16

9. Seattle Sports SeaRover

Where to buy
Amazon Link
$44.19
Seattle Sports SeaRover
Amazon Link

This compass is designed to fit a kayak (or other flat-mount craft) without the need for screws or adhesive. This makes it great for the adventure paddler.

Quick Release Compass

The SeaRover deck compass is fitted with a broad base that gives it stability on the deck of a kayak, and the quick release buckles make it easily fitted to the kayak straps.

Read more

Features and Specifications

Quick release attachment
Wide base for balanced fit on kayak deck

Price/Value

This compass is very affordable. It’s a handy compass for paddlers.

Verdict

This is a good choice for adventure paddlers who need to transport their kayaks and don’t want to damage permanently fixed compasses; and it can be easily fitted to different crafts.

Amazon Link
$44.19

10. Ritchie V-57.2

Where to buy
Amazon Link
$67.32
Ritchie V-57.2
Amazon Link

The V-57.2 Explorer is a dash mount compass that fits standard 3” instrument holes.

Adjustable through 30⁰

The viewing plane of this compass is adjustable through 30⁰ meaning that it’ll work on most dash angles, making it an easy choice to fill a spare instrument hole.

Read more

Features and Specifications

Dash mount
12V green lighting
2 ¾” dial
Built in compensators
5 year warranty

Price/Value

As compass is mid-range in price and is good value for a stylish compass to fit-out the dash of a boat with.

Verdict

This is another quality compass that’s well designed and well made.

Amazon Link
$67.32

Sources

  1. Quincy Miller, The 6 Best Boat Compasses, Article