Silva – Expedition 4/54 Compass

I’ll freely admit that, when I bought this compass, I had no idea whatsoever what all the measurements and symbols written on it were. It had been a couple of decades since I’d needed to use a compass in anger and the knowledge had leaked out of my head in a foggy beer cloud at some point.

So I sat down with an OS map, a handbook on navigation and the Silva 4/54 and set about re-learning.

A couple of months and many hikes later I’m smugly pleased with myself for buying what turns out to be a top-end compass with all the features I could conceivably ever need.

Where to, trusty compass?

A brief run through the features:

  • Tritium (radioactive) paint on the important parts, so you can still tell where you’re going in pitch black
  • A measurement scale for 1:25000, 1:50000 and 1:63000 scale maps (OS Explorer, Landranger, inch-to-mile maps)
  • A very easy to read dial
  • A needle which is quick to locate, and doesn’t wobble around
  • A nice long baseplate, to make triangulating positions easier
  • A lanyard
  • Silicone rubber ‘feet’ to grip maps
  • CM and Inch scale rulers
  • Magnifying glass, for making out small details on maps and burning ants when bored
It’s been a joy to use, and is a constant companion in its own pocket on my backpack. The only downside so far is that, despite never being stored with other items, it is getting quite scratched. I’d have appreciated that, with spending close to £30 on a precision compass, Silva had supplied a cloth case or protector.
The Expedition 4/54 is a precision piece of equipment, and could be perfect for anyone training in the Scouts, Military or other Navigation course (NNAS Bronze, Silver or Gold).
SUMMARY: At £30 this is towards the top end of baseplate compasses, but is pretty much all you will ever need. It is feature packed and easy to use in day or night. The lanyard is a little chafing, and the compass scratches easily, but otherwise it’s a top piece of gear.
  • Charlie Collett

    Thats a type 4. The 54 uses the same base plate but has a sighting prism. I think, I am also beer fugged… Not at the moment, you understand, just generally over the last 10 years since I even knew where my Type 54 was…

    • It has “Type 4/54” written on it. It’s slightly confused by the fact that I can’t find the exact model on Silva’s website. The packaging had Expedition written on it.

      • LD

        The Expedition 4 and Expedition 54 models have been discontinued. They have been replaced by different and newer models under the Expedition label.

        The 4 and 54 (and tritium versions 4b and 54b) survive as military models, but are primarily graduated in mils, with degrees as secondary units for measurement of direction (a circle can be divided into 6400 mils, or 360 degrees – see wikipedia for more information), which is a little cumbersome as most civilian maps refer only to degrees.

        To find these models, they are labelled as either NATO or MILITAIRE an the mdel numbers are either 4, 4b, 54, or 54b.

  • James Douglas

    This looks like a Silva Expedition 4 Compass to me. If you look at this one, it is the same model If you look at the bottom corner it also appears to say type 4/54 like yours does. I think this has more to do with the baseplate than anything as I am sure both the 4 and the 54 share the same one. You certainly can’t miss the sighting prism on the 54 either. I hope this helps. JD