Best Dive Compass
It is incredibly easy to lose track of which direction you are going in the water, is it not? If you enjoy any type of diving, it is almost mandatory for you to invest in some type of navigation. While people who only dive once or twice a year may find this type of purchase to be meaningless, those who do so more frequently will not.
Today, we want to focus on a specific type of navigation tool for divers: a dive compass. On the surface, dive compass is really a very simple tool for you to utilize underwater. Certain brands will separate themselves from the rest of the pack with superior visibility, accuracy, and other such features. What you really need to learn is how to find such options and how to choose the dive compass that suits you best. Well, that should shortly be accomplished.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 9.5 hrs of research
It is designed to be worn around your wrist
The gauge comes in a rubber boot
The dials can easily be viewed
- Tusa SCA-160
- Suunto SK8
- Sherwood Genesis
- Scubapro FS-2 Wrist Mount
- XS Scuba Highland
- XS Scuba SuperTilt
- Oceanic Wrist Mount
- DGX Tech Compass
- Phantom Aquatics
- Criteria Used for Evaluation
- Frequently Asked Questions
OUR TOP PICKS FOR THE BEST DIVE COMPASS
1. Tusa SCA-160
It is designed to be worn around your wrist
The gauge comes in a rubber boot
The dials can easily be viewed
There is a lack of consumer feedback
There really is a lot to love about the SCA-160 as this dive compass is equipped with Lumi-Nova storage dials for superior visibility and top and side scan reading for improved convenience.Read more
First off, the SCA-160 is equipped with both side and top scan reading for improved accuracy. Additionally, it is liquid filled and reacts quickly to the direction on which you are moving.
What sets this model apart is its Lumi-Nova storage dials. This is a groundbreaking innovation from Tusa and it allows the entire face of this compass to glow brightly.
This is designed with a ratcheted rotating bezel. This same bezel is equipped with indicator marks for every 10 degrees and also headings in 30-degree increments.
The SCA-160 is built fairly well and the gauge comes in a rubber wrist boot that is impact-resistant. Also, this is backed by a 12-month limited warranty.
Think of this as a wristwatch as it is designed to be wrapped around your wrist, quite obviously. This allows you to get a glance at the compass very easily.
The design of the SCA-160 speaks for itself but there is also not a ton of consumer feedback to go off of, which is a bit unfortunate. Still, it really is as good as it gets.
2. Suunto SK8
Comes with a quick disconnect fitting
Designed with an upgraded magnet
Sports excellent tilt potential
It does not glow very bright
Some users have had issues with it locking up
The SK8 could be considered the “high-end” option on this list in regard to its quality and its price. It is a special dive compass in its design, let’s just say that.Read more
Even though some users have noted that the SK8 can lock up from time to time, it is designed with an upgraded magnet and elite tilt potential of up to 30 degrees.
For the most part, the visibility is good here thanks to the easy-to-read numerals. However, in low-light diving conditions, this will not glow the brightest.
In addition to the fact that the bezel of this model is equipped with twin heading indicators, it also has indicator marks for every five degrees.
Overall, this seems to be built quite well so there should not be much need for concern in regard to the build quality and longevity.
This is a retractor model and it can be clipped in a few different ways. For the record, this does come with a quick release snap clip that sports a stainless steel ring.
Suunto is a top-name brand so it is no surprise to see a model of their rank so high on a list of this nature. Their SK8 does live up to the hype, generally speaking.
3. Sherwood Genesis
Two different mounting connectors are included
Very easy to read
Equipped with an integral retractable line
The screen is somewhat small
What is really nice about this next option is the fact that a retractor is built in. Additionally, the retractor cable is made with high-strength nylon for durability.Read more
This is built to perform with its liquid filled design and full-tilt action. Even if it is not horizontal, it will still be able to accurately read your current direction.
Alright, so the screen of this dive compass is on the smaller side. With that said, the numbers are really easy to read, regardless, even for older folks.
To provide you with a clear sense of direction, this is designed with twin heading indicators on the ratcheting bezel.
A solid build is featured here and it provides you with peace of mind knowing that this will not break down easily.
Being equipped with a retractor cable, this can be mounted to your gear. As for the cable itself, it is made with high-strength nylon for enhanced durability. There are also two mounting connectors included, for the record.
Several of you will take issue with the smaller screen but hey, this really is just a small imperfection when looking at the grand scheme of things. As for everything else, it is impressive.
4. Scubapro FS-2 Wrist Mount
It is also available in a retractor model
Provides a really good tilt angle
Can be used in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres
It can be a bit hard to read
In addition to the fact that the FS-2 is designed to be worn around your wrist, it is also optimized for use in both the Southern and Northern hemispheres, which is a nice touch.Read more
Outside of being able to be used in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres, this is designed with a floating magnet for enhanced operating freedom. However, one buyer criticized this design as the card stuck for them.
In spite of the fact that the FS-2 dive compass is designed with highly luminous dials, a few buyers have noted that it can be hard to view. It seems contradictory but users have had this issue.
For easier and more accurate navigation while you are swimming around, the FS-2 comes with a side view window. It is actually amazing how much this can make a difference.
What is nice about this model is the fact that it is built with a durable and scratch-resistant polycarbonate case. Let’s just say that it is not going to get damaged very easily.
This is the wrist mount compass of the FS-2. However, if this is not up your alley then you need to be aware that there is also a retractor model that is available for purchase.
Admittedly, this has received mixed feedback from the consumer base. It just seems that a few buyers have had negative experiences with it. Not everyone has had such experiences, however.
5. XS Scuba Highland
It is for use in the Northern Hemisphere
It is luminescent
It can be mounted on your gear
One user had longevity issues
For the record, this is a dive compass that is calibrated specifically for use in the Northern Hemisphere. It also comes equipped with a large bungee cord that allows you to mount it on your gear.Read more
As noted, this is calibrated to work in the Northern Hemisphere. Additionally, it is liquid filled and this allows it to offer quick and responsive performance.
To account for low-light conditions, the Highland has been equipped with luminescent componentry. This makes it much easier to see the face in all situations, quite honestly.
As with most models, the Highland comes with a ratcheted bezel that sports twin heading indicators. Also, it features increments at every 10 degrees.
It is worth noting that there was one reviewer who had a bad experience with this dive compass. For them, this only lasted a couple of dives before taking a dump.
The thick bungee cord that comes with this allows the Highland to either be mounted with two separate loops or one continuous one (it is up to you).
Yes, there was one buyer who had a poor experience with this compass. However, most everyone else has had nothing but positive remarks toward this well-designed model.
6. XS Scuba SuperTilt
Has a great tilt range
It is a retractable design
It comes with different clip options
It can be inaccurate at times
With a model dubbed the “SuperTilt” it better be able to perform at high tilt angles. Well, it is safe to say that this dive compass can do exactly that.Read more
When this is extended, it seems to be really accurate. A specific reviewer did mention, though, that this can be inaccurate at times. Oh yeah, it also has a great tilt range, as mentioned.
This should be easily seen in low-light conditions as well as in ideal conditions. You can also read this from the side with pretty good efficiency.
As alluded to, the most important feature here is the fact that this can easily be seen from the side with the side reading window.
There have not been too many complaints in regard to the build quality of this compass and that can only be seen as a positive.
This is yet another retractable dive compass and it actually comes with different clip options that you can mess around with.
In spite of the fact that this can be inaccurate at times, it is a highly recommended option for everything it brings to the table. It also is dubbed the SuperTilt Compass, so there is that.
7. Oceanic Wrist Mount
Sports impressive visibility
Can be worn around your wrist
It is quick in its response
The strap is pretty large
It feels somewhat cheap
At the end of the day, even though this does feel a little cheap, it is a dive compass that can perform and one that can be seen easily while you are underwater.Read more
First off, this is a model that is designed for use in the Northern Hemisphere. Now, what helps it perform admirably is the proprietary design which ensures quick responses.
It is noted that the luminescent floating card that this is designed with will glow around seven times faster and longer than other materials out there (which is just tremendous).
In addition to being able to read this from both the side and top, it features a large ratcheting bezel (which is about what you would expect).
Overall, this is cheaply made and there is no reason to sugarcoat it. Now, it is okay because it is not as if this needs to be used in a rugged fashion (just be careful with it).
It is worth noting that the strap that this comes with is quite large. Now, as this is included, it does mean that this model is designed to be worn around your wrist.
Would you consider buying a dive compass that prioritizes performance and visibility over build quality? That question pretty much will determine how compelled you are to buy this option.
It glows in the dark
Comes with a strong retractor
Can be attached to your gear
Not the best visibility from the side
This model’s biggest claim to fame is the fact that it is designed with a glow in the dark face. It is solid in other areas, too, but this is its main feature.Read more
This does pretty well in the accuracy department but there was one buyer who did feel otherwise. They noted how they had little to no success getting this to read directions properly.
Indeed, this sports a glow in the dark face. However, even with this integration, previous users have had issues viewing the face at certain angles underwater.
In addition to the side window, much like many other dive compasses, this is equipped with an adjustable bezel for your convenience.
What is really nice, talking about the retractor, is it is strong. It is only made of plastic but, overall, you can tell that it is not going to break apart very easily.
As hinted at, this is a retractor model. The cable runs around a meter long and the snap clip can be attached to either your BC or belt.
A lot of you should really like what this brings to the table. It does not reinvent the wheel or anything but it is a solid design as a dive compass.
9. DGX Tech Compass
It can easily be read
Equipped with powerful magnets
Includes a shock cord
Overall, it is cheap in its construction
Yes, this is a bit of a cheaper option but it is also a dive compass that can perform with smooth operation. Additionally, it can be seen without the use of prescription glasses (for most people).Read more
The combination of the powerful magnets and the compass needle card allow this unit to produce smooth movement. This persists even when the device is at somewhat of an angle.
Yep, as alluded to, this is not going to be difficult for you to view and accurately read. The gauge face is luminescent, so that helps quite a bit.
One of the few legitimate issues with this design is the weak resistance of the bearing dial. Due to this, it is much too easy to accidentally turn and this can throw everything off.
At this price point, the quality is warranted, quite frankly. Look, it is not like a child designed this but it is also not the most rugged device you will ever see.
Included with your purchase is a shock cord. Basically, this is the bungee cord and, in addition to this, this comes equipped with the bungee mount itself.
As you can see, this dive compass is not perfect. However, it was able to secure a spot on this list thanks to its practicality, above-average performance, and mounting system.
10. Phantom Aquatics
It is quick in its response time
Comes with a wrist strap
Designed with a highly visible lubber line
Does not work well at angles
Not the toughest of designs
If you are a casual diver (in that you only enjoy going a few times a year) you may not be interested in a premium option. For people such as this, this dive compass is pretty much perfect.Read more
In addition to being quick in its response, this wrist compass is actually calibrated for use in the Southern Hemisphere. But, it does not perform very well at angles.
To ensure easier reading accuracy, this has been engineered with a double red lubber line. The bezel and face are also fairly easy to read and view while underwater.
With a bezel that rotates 360 degrees, increments of five degrees, and a side read window, it is safe to say that this device succeeds in this area.
Get ready for a whole lot of plastic as that is what this is mostly made with. It may not last very long, as a result, but it is a cheaper model, anyway.
Coming with a wrist strap, this is optimized to fit right around your wrist. This eliminates any issues you may have with mounting this sucker to your gear.
Admittedly, professional divers (or anyone who enjoys the activity more often than others) will probably scoff at this device. For what it is, however, it gets the job done at an affordable price.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
Dive Compasses are simple devices but they also need to be accurate in their performances.
Even though this product is really simple in nature, it can also easily be meaningless to use if it is not accurate in its performance. After all, what is the purpose of compass that can’t direct you in the right way? Talking about dive compasses, specifically, they are typically magnetic and filled with some type of liquid (lamp oil, mineral oil, etc.). For optimal performance and accuracy, look for models that sport powerful magnets and some sort of liquid to dampen the movement of the needle.
Of course, what happens in a situation where you have the device at an angle? Is it still going to function properly? Well, it will if it has a forgiving tilt tolerance. Some of the best models on the market will be able to be tiled plus or minus 30 degrees and still operate accurately. Then again, others will need to be horizontal for optimal performance.
Oh, and what about this whole Southern Hemisphere versus Northern Hemisphere debacle when it comes to this type of tool? The easiest way to explain it is: compasses that are designed to work in the Northern Hemisphere will not work correctly in the Southern Hemisphere (and vice versa). So, do not overlook something like this.
While you are underwater, you will most certainly want to actually see the compass you get.
When you are on land and are above water, it will typically not be too tricky to glance down and accurately see your dive compass. But, you are not buying this tool to work on the land as you are buying it for underwater use when you are diving. This means it must be easy to see while you are underwater (which can naturally be more difficult). In this case, there are a few factors that you will want to keep in mind.
Firstly, you want a model that has a large enough face for you to view. Look, most dive compasses will not be enormous in size. But, at the same time, if the face on a specific model is too small then you may need to squint your eyes to see the dials and components.
Oh, and speaking of the dials and other components, that is what this second factor is all about. Most of the time, such features on this tool will be luminous and easy to see in low-light conditions (which can persist if you are deep underwater). The key to luminous objects is they can make light with little to no heat (which is why luminous dials work so well here).
Not too many features to speak of here but there are a few.
Even though it can be confusing to wrap your head around, the main feature to talk about here is the bezel. If you do not know what this is referring to, it is the ring that encompasses the compass. Most bezels out there will be rotatable and this is quite essential when you need to mark your course. As you get more accustomed to it, it will become easier for you to grasp so do not stress about this.
Anyway, to continue, most models on the market will be designed with bezels that increment around every 30 degrees (for the headings) and 5 to 10 degrees (for the indicator marks). While most will be in this ballpark, they will not all be the same. So, if you want a bezel with more degree markings then they are out there.
Another feature to briefly touch on is what is known as a side window. Basically, if a model comes equipped with this feature it means that you can hold it beyond your eye to read your course. Though you may find yourself never utilizing this feature, it can actually be quite convenient if you need to continually look at the compass.
Most models will not be overly rugged but they should also not be too cheap, either.
If you took the time to go through the above list then you probably noticed that many of the entries were not overly impressive in their builds. The point needs to be made that these devices will generally not be very rugged. But, they also do not necessarily need to be. Really, they just need to be sealed properly and built well enough to survive. To save on weight, this is why a lot of times you will see plastic utilized. Now, this is okay granted the plastic is high in quality (such as polycarbonate and polypropylene).
Of course, you should also not forget about the mounting option (which will be touched on here in a bit). Whether the device you pick comes with a retractor or a wrist strap, either one should be somewhat durable. The last thing you want is for either one of these accessories to fail while you are diving.
Also, keep in mind that it is never a bad idea to take some time to see what other buyers have had to say about the durability of a specific model. This can help you gain a clearer perspective on what you can expect and what you may want to possibly avoid.
This all comes down to the mounting option in which you desire.
It was just alluded to but you need to know that not all products are the same in regard to their mounting styles. But, here is the good news for those of you who do not want to be bombarded with several different options. There are really only two prominent styles that you will need to choose between (and an additional style that really is different altogether).
The first of which is known as a wrist mount which can be likened to a wristwatch in the sense that it is designed to go around your wrist. This style is probably the most popular and what is nice about it is the fact that you can quickly see the face of the compass with a glance at your wrist. But, you can also go with a retractable mount. With this, the device will come with some sort of retractor that can be clipped onto your gear. When you do not need it, then, this style can be tucked out of the way.
Of course, if you want something completely different than you can also choose to go with a console mount. This will require you to install the compass in it but can be great to gain access to all the necessary information you will need while diving.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
When it comes to finding the right compass, its accuracy is everything. Everyone can agree on this point as an inaccurate compass pretty much serves no purpose. But, what makes one accurate, anyway? It comes down to several different features, quite frankly, such as tilt angle, the integrated magnets, and if it is filled with some type of liquid.
Is it not amazing how the simple things in life often have the most meaning? That perfectly describes this section because, on the surface, being able to physically see the compass you buy sounds too simple to even be of concern to you. The reality is, however, it will come into play. Specific designs can be made easier to view if they are optimally sized and designed with luminescent dials and components.
Even though there are not an abundance of features that you will need to look out for, there is a couple that should be touched on. One of the most important, though, has got to be the bezel. Now, from brand to brand, the bezels that are integrated will resemble each other quite a bit. The key is to get comfortable with them and to know just how large or small you want the increments to be.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: How do you care for them?
For the most part, caring for your dive compass is not going to prove to be a grueling task. Most of the time, it will be as easy as rinsing it off and drying it, quite frankly. This is more of a concern if you plan to dive in saltwater. If this is your intention, then you will want to ensure that you thoroughly rinse the compass off to get rid of all the salt that is present on it.
q: What is the lubber line?
This is a term that you will come across regularly when you shop for this tool. It is also one that has not been talked about a whole lot, thus far, so let’s talk about what it is. To keep it short and sweet, the lubber line is a fixed line (it is often red) and it is used to dictate which direction you are going to be traveling. Basically, you set this lubber line beforehand (with your arm straight out) and then you can view it without doing so again.
q: How can you fix a stuck compass?
One of the potential issues that can persist when you are using your dive compass is that it locks up on you. It is unfortunate when this happens but it can so you need to know how to fix it in the instance that it does. If you are currently in the water and this happens, you can use your palm to give it a few hard taps (do not try to break it). Doing so may dislodge the components that are stuck.
Also, if you have access to it, you place it in hot water to allow the components to expand. From there, allow the device to cool and see if it is functioning properly.
q: How do you use them?
Though you may have the mindset that using a tool such as this is going to be challenging, it really is simple stuff. And, ironically, you may not be doing anything wrong if you find that your model is not working properly (as it may just be the design). Anyway, all you need to do is hold your arm straight in front of you in the direction you want to go, adjust the lubber line in the same direction, and head off for fun.
q: Can they be used on land?
There are some features and functionality that make dive compasses ideal for diving. However, it does not mean that you can’t use these devices on land. The same core principal to using them underwater is going to apply when you are on land. With that being said, while they can be used in this fashion, you should not buy them for use solely in this manner. You might as well buy a dedicated compass for land navigation (or a GPS device, quite frankly).
q: Are they waterproof?
Nope, dive compasses are only for use for diving that is performed above water. All joking aside, yes, each and every model on the market will be waterproof. But, that does not mean that all of them will be able to handle the same depths. While most sellers will not indicate what their models can handle, most will easily be able to go down a couple of hundred feet. To be honest, this really may only be an issue if you plan to attack the deep seas.