I'm a big fan of always carrying a compass and for years I've had one on my key chain. An old school compass is truly an object of beauty: it has no reliance on cell towers, WiFi, GPS or batteries. It Just Works. Well, that's the theory anyway. In practice, my every-day carry of a compass ends up beating up a delicate instrument which was never really intended to be subjected such harsh conditions. Consider my search for the perfect pocket compass:
1. is a cheap keychain button compass. I picked up a package of 20 of them from eBay for some ridiculous price. The idea was to pick up a whole slew of them and find one in the bunch that seemed to be accurate. The problem with these little button compasses is that they are slow to settle on North. I found that I was constantly tapping the compass, willing it to show me the right direction. What do you want for a few bucks, right?
2. is was the very promising Metro Silva Compass. This guy actually held up for almost two years. Unlike the cheap button compasses, this needle would always confidently snap to North. But look at the picture above - somehow I managed to reverse the polarity of the compass (trust me, North is up). That's not cool. I've got a note into Silva asking what I should do about this glitch. Let's see what they say.
3. is the very slick County Comm SERE compass. Like the Metro Silva, it snapped to North much faster than the button compasses. It comes with a lanyard, but I couldn't resist just sticking it on my keychain. I figured I'd take it off the keychain to do any actual readings. I know this isn't a keychain compass, but I figured if it was tough enough to be included in a "Aircrew Survival Kit" it should be tough enough to live in my front pocket. I was wrong. After a few weeks I realized that the compass dial had effectively become magnetized. The result, and it's hard to see this from the photo, is that compass dial dips down and "sticks" to the base of the compass, rendering its readings useless. D'oh. I've got a note into the good people at County Comm to see what they have to say about this.
4. is my latest attempt. It's a Tac Compass, also by County Comm. This bad boy is tiny. But it does appear to meet my need of being a functional compass. For now, I'm storing the compass in one of the pill containers on my key chain:
Like I said, it's itty bitty! If it can turn out to be reliable, the Tac compass may be the perfect EDC compass. It's almost invisible until you need it, and then can pull it out and be ready to un-lost yourself.
The question, of course, is can this little guy stand up to the punishment of living on my key chain? Time will tell.
Update: Both Silva and County Comm both got back to me within 24 hours and promised to replace / fix the compass for no charge. In the case of Silva, I need to send it back to Sweden, so yeah, we'll see how that goes. But both Silva and County Comm demonstrated quality customer service, which is much appreciated.