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Field Gear.

Help For The Directionally Impaired

Anyone who's "directionally-impaired" knows what a damper that can throw on your plans. See, we can' t really classify it as a handicap since handicaps seem no longer to be valid. "Not being able to find your way out of a wet paper bag," sounds cruel, and even if it is true, most of us would shrink from saying so. Unless, of course, we were married to the person so afflicted, or had a heck of a lot of fun at the poor soul's inability to cope with the situation. Having no sense of direction is anything but fun, however. I've known bowhunters who refused to venture out on Western hunts for fear of becoming irrevocably lost. You can harp and harp on how it's usually easier to get lost in the thick hardwoods of the Midwest, South and East than it is in the wide open spaces of the West. However, you know you are having no luck when the glaze over their eyes appears to have become permanent.

Compasses are important, though, no matter where you hunt. A GPS may be nifty, but a GPS can break. So can compasses, although that' s not very likely. A GPS, however, is prone to all sorts of problems: inability to find a satellite, especially if you're in deep, twisting canyons, and battery failure because of weak or even cold batteries, are just a couple. I'm not advising against carrying a GPS; what I'm saying is that it should be backed up by a compass to be safe, especially if you're the kind who's teetering on the brink of being directionally-challenged yourself.

Having no sense of direction isn't any fun. It can keep you from going over the next ridge because you aren't really sure you'll be able to make it back. Knowing how simple it is to read a compass, especially if you've never tried to conquer the device before, could change your bowhunting life forever.

Compasses can be an extremely economic item. Brunton (Tel. 800-443-4871; makes a couple of neat models new to their line in their Tag-A-Long Series. These include the 9068P, a disc compass watchband with cardinal points for $2.99; the 9070P, an 28mm rotating bezel compass with clear base plate for $6.99, the 9072P, a disc compass and cord to wear around your neck which is ideal when hiking, plus the 10NLP, a combination compass and thermometer zipper pull.

The Coleman Company (Tel. 800-835-3278), known for heavy involvement in the camping field, sells some super low-cost compasses, too. These are nice compasses, not the finest precision instruments in the world, but good enough if you own a GPS and you just want some back-up insurance. Coleman's Liquid-Filled Pocket Compass has a luminous pointer, impact-resistant plastic case, and direction-setting memory arrow to help you stay on track. Their Lensatic Compass is also liquid-filled, plus cardinal points feature luminous letters. The tough plastic case should withstand most field use, and the compass comes with directions for use with a topographic map. The open 'gun-sight' lid is ideal for taking precision bearings. Finally, Coleman's Map Compass is also a liquid-filled model that really is handsome on its clear plastic forestry-scale base. The base includes scales in both inches and millimeters and is see-through. The rotating bezel is another nice convenience. A cord is included so you can hang the compass a round your neck. If you're like me (I lost the best compass I ever owned) you'll love this feature, if you can be persuaded to use it. No Coleman compass retails for more than $7.99.

Cabela's (1-800-237-4444; sells a variety of nice compasses. All are reasonably priced, making them ideal gifts for the beginning outdoors person or for someone who just wants GPS peace of mind. The Wrist Compass ($6.99) is nice. It's handy, liquid-filled, and has a luminous easy-to-read dial. Cabela's Lensatic Compass ($14.99) is also liquid-filled, plus it has a large 2-inch dial for fast, accurate readings. The small glass lens and sighting wire provide precision at an economy price. The Pin-On Ball Compass ($4.99) comes with a dial that remains upright and readable as you walk or climb. Again, the dial is luminous, and the compass is shockproof and waterproof. Cabela's Brass Pin-On Compass ($13.99) can be pinned to shirt jacket or pack. The brass housing is super-tough.

Brunton's basic models include these liquid-filled models: two lensatics with sight windows and wires: the 9075 Lensatic (sugg. ret. $7.99 all prices from now on will be suggested retail), or the 9076 Lensatic with its beefier case for $14.99. The 16B Braille ($59.99) is the high-end version of the 9020G ($10.99), the 3DLU Expedition ($17.99), and the 26DNL Pioneer ($16.99). The 16B, 9020G, and 3DLU are prismatic models with clear bases and ruler. The Braille and the 26DNL Pioneer come with a closing cover. The 26 DNL Pioneer is a lot of compass for the money.

Compasses are crossing over to the dark side, at least for those bowhunters who grouse at the never-ending high-tech progress in what so recently was considered to be a "primitive" sport. With Precision Navigation ((707) 566-2260; leading the charge, the field will never again be the same. Precision Navigation's Co-Pilot Electronic Compasses come in three different models. The only one of interest to bowhunters is the V600, which can be handheld when navigating through the woods.

"Smart" sensors give step-by-step instructions. Calibration is easy. A bright back-lighted area illuminates the LCD for easy viewing day or night. The display and directional indicators provide both cardinal points, and numeric degree digits. There's a bracket to secure the unit with suction cups to any windshield, plus a clock. The compass operates on two AAA batteries for about 200 hours. All this for somewhere between $30 and $60; heck, you'd pay that for a good digital clock.

Brunton won't be left behind in this field or any other directional challenging one. Their new Brunton Multi-Navigation System (MNS) (sugg. ret. $399) combines an accurate altimeter, continuously logging barometer, digital compass, clock, and GPS receiver into a single instrument. The MNS is a waterproof receiver that is made to perform under an extreme of conditions - from - 13-degrees F. to +158-degrees F. It comes with its own neoprene interactive case. This is an extremely accurate instrument. The altimeter, for instance, will vary by only three feet from actual. The compass, it's heartening to learn, will still work even when batteries are low and satellites are inaccessible. The system will work for up to two weeks on two AA batteries.

Brunton has become the leader in compasses for hiking, hunting, orienteering and extreme sports because they're not only good design innovators, they know what the public is clamoring for. Plus, they keep their prices reasonable and their quality high. Silva and Brunton are now together under the Brunton aegis, but you'll still discover both brand names being sold in stores.

Perhaps this is a good time to define the two basic types of compasses. These are basic directional compasses and declination adjustable map compasses. Your basic directional compass has a magnetized needle surrounded by a fixed azimuth ring, 0-360 degrees. By simply pointing the needle so that it is reading "N," a bearing can be found. These are small, portable compasses that work well for finding a general direction.

The map compass also has the magnetized needle and azimuth ring, but this time a rotating vial encapsulates the ring. Declination (see glossary of terms below) can be adjusted by rotating the orienting arrow inside the vial either to the east or to the west, according to the azimuth ring. Some features of this type of compass include: magnifiers, scales, or sophisticated sighting systems. These sighting systems will allow you to watch your needle's alignment while you are sighting at an object or a direction at the same time. Some compasses have an open "sight" in their covers; others have a mirror that will reflect information as you sight

Higher-end Brunton compasses worthy of your consideration include the 27LU Trooper ($19.99), a prismatic compass with cover, minor and ruler; the 15TDCL Elite ($49.99), another prismatic with all the bells and whistles, including a rotating bezel, minor, sighting line and forestry scale on its crystal-clear base, the 80100, and perhaps the finest compass I've ever seen, the 8099 Eclipse ($79.99). This 8099 series of Brunton compasses virtually eliminates the risk of ever reversing your bearing. The Eclipse includes in its design a patent-pending disk magnet. Just align the circles and you'll always know where you're going. The lines of this compass are neat and sleek, too. It's easy to access, small and precise. What more could you possibly want

Well, perhaps a work of compass art? Yes, that's right Art, together with a little history might be right up some readers' alleys. Then Deutsche Optik (Tel (800) 225-9407; is the company for you. If you don't mind lugging around a couple of extra ounces, check out the WWII British Prismatic Marching Compasses ($229). Yes, pricey, but just a beautiful prismatic hand-bearing compass with a mother of pearl compass card readable in even the lowest light The solid brass housing shines like gold, and the 25X magnifying prism helps you read small print The compass is liquid filled, with mineral crystal glass, plus features a rotating bezel with lock and thumb loop. All are completely original and authentic with their wartime factory markings still clearly visible. Carry it with you bowhunting. Set it out in a place of honor at home. At about 8-ounces, a little hefty, but undeniably beautiful.

Any combat buff knows the Israelis don't skimp when it comes to the necessities. Now you can own an Israel Defense Force (IDF) Compass ($99) thousands of miles from the place where it originated. These are original issue compasses that are still in use today. Lightweight, unusually accurate, dampened with a special high evaporation point liquid, this compass lets you get your bearings quickly even in abysmal conditions. Construction includes a high-impact composite outer case, 25X optical glass magnifying crystal, and a Mylar compass card seated on a tiny sapphire bearing that will never wear out Waterproof, weatherproof and highly shock resistant, the unit is specified to work from n40-degrees F. to +122-degrees F. The original Hebrew markings on the housing and canvas carry case are still visible.

Both of these latter two compasses have been fully-reconditioned to work like new.


Azimuth Housing: the housing with the knurled edges which holds the clear liquid-filled vial and which rotates within the compass base for setting or taking bearings.

Bearing: the direction from one location to another in degrees.

Cardinal points: Not a score for your favorite team, but N, S, W and E, the four cardinal directions.

Declination: the error between true North (upon which all maps are based) and magnetic North (where all magnetic compass needles point). Declination can vary by as much as 42-degrees here in the U.S., depending on where you may be.

Forestry Scale: allows you to read distances directly from your U.S.G.S. topographical maps. These scales are available on various compasses in either 7.5 minute (for 1:24,000 maps) and 15 minute (1:62,500 maps).

Graduated Dial or Azimuth Ring: the white dial with the markings in degrees (zero to 3601.

Liquid Damping: allows needle to come to rest more quickly for faster reading. In cheaper non-liquid systems, needle wobbles and bobs for a long time. Look for a compass with a liquid base such as mineral spirits (used by Brunton) because it will not freeze or boil and is impervious to heights from 200 feet below sea level to 40,000 feet above.

Mirror: used to make prismatic in-line sightings for the most accurate compass readings.

Prismatic Compass: a compass with a mirror which allows user to see both distant objects and the compass face at the same time. The most accurate type of hand held compass.

Protractor: used with maps.

Rotating bezel: ring around the compass's circumference that rotates to provide a truer indication of a bearing as you're in motion.

Sighting line: line you sight along to take a bearing. Also known as line of travel.

Triangulation: method to find your location by sighting on two objects and taking your bearings.

Index line: mark on the front sight where you read a bearing on your compass.

Source: The Brunton Company
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Publication:Petersen's Bowhunting
Date:Jan 1, 2001
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