I got my first compass while I was in Boy Scouts. It was made by Silva for the Boy Scouts of America. I had forgotten all about it, until recently, when my dad gave it back to me. I had forgotten that I had loaned it to him about 25 years ago, and I guess he was finally done using it. It still works great.

In these days of high technology, many hikers and backpackers are going outdoors with GPS’s instead of a compass. This is fine and dandy, if you don’t mind lugging one around and you learn how to use it properly. But personally, I prefer a compass. They are much less expensive, weigh less, have much less a tendency to break when dropped, and don’t require batteries.

Recently, the compass I have been using is the Silva Ranger 515CL Compass. This particular model used to be known as the Ranger Type 15, and it has been around in very similar versions for over 45 years. You can’t say that about too many products.

Here’s what makes the Silva Ranger world class:

  • The compass has a clear plastic baseplate that has three map scales (1:24,000, 1:25,000 & 1:50,000), and measurements in millimeters and inches (for measuring distances on a map).
  • Attached to the baseplate is a plastic cover that, when snapped closed, protects the compass from damage. When the cover is open, there is a mirror with a sighting line (on the mirror) and notch (on the cover). These both contribute to quick and accurate readings.
  • The mirror also comes in handy as a signaling device or when you need to get something out of your eye
  • The compass itself isliquid-filled and uses a sapphire-jeweled needle, both which contribute to accuracy. The compass can be adjusted (rotated) as needed. It has 2 degree increments.
  • There’s a geared declination adjustment to help you distinguish between True and Magnetic North.
  • The Ranger includes a clinometer, which is used measure the slope of angles. This can be handy for mountain climbers who want to calculate a slope to see how avalanche-prone it might be.
  • Luminescence is used in critical areas to make it easier to use the compass in dim light.
  • The compass has three silicone plastic feet to help prevent it from slipping.
  • The Ranger comes with a removable 15 inch lanyard (cord) and a declination adjustment screwdriver.
  • Silva also offers a 515CLQ model, which includes Quadrant graduations. Other than this, the 515CL and 515CLQ are identical.
  • It weighs only 2.3 ounces.

Using the Silva Ranger 515CL in the Real World

The Ranger 515CL has virtually all the features any hiker or backpacker could want. Besides this, it is accurate (always a good thing) and well-built. It should last you for many years.

Recommendation

If you rarely use a compass, but still need one on occasion, the Ranger 515CL is probably overkill for you. A simpler model will suffice. But if you are a serious outdoor navigator, then you should take a close look at this compass.

Product Notes

The Silva Ranger 515CL MSRP is $55.00. Silva also offers a model called the 530CL, which includes a small magnifier built into the baseplate of the compass. Silva offers a wide range of other compasses, if you find that the 515CL is not appropriate for you.