Trekmates – Explorer Compass

Review: Trekmates – Explorer Compass

… a robust base plate compass designed with features to make navigation as easy as possible. The large sized base makes measuring distances a breeze…

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Over the years I have used numerous compasses by many different manufactures.  However, this is the first one of this size that I have used in the budget price range.

Primarily set up to function with the Ordnance Survey 1:25000 and 1:50000 maps.  The design of the compass has not changed that much in over 50 years and so the specification is fairly familier:

  • Rotating bezel marked with two degree dial graduations
  • Magnifier to make map details clearer
  • Romer scales 1:25,000 and 1:50,000
  • Centimetre ruler
  • Luminous needle markings for night navigation
  • Circle and triangle cut outs for drawing orienteering points
  • Neck cord included
  • Weight: 45g

First Impressions

Before heading out into the countryside with a new compass, I like to get to know its feel and functionality.  In the case of the Trekmates Explorer Compass, it feels light and comfortable in my hands. The bezel is easy to turn without feeling slack or jerky.  The bezel numbers are clearly printed and easy to see.

The Base Plate has the 1:50000 romer scale down the full length of the left-hand side and a metric ruler down the right-hand side.  The 1:25000 romer scale occupies the narrow top edge.  This is a downside to this compass as the 1:25000, the primary navigation scale, is only usable out to 1500m.

The inside of the bezel has very few orienting lines making is more difficult to align to the map.  It has no declination scale but has NW, NE, SE & SW marked on the face which serve no purpose and hinder the orientation process.

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Field Test

During a 10 mile walk on the South Downs I used the compass for setting the map, transposing bearings from the map to the landscape for the different legs of my route.  For taking bearings and transferring them to the map for fixing my position.

Setting the map was not as easy as I usually find.  This is due to the small number of orienting lines on the bezel and the presence of the semi-cardinal lettering.  This action needs to be quick and easy as it is the basis of all map and compass navigation.

Difficulty to aligning to Grid North also made setting bearing for navigation difficult.  When the weather was as windy as it was today and I have a lot of bearings to take, I cannot waste time trying to align the compass to the maps grid.

Unfortunately, the same was true when I was taking bearing and transposing them onto the map to triangulate my position.  The whole process was slow and cumbersome.

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Verdict

Physically, this is a well-made compass.  It feels as good as the more expensive compasses on the market.  The bezel has the right ‘tightness’ allowing for easy and positive movement with no jerkiness.

However, it is the design of the printing that lets this compass down.  I could easily ignore my concern about the positioning of the 1: 25000 roamer scale as not important in the bigger picture.  But I cannot ignore the design of the interior printing of the bezel.  It is a shame that the nuance of the bezel printing lets it down.

At its price, £10, one would think that this was an ideal beginners’ compass.  Unfortunately, I would have grave reservations using this as a training compass.  If I, an experience navigator, struggles to use the compass, then a beginner would have no hope.

Unfortunately, I cannot recommend this compass until the manufacture changes the bezel printing.

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Disclaimer: I was supplied with an Explorer Compass by Trekmates for the purposes of this review. All opinions are my own.

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