Suunto Vs Silva Compass Comparrison: Which is Best?

Last Updated on 30/04/2022

Suunto Vs Silva Compass

Which is Better the Suunto or Silva Compass?

In this guide to Suntoo Vs Silva compasses, we share the differences and similarities between their two most popular compasses and provide our opinion on which is best. You might not like what we have to say but you also won’t be able to deny it.

Comparing a Suunto Vs Silva compass is not as easy as it might seem because they are almost identical to each other. The differences between the two are mostly cosmetic and there are far more similarities than there are different features. Both are highly reliable brands that have been around for a long time and make excellent compasses for navigation, hiking, and orienteering.

In a Hurry? This is the Compass We Would Pick

If we could just pick just one of the four compasses below to last us a lifetime it would have to be the Silva Ranger 2.0 Compass 16DCL. Does this mean that Silva compasses are better than Suunto compasses? Not really. It just means that we found Silva to be the more reliable and well built in the long term. Other people may disagree having had the opposite experience.

Let me be clear, I would be very happy with either compass brand. Even the most standard base plate compasses from both Silva and Suunto are better than any cheaply made compass with lots of features by an unknown brand. The point is that both Silva and Suunto have built a solid reputation for navigational accuracy and have mastered compass science. Both are more reliable in the long term than a solar watch with a compass.

Why do we prefer Silva? Because over time, our Silva compasses outperformed the Suunto compasses even though they may have slightly fewer features. Also, Suunto decided to start putting branding on the compass face a few years back and it can interfere with map readability and navigation in low light.

4 Best Silva and Suunto Compasses

There are dozens of different compasses out there made by both Silva and Suunto so we picked our favorite mirrored and base plate compasses made by each company. Both compasses are evenly matched and have almost identical features which means if you pick any of them, you will be getting one of the best.

Silva Ranger 2.0 Compass 16DCL

Silva Compass 16DCL -6400 MILS/360 Degrees | Military Grade

  • DIMENSIONS: 4.25 x 2.5 x 0.75 inches
  • WEIGHT: 86 grams
  • FEATURES: Metric Scales, Metric and Inch Ruler, Sighting Hole and Notch, Clinometer, Sighting Mirror, Magnifying Lens, Dryflex housing, Luminous Markings, Slope Card, Scale Lanyard

The Silva Ranger 2.0 Compass 16DCL is one of the most trusted military-grade compasses in the world and has been tested to work in extreme conditions. It has all the features you need to navigate and plan routes. You can use the sighting mirror to precisely target where you are on a map, how far it is to your destination, and keep you going in the right direction. This is a top-of-the-range compass with the durability to survive a war zone.

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SUUNTO MC-2 Compass

SUUNTO MC-2 NH USGS Mirror Compass

  • DIMENSIONS: ‎2.5 x 3.9 x 0.7 inches
  • WEIGHT: 80 grams
  • ADJUSTABLE: Declination
  • FEATURES: Metric Scales, Metric and Inch Ruler, Sighting Hole and Notch, Clinometer, Sighting Mirror, Magnifying Lens

The SUUNTO MC-2 Compass is one of the most advanced pocket navigation compasses out there with features that allow you to get the most accurate readings possible. The sighting mirror has a tiny notch which you can aim at any landmarks with pinpoint accuracy so that you can triangulate your exact position on a map.

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Silva Compass Expedition 4

Silva Compass Expedition 4 - AW21 - One - Black

  • DIMENSIONS: 12.78 x 5.84 x 0.98 cm
  • WEIGHT: 40 grams
  • FEATURES: Mile and Kilometer Scales, Metric and Inch Ruler, Clinometer, Magnifying Lens, Luminous Markings

The Silva Compass Expedition 4 is possibly our favorite baseplate compass out there because it is practical and reliable. In fact, I have had mine for as long as I can remember and don’t plan on upgrading any time soon. It is easy to read and use night and day as well as has a nice long edge for measuring longer distances on a map. If we had to pick one compass of all four it would have to be this.

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Suunto M3 Compass

SUUNTO M-3 NH Compass


  • DIMENSIONS: 11.42 x 5.12 x 1.18 inches / 61 x 120 x 14 mm
  • WEIGHT: 46 grams / 1.62 oz
  • FEATURES: Mile and Kilometer Scales, Metric and Inch Ruler, Clinometer, Magnifying Lens, Luminous Markings

The Suunto M3 Compass is a standard baseplate compass without a sight-finding mirror but is just as useful in the field. It features a useful mile and kilometer-scale so that you can quickly calculate distances using the appropriate ratios. This is a compass you can rely on but it is not the easiest to read in low light even though it has luminous markings. We also aren’t keen on the logo placement directly on the compass face but still, one you can trust.

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Silva and Suunto Compass Comparrison

Suunto Vs Silva Compass Comparrison

How are we going to compare the Suunto vs Silva compasses? For the purposes of this article, we will use the most highly rated compass from both companies and pit them against each other, head to head. This will include the standard baseplate compasses without a sighting mirror: Suunto M-3 Nh Compass and the Silva Expedition 4.


If you are buying a brand new compass from either Suunto or Silva then you should have a full-strength compass needle with inevitable accuracy. You can test this using a smartphone app or another compass. As the compass ages, it can start to lose some of its magnetic strength and even its accuracy. Both of my Silva and Suunto compasses slow down a little bit every year and so it is good practice to re-magnetize them every now and again.

The Silva Expedition 4 tends to bounce back and forth many times before settling on north after a couple of years of being kept in a backpack. The needle moves freely however it lacks the magnetic strength to settle on a position so slows down very gradually like a child on a swing.

The Suunto M-3 on the other hand suffers from a different problem after years of being bashed around in a backpack. The Suunto needle instead is slightly off balance due to its weak magnetic strength. So instead of bouncing back and forth like the SIlva it simply rests on the base and does not move as freely.

Both remain accurate with a little patience and a tilt to level the needle but with a little remagnetization, they are back to new in no time.

  • Suunto: 10/10
  • Silva: 10/10


Durability has never been an issue with any of our compasses other than scratches. Thinking back, I may have cracked a compass I accidentally kept in my back pocket but I cannot remember the brand (and I don’t even think it was mine). Scratches can become an issue if the plastic discolors but all Silva compasses feature small rubber feet which lift it up and provide an amazing grip on your map.

Most modern compasses are made from high-quality acrylic that has a little bit of flex in them to prevent any brittleness over time. You should never bend a compass but it is good to know it won’t ever shatter if you drop it on the ground. Even if dropped from a great height I would expect both Silva and Suunto compasses to fair pretty well unless it somehow damaged the bearing.

The Military Grade Silva Ranger 2.0 Compass 16DCL is perhaps the most durable option available today and perhaps why it is the compass of choice for rescue workers, mountaineers, military personnel, and mountain guides around the world.

  • Suunto: 9/10
  • Silva: 10/10


I have never been especially impressed with the speed of a compass although I would be if one was fast enough. Why isn’t there a base plate compass that is so powerful it remains locked on the north at all times? There is probably a very good reason like the needle can only be so thick or so heavy before it doesn’t work.

We were hoping the Suunto might be able to catch up on the speed test but unfortunately not. The axel that the compass needle sits on is just ever so slightly better with the Silva vs Suunto compass in terms of fluid motion. The speed is identical for both compasses when you first get them but over time we like the Explorer 4 or 16DCL compasses from Silva.

  • Suunto: 7/10
  • Silva: 8/10
Suunto M3 Compass back

The older version without branding on the face


Both compasses are as steady as a compass can be on a flat surface. There will always be a wobble when holding the compass in your hand as this is how the needle is allowed to move so freely. As mentioned earlier, over time, the steadiness does wane but can be easily brought back using a strong magnet.

Both Silva and Suunto compasses have rubber grips underneath which help to keep them steady when placed on a map. One feature I have always wanted to see on a compass is a small spirit level but for this test, we will work with what we’ve got.

  • Suunto: 9/10
  • Silva: 9/10


If we are comparing the Silva Expedition 4 and the Suunto M3 compasses then there are only two noteworthy features that are different. The first is that the Suunto M3 has a distance scale in both miles and kilometers whereas the Silva compass only shows kilometers. The second difference is that the luminous color goes all the way around the bezel on the Suunto and is only where you need it on the Silva.

The third difference is so obvious you may not have even noticed and that is that the text and graphics on the Suunto Compass is red and the Silva’s is black. You might not think this makes much difference but in poor visibility, it is far easier to read the contrast of the black markings over the red.

When you step up to the more advanced mirror sighted compasses we think the Suunto has slightly more to offer but the durability of the Silva 16DCL makes it a safe choice. The benefits of having a small mirror are that you can use it for signaling and checking your face in the morning as well as for sighting landmarks to triangulate your position on a map.

  • Suunto: 10/10
  • Silva: 9/10


  • Suunto: 45/50
  • Silva: 46/50

In summary, Silva came out marginally ahead but if enough people performed this test then we feel it would come out equal on average. Both compass manufacturers have been around for close to 100 years and make world-leading navigation tools. They blend traditional knowledge and modern technology to make equally impressive compasses.

For an entry-level compass we recommend either Silva or Suunto baseplate compasses and if you want to take it a step further then the mirror sighted options should be your next level up. If you want to start looking at digital compasses and GPS then you will have to come back in a few months when we have written about it.

Until then, we hope you have enjoyed reading this Suunto vs Silva Compass comparison review and have even learned a thing or two.

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This article has been written and/or edited by Andrew N. 20+ years of hiking, mountaineering, and camping experience, with access to all the latest outdoor gear.

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