Review overview

Adjustable declination correction scale: 8.8
Ruler 9
Orienteering compass 9.4
Accuracy 9.3
Fetaures 9.1
Price 9


9.1 tech score Great for hiking. User friendly for topo maps. Cons: None that I've found.

The Suunto M-2 is a basic orienteering style compass with a transparent base plate and declination adjustment.  It has a square 4X power magnifier built into the base plate (approximately 0.7″ or 18 mm wide).  As sold in the U.S., it has 3 scales along the sides of the base plate: inches, 1:24,000 and 1:62,500 map scales.  The rotating dial is marked from 0 to 360 degrees in 2-degree increments and is 2.4″ (61 mm) in diameter.  The red North arrow has a luminous dot that can be aligned between 2 luminous lines on the rotating dial to allow rudimentary use at night.  The needle is liquid damped.

Product Information

  • Manufacturer: Suunto Corporation (

  • Year of manufacture: 1999
  • Manufacturer listed weight: 1.2 oz (34 g)
  • Actual Weight: 1.23 oz (35 g)
  • Dimensions: 3.5″ X 2.4″ (89mm X 61mm)
  • MSRP: $20.00 USD


  • Fast, globally balanced needle with jewel bearing
  • Sighting tools for accurate direction taking
  • Adjustable declination correction


  • Fast &  balanced needle with jewel bearing
  • 20-deg tilt margin
  • Clinometer
  • Made in Finland
  • Easy to detach
  • Adjustable correction
  • Luminescent markings
  • Base plate with magnifying lens
  • Sighting hole &  notch for accurate bearings
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Liquid filled capsule
  • Mirror for sighting signaling & bearings
  • Metric UTM scales &  inch ruler

Field Use

Testing location: Southwestern U.S., primarily desert mountains and canyons.

I purchased this compass to replace a similar one from another manufacturer that had developed a bubble in the capsule liquid. My previous compass did not have declination adjustment; as my primary hiking areas are in the

Southwestern United States where the magnetic variation can be as much as 14 degrees, I thought that feature would be very desirable. The M-2 provided a combination of size, simplicity, declination adjustment and economy that was appealing.

As the M-2 came with essentially no directions, I required an embarrassingly long time to figure out how the declination adjustment worked. The small key is simply used to turn an equally small screw set in the back of the dial. The screw turns a gear and ratchet arrangement that moves the orienting arrow and lines on the inner part of the dial in relation to the 0 degree mark on the outer dial.

The declination scale is printed so that it reads correctly from the back of the compass, so that you can turn the screw until the orienting arrow has moved the correct number of degrees of East or West declination. The scale is marked in 2-degree increments. Once it is set, I have never had the adjustment move.

After 3 years of use, the M-2 has stood up well. I’ve carried it on dozens of day hikes as part of my 10 essentials and on numerous overnight trips.

The compass has been exposed to extreme heat (i.e. left in my truck on 115 F or 46 C days) without damage or bubbling of the liquid inside the capsule. It has been in freezing weather with no problems, but one wouldn’t expect that from a Finnish company’s product. The rotating dial still moves smoothly but keeps its settings. I usually carry it with my map in a plastic storage bag.

The compass has become a secondary backup to my GPS in recent years. When hiking on trails I most often use it to orient my map (my GPS doesn’t have internal maps) and occasionally to take cross bearings on landmarks to determine where I am on the trail.

On cross-country hikes, I generally go along a series of pre-stored GPS waypoints, but I try to maintain a paper map and bearing track in case the GPS fails.

I’ve not found the lack of a sighting mirror to be a problem for the sort of navigation I do; I can get surprisingly accurate bearings by holding the compass with my two forefingers extended along the sides parallel to the sighting line and then holding the compass in front of me slightly above waist level with my elbows locked at my sides.

The entire body is then turned to point at the object whose bearing you want, and the bearing can be read just by looking down (I found this “center hold” technique described in the U.S. Army Map Reading and Land Navigation Field Manual for use with lensatic compasses).

I have other compasses, including lensatic and other sighting types, but the M-2 is my standard backpacking compass. I like its size and weight, and the built-in magnifier becomes handier each year. The basic orienteering or protractor compass design seems the easiest and quickest for me to use with a map in the field.

Things I like about the M-2:

  • Declination adjustment
  • Economical
  • Lightweight, but large enough for accurate bearings

Things I dislike:

  • The luminous dot on the North arrow has gotten very dim.


Tags : technology
Mike Carpenter

The author Mike Carpenter

I began backpacking while in college in the 1970's. Most of my trips have been short (2 to 3 days) and primarily in the desert Southwest of the United States. After a decade of off-road 4 wheel drive 'truck camping' I've taken up backpacking again and am making the transition to lightweight camping (current weekend skin-out weight with water, fuel and food is under 30 lbs (14 kg) for winter desert trips).

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