If you are interested in purchasing a high quality lensatic compass the choice is easy. Cammenga (any model) is THE brand to get. I have had a couple cheap ($10-$20) lensatic compasses over the years that I would not recommend. My advice is don’t bother until another company decides to challenge Cammenga’s dominance in the lensatic compass field. Click on the links to take a look at (or buy) these at Amazon.com.
Cammenga Model 27
The Cammenga Model 27 is the basic (and, in my opinion, best) model that Cammenga makes. It uses long-lasting (1-2 hour) phosphorescence to illuminate some of the markings on the compass for reading it at night. It’s a heavy (well, less than 6 oz. at least) and bulky-not something you want to have in your front pocket while hiking around, but those are the same characteristics that make it a nearly indestructible instrument that is likely to last as long as you do.
The compass card (lensatic compasses use cards rather than needles) is marked in degrees and mils. Mils, which are finer compass increments than degrees, are used by the U.S. military for, among other things, precise targeting. The military is a major purchaser of Cammenga compasses.
Another feature of the compass is the electromagnetic induction dampening system. This set-up eliminates the need for a fluid-filled capsule and the risk of losing the dampening system when you drop your compass on a rock.
These compasses cost around $50 and come in an olive drab color and with a 1 year warranty.
Cammenga Models 3H, B3H, and C3HRT
The 3H is essentially the same compass as the Model 27 with two differences. First, it uses radio-active tritium to produce nighttime luminosity (for about a decade) with no need to “charge” from sunlight. The second difference is the price. It costs about %40 more than the Model 27.
Personally, I prefer to be in my sleeping bag after the sun goes down, but if you do extreme cross-country expeditions or other “activities” that require some nighttime navigation, you might consider going for the tritium.
The B3H is the black version of the compass. Cammenga markets these to agencies whose employees are very color coordinated and like their gear to match their outfits (S.W.A.T., D.E.A, F.B.I. etc.).
The C3HRT is also the same 3H tritium compass but with a Real Tree Camo finish. I wonder how many of these have been lost in the woods so far…