Silva, Suunto, or Brunton
Silva, Suunto, or Brunton?
All three of these companies make good handheld compasses for land navigation and all three also make some low end compasses that I would not recommend. At the top end, it is difficult to say which company builds the compass that will perform the best or last the longest, so I would focus on the getting your favorite features for the best price rather than reputation because just who is making the compass that you are inspecting is not as straightforward as you might expect.
In 1932 Silva became the first manufacturer of the baseplate (orienteering) compass, and built a reputation for quality around its Silva Ranger and other models. However, in 1985 , Johnson Worldwide Associates (now Johnson Outdoors Inc.) bought the North American side of the Silva company, and beginning in the late 1990s, compasses like the Ranger are no longer manufactured by Silva. Over the past few years I have seen an increasing number of negative reviews of the Silva Ranger, so there is some question about quality control since the transition to Johnson Outdoors. However, there is also an indication that the Suunto company manufactures compasses for Johnson Outdoors, so I am not sure I believe in any huge discrepancy between the quality of these two brands. I have used both for many years.
The original parent company of the Silva Ranger is now called Silva Sweden AB and it still sells compasses under the Silva name outside the U.S., but get this, it has owned Brunton since 1996. So the Brunton Model 15 sold in the U.S. could be considered a more direct descendant of the Silva Ranger than the Silva Ranger that Johnson Outdoors produces. To make matters more confusing, some of the original Brunton-designed compasses are sold under the Silva brand name outside the U.S.
Suunto brand compasses were not involved in the acquisitions and legal dealings that produced today’s complicated brand identification, but the company apparently manufactures some compasses for Johnson Outdoors to be sold under the Silva name in North America.