A compass matters. A good compass is not hard to come by, but often times they can be something of a pain to deal with. This is especially true during squad movements. As a backup navigator, I’m constantly checking my buddies heading to make sure he’s good to go and that we’re on course. Pulling out a compass can be time-consuming and can take me out of other crucial jobs like keeping an eye on our perimeter, etc. The Suunto Wrist Compass fills this niche very nicely and several others.
This isn’t the most accurate compass out there. Not because it’s not inherently accurate but rather due to the size. The degree markings are quite small. Due to this, one can only be so accurate with this device. I put my typical accuracy at around plus or minus 3 degrees with the Suunto wrist compass. But I don’t use this as my primary compass. Rather it’s used to ensure we are on the correct heading or to get general headings when navigating primarily by GPS and terrain association. The reason I end up using this compass so much is due to its weight and ease of use.
The compass itself weighs perhaps an ounce or less. It’s made of plastic, and while some have stated that it breaks easily, I’ve never seen one break in all the time I’ve been doing my job. Unlike most compasses, you don’t look straight down on it. Rather, you look through the window into the side of the compass. If you look straight down on it like a traditional compass the degrees will read backward. The compass is very sensitive to being level. Unlike other designs where you can get away with some amount of unevenness, the Suunto is incredibly susceptible to sticking when not level. I am extra cautious and typically double-check myself when using it.
Overall it’s not a replacement for a normal compass, however, I do find that I use it quite often. It’s typically “accurate enough” for GPS and general land navigation but I wouldn’t use it on an evaluation. Ultimately this is a cheap, easy to use and lightweight wrist compass that fills a simple role. Understand it’s limitations and see if it fits into your navigation style.