What is a Global Needle?

Before you can fully understand a "Global Needle", you must understand a few basic principles of a compass.  In order to get an accurate reading from a compass, the compass needle needs to be "balanced" in the capsule, so it does not drag on the top or bottom of the capsule, as it rotates.  But, because the horizontal and vertical components of the earth's magnetic field vary considerably in different locations, a compass needle that "balances" perfect in North America will drag or stick in South America.  Originally, the compass industry broke the world down into 5 different zones, as shown below. But today, most compasses a set up to be suitable for either the Northern Hemisphere, or the Southern Hemisphere. All of the standard compasses we sell are set up for the Northern Hemisphere. You won't run into issues until you get down to the equator. That's where your challenge starts. It's not that the compass won't work on the equator, you'll just have to hold it at a tilt to get the needle to rotate freely.

In contrast, a compass with a global needle will allow you to hold the compass level, even at the equator or Southern Hemisphere, because the needle can still rotate freely when the needle has a little tilt. So when we say that a compass is outfitted with a Global Needle for true world-wide performance, now you know what we mean.

But, what if you're not a world traveler? Why would you want a global needle? Well, the global needle's unique ability to handle tilts up to 20 degrees (10 degrees in either direction) makes it perfect for hikers that don't want to break their stride. Not having to level the compass exactly makes it easier to take an accurate reading while you're still moving along the trail -- or in something not always level, like a kayak.

See our compasses with global needles.

A special thank you to Suunto for the use of the zone chart, above.
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