Learn the basics

The first step of navigation, along with the SILVA 1-2-3, is to learn the basics of your compass. There are many different types of compasses, and they are built up on a number of different pieces, all of which having its own function. The key feature of any compass is the compass needle, which is placed in the liquid-filled compass housing. From here, you go just about as far as you like when it comes to navigation.

Now, let’s learn the basics.

Compass accuracy

Silva is a longtime global leader in compass accuracy, precision and durability. On all Silva compasses, the direction accuracy for Magnetic North is 1 degree.


The scales and other information on our compasses are hot stamped, which makes them exceptionally durable.


To make your compass last longer, we use only highly durable acrylic plastic. It is of highest quality, and it will stand the test of time as well as intense use. Also, to increase the map visibility, it has a lot of transparency.

Direction-of-travel arrow

This arrow will point towards your travel destination after you have set the course.

Compass housing

The capsule is filled with anti-static liquid (customised formula) that ensures clear reading, fast settling time, perfect dampening, stability and accuracy of the needle.

North/south arrow

Patented red/black north-south lines in the capsule bottom ensure easy and safe settling. Align with the meridians on the map. Make sure that the map points north.

Compass needle

We have developed the world’s fastest, and most accurate, compass needle made only from finest Swedish steel.
We use sapphire jewel bearing for friction free movement of the compass needle.


Many compasses have a clinometer built in the compass house. This is used for measuring inclination of slopes.

Scale Lanyard

Estimate your travel time

To measure the map, you need a scale of some kind. Many of our compasses comes with a scale lanyard that has two scales on it; 1:25, and 1:50, which facilitates measuring the distance of your hike. The lanyard is soft and bendable, and it’s easy to place directly on to your route on the map and to quickly make a judgement of your route’s distance or to plan your route in advance.

Slope Card / Scale Card

Stay safe on the slope

The slope card is great both for detecting avalanche risk and for determining how challenging your journey will be. By knowing the inclination of the slope you can also judge any extra distance that you may need to go due to the slope. When skiing off-pist, or in a steep mountain area, you need to keep track of avalanches. The risk of an avalanche increases if the inclination is more than 30°, and with the compass and a slope card you can foresee the risk, and decide whether it’s safe.

Magnifying lens

Many Silva compasses comes with a magnifying lens built into the baseplate. This will make it easier for you to read the map and its often small typography, and for precision map work.

Balancing zones (ME/MN/MS)

Navigating the world

The Earth and its magnetic zones works in mysterious ways, and to navigate accurately you need to make sure you have a compass for the place where you are at the moment. If you, let’s say, live in the northern hemisphere and are going on a trip to an area around the equator, the compass that you use at home will not work properly, and instead you need one that is made for the area called Magnetic Equator. There are three different balancing zones for compasses: Magnetic Equator, Magnetic North and Magnetic South. We also offer global compasses that works in any magnetic zone.

Magnetic Declination

The difference between Geographic (North/South map meridians) and Magnetic North (towards which the red end of the compass needle points), is called declination. The degree and the direction of declination is shown on the map.

Declination adjustment

On many of our compasses, you can compensate for magnetic declination by using the fixed declination correction scale inside the capsule.

Some of our compasses are equipped with an adjustment screw for compensating the declination more permanently. A small screwdriver can be found inside the safety release of the included lanyard.