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Best Standard Baseplate Compass

The Suunto A-30 Metric Compass

Suunto's A-30 Metric Baseplate Compass


As always, we're looking at the Suunto A-30 compasses from the point of view of long distance trekking over tough terrain.

Test item: A-30 NH Metric (Previously A-30L CM)
Kit Tests: Winter, Summer
Disclaimer: None required (item not provided by manufacturer)


Materials (Body / Bezel): Scratch Resistant Acrylic (Plastic) 100%
Materials (Needle): High Grade Steel 100%
Glow Markings: Strontium-Alumina Based Pigment -
Accuracy / Resolution 2.5° / 2°
Dimensions (W x H x D) 57 x 114 x 10 mm
Weight 32g
Manufacturer RRP (A-30 NH Metric) £29.00

Manufacturer's Page


Scramble Review



Introduction: Plans & Directions (A Philosophical Moment)

This is going to be a very quick review or rather an opportunity to opine on a magnetic moment and the merits of "direction" versus "plan".

The only time I really pay very close attention to a map is when I can't see anything around me and then I diligently track distance, direction, contours and features. I'm something of a lazy map reader. Indeed, a somewhat enlightening and mildly philosophical moment struck me on the last kit test (Summer 2023) when I realised I hadn't needed to check the map all day and what a pleasure it had been to use only the compass.

I've always liked the expression "if you want to make god laugh tell him your plans". My rather laissez-faire approach to trekking is to have a direction (and yes, an ultimate goal) but nothing so grand as "a plan".

If one regards the map as symbolic of "a plan" and the compass as an emblem of "direction", my rather basic "philosophy" is that plans can too easily become fixed and rigid (and opportunities eschewed when they fall outside the plan's scope). I prefer instead to head in an approximate direction and to simply do what's immediately required to maintain that rough direction. If unforeseen things happen, they can be embraced and encompassed (pun intended). This outlook to life in general seems to be mirrored in my approach to trekking. It can get you into trouble, but you also see and do things you wouldn't have planned for. To each his own.

The Suunto A-30

Magnetic Poles

The Suunto A-30 NH Metric used to be called the A-30L NH CM (they are identical). The NH stands for Northern Hemisphere, as the compass is balanced for readings of magnetic north.

The north pole's current magnetic excursionImage source: India Today

The magnetic poles are not fixed in place; they move, undergo major excursions and can completely flip. The dogma (at least until quite recently) was that such excursions occur very rarely (hundreds of thousands of years apart). However, a growing number in the genuine scientific community (i.e. not the agenda-driven C02 brigade) has been gathering a large body of evidence suggestive of a 12,000 year cycle (whose culmination is in progress right now).

Just as a side note:  That sudden about turn in the direction the magnetic pole was moving (pictured right) happened in 1859. Perhaps it's just coincidence, but that happens to be the date of the Carrington Event (a very powerful X-class coronal mass ejection or solar flare). Luckily, we're building our entire civilisation on an electrical grid, so nothing to worry about there. 

This magnetic excursion will have an impact on declination:

Magnetic declination (sometimes called magnetic variation) is the angle between magnetic north and true north. Declination is positive when this angle is east of true north and negative when it is west. Magnetic declination changes over time, and with location.

The A-30 has a fixed declination scale against which to make adjustments depending on the current position of magnetic north and your local declination.

Suunto A-30 Compass - A Closer LookA closer look at the Suunto A-30 NH Metric Compass


So, with all that magnetic disturbance out of the way, let's talk about the A-30. The Suunto A-30 is a straight-forward, compact, durable and accurate compass for hiking and orienteering. Due to its clear glow markings, it's especially good in poor light.

The A-30 features a decent magnifying lens integrated in a transparent and ergonomically shaped baseplate.

The scales are metric and feature markings for 1:25000 and 1:50000 maps. Suunto also offer a USGS version (Suunto A-30 NH USGS Compass) which provides imperial markings. 

The A-30 has a fluid-filled capsule housing the needle providing damping to achieve a more accurate bearing and it will operate down to -30° C (-22° F) and up to +60° C (+140° F).

Feature List

  • High grade steel needle with jewel bearing
  • Balanced for northern hemisphere
  • Fixed declination correction scale
  • Liquid filled capsule for stable operation
  • Luminescent markings for working in low light
  • Metric scales
  • Baseplate with magnifying lens
  • Control marking holes
  • Detachable snap-lock lanyard. Easy to detach for working with the map
  • Suunto limited lifetime warranty
  • Made in Finland


Any Negatives?

None.  I've had mine for nearly 10 years and it continues to function perfectly.  An excellent bit of kit that to our shame has taken this long to review (so good we forgot to notice it).  As a backup I have a Silva 3 Militaire but it's not nearly as nice to use (I should just get another Suunto). 


Conclusion & Rating

The Suunto A-30 is an excellent and highly reliable baseplate compass that offers clear markings and provides accurate readings regardless of magnetic excursions and lighting conditions. Scramble's top pick in the "Standard Baseplate Compass" category.


Product Images


Rating (out of 10)

RRP Value *

* The value score is derived from two factors:
1) Competitive Market Price (CMP). This represents our judgement of a competitive online price point if we were to stock the item. e.g. if we feel we would need to sell an item at 40% off (i.e. 60% of its full RRP) to be competitive, then our CMP score will be 6/10.
2) Customer Value Price (CVP). We then make an honest appraisal of the maximum price we would be willing to pay for the item (and we're mean). So if we'd pay 80% of its RRP our CVP score would be 8/10.
We then average the two scores to get our final value score, which in our example would be 7/10.



Last Updated: 17/09/23

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