Suunto A-30L Compass Review

Enjoy Precision Navigation with the Suunto A-30L Compass

Along with a detailed topographic map an accurate compass is a must have for any backcountry adventure. In a previous post I offered a summary of what to look for when choosing an outdoor compass and today I want to introduce another excellent but affordable offering from Suunto, a company renowned for precision navigation.

The A-30L falls under Suunto’s adventure compass range as characterized by its ability to be operated in low light with luminescent markings and a magnifying lens on the transparent baseplate. Further up in the range are the advanced navigation compasses which also include a sighting mirror for accurate direction taking. Having used the Suunto A-30L compass for a little over a year now I can attest to its ability to take accurate bearings even under challenging conditions.

The first thing I like about the Suunto A-30L compass is the detachable snap lock lanyard. While the lanyard helps keep it from getting lost I actually find the compass more convenient to use without it. The body itself is made from a tough, scratch resistant acrylic that has a nice ergonomic design which fits nicely in the palm your hand. The compass has a fixed declination correction scale which is an additional scale under the compass needle and can be adjusted to correspond with your current local declination. For most populated places in the world this will vary anywhere from 0 to 30 degrees, many larger scale topographic maps include the local declination. The baseplate has many orienteering-friendly features, including a scale in centimetres or inches depending on the model type, a magnifying lens and control marking holes for annotating the map.

Another strong point of this compass is its ability to be used dim conditions with the help of a strontium-alumina (not tritium self-illumination however) based pigment which will also help you find it if dropped in the dark. Before heading out it’s a good idea to expose the compass to sunlight to ensure the luminescent markings are properly charged. Typical of this calibre of compass is a fluid filled capsule containing the needle which helps dampening thereby ensuring a more accurate bearing. The graduated rotating bezel has a serrated ring allowing it to be used with gloves.

One final point is, although this compass is balanced for northern hemisphere use, Suunto utilises a two-zone system which means in all likelihood your compass will operate accurately some distance into the southern hemisphere.


A solid performing base plate compass for quickly obtaining accurate readings. Luminescent markings allow for use in dim light.

  Suunto A-30L Compass: Specs

Weight: 32g (1.1 oz.)
Size: 57 x 110 mm (2.2″ x 4.3″)
Fixed declination correction scale
Detachable snap lock lanyard
Luminous bezel and markings (cm scale)
Compass accuracy: 2.5°
Baseplate with magnifying lens
Low friction jewel bearing
Liquid filled capsule
Marking holes
Metric scales: cm, 1:10 000 km, 1:15 000 km, 1:20 000 km, 1:25 000 km
Balanced for northern hemisphere
Operating temperature: -30°C to +60°C (-22°F to +140°F)
Guarantee: Limited lifetime warranty
Country of origin: Finland
Suunto A-30L Compass: ($19.75 USD) (as at Aug 16, 2014)


* When you use our affiliate links to make your purchase, the seller will contribute a portion of the sale to help support this site.

  • I can fully vouch for the Suunto A-30L. I recently had an incident whilst hiking solo which required very precise cross-country navigation in dense forest in order to get myself out of trouble. My Suunto compass performed superbly in extremely difficult conditions, guiding me accurately to no more than a few paces from my intended attack point. Brilliant bit of kit and thoroughly recommended

    • Carrying a quality compass and knowing how to use it can’t be emphasised enough, especially in situations such as this where you expectedly find yourself in harms way. Glad to hear you make it out safely however.

  • Some Outdoor Club Japan members in Japan are asking about a compass for navigation training soon and I chose this one as a good compromise of all features.
    A few people doing mountain guide training use the fairly cheap Silva Expedition compass but a lot of reviews now seem to think the manufacturing quality of Silva compasses is not so good. You can always find the opposite opinion though.

    I have a Suunto M-3 G Global which is very good but has some non-metric scales which few countries use now. The needle is accurate even if tilted a lot and it settles and holds it’s position well. Larger magnifier (orienteering style compass) would be better at night as smaller ones cast a shadow ring over details. They are not cheap either… already a chip on the plastic – got to remember they are not so rugged if using a lot.

    • I can vouch for the A-30L; it’s a solid compass that has proven itself time and time again. I would also consider the Silva ECH137, which seems similarly well appointed. It’s always a wise idea to carry a proper topo map and baseplate compass for when the unenviable happens and to double check your position.