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GaHillBilly

A Caution about Wallyworld Compasses

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I'm working on the Hiking MB with a group of boys in my son's troop, and had an interesting and disturbing experience yesterday. Like many troops, ours is not well off, and so Walmart camping equipment is often a Godsend. Some of the equipment is not bad, and some is pretty good. Of course some of it sucks, but that's never been a problem since Walmart has always been willing to take it back.

 

However yesterday, while trying to teach the boys how to orient their maps, and take bearings off the map for various legs of their hikes, I encountered a substantial discrepancy between the compasses. We were using starter Suunto and Silva compassses of mine, and a Walmart Chinese made compass that belonged to one of the boys. Initially, we thought the problem was that we were on top of steel reinforcing in the concrete of the church's porch, so we moved to the parking lot

 

The problem persisted, but I noticed that we were now under the 3 phase service drop for the church. So we moved again . . . and the problem persisted.

 

Finally, I became suspicious of the compasses, and lined them up side by side, with just enough separation to avoid having the magnetism of one compass affect the other. The Suunto and Silva were always within 1 - 2 degrees of each other, but the Wallyworld model was consistently showing magnetic north to be about 20 degrees west of the other two.

 

I had some more Wallyworld units, and one of boys had another. ALL were off by 5 degrees or more. Obviously, this would mess up any Scout trying to use them for orienteering purposes, but the 15 - 20 degree errors could cause more serious problems.

 

So my recommendation is that before you trust a Wallyworld compass, compare it to another (preferably, more than one) more reliable model.

 

GaHillBilly

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Sounds like the magic that happened to my son's compass when he kept it in his backpack with his shakelight.

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Yeah, I like Walmart gear too, but i only use Silva system compasses or military issue lensatic, not milspec.

 

 

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Regarding Silva compasses - at least those sold in the US:

 

Keep in mind that since 1996, when Silva of Sweden bought Brunton, the compasses sold under the "Silva" trademark in the US are NOT made by the real Silva of Sweden that invented the plastic baseplate compasses.

 

Before 1996 the real Silva compasses were distributed in the US by Johnson Outdoors (parent company of Eureka tents and Old Town canoes), and Johnson Outdoors owned the US trademark "Silva". When Silva purchased Brunton - their own US-based company - they asked Johnson Outdoors for the Silva trademark, but JO refused.

 

So now in the US compasses sold by JO with the "Silva" trademark are made for JO by some unknown company. The real Silva-made compasses are sold under the trademarks "Brunton" or sometimes "Nexus".

 

While I like Eureka tents and I appreciate Old Town canoes, I myself prefer to purchase "real" Silva compasses ... from Brunton.

 

Ken K.

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I find it amazing that the Chinese cannot make a decent compass.

 

" military issue lensatic, not milspec."

 

I'm confused. Wouldn't a military issue compass be milspec?

 

 

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GW, likely the difference is that military-issue is ACTUALLY what the military uses while the milspec is a copy "to military specifications." That doesn't mean it works the same; it probably just looks the same.

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In my experience, all mil-issue stuff is made to "military specifications" or milspec. I used to have a copy of the milspec for a pencil, it was nine pages long.

 

I used to work for a company that made special electronic gadgets for the Navy. We had a closet of milspec parts that we used for prototypes, For lab work we used regular parts from Digikey or Radio Shack because a regular resistor would cost a quarter and a mil-spec one would be $3 but when we made one to send to the swabbies to play with, we had to certify that all part were mil-spec so thats when the closet opened up.

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GW,

Military issure compasses and other gear are the real deal. Unfortunately, I've found that "milspec" is not the same. It will look very very similar, but will not perform the same way. The milspec compasses look "real" but the needle moves around too much, it doesn't settle down quickly and stop wiggling. For example, milspec gloves are fine, but milspec uniform pieces are not. They look good until you wash them, then they fade quickly as though they were 20 years old after 2 washes.

 

 

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That's right.

Mil-spec means kinda like the military issue, but not quite. Good enough to go hunting or camping with, but not the actual real deal.

 

In the military, officer have to buy their own uniforms, enlisted personnel are given an initial set and an allowance to update their clothing. But, they are cautioned to only purchase from the military clothing sales store on post. Honestly, you could "get away" with buying gloves, a poncho or poncho liner, maybe a beret off post, but some things just don't hold up well. It's a waste of time. Besides, some unauthorized manufacturers may not include necessary or required flame retardant materials when necessary.

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Interesting. I've seen "military style" gear that I wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole or even a 6 foot Slovak. However, I always assumed that "mil spec" stuff that I saw in catalogs was produced to "MIL STD XXX-YYY" just like issue stuff. Live and learn.

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Sorry about posting this in the wrong place -- I didn't even know this sub-section existed.

 

I was interested to hear the story of the Silva US vs Silva Sweden -- I'd gathered that something like that must have happened, but I didn't know what.

 

FWIW though, Johnson Outdoors WILL fulfill the lifetime warranty obligations on old Silva compasses. Now . . . if I can just find that old Silva Ranger with the sticking aluminum bezel!

 

GaHillBilly

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