- It's a lightweight, pocket-sized device -- perfect for when you need to travel light.
- It's inexpensive. You can buy a basic compass for around $10.
- It needs no external power to operate. You take it out of the box, and it's good to go.
- In fact, a compass is so simple, you can make one yourself with stuff you probably have in your own home.
- You need to learn a few skills in order to read a compass properly. Most people know they should always carry a compass, but do they all know how to actually use it?
- Without a map, a compass really only shows you north, and that's it.
- If you're completely lost and don't know where anything is, your compass may not be useful all.
Now, let's check out the pros and cons of GPS:
- You can carry a huge variety of maps in the palm of your hand. The unit will pinpoint exactly where you are on the map.
- The electronic compass is easier to use than a traditional compass when you're on the move. The GPS unit will let you know how much distance you've covered and how much further you have to go.
- It will even tell you your altitude.
- A GPS unit runs on batteries. What if they run out? You can always carry extras, but that's adding extra weight to your pack.
- A GPS unit is an electronic device -- it can break or stop working if you drop it or if it gets wet.
- GPS units are expensive. A basic unit will cost around $100, and the more advanced ones can run upward of $350.
- It requires a strong signal to work accurately. It won't receive a signal inside most buildings or in caves and sometimes under heavy forest canopy or even just a cloudy day.
Final conclusion: A GPS unit may provide you with much more detailed navigational information than you could ever get with a compass. But because it relies on battery power and a clear signal, any trekker should always hike with a good old-fashioned compass and a map, as well.