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Button Compasses: Use With Caution!

I learned a lesson today. Thankfully it wasn’t a hard lesson.

I have been wearing a Suunto Clipper on my watch band for a while now. It has generally worked well and the luminous bezel has come in handy when I need a quick direction check in the dark. Everything was fine  until today I glanced down at it while at the office and noticed that it was facing the exact opposite direction that it should be. The north marker was pointed south.

At first I thought that it was just the computer on my desk or perhaps my filing cabinet throwing it off. I stepped away from my desk and it was still way off. When I packed up and left for the day, I checked it outside wondering if there could have been something in the building throwing the compass off. No luck, it was still 180 degrees off outside.

I thought about the situation on my drive home and realized that it could have been my wallet throwing it off. My wallet has a magnetic money clip built in. It is great because it keeps the wallet slim. Sure enough, after passing the compass over the magnet on my wallet, the needle suddenly righted itself. Then I flipped the compass over and ran its face over the magnet. It pointed south again. So simply by varying the way in which I passed the compass over the magnet, I could reliably make my compass point south and then make it point north again.

Lessons Learned:

1. Have a plan B (and maybe even a C, D, E, F, etc). If this had been the only way for me to find direction in my “tool box” in a bad situation, I would have been in trouble. At least learn how to tell rough directions without the aid of a compass so that you can verify that your compass is working properly.

2. Keep your compasses away from magnets!

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