The NavELite Backlit Magnetic Wrist Compass is a sort of amalgamation of good features from other types of compasses and new tech that combines to make a compass that really isn’t like anything I have ever used. It comfortably occupies the space between a button compass and a larger compass – offering much of the convenience of the button compass with a measure of the accuracy and functionality of the larger compass. It also has one pretty good trick up its sleeve that makes it extremely useable in low light.
The NavELite has everything you expect from a quality compass. It is liquid filled and has a metal needle that rides on a jewel bearing. It has lume paint on the needle and lume painted north reference points. The bezel ratchets to allow the user to set a direction and it can be operated with gloves. The face is marked in 5 degree increments.
The wrist band is comfortable and should fit most wrists. It fastens like a typical wrist watch. The battery compartment is located not in the body of the compass, but in a small compartment on the wrist strap.
That battery powers the NavELite’s most distinctive feature – an electro-luminescent (EL) back light. The back light is operated via a simple, momentary only button located on the side of the compass. When it is pressed, the face of the compass lights up in a cool blue/green color.
Observations from Use
The NavELite Backlit Magnetic Wrist Compass excels as a quick direction reference. It is always available and easy to find since it is strapped to your wrist. It is faster and easier to use on the move than a compass that you keep in your pocket. This is even more apparent in low light. You don’t need to use a flashlight to charge the lume paint or squint to see the face markings. The EL fires up immediately and makes the face extremely easy to read. Everyone knows how handy EL can be on a wrist watch. It is just as useful on a compass. Even if the EL fails for some reason, the compass will continue to work and it lume paint glows very well.
With its 5 degree markings, the NavELite lacks the resolution that you would typically want in a compass for use on an orienteering course but I wanted to see what it could do, so I tried it anyway. I am not going to tell you that finding waist high, 4” wide, brown orienteering markers in the woods is easy with the NavELite but I can tell you that it is doable with a good pace count and some terrain association (you’ll need those skills no matter what compass you use).
I found that I could use the ratchet mechanism and the bearing pointer on the compass as sighting references. The ratchet mechanism for the bezel is located at the bottom of the bezel and can be used as a rear “sight”. The bearing pointer at the top of the bezel can be used as the front sight. The user simply looks over both of them, aligning them to point at a distant landmark to determine an azimuth. Using this technique allowed me to sight an azimuth with as much precision as I can with a standard baseplate compass. I don’t see anything about this in any of the material so it may not be intended to work this way. If so, it is a very welcomed accident.
The needle dampens fairly quickly. I never really had to wait for it to dampen. It is stable enough that rough directions can be determined when moving (though stopping will give you better results with this or any other compass).
It probably goes without saying but I will mention it anyway. This doesn’t replace a good baseplate compass or a set of map tools if you plan on using the NavELite with a compass. The wrist band (among other things) prevents the NavELite from being able to be laid on the map to determine an azimuth so will need separate map tools or a baseplate compass to do your map work.
The wrist band is flexible and very comfortable. It feels somewhat like a silicone divers watch band. The battery compartment on the wrist band takes some getting used to but it mostly stays out of the way. It has a bit of Velcro like material on it that mates with the strap in order to help keep the wrist band closed where it flexes over the compartment.
The NavELite Backlit Magnetic Wrist Compass is not water proof. It would probably be fine in a light rain but dunking or heavy rain may cause the EL backlight to fail. Thankfully, the EL backlight is not essential and NavELite provided the redundant system of lume paint. There may be water resistant models in the future.
While the NavELite is predominantly marketed toward the military/tactical market. It is very much at home with the hunter or outdoor adventurer. I would love to have something like this for those before and after dark treks to and from a hunting spot.
In my testing of the NavELite Backlit Magnetic Wrist Compass two main advantages stuck out to me more than any others. First, getting a direction reference doesn’t get much faster or more convenient than this. Second, it is hard to imagine a compass that could be easier to use in low light than the NavELite Backlit Magnetic Wrist Compass. The quality seems to be excellent and the combination of features makes it very convenient. I found the EL so handy that it has me wondering if NavELite could develop a baseplate compass with the EL feature. This one is going to be tough to send back.
Check out NavELite.com.
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