Compass reverse polarity

This has come up before, I found an “old reflector” article from 2011. But seeing the article referenced below made me think this was worth repeating as it’s probably an issue that needs pointing out every so often.

I’ve been using Silva compasses for almost 40 years and never saw this problem until the last few years.

In the last 3 or 4 years I’ve now had 3 different Silva Type 4 compasses have issues with complete or partial polarity reverses.

The article specifically mentions.

  • Speaker magnets in Mobile phones
  • Speaker magnets in Hand Mics on radios
  • Magnets on rucksacks, for instance on Osprey bags which have drinks tubes and magnetic holders on the chest straps.

I suspect my own personal issues have been caused by storing amateur radio kit in the lid of my rucksack, next to my compass.



This hasn’t happened to me yet, but has to my Brother in law - mobile phone being the prime suspect.

It is perhaps more of a concern than ever, as many of us use a GPS device normally, and have the compass for backup. It may not be used for weeks, and then when you need it in poor visibility…

Probably a good idea to check it regularly, as well as keeping it away from magnets etc.

Curiously, I use mine most often to set a return bearing when I arrive on a summit. It is all too easy to go marching off in the wrong direction an hour or two later :smile: In this case where I only need a bearing relative to the summit, reverse polarity wouldn’t matter, unless it had reversed during the stay on the summit…

Thanks for the heads up, Gerald.


Store your compass in a flux-shield. Also known as a metal box!

Mine lives in a metal glasses case along with some burner reading glasses, spare diabetic pills and some blister plasters. It keeps them all together and the compass safe until it’s needed.

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Keep a hold of that compass as it may be useful after the next geomagnetic reversal. It has been quite some time since the last one so maybe one is due soon.



Well, its been three years since this topic was live. Maybe worth flagging up again. I just took the compass from my rucksack to check the azimuth of a dish for the OSCAR100 satellite, and found that the compass had reversed. Probably caused by earbuds (headphones) in the same storage pocket.

I should probably take Andy’s advice from higher up the thread:

Perhaps by now someone is making a compass with a permanently magnetised needle? A quick google didn’t find anything, but is there any reason why not…?

Geomagnetic reversal is only a threat to those who send excessively long CQ’s!


The way I minimise the risk is wearing 2 compasses in my wristwatch, one is digital and the other one is analogic.
Both are saying the same thing and for the moment I can confirm they are both true.