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Suunto M-9 Wrist Compass

16 September 2016

You can’t always count on seeing the sun, gazing at the stars or having moss on the trees …. And getting a compass out of your pocket every 10 minutes to check a bearing in some fog-bound bog, is an unnecessary distraction.  Wearing a sighting compass on your wrist however ….

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Suunto M-9 Wrist Compass : Showing sight and sighting window.

Ease of use

It’s a sighting compass, balanced for the northern hemisphere, weighs 16 grams and is impervious to water. Liquid filled and with a luminescent compass card mounted on a sapphire bearing. Giving low-light viewing and a steady settling of the bearing.

Raise it to eye height and take a beat on the horizon with the simple gun-style sight. Then immediately read-off the bearing through the window directly below the sight. Now you might find all this too slow and the sighting window too narrow, if you are running in some orienteering race. Walkers will just take the mini-moment it needs.

You learn easily, to level your hand and adjust the height of your wrist. It quickly becomes second nature to get the best angle of sight at some object on the horizon, and a clear view of the bearing through the window – even on a RIB, as below:

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Suunto M-9 Wrist Compass : Mark laying GP14 dinghy nationals 2016

Suunto offer an accuracy of 5º, but I generally feel confident that my bearings are accurate to a couple of degrees. Certainly reading to an accuracy of 2.5º is easy. And getting a notional 1º comes with practice, and a good eye.  The sighting window is clear, even in relatively low light, especially with the built-in  luminescence of the compass card. And if necessary you can also illuminate it easily from above with your head torch.

The compass card has excellent print clarity and good contrast. Of course, this is a card for sighting, so looking-down on it in use, it will appear that your bearings are in reverse, with North at 180º. To explain it simply, if you look at the position of the 0º mark,  when the compass is aligned to north, you will see it is directly above the window. Look through the window and it will show 0º . It’s a necessary feature of all similar compasses.

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Suunto M-9 Wrist Compass : Navigating off the ridge (Sierre de Abodi)


Glancing down for North and … The “north needle/arrow” (see note 1) is clear and bold enough to let you glance down at a steady wrist and roughly orient yourself or your map. The upper compass face also carries a red-outline sighting or bearing arrow, which can be convenient for following a bearing  (align the bearing on the compass card with the tail of the arrow) or to traverse to a back-bearing (align the bearing with the tip of the arrow). For a convenient sighting angle, the arrow can be rotated by rotating the compass bezel..

 Pro’s

  • Worn on the wrist it is always immediately available.
  • Clear view of the bearing through the sighting window.
  • Luminescent compass card for low light.
  • Easily illuminated with a head torch.
  • Practical and useable degree of accuracy.
  • Rotating bezel and sighting arrow for ease of following a bearing.
  • You can get a rough orientation by just glancing down at a steady wrist.

Con’s

  • The strap supplied will get you started, but it doesn’t allow the compass to excel in use. I’d recommend you upgrade it. (I use this tough nylon strap).
  • It may not be suitable for beginners as it’s too easy with this type of compass to read the back bearing in error.
  • Not suitable for taking a bearing from the map – use a Romer.

Best uses

  • Any terrain or weather conditions, where it’s wise to continually monitor your bearing. Woodland, bog, flat and featureless terrain, cloud, heavy mist and fog, or coastal fret. Torrential rain, sleet or white-out.
  • General orienteering & way finding, but not racing. Following a bearing card.
  • There is criticism of this product on the internet. But at this price point it’s a well made product. I have used it in a wide variety of environments from alpine mountaineering to kayaking, from navigating dense Irish forestry to rib driving and mark laying for boat races. It has worked well for me and survived it all.

small_ss004403001_m-9blackblack_nh_editedNew Edition

The new edition has an improved compass card,
with a re-designed sighting arrow
and even better contrast for the bearing print.

Useful links

View Suunto’s M-9 product page and purchase from the Suunto online shop

Purchase from Amazon.co.uk

Purchase from REI (US)

The replacement strap I use for greater flexibility in use.
#note1
Note 1: I suppose we all say that “the needle points to magnetic North”. But it is worth just reminding ourselves, that isn’t strictly true. The needle or card is, of course, aligning itself with the lines of force of the local magnetic field. And there could be many objects affecting that. It’s always wise to cast a look around, when taking a bearing, to check for local sources of interference. 
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Updated: 17 September 2016

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