14 comments on “Equipment Review: Brunton TruArc 20 Mirror Compass

  1. Pingback: DTG: Essential Field Craft – Land Nav | Western Rifle Shooters Association

  2. Too many parts to get lost. IIRC the M2 Military Engineer compass does all of that and with no parts to lose. So does my cell phone, but that is another story.

  3. First, thanks for stopping by. As far as too many parts, until you’ve seen how it all comes together, your initial judgment is a bit premature. But, everyone has different taste/preferences. You’re right about the cell phone being another story….we’re dealing with powerless navigation tools that are not dependent upon satellite feeds or electricity. But again, YMMV.

  4. They’re made right here in Riverton, WY, I’ll have to go look and check one out.
    Their office sits right off the corner of our college campus, we buy our transits and GPS’s from them for our archaeology dept.

  5. Interesting looking critter,going to research a bit as am in need of a decent compass,that said,can get it for 40 on the bay,look forward to actual field report.

  6. OK, so I bought one.
    Made of cheap plastic.
    The “tool-less declination” feature is not ready for prime time. It is very difficult to get it to work (i.e., the declination scales do not turn, i.e. it does not adjust unless you push the whole center of the compass down and all the way out of the compass base plate and THEN follow the directions to pinch the center top and bottom and hold the black ring, which by now has fallen to the ground).
    The entire thing came apart in my hands while I was trying to follow the directions to adjust the declination. Piece of shit.

    Costs twice as much as a Silva Ranger and is not even half as well made as the Silva.

    Oh, and it comes with generic directions that cover the entire line of TruArc compasses but does not provide any details on how to actually use the features of the TruArc 20.

    If the retailer will not take it back for a refund, I guess I will get to find out how well Brunton’s warranty really functions and maybe they have some directions on how to use the features, too??? This compass is a true piece of shit.

  7. The declination adjustment is tight, that’s for sure! However, it only takes a bit of time to get used to it. I find its utility in the fact that on a SUUNTO (won’t use the Silva’s as they’re now made in China), even though the adjustment is made with a small tool, if you lose that tool, you’re SOL. We didn’t find ours falling apart when adjusting, either. As to the, ‘cheap plastic’ derision, SUUNTO’s and your Chinese made (unless you have a much older model) Silva are made of the same plastic. We haven’t found an issue with it.

    Couldn’t be operator error or frustration, could it? Just asking. Not knowing where you bought yours, I’d go direct to Brunton as they advertise right on the package, “Buy it. Try it. Bust it. Return it. NO QUESTIONS ASKED”

    We find it to be a viable alternative to both the USGI Lensatic and SUUNTO MC-2 compasses, both of which perform very, very well in the field and have strengths and weaknesses. It’s all about viable alternatives and options.

    But, as your comment indicates, your mileage varied. Sorry it didn’t work for you. Disclosure: DTG has no interest in Brunton Outdoor, Inc, and faces the same risks when purchasing items from them or any other manufacturer.

    Have a very DTG day.

  8. Thanks for your reply to my complaints. I am not blaming you by the way, not that you seemed to take it that way, because you did not but I want to make sure you know I am mad at Brunton but not disappointed with you guys. Maybe Brunton will make me appreciate the fine value and craftsmanship of an American made product and the outstanding customer support done in-house by American businesses. I’ll post a follow up to let you know how this turns out, and to give them credit for helping me if credit to them is, in fact, due.

    I bought mine through a company called Forestry Suppliers. I think they’re in TN. I buy a lot of outsoorsy and farm/ranch stuff from them. I suspect they will make me return it to Brunton. I like that the Silva’s have declination that is adjusted with the screw/key. It seems to be a good way to do it, and I can get them adjusted accurately. Agree that misplacing the key would be a pain, but I suspect another tool like a locksmith tensioning wrench, small screwdriver, or something like that could be used. Thought tool-less would be even better.

    My Silva’s are: a very old Ranger (from the 1970’s), a new Ranger (few years old), and an orienteering (no mirror) compass of theirs from about 1990. Have used them extensively, and been pleased. Was a late-adopter of GPS for back-country work because I always liked, still do, seeing the whole landmass set up in front of me, i.e. working off the map. But this is not about Silva vs some other brands, at least not for me. I wanted the Brunton because of the claimed non-interference from adjacent tech equipment and steel, etc due to the rare-earth magnet in the TruArc 20. Even if the claim of non-interference is not totally completely correct, it should give at least some margin of error over the other compasses I own. Literally, right out of the package and with only enough delay for me to actually read the instructions that came with it, I tried adjusting declination for my area (I need 11 degrees 30 minutes West, so about just a tad less than 12 W or thereabouts) and I found that the declination marking does not turn relative to the declination scale even though I could feel the effectiveness of my “pinch” of top and bottom of center of vial. In trying to get the declination to turn, I wound up having the whole center assembly drop out of the baseplate/black ring set-up. Then I could adjust the declination, fairly easily. Then I tried putting it back together and when it was snapped into place, the declination had slipped a bit so I tried again. This time, I had the center vial in one piece, the actual declination scale (small round printed disk of plastic) in another hand, and a small round plastic collar piece on the floor in front of me, and the baseplate and center ring on the table.

    You asked, “Couldn’t be operator error or frustration, could it?” And my reply is “Well, Yah, it sure is, probably much of the latter and not too little of the former. I failed, as an operator of the device, to make a defective POS work properly. I think something’s wrong with the compass, but no doubt that whatever is wrong with it made me frustrated and probably their sparsely-worded directions contributed to me failing to carry out the declination adjustment as they had envisioned it being done.

    Interestingly, I can find no YouTube videos of people actually using or demonstrating the TruArc 20 other than the advertising video by Brunton.

  9. Thanks for coming back and clarifying your problem with the compass. I appreciate it. Granted, the instructions are not specific to the base/body of the compass, and a good bit of extrapolation is necessary. I know the TruArc20 is a new offering from Brunton, and as I said in the first reply, we face the same risks as everyone else in trying out a product. My time with the TruArc was fairly good; who knows, you might have a quality assurance ‘slip up’ aka, ‘not made to specs,’ but I’m pretty certain Brunton will either replace it or refund your money. As to your Silvas, if that’s what you’re comfortable with, great! We like the mirror models of SUUNTO and old school Silva (not the new crap) and our USGI tritium lensatics. Sorry you had such trouble/frustration. Its got a lot of great little features that make navigating task completion speed a lot faster than our old school methods, but like anything else, there’s a price to pay (sometimes in frustration) for convenience.

    Thanks again, and let us know how you do with Brunton on your refund/replacement. Might be worth considering talking to a technician for some tips on it, if you decide to try a replacement.

    Last note: We are looking at doing a demonstration video on it in the near future…stay tuned!

  10. I’ve been using the compass here for a couple of months and find it useful and accurate. I think the main advantage is having the rubber boot for protection, it helps protect when I get down and dirty on some of my hunting trips. It makes the concerns for the plastic obsolete if used properly and is much tougher than other compasses in that regard which have no protection. I love the fact that I can read my azimuth and back azimuth at the same time. Can’t believe it wasn’t thought of sooner. My only gripe at all is that the inclinometer within the compass itself is a white sticker adhered from the bottom. I would have much preferred that part of the compass to be transparent. Small gripe that really doesn’t affect the performance of the compass, though. I found the tool free declination simple to do and have had no issues.

  11. It really should be mentioned that this compass is Brunton’s THIRD try at getting this particular compass design right. The predecessors were the 8099 and OSS 70M. I had the 8099 and the 8096 (similar design), both of which I had to return for bubbles forming in the capsule on their own (the first time, the declination was never adjusted – ever – the, compass was just sitting inside a temperature-controlled room) – and I wasn’t the only one if you look at older reviews.

    Brunton has apparently completely abandoned the “circle-on-circle” concept for a needle that uses rare earth magnets similar to orienteering racing compasses like the Silva Jet and the Suunto Global Needle System. But is the Brunton needle a TRUE GIMBALED design, so that it can be used when hiking, in a bouncing canoe, etc.? I can’t tell from the review or photos. Brunton claimed its older series of compasses (9010, 8020 etc.) had a “global” needle because they used a deeper compass well than other compasses, not because they used a gimbaled needle. But maybe the Recta/Suunto global needle patents have now run out.

    I find little solace in the recommendation to rely on the lifetime warranty – this is a compass, not a garden hose. Who’s going to repair and replace your compass when you’re out in the wilderness? You could carry two of everything for security, then you’d need a truck to carry all your gear. And what if you do carry 2 compasses as backup and both Bruntons develop a bubble, as mine did? I got tired of using the unlimited warranty, I just want a compass that works without developing bubbles.

    Brunton’s tool-less declination has never changed nor the complaints about adjusting it. It’s NOT user error most of the time. A tiny burr in the capsule housing or slight dimensional differences in mass production can make it very difficult for some users to adjust their compass. It’s very easy to inadvertently pinch the compass vial and burst a seal, so you get a nice bubble. IMHO, tool-less declination is a nice concept, but it has never really worked right in mass production compasses.

    No photoluminescent housing or needle or orienting bars make it VERY difficult to read the printed-on-cardboard degree dial in low light. You’ll need a headlamp with a red or green lens to preserve your night vision when you have to stop and read the compass heading. You won’t be hiking late or early or at night or in bad weather? What if you have a companion with a medical emergency, or you forget the time and get caught high up on the mountain in deteriorating weather, or a bear invades the campsite, or…? Ridiculous that a modern land nav compass doesn’t have tritium or photoluminescent lighting in this day and age.

    Adjusting the declination also throws off the orienting lines in the base of the capsule – you have to re-adjust the declination each time you use the compass as a protractor. Some users report that the declination scale, which is just a printed sticker (instead of engraved into the base like other compasses) , is installed in the wrong place, throwing off the declination adjustment.

    Most compass companies engrave and ink degree markings into the compass dial – Brunton prints theirs on a piece of cardboard.

    Compass has to be disassembled and re-assembled with its rubber boots and cards each time it’s used to measure a map bearing. No one complains about potential for loss or being left behind on a rock, yet the small sheet-metal screwdriver attached to the lanyard (or the mini-screwdriver in your Swiss Army knife) is supposed to be a point of concern. You can of course tie the cards and the rubber boot to the compass with a lanyard, but it’s a bulky and awkward pile to use with a map.

    Mirror cover has slop in the detents (so did the prior models). So first inclinometer located on the right side hinge, which depends upon using the cover lid as a moving part to measure degree angles is inaccurate by up to 10 degrees.

    Brunton prints the inked scales and markings on the baseplate in a surface print process, they aren’t engraved into the baseplate like the better Suunto models. You have to use that bulky rubber boot or the markings will rub off double-quick. I ended up putting clear sealing tape on the baseplate of my Bruntons – but then the bubbles appeared.

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