Silva Sweden regains North American market

Oh man, being a compass junky I think this is a very good development. :sunglasses:

Johnson Outdoors has owned the legal right to the Silva name in N. America since 1973. But after Björn Kjellström, one of the founders of the Silva company, and author of Be Expert with Map and Compass, passed away in 1993, a split developed between Silva Sweden and Johnson Outdoors.

In 1998 Johnson Outdoors acquired exclusive right to the Silva name in N. America. Since then the Silva Sweden products could not be legally sold in N. America under the Silva name, ( for a few years they were sold by Brunton and called Brunton compasses, but that arrangement ended when Silva Sweden sold Brunton).

After 1998 Silva compasses sold in N. America were made by Johnson Outdoors. The Swedish made Silva compasses were no longer available. And in my experience the quality was inferior. I had wondered why Silva compasses I purchased in 1990s soon developed bubbles in them, vs older Silva compasses that had not and still worked perfectly. On various outdoor forums you can read how others also expressed the opinion that older Silva compasses were great the newer ones were not. However, Johnson Outdoors also had a good reputation for replacing compasses that had developed problems.

You can read the story here (except for the most recent development not yet entered) :

For the last few years I have been ordering Silva Sweden made compasses from Ireland or from Amazon Germany. For some odd reason Amazon UK would not ship the Silva Sweden compasses to the USA.

But Silva Sweden also makes some great headlamps and other outdoor products.
Sometimes I have found and ordered them from Amazon, but usually sold by suppliers in Asia. Technically probably sold through Amazon US in violation of Johnson

Anyway, last evening I went on the Silva Sweden website looking for a manual for the Silva type 27 compass, a small mirror sighting compass I thought I had lost years ago, but recently re-found in the back of a desk drawer.

I was surprised to see 2 things. A series of compasses labeled US-Compasses, and that they also now offer compasses with Global needles. (which look to me like the global needles developed by Recta in Switzerland, which was purchased by Suunto in Finland several years ago. I think perhaps Silva Sweden may be using the Recta/Suunto global needles) I used to think the best compass would have the Suunto global needle and the longer base plate of the Silva compasses. I really like a lot of the Suunto features, but have had more of them develop bubbles. Which is why I think the Silva Sweden compasses are the best, I don’t need or use the magnetic declination adjustment. Preferring to make the adjustment mentally via an acronym I created to remember which way to go. WAvES, West Add v East Subtract.

After a bit of looking around I found the announcement dated Oct 2017 that
Silva Sweden has regained legal right to the Silva name in N. America.

Anyway, currently :
" According to the new set-up, Liberty Mountain will handle the SILVA distribution in the United States, while Rock Gear Distribution will cover the Canadian market. "

Thus far Liberty Mountain only list the Silva compasses, but I think over time they will be adding the other Silva Sweden outdoor gear products. (search the Liberty Mountain website for - silva . ) I think it will take some time to get this new development up to speed. Before they stock the Silva headlamps, backpacks and other gear.

You can find better descriptions of their products on their Swedish website:

If I could only have one compass it would be the Silva Expedition 54, prism sighting compass, accurate to 0.5˚.
That precision isn’t needed for just finding your way in the woods, but I prefer to get the most accurate bearings possible, so that other land navigation errors are minimized. (you can’t find it on their website, but you can find it via internet search)

I have a couple of older Silva headlamps no longer made, they are similar to this one, nice headlamps.

If you’re looking for some good outdoor gear, you might like some of the Silva products, and once they get this ownership change rolling you will probably start finding them available from other retailers. :joy:

Update link

Johnson Outdoor - Silva Sweden AB acquires N. America Silva Trademark

Oh, and one additional tip. Johnson Outdoor Silva products use this font [Silva]. Silva Sweden AB Silva products use a font that looks more like this [ SILVA] except it looks more square and the S connects to the I and the V is connected to the I , at the top of the letters.


This is great news. I have several old Silva compasses unless my son borrowed or lost them. They are excellent. I am happy to see someone else enjoys a compass & map. I have a GPS device given to me from Virginia Commonwealth University as a thank you gift for helping with a project but never use it. I really like using a compass. I guess I will always be old school.


Good stuff Mike. I prefer it too. Better to use my own brain than the electronic one dreamed up by hardware and software engineers that are also dependent on batteries, clear skies, clear location, and satellites functioning properly. As is also said about tenkara - the more you know the less you need to carry.

I also have old Silva Sweden compasses that still work good as new. Many people seemed to be happy with the Silva Johnson-Outdoors made models, but some people were not. Along with many other people I had many of them soon develop a bubble inside the compass housing. It has also happened to one of my Suunto compasses, which despite that one failure are also good compasses, still made n Finland too. Many great features, but I have a slight preference for the Silva Sweden compasses.

Which type do you prefer?
Standard base plate type (really all you need) or the mirror sighting type compasses (in theory more accurate, but maybe not in practice due to parallax errors ).

Do you prefer compasses that are adjustable for magnetic declination? Do it manually? Or don’t worry about it? Some people consider it an essential feature. I do not, I play around with many compasses that lack that feature, and have become comfortable with making that adjustment manually. It is really quite easy once you understand magnetic declination.

The biggest two things I like about the higher end Silva compasses are:
the longer base plate length, and the sighting index mark at the forward end (128mm / 5 inches on bp models ) , which with some practice can be essentially as accurate as using a sighting compass, and accurate enough for recreational navigation. Especially since most of the time one should use aiming off (intentionally offsetting the azimuth/bearing to the target check point ) technique anyway to more reliably get to where you want to go. And knowing how to get to where you want to go to is way more important than knowing exactly where you are all the time.

These four models are all excellent imo:
Silva Explorer PRO Compass

Silva Expedition 360 Global Compass

Silva Ranger 2.0 Mirror Compass - Orange

If you look closely at the two models with the orange compass dial ring you will see a nifty little feature whose purpose is not readily apparent. Which is a short flat area along the edge of the compass ring, from 30˚ ~ 60˚. When I first noticed it I thought maybe a piece had snapped off, but it was also on another compass. I ended up emailing Silva and asking why it was there. Joel replied that customers had requested a compass ring larger in diameter. Which they decided to make. But the larger diameter ring covered the scale marks on the edge of the base plate. And they did not want to make the base wider. The solution was the flat area on the ring. Just turn the ring so the flat section is aligned with the scale marks, and now you can see the scale marks more easily.

However, if I could only have one compass it would probably be the Silva 55 6400/360. Which is not yet imported here afaik. But it can be ordered from Jackson-Sports in Ireland. I have the older Silva Expedition 54 360/360 model. 0.5˚ accuracy, very fast accurate sighting via a prism built into the compass housing. It’s over kill for recreational navigation. But it is a very fun compass to own and use.

55 6400/360

Expedition 54 360/360

Outdoor Self Reliance Why the Silva Expedition 54

However, serious compass junkies will save their $20 bills for a long time and get a Francis Barker M73 compass. If you still manage to get lost, and surrounded by bad guys, you can whack them upside the head with it and be safely on your way. :open_mouth:

Why accurate azimuths (bearings) matter. 1˚ error at 1 mile =~ 100 feet off course. [well, really it’s 92 feet assuming you walked a perfectly straight line, which you cannot.] But it’s easy to see a 4˚ error could put you off course by ~ 400 ft. So be more accurate & use shorter distances to next check points to reduce the error off course. Maybe important in dense woods, or fog - or a high cliff is along the way. And also is a clue why you need to understand magnetic declination compensation and how to correctly account for it - if magnetic declination is 6˚ or more and you are using a map and compass together. Where I live magnetic declination is approximately 9˚ west.
[WAvES = West Add v East Subtract]

However, as fond as I am of exploring, playing around with different compass designs. The truth is 90% of wilderness navigation is studying & knowing how to read a topographic map, and correct interpretation of what is on it or in some cases what is not on it.

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I agree with this statement. It confirms my own personal experience in wilderness travel.

I have a Silva Ranger that I bought in the early 90’s. I like mirror sighting compasses. I adjust my Ranger for declination manually. It’s been an excellent compass.


I use both types of compasses and oscillate back and forth on which I think is the best. I think I lean more to the mirror sighting compasses when I go out exploring. I probably need to at least play around with the GPS given to me as a gift (It cost around $350) before giving it to my son or son-in-law. At least I can say I used it some. There is something about using a compass and a map that gives me comfort, it’s hard to explain. It is like reading a real book versus reading a downloaded book on some device. Maybe it is just me and I need to be put to pasture or sent to the Smithsonian Museum for storage (labeled “out of date”). :- ) Thank you for all the information you shared. Have you ever use UTM/MGRS or UTM? Also, there are several good books that I have enjoyed reading from Tristan Gooley.

I find it interesting the different functions different compass makers build into the their compasses.
The K&R mirror compass for example has angle vs % gradient table built printed on top of the cover. Handy for playing around with some advanced navigation methods, including if you divide by 100 the gradient list numbers, it is approximately equal to the tangent of the angle. [distance off course = tan (degrees error) x distance walked, example: doc = tan (5˚) x 5280 ft = 462 ft. Approximately 462ft at 1 mile. Or 85m at 1 km ]

I have one of Tristan Gooley’s books. A lot of old ways that are good to know. And different cultures think about navigation in different ways. I recall when I first moved to Oahu, I found information about different trails that could be hiked. But the instructions at forks in the trail would state to turn malka or makai. On one trail that would appear to mean east or west, on another trail on a different side of the island - it appeared to mean west or east or even north or south or vice versa. Eventually I figured out they were not compass directions, they were directions to turn toward the mountains or toward the sea. That principle is actually a good method the keep from getting lost, just keep track of you direction relative to a central point or handrail feature or two.

I’ve only played around with UTM/MRGS just enough to understand how it works to find locations on maps or what it means on a GPS device. And I have some of the cards for that kind of thing from maptools.

Reid Tiller’s instructions are imo, some of the best found on-line. As well as other good information about navigation.

Anyway, maybe more later. I’m trying to get packed up and on the road for the four hour drive to Pocahontas County. And I’m two hours behind schedule now. However. my internet access there is limited, and only a little better if I drive the 25 miles to Marlinton, and find a restaurant with wifi.

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There are a couple of streams that I have researched and found that required bushwhacking across an old growth forest and recently across a dense jungle. Compasses are a bit difficult when moving and you can’t see beyond your armspan bubble.

Shooting an azimuth just doesn’t work.

A moving GPS map rocks in these cases.

I learned land navigation in the Army, while I was on O’ahu, practiced in the jungle all before GPS was readily available. There were some big briefcase sized units but not practical in the hands of a first leutinant.

I once navigated with compass in triple canopy jungles of Malaysia and that really sucked.

GPS moving maps rock in no-see-um conditions.

Pointer programs with electronic compass via Garmin will waste your energy constantly correcting your direction.

It’s rare when I am beyond dead reckoning. Rare when I’m beyond a blue line and even more rare even getting remotely near being lost.

But that’s me.

I’m limited in my daily range to about 6 miles of true off trail uneven, can’t see where I’m going some of the time bushwhacking to get to streams, lots less in places whereI can’t dead recon.

I need a new lensatic compass, I like honing that skill, it just gets harder and harder for me to get to that point where I have to worry about it because I study the terrain before I go.

What type of GPS do you recommend? The one given to me has so much junk on it such as games etc. that all I really need is to help me track & map. The one they gave to me I think was more for college students. Thank you ahead of time for any advise and help my friend. Sometimes I feel that I’m a dinosaur of vacuum tubes in a world of artificial intelligence and advanced electronics.

I don’t like a bunch of equipment to carry.

My iPhone 7+ is waterproof, great camera and with 128G, enough room for a lot of photos and apps.

I use Gaia GPS app, load up target destinations and create tracks to follow.

Simple as that.


Thank you for your quick response. Maybe it’s time for me to step into the iPhone world. This sounds a lot better than lugging along a bunch of stuff when it all can be consolidated into one device. Thanks again.

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Me too. This is what I use when I use GPS. Works great. Gaia GPS lets you add pictures to waypoints as well. That is helpful for future navigation.

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I use a bumper, a thin urethane case, that’s it. Been carrying in my pocket for years, carry it on the stream. Pictures, music, GPS, notes, text, it’s a smartphone that really does everything. It’s what I use.

Absolutely!! I love simplicity, and in my iPhone 7 I have everything I need and could want.

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Ah, well the advantage with that approach is you only carry one basket with many eggs inside. But it also is contrary to the rule to not put all your eggs in one basket least you lose all your eggs. And end up with your carrots being cooked. However, I have a bit of Luddite in me, and find there’s nothing simpler & more robust than a thin piece of metal that points to magnetic north. .:wink:

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I carry all my eggs in one basket all the time.

It’s just a fact of life, although I do carry a nice, tiny little quality compass.

I made a survival kit a long time ago and carry it in that. I never use it, I don’t want to use it. But I have one. You can get one here, pretty cool.