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   Silva Expedition 54

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An advanced sighting compass designed for the most demanding navigation applications. Featuring: An integral prism-based sighting system with reversed graduations a large base plate with integral magnifier Silicon map grippers Stencil holes Metric and imperial scales 2 degree markings on the bezel Romer scales of 1:25000 1:50000 and 1:63360.
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Silva Expedition 54

   Silva Expedition 54 Reviews

  Reviewed by Ben.D (Aberystwyth) on 2006-02-28:
General comments: Being able to navigate properly is one of the most important skills anyone taking to the hills needs to know. Mountain weather is so unpredictable that the ability to get off a mountain using navigational skills is essential. The silva Expedition is the top of the range compass that they produce. I have owned mine for many years and it has helped me out of some tight situations on numerous occasions. I went for this model over the more popular expedition 4 due to the fact that it has a sighting compass ability. I find this more actuate than reading off the dail – this sighting system offers half a degree accuracy. There are graduations in mils and mils and degrees so translating information and distance off any map is easy. Unlike other compasses the 54 uses tritium illumination (don’t worry ive never heard of it either) but my compass still lights up in the dark after 10 years of service, so it must work. There are also non-slip feet on the baseplate which stick nicely to your map. I have bought the silva compass cover for mine, as this is an expensive bit of kit. GPS may be all the rage but nothing will replace my trusty 54 (not yet anyway)

Pros: sighting ability and build quality

Cons: is expensive for a compass and do you need the sighting facility

  Reviewed by Nick Strada (London, UK) on 2006-03-18:
General comments: The Rolls-Royce of compasses. It quckly finds it direction, instead of swinging around for a few seconds. The map scale/distance readers are brilliant. USGS and Ordnance survey scales are supported. The tritium glow int he dark bits are bright and very helpful at night. A quick flash of your torch keeps them glowing steadily for ten minutes or so. Although for some reason the tritium on the compass needle itself isn't so bright. Odd, as that's the most important bit of the compass!

Pros: Solid construction. Bright tritium. Useful map scale/distance readers.

Cons: The three silicone map-grippers actually make the compass tippy when you're trying to draw along the long axis Theyr'e clustered around the compass' bezel, and the last one is about halfway up the compass. You have to be careful not to tip the compass when triangulating your location. It's a LONG compass, some may not like that. Also the magnifying glass scratchess far too easily for my liking.
This review has 2 comment(s):

Brian Ronald responded : Tritium is a radioactive material used for glow in the dark paint. It does not require a torch to be shined at it; it glows without the help of any external light source for more than ten years. If your compass needs to be exposed to light in order to glow in the dark, and only glows for a few minutes, then it has the less expensive phosphorescent paint. (2007-09-20)

G responded :'s an older compass and the tritium is depleted. (2011-09-06)

  Reviewed by Dave Roderick (Westward Ho!, Devon) on 2006-04-19:
General comments: After 4 days navigation training on Dartmoor with an Expedition 54 I feel I have come to a decision. For comparison I took the Expedition 4, Ranger 3 and a second opinion/sherpa/teasmaid. To start with The 54 had me a little confused. Bearings taken in the normal manner were different to those using the precision sighting sometimes up to 5° out. After a while however it became evident that the compass needed to be kept a lot more level as it tends to catch and stick a little more than the needle versions. Another point was getting used to the sight my companion, seemed to take some time getting everything in line. Overall with a little time to acclimatise to the 54 it soon came into its own on a bleak moor. The quoted +/- error of .5° doesnt take into account the fact that some peoples sightings are often innaccurate. with the precision sighting its impossible to be out by any more than 1° usually within silvas .5° claim. In conclusion if you use a compass often then without a doubt this has to be the top contender however with its hefty price tag for the occasional user it may be a little off putting tho' it may be argued that it is the occasional user that needs the more accurate and reliable readings. My 54 seems as bomb proof as the 15 year old silva rangers i still see in use so if you are going to buy one compass in your life you may as well buy the best.

  • AccurateSighting
  • Clear markings
  • Ease of use

  • Price
  • Steep learning curve

This review has 2 comment(s):

Ian McDonald responded : I'm considering retiring my Silva Ranger 15 T compass, - which is nearly forty years old but still working perfectly - and purchasing an Expedition 54. The 54 seems to be an excellent device, but one thing that concerns me about it is the absence of an adjustable declination scale; I find that surprising on a compass of such quality (and expensiveness). Would any users of the 54 care to comment on this point, please? (2007-11-06)

Glen responded : The Silva 54 does not have adjustable declination because it uses a floating magnetised compass dial (degreed card) instead of a needle. The ordinary adjustable declination mechanism that adjusts a separate dial in the bottom of capsule, as found on the Silva 15T, would not work on this model. The only floating card compasses I have seen that use adjustable declination are on the Suunto KB-14 hand compasses. These mechanically move the degree index line to one side or the other of the view window. They have very limited adjustability (perhaps 10 degrees) and the offset degree indicator is not in an optimum position for viewing the bearing. Best to simply adjust it yourself. If you're not handy at memorising, you can carry a small note card in your compass pouch or pocket, or glue a note to your compass baseplate. (2008-12-15)

  Reviewed by ROC (France) on 2008-02-19:
General comments: The Type 54 is the Rolls-Royce of baseplate compasses. It has all the bells and whistles needed for a baseplate compass and a cheap and cheerful prismatic sighting device. I have had mine for about 14 years now and both it and I are suffereing from old age. In my case, my eyesight lacks the accommodation necessary to read the dial through the prism whilst, for the compass, the near total death of the illuminating paint makes it hard to read the numbers anyway. It is, however, an old friend and has saved my bacon on several occasions. I now use a Suunto M-9 wrist compass that I find much more practical. The long baseplate means it is easier to hold properly in line with one's body as a marching compass and I find the non-slip pads very handy when setting the compass. Conversely, one needs a long pocket to carry it in. In N Europe, where the declination is rarely more than 3° anyway, the absent declination scale is hardly necessary. I'm not sure where it's balanced for, but the card does foul the shallow casing frequently in France and Cyprus, so it's effectively a Zone 1 compass in practice. It's a heck of a price but, if one can afford it and one is happy with baseplate compasses, it's the best there is for outdoors navigation. For orienteering, however, it's over-engineered and the sticking card can be a nuisance.

Pros: Prism device, long baseplate, magnifying lens, slim, card in degrees and mils

Cons: Illumination fades after about ten years and is essential for reading bearings through the prism, card fouls on the slim casing

  Reviewed by John Swarbrick (New Zealand) on 2008-02-23:
General comments: The Type 54 is pretty much essential kit here in NZ. It's the only Long baseplate compass the NZ distributor of Silva brings into the country and is standard issue ( in Mils) to the NZ and Australian army apparently. My version is the standard non Tritium illuminated version in good old degrees. It replaced a Sunnto I'd had for years. The compass takes some getting used to as you're getting both a prismatic compass and a baseplate type all rolled into one. It's highly accurate and the prisim feature is superb its possible to read both the bearing to a sighted object and also from the sighted object ( back bearing) this make resections a doddle. I love the long baseplate as it's possible to work on the map over a greater distance. However this compass is relatively fragile. I had one where the luminous dot inside the compass housing came floating loose, Another where the entire needle card fell off the pivot both replaced by the NZ distributor without fuss. A padded compass case is a must. I'm not sure if Silva's southern hemisphre compass production is less sturdy that the norther hemisphre production. The standard Silva 123 system works as well on this compass as any other. I dont find the lack of an adjustable declination a problem and we have a variance of 20 degrees to contend with... An excellent accurate bit of kit.

Pros: Accurate, sighting system is fantasticly thought out.

Cons: A bit fragile

  Reviewed by Lassi Mustonen (Finland) on 2009-07-09:
General comments: Very reliable compass even in the toughest conditions. I've used it in almost every weather. From -30 to +30 Celcius degrees, pitch black to blue sunny skies. It never has let me down and my skin has been saved a few times by it. Prism works great for me, Best use for it i have found during kayakin trips..

Pros: accurate relative ease of use scales for everyone of us

Cons: not the fastest one to get bearings expensive?

  Reviewed by Malcolm Jones (Wales) on 2010-11-02:
General comments: The Silva 4/54 is without doubt an excellent compass and for the price, which I would not rate as being expensive is a good all round bit of engineering that will get you where you want to go. However, it in no way compares to a good solid prismatic marching compass, such as a M 73 Francis Barker which in my opinion is the best compass in the world and is worth all the money it costs to own one. But beware. If you have "old eyes", you are going to struggle to read bearings with any sighting compass. Perhaps the best option in that instance is to go in for a GPS which is a very useful piece of equipment.
This review has 1 comment(s):

Glenn Jones Australia responded : It must be that all Jones's think alike. It is not as good as my M73 and M88 in low light conditions for my old eyes but it is an outstanding compass and even though quite expensive it is about one third the price of the M73 and M88. I am used to working without a declination correction with the M73 and M88 and am not worried that is lacking. In fact I think having a declination change ability can be a detriment for many. I reckon they forget to change it eventually when moving to a different area. When you are used to working it out manually every time you never forget it. I love it and carry it as my backup compass for geological work. It beats those horrible mirror type compasses by a wide margin. It beats the M88 and especially the M73 weightwise and is nearly as accurate (and more accurate than most other compasses because of its prismatic nature). I always carry a scaled protractor so its use as a baseplate on a map is not generally useful for me. The big advantage of the M73 and M88 over the Expedition 54 is that they can generally be used in any world compass zone. I think the allowed compass dip can be as high as 15 degress for the M73 and M88 which is why they are so bulky (deep basin) compared to the Expedition 54. The Expedition 54 surprised me by how quickly it stabilizes so as to read a bearing. This is a magnificent compass. I can see why the Australian Army use it. Now if they could only work out how to make it work in all compass zones like some of the Suunto Global compasses and of course the M73 and M88. (2011-07-02)

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