Map, Compass & GPS

Map, Compass & GPS
Wild flowers along Fall Creek on the way to the Green Lakes - Oregon

Monday, March 2, 2015

Land Navigation

Navigation Term of the Week*
Outdoor Quest Image

Heading – A direction of travel.  For example, the hiker traveled on a northerly heading to the cabin.  Heading is expressed in degrees measured from North clockwise to the direction of travel.
Outdoor Quest Graphic

* or maybe the month - we'll just see.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Hiking With Children

The following highlights an article by the Statesman Journal writer Zach Umess.  It's all about hiking with children, really small children.  

"Once upon a time, going for a hike was a simple activity.

Toss a few snacks, water and appropriate gear into a backpack, lace up your hiking boots, and you're ready to roll.

That all changes once you have children.

Between diapers, changing pad, spit-up rag, food, toys, carrier, clothes — and a few million other items you'd never even considered — it can feel as though you're outfitting a small army rather than a tiny human being.

And that's without even considering your child's mood.

Taken together, it can be difficult for parents, especially new parents, to get out on the trail.
But a group called Hike It Baby, which recently opened a branch in Salem, is encouraging new parents to get outdoors by offering a supportive atmosphere on organized weekly hikes."

Zach Umess really get's into the detail of this group.  It's worth checking out the rest of his
fine article.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Trip Planning Mistakes

Philip Werner at published this post in 2014.  My friend Peter who is planning for a PCT hike forwarded this on to me.  Lots of lessons learned in this fine article.

"When Wysteria, Sherpa, and I arrived at the trail head we found 4 foot snow drifts covering the trail. It was late March, and we’d planned to backpack north over Mt Greylock past the Massachusetts/Vermont border. We knew that there might be some lingering snow in the early spring, but we had no idea winter would still be in full force. Scratch that trip.
I’ve since learned to wait until mid-April before hiking the AT in Western Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire for lingering winter snow to melt off."

Read the rest to Peter's post to read the Trip Planning Guide.

As an aside, I really appreciated the following:

"Write up a trip plan to leave with a friend or relative in case you are overdue.
  • When to contact authorities if you are overdue.
  • Who to call, including phone number.
  • Where you parked your car.
  • What your route plan was, including escape routes if any.
  • What gear you are carrying."
Check out my detailed Trip Plan.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Knots for the Hiker

I have been going through recommended day pack gear lists several respected backcountry writers and field experienced trainers have published.  In each case, parachute cord and shelter material are listed.  Their recommendations exceeds the ten essentials and certainly supports a trek into a local forest or wilderness.

I’d like to narrow the focus of this post to the parachute cord and knots that becomes the support structure for an emergency shelter (tarps, lean-to and 4 mil plastic trash bag.)

Quality parachute cord (para cord) is durable, strong and very light.  A day pack should hold between 50’’ to 150’; it is a personal choice.

Para cord has many uses but the principle reason for carrying it is to hold up the shelter material (a poly tarp or heavy 4mil garbage bag.)   Para cord is strong (breaking strength of about 500 pounds), light and affordable.  My only caution is that there are some “knock off” versions that do not offer the strength of the true material.

It is the knots applied to the para cord that assist in holding the tarp erect and taught.

But for the purpose of this post I am going to list three knots and provide a few resources for further review and reference.

A great knot to start with is the Timber Hitch.   Wikipedia claims that the timber hitch was first mentioned in a nautical source around 1620.

“The timber hitch is used to attach a single length of rope a cylindrical object. Secure while tension is maintained, it is easily untied even after heavy loading.”

The timber hitch is a friction hitch. The many wraps of rope or para cord around a post or tree hold firmly under tension. It’s simple and easy to use and can be an anchor point of a shelter’s ridge line. Best of all, after being placed under tension it won’t become next to impossible to untie; we have all been there.

For complete instructions watch the video at animated knots: timber

The Bowline is a true hold in place knot that has many applications.  This is not a slip knot.  It is a fixed loop knot at the end of a line.  It is easy to tie and like the timber hitch simple to untie when not under load.  The only caution reported is that it may work itself loose when not under tension.  That said, this knot is strong and quite versatile.

For complete instruction watch the video: bowline

The Taught-Line Hitch is a sliding loop knot.  This knot is frequently used to tie the guy lines
of a tarp or tent to a peg or post.  It is a slip knot that allows the user to move the knot to add or remove tension.   Tension is applied by moving the hitch away from the anchor point.  The taught-line hitch is a variation of the rolling hitch.

For complete instruction watch the video: taught-line hitch  
 An excellent resource for knot tying is the online web site This site offers downloadable apps for the smart phone and categorizes knots by topic (such as scouting, boating and fishing.) The instructions are concise and easy to understand.

The Boy Scout Handbook is another source for good information about tying knots.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Hardtack - Update

In a recent post I wrote about hardtack.  My friend Leon recently posted about a product available in the Northwest.

Leon Pantenburg
I’ve carried and eaten hardtack since my time in the Confederate infantry, and baking it is another history-related activity I enjoy. When I’m really going primitive, hunting with my flintlock rifle, I might pack hardtack, jerky and dehydrated corn for lunch.
Pilot bread is a form of modern hardtack. Consider it as an addition to your storage foods.
Pilot bread is a form of modern hardtack. Consider it as an addition to your storage foods.
But if you’d rather buy a similar hard cracker product for long term storage, take a look at pilot bread. I get my pilot bread from the Freeze Dry Guy, but the product is widely available. It’s a good staple to have on hand – it’s sorta tasty, durable, and has a long shelf life.
If I had to describe pilot bread, I’d call it a salt-less saltine, but with a tougher texture. While the bread is hard, it is easily bitten off, and the texture is much softer than the traditional recipe hardtack I make. Pilot bread also has fewer crumbs than a standard saltine. A nice feature is the durability – pilot bread with peanutbutter and/or fruit jam stands up well to travel in a daypack.
To read the rest of Leon's post go here.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

UTM Grid For The Hiker

Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) is a grid system that describes a person’s geographic location in the backcountry.  It is simple to understand and use because:

1.    It is intuitive -  it’s concepts can be understood quickly,

2.    It can be easily self taught,

3.    Young hikers grasp this system easily,

4.    A location on a map can be quickly determined, and;

5.    It is a selection option for Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers.  

A navigation grid is a reference system developed by cartographers that can be used to plot a geographic position on a map.   There are many grid systems available for use such as Latitude and Longitude and Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM).  Several countries have their own national grid system. 

The UTM system is just like a Cartesian Grid.  For example, the grid position below is just 2.2 units over and 2 units up.

 To understand the complete grid we will start by observing that the globe is divided into 60 zones.  Each zone is 6° of longitude wide.  Each zone runs north and south; 84° north to 80° south.

The image below highlights the UTM zones in the continental United States.

UTM grid consists of Northings and Eastings.  The image below highlights the complete layout of a UTM zone.  Notice the Central Meridian that runs north and south through the zone.  Like longitude, this meridian runs from pole to pole.  All values for measuring position are in meters.  At the equator the zone is 500,000 meters wide.  The width of the zone is described by Eastings.  Northings run north or south from the equator; again all values are in meters.

UTM coordinates are presented such that the zone is listed first, followed by the Easting and then the Northing.
                                    10   0524120 E  4891555 N

The hiker should think of a grid as a series of defined squares on a map (see below.)  On a 1:24,000 scale (7.5 minute topographic quadrangle) the grid lines are 1000 meters apart; north or south the spacing between grid lines is 1000 meters.
The coordinate values are known Easting’s (vertical lines) and Northing’s (horizontal lines.)

Easting values increase moving from left to right and Northing’s increase from bottom to top.  Coordinate values are always positive.

 Every location will have a zone identifier.  On the map above the zone is linked to the Easting value and is the first set of numbers.  In this case the zone identifier is the number 10. 

 The letter “T” seen above is a secondary, horizontal (east-west) identifier.  I personally pay little attention to it in my backcountry trips.

All USGS maps identify the zone in the title block at the bottom left of the map.  Note that on some commercial maps the UTM zone identifier may not be in the title block and can be hard to find.

The UTM coordinate can now be refined to a meter.  Again the spacing between the grid lines is 1000 meters (1 kilometer).  On the maps below, the tick marks between gridlines are in increments of 100 meters.  The hiker can then interpolate the distance between the tick marks.  

The position of the large X on the map above would be described as:

            10 5 25 270 East (the green line)

            47 91 180 North (the red line)

The final three places will always be expressed (10 5 25 270 East.)  The value 2 is in units of hundreds, the 7 is in units of 10 and the 0 is in units of 1’s.   Thus, 50 meters would be written as 050. 

Every point on a map (e.g., a mine, an intersection, a camp site, etc) can be described using UTM coordinates to the accuracy of one square meter.

I recommend consider carrying a small plastic ruler or other suitable straight edge when accuracy is important.  For general hiking and backpacking, one can quickly estimate a current position in the backcountry without other map tools.

UTM coordinates of a destination taken from a map can be easily saved on a GPS receiver.  For example, to do this the hiker “marks” a waypoint and then moves the backlit bar (yellow shaded area) from “save” to the “location” data field.  The “location” data field is then edited per the receiver’s instruction manual.


A fine reference for more practical information about UTM grid is Lawrence Latham’s book GPS Made Easy.  Chapter 5 has an easy to understand tutorial on this grid system; that’s how I learned it.

Monday, February 16, 2015

A Go Bag

My last post was about what should go into a hiker's day pack.

Last night I was paging through my March copy of  Washington-Oregon Game & Fish magazine and came across John Geiger's article about a "Special Forces GO Bag."  Geiger uses former Army Special Forces soldier John Peterson's bag contents as an example.

I then did a quick Google search on Go Bags and came up with the following definition:

bug-out bag is a portable kit that normally contains the items one would require to survive for seventy-two hours, when evacuating from a disaster, however some kits are designed to last longer periods of time than just 72 hours. The focus is on evacuation, rather than long-term survival, distinguishing the bug-out bag from a survival kit, a boating or aviation emergency kit, or a fixed-site disaster supplies kit. 

I then did a Google image search and found tons of images of Go or Bug Out bags.

I went back to John Geiger's article and reproduced John Peterson's bag contents.  I did not edit or change the Peterson bag contents.

Recommendation: Compare Peterson's and Kummerfeldt's  bag contents to determine works best for you.  For example, I would suggest updating the Peterson contents with a newer version of the Garmin eTrek GPS or another model such as the Garmin 64s.