Map, Compass & GPS

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

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Buying a New Compass

This is an older post but is a good reminder what to expect when shopping for a new compass.
Silva Ranger  - Outdoor Quest Image
There are several things to keep in mind when buying a compass.

My preferred compass is a declination adjustable sighting compass (with mirror) like the trail proven “Silva Ranger.” (Silva, Brunton and Suunto all make good compasses.) The key is that this type of compass can be adjusted for magnetic declination and that keeps your wilderness navigation simple. You can expect to pay roughly $35.00 - $60.00; a cheap compass will not serve the hiker well.

My experience is that most sales clerks are compass illiterate and have little navigation experience.  While looking at a compass ask the clerk to remove it from the plastic container/packaging.  Check the compass to ensure:
  1. The dial moves freely and does not stick.  
  2. There are no bubbles internal to the liquid filled compass housing.
  3.  Information engraved on the base plate must be legible.  If there is a magnifying glass verify that it is clear and not scratched. 
  4. The tick marks on the dial are in two degree increments.  The tick marks should be readable.
  5. The base plate, rotating dial assembly, and mirror are not chipped or broken.  
  6. The sighting assembly hinge allows freedom of movement without excess side to side movement at the hinge .
 Packaging should clearly state that the compass is declination adjustable.  Adjustable compasses may have a small metal tool that allows for setting the declination.  If the packaging states that the compass has declination marking but does not use the word adjustable move to another model.

After purchase visit the website to determine the declination of the area the hiker will be traveling through.

Remember that the red magnetic needle will always point to magnetic north.  With a declination adjustable compass the rotating dial has been adjusted so that the information provided by the compass is now in degrees true.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Hiking and Navigating at Night

What should the hiker consider regarding night time travel in the backcountry?
First, let us decide  that  this is not in a “lost hiker” scenario.  If lost, the best thing to do is to
just stay in place.  This makes the job much easier for the searchers. 
At night the term used to describe our ability to see is “night vision.”   Good night vision is important.  Therefore, avoid bright lighting.   Flashes of bright white light will ruin night vision.  Recovery can take about 30-45 minutes.  Low level white light and low intensity red light are better.
Care should be taken with the use of a GPS.  The normal white backlight function of the GPS receiver will impair night vision. The good news is that the backlight can be adjusted. 
Here are a few recommendations:
  • Stay on the trail and thoughtfully use flashlights and head lamps. A head lamp may be of more use than a handheld flashlight.  Two free hands are better than one.  Have extra batteries.
  • Examine the topographic map of your planned route.  Study the contours to evaluate the terrain. Your visual cues will be gone so you will need to establish new ones, larger objects. Lanes of extraction might present themselves on the map such as a power grid line, a road, a lake or an old jeep track. 
  • Discuss your plan with all involved so that you are all on the same page.
  • Follow your trace on a map. Plot your position frequently.  Agree in advance how often you will do that.  Take your time with your navigation.
  • For night time travel a consideration may be to have one person designated to read maps (with dim lighting) while others in the party preserve their night vision and lead the way.
  • Move forward deliberately and cautiously.  Move more like you are stalking.
  • Others might be moving too.  Be alert for bears, coyotes, cougars and in some areas perhaps wolves.
  • Trekking poles or a walking staff provide support.
  • Sound travels well at night.  Be alert for audible clues to roads and running water.
  •  If you don’t have a GPS and are navigating with just a map and compass it is very important that you start from a known position.  Navigating without getting position fixes from a GPS or by visual sighting is called dead reckoning.  Such navigation requires you to plot your compass heading and distance traveled.  Distance is accounted by pacing (counting your steps) as you move
Night time navigation is not something to be taken lightly.  From reviewing my books, US Army field manuals and conversations with experienced backcountry travelers it should be carefully considered and practiced before an actual outing.  Practise your navigation at a local park with map and compass.  Consider geocaching to improve your GPS skills. 

Monday, September 26, 2016

Keep Critters Out of Your Food.

5 Ways to Keep Critters Out of Food While Camping

A new post by guest contributor Lee.
You're on a camping trip. You wake up one morning and climb out of your sleeping bag, ready for breakfast. There's only one problem: an animal got into your food stash and ate everything you had, down to the last granola bar.
This doesn't have to happen to you. There are things you can do to make sure that the local wildlife doesn’t leave you starving in the middle of nowhere. Here are five ways to keep critters out of your food stash while camping.
 1. Bring a Bear Canister
A bear canister is a hard-sided container designed to keep animals, especially bears, out of your food. They weigh anywhere from two to four pounds and can store between six to 15 liters of food. These containers are virtually impossible to break open using brute strength, and they are usually too big to carry away.
Unfortunately, bear canisters aren’t cheap; they cost between $60 to $80. The good news is that, once you buy a bear canister, you don’t have to buy it again. You'll be able to use it on multiple camping trips for years to come.
 2. Use Publicly Established Bear Lockers
Some national parks, such as Yosemite, provides bear lockers in which you can stash your food. These lockers are typically located around parking lots and campgrounds.
If you do use these lockers, make sure your food is clearly marked. You probably don't like it when someone at work accidentally grabs your food from the office refrigerator. The same thing can happen at a public bear locker, especially if you’re using generic-looking coolers or plastic grocery bags.
Make a small label and tape it to your container so that other campers know to keep their hands off of your dehydrated food.

3. Store Your Food High And Out of Reach
If you can’t afford a bear container and there are no bear lockers around, you can try hanging your food from a tree branch.
The best type of cord to use is paracord, and you'll want it to be at least 100 feet in length.
Tie one end of the cord to a rock and the other end to your food bag. Find a branch that’s 20 feet high, and throw your rock over that branch. Pull on the cord until your food is suspended in the air, and tie off the paracord around the tree trunk.

4. Store All Scented Items Along With Your Food
A bear's sense of smell is 2100 times more powerful than a human's, and unfortunately, they don’t know the difference between raspberries and lotions that smell like raspberries. It’s all potential food to them.
Store anything that has a scent inside your food bag, whether that item can actually be eaten or not. The same goes for your cookware, utensils and food waste.
 5. Keep Your Food Far Away From Your Campsite
Even if you manage to firmly secure all of your food items, that doesn’t mean those items still won't attract animals.
This can be a problem, especially at night. Small animals could disturb your sleep, and bigger animals, such as bears, could be potentially dangerous.
Keep your food between 100 to 200 feet away from your campsite. Be sure to store those items downwind from your campsite, so that animals don’t cross your sleeping area on their way to your food.
Additionally, don’t leave anything in your backpack overnight, and leave all its compartments unzipped. If a curious animal does find its way to your bag, it’s less likely to rip or chew it open in order to explore what’s inside.
These five tips to keep critters out of your food will go a long way towards keeping your food secure and helping you stay safe. Properly securing your food doesn't just reduce the chances of a negative interaction with an animal; it also helps ensure that you'll have a great camping trip.

Lee Flynn is a freelance writer. Through small local workshops and articles, Lee trains and teaches others on home preparation, healthy living, food storage techniques, and self reliance.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

GPS Map Datum

For most hikers, the map datum selection isn't critical.  New and right out of the box, GPS receivers are set to Map Datum WGS84. And for most hikers that setting will be just fine. Out and back - no problem.

But if you are going to take coordinates taken from a map or from a friend, AND accuracy is important, ensure you use the right map datum.

Map Datum is defined as:
"A mathematical model of the Earth used by map makers.  Datum allows for the accurate transfer of geographic data from a spherical earth to a flat map.  In the United States, there are three common map datum’s found on topographic maps.  These are WGS 84, North American Datum 1927 (NAD27) and NAD83.  Select the datum that is used on the map. " 
 Not selecting the correct map datum could induce an error of over 100 meters/yards. I emphasize that hiking groups should all be on the “same page” regarding the set-up options of their GPS receivers. 

Map Datum information is found in the map key on most maps.  

While planning a journey or at the trail head, taking the time to adjust settings among hiking partners is critical.  Before departing, validating map datum and coordinate format should be a priority.

First, match the map’s datum.  A topographic map identifies datum in the map key.  Once the datum is identified ensure that all GPS receivers are set to match the correct datum.  See the illustration below.

For more information on GPS setup setting check out:

Improving GPS AccuracySetup Your GPS


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

First Aid Kits

There are lots of options available to the hiker when building a fist aid kit.

The American Red Cross has a listing online that identifies what you might consider.

John D. McCann's book Build The Perfect Survival Kit is a fine resource that offers several lists of what should be contained in a kit.  I particularly like how his kit changes with regard to activity.  For example, a day hiker might not carry as much gear as the Search And Rescue team member.

Adventure Medical offers several kits for purchase.  SeattleBackPackersMagazine has a quick post for you to review.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Survival - Leaving a Message

John D. McCann's facebook post today reminded me about the ability to leave a message or a note when one is lost. Check out McCann's web site.

It's not rocket science.  Just a simple note to say "I need help."

I use the Rite In The Rain products quite a bit. Their note books are rugged and reliable.

Don't forget to fill out your travel plan.  Leave this plan with a responsible person who will call for help (911) if you don't return home on time.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Ten Essentials

After a recent two day SAR mission I thought it best to post  about the Ten Essentials again.

What is the right stuff to carry in the outdoors?  What is the minimum?  What should you
consider before hitting the trail?

A climbing group in the 1930's, The Mountaineers from Seattle authored the “Ten Essentials” describing ten items that should be carried in the back country. 

“The Ten Essentials” has been modified by different groups over the years.  The following is the list that REI recommends:

  1. Navigation
  2. Sun protection
  3. Insulation (extra clothing)
  4. Illumination
  5. First-aid supplies
  6. Fire starter
  7. Repair kit and tools
  8. Nutrition (extra food)
  9. Hydration (extra water)
  10. Emergency shelter

This is the minimum that one should carry.  It is a starting point.

The Scouts got it right – be prepared.