Map, Compass & GPS

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

Thursday, April 5, 2018

How to Store Your Camping Gear

The following post is by Guest Contributor Lee

You will need to store your camping gear between outdoor activities. However, don't just throw all your items into a closet. Instead, follow these camping gear tips to ensure you are ready for your next adventure.

Put Your Items in a Secluded Place

Unless you go for an adventure every week, you probably want your camping gear to stay in a safe and secluded space. Space needed will depend on how much equipment you need to store, but some of the places where you can store your camping gear include the garage, an unused closet, or the attic. Consider finding a self-storage unit if you don't have enough space in your house to keep your camping gear.

Keep Your Camping Gear in a Sealed Container

Don't just go with the cheapest option when you are looking for camping storage containers. Instead, look for containers or shelves that meet your needs and are durable. You could store outdoor gear on heavy duty wall shelves or in portable lockers that can serve as a bench while camping. Make sure to get tightly sealed containers if you live in an area with high humidity. Moreover, tie-down loops and reinforced handles can help secure the storage locker in your vehicle.

Label Every Package

Once you have sorted out the gear, place them in labeled containers. It can be advantageous to use clear packages as they let you see what is inside. However, labeling makes it easier to find an item. You can use a permanent marker to write on the bag or packaging container. Alternatively, you can apply self-sticking labels to each container or bag. Self-sticking tags can be an attractive option especially if you want to make changes later or if you are short-sighted.
Your labeling options can change a bit if you are using fabric containers such as canvas bags. You can use a sewing machine to personalize your gear. Alternatively, you can attach luggage tags to the handles. You can use duct tape to make personalized luggage tags. You can also write descriptions on slips of paper and attach them to your bags or containers using a laminator. You can use whatever is at your disposal to be as creative as possible.

Keep the Odor at Bay

Nothing is more irritating than pulling out your camping gear before an adventure and discovering that it smells awful. Your camping gear can be ruined by dirt, mildew, and/or bad odor. It is necessary to clean your camping gear thoroughly before your next trip. Clean and dry your camping gear, especially your bedding and tent before even storing it to avoid a disgusting smell. You can also pack a dryer sheet along with your camping gear to help with the smell.

Compartmentalize Smaller Items

To help keep track of everything, it would be good to put small, related items together. You can keep cooking gadgets and utensils in something like a toolbox. You can browse the internet to find boxes of different sizes and shapes to ensure you find the container that fits whatever you want to store. Plastic bags are an inexpensive and convenient option for storing as well. You can even recycle items such as comforter bags and coffee cans to reduce the costs. You will be able to find what works best for you.


Hopefully these tips can help you figure out how best to store your camping gear between trips this summer. You’re going to want to be able to find everything each time you go, and maybe incorporating a few of these can help you. 

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Wilderness Guide

The National Outdoor Leadership School's "Wilderness Guide" is a wonderful book to add to your backcountry library.

"The classic backpackers handbook - revised and updated with information anon new equipment and techniques-providing expert guidelines for backpackers, hikers, campers- anyone who loves the outdoors."

Author Mark Harvey is a NOLS instructor and  freelance writer.

This book is an excellent first step in the planning process for backcountry  travel.

Available at Amazon.


Friday, March 30, 2018

Magnetic Declination

Declination: A Noun. The horizontal angle between the true geographic North Pole and the magnetic North Pole, as figured from a specific point on the Earth.”

 Declination is a term that causes “brain cramps” for many of my students in my map and compass classes. When I mention Magnetic Declination eyes roll.

The web site www.magnetic-declination.com has an excellent discussion of what declination is and what causes it:

“Magnetic declination varies both from place to place, and with the passage of time. As a traveler cruises the east coast of the United States, for example, the declination varies from 20 degrees west (in Maine) to zero (in Florida), to 10 degrees east (in Texas), ......the magnetic declination in a given area will change slowly over time, possibly as much as 2-25 degrees every hundred years or so.......... Complex fluid motion in the outer core of the Earth (the molten metallic region that lies from 2800 to 5000 km below the Earth's surface) causes the magnetic field to change slowly with time."

Land navigation is based on the relationship to the North Pole; also known as “true north.  The measure of degrees of direction in relation to true north is called “degrees true.”  Maps are laid out in degrees true.  Land features (buttes, mountains, streams) on a topographic map are in reference to degrees true.  By that I mean the bearing from one mountain peak to another will be referenced in degrees true.  The map below illustrates that point. 








Magnetic compasses do not point to true north (the North Pole); the magnetic needle points to an area that could be considered the magnetic North Pole. 
As illustrated below, declination data can be found in the diagram at the bottom of a USGS topographic map, (on some commercially produced maps it can be hard to find.) 

Because declination changes over time, I recommend that map declination information be verified at www.magnetic-declination.com.   This is essential in the Pacific Northwest where maps are notoriously out of date in terms of road,  and city data.
So, how do we make this simple?  How do we convert magnetic to degrees true?
I could do the math.  In Oregon, where I live, the magnetic declination is 15.6° East declination.

My recommendation: have the compass do the work so that there is no confusion with the math.

To do this, I need to choose a compass that can be adjusted for declination.  Some examples are the Silva Ranger or the Suunto M3.

With one of these compasses, the compass dial or housing is adjusted and rotated manually.  Both the Suunto and Silva Ranger come with a small, flat adjusting tool.  Consult with owner’s manual that came with the compass.

If declination is Easterly (Western U.S.) I will rotate the dial causing the baseplate’s orienting arrow to move in a clockwise direction.

   If declination is Westerly (Eastern U.S.) I will rotate the dial causing the baseplate’s orienting arrow to move in a counter-clockwise direction.

Now, adjust the dial and align the red magnetic needle on top of the orienting arrow (the red arrow engraved on the baseplate) the compass will provide directions in degrees true.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Managing Your GPS Waypoints




Outdoor Quest //Blake Miller image

 Lots of things can happen to a GPS Waypoint or data file.  You can put data in. You can take data out.  You can lose it (the GPS breaks or the wrong button entry is selected.)  But be careful, far worse, too much data can make your navigation difficult.

 In my land navigation class I stress keeping your navigation simple.  Frequent and simple Waypoint management is essential to GPS use.  When it’s time to return to the truck, it should be obvious what GPS Waypoint to select. 

 Dump the junk before the start of a trip.  As you leave the trail head your GPS should have only necessary data saved on your GPS.  That Waypoint for the fishing hole is important but needs to be saved elsewhere.

 Start by deleting Waypoints that really are not needed.  Free those data bites to the atmosphere.

 To save your “got to have, must save Waypoints:” 

             1.            Use Garmin’s “Trip and Waypoint Manager.”  It probably came with your GPS.  It can also be purchased from Garmin for about $30.00; www.garmin.com.  Down load those Waypoints to your PC.

 2.            If you don’t have the Garmin program, consider “Easy GPS.”  It is free and available at www.easygps.com.

            3.            Log the important data in a notebook.

 Electronic storage allows you to save Waypoints and track data (that bread crumb trail on your map screen.)  Further, you can upload old Waypoints another day for a trip to that special fishing spot.  This data can also be down loaded into your friends GPS too.  It can also be uploaded to your new GPS in the future.

 Remember though; when you receive or transfer GPS Waypoint data always verify that you have the compatible map datum and coordinate system set on your receiver.

 Finally, give important Waypoints a name.  It’s easier to remember a GPS Waypoint named “CAMP” instead of 21 (or was it 25.)







Your Backcountry Travel Plan

There are lots of articles and posts about letting the responsible person know about your travel plans.  Should you not return home on time they are the trigger to begin the search process.


This may be the most comprehensive plan made yet!!!


After the loss of James Kim in the Oregon back country in 2006 I wrote a hiker's trip plan and posted it on myblog.  I had input from several valued sources.  I wanted something better for the wilderness traveler than a note to a neighbor.  My intent was to provide the search responders something valuable to go by.


In far too many SAR missions, the reporting party has little information for the searchers to go on to begin their search.

My plan can be found here.  It is a basic .pdf form.

Suggestions are certainly welcome.


911 Call center
Still, that responsible person plays a huge role in contacting authorities to begin a search.  My recommendation would be to pick a person that will make the 911 phone call without hesitation.

Travel safely.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Power For Your Gear in the Backcountry

A few years ago I posted a short article about power for your gear: (.e.g. GPS receivers.)  Here is an update.

A frequent question that I get is how long do batteries last?  What can be counted on for GPS battery power.

From my experience the answer is about 12 hours when used continuously.

I have noticed that the electronic "battery power meter" provides OK information. The four  power bars last reasonable well initially.  But after the receiver has been on for most of the day, I have noticed that the GPS battery power goes from three bars to two and then one quite quickly.

I keep my GPS powered on all the time.  I l do this to evaluate track data later.  For example, when I am in the field hunting I discard the batteries at the end of the day, replace with new one, and calibrate the compass. I find it handy to replace batteries at camp rather than going through the process in the morning's darkness.  I like to just grab and go in the morning.

I particularly like the Duracell and COSTCO batteries. Rayovac batteries but do not last nearly as long as the others.

For short duration hikes I will use the rechargeable ENELOOP batteries.  I bought my set at COSTCO. I find that the ENELOOP batteries are very versatile, retain the charge a long time, are simple to charge and quickly recharge.

Small sets of 4 are available at some of the big box stores too but they are not cheap.

 I recommend that if your gear uses AA batteries predominately then stick  to those rather than having a mix of AA, C and AAA.


Friday, March 23, 2018

Ten Essentials - Include a Whistle

The Ten Essentials is a list of ten very basic items that a hiker or hunter should carry in a day pack; visi tThe Mountaineers Ten Essentials to get their traditional list. 

Consider this to be the foundation of your pack.

While sitting at a desk the backcountry hiker would consider this a very slim list.  Many of the essentials can be carried in a fanny pack.

One item I'd add to the list is a whistle.


Each year, lost hikers a located by using a whistle.  Of course one can yell.....for a short time; until one's voice is worn out.  Whistles require no batteries, can be really loud and take up little room. Ten essentials whistle.  I like the Fox 40 and I like to have a whistle made of plastic and is florescent/hunter orange.

Keeping it simple, here is what  is on amazon.com.  Sportsman's Warehouse has them too.