Map, Compass & GPS

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

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Monitoring the Weather In The Backcountry

While serving at sea in the Navy in the 1970's I learned the importance of monitoring barometric
pressure.  Many of the new GPS receivers can track barometric pressure.
Barometric pressure data is important because it gives the hiker an idea of how the weather is developing and changing.   Monitoring barometer using GPS allows you to know more about your weather in the back country My personal choice for a GPS is the Garmin GPSMap60CS receiver, and here’s what I do.
In the back country, keeping yourself aware of pressure changes gives you more time to plan, improvise and re-evaluate your situation. Today, I continue to keep a sharp eye on the weather before an outing and while in the field. At home I frequently check my internet sources such as and the National Weather Service’s site  and watch the weather reports each morning.  At a base camp I have a radio capable of receiving the NOAA broadcasts.
Read the complete post at Seattlebackpackersmagazine.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Finding Direction Without A Compass

Ever hit the trail with out a compass or your compass is broken?  Check out my latest post on the Seattlebackpackersmagazine site.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Winter Survival

Section Hiker has a very timely post on winter survival.

"Winter is when the training wheels come off for hikers, climbers, and backcountry skiers. When all of the planning and preparation you did before your trip won’t help you get out of the jam you’re in. When your buddy hits his head on a tree skiing down a backcountry route or a big chunk of falling ice takes out your belayer. When you fall through an ice ledge on a river soaking your winter boots and clothes or a whiteout smothers the peak you’re climbing and a winter storm blows in. "

His short article on fire starting is right on the mark.  Visit Section Hiker.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

GPS Software Updates

Is your GPS receiver running with the latest software update?

I receive a monthly newsletter from  As the site address implies, this is a group located in the United Kingdom.  Their site is packed with lots of info; so too is their news letter.

Their latest post caught my eye and is worth forwarding:

"Good manufacturers offer regular free updates for the software in your device as well     as any supporting software on your PC/Mac like Basecamp; it’s in their interest as much as yours. Why? Because updates as well as offering access to new features are a useful way to fix software glitches and often a new update raises new glitches which means another update!!"

I recommend that GPS users update their receivers every few months.  Also, I'd suggest that before uploading new mapping software this be done too.  Simply put, an upgrade keeps your receiver current and provides corrections to software issues.

For those with older, discontinued models there may be no updates.  Contact your manufacturer's website to resolve any issue.

Emergency Shelter

The following is Peter Kumerfeldt's post on emergency shelter options.

There may come a time when you have to spend a night out that you hadn’t planned on. It may be because of weather, darkness, injury or more commonly, getting lost! Regardless of the cause you are now faced with nine or ten hours of discomfort at best and, at worst, the loss of your life because of your lack of preparedness for the event.

No one wants to spend a cold, wet, hungry, lonely night out away from family and friends but it happens! And it happens all to frequently. It happens to both to the experienced and the novice – none are immune from the possibility of having to survive cold temperatures, high winds and precipitation sitting under a tree waiting for the sun come up the next morning. It is more likely that the experienced person will be better equipped and ready for a night out. It is also true that more experienced people, based on their know-how and past successes are prone to over-estimating their skills and abilities to spend a night out and underestimate the impact of the environment and the weather on their ability to survive.

To read the rest of Peter's post visit his blog here.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The North Star - A Star to Guide Us

The North Star is a beacon that we can use to guide us in the backcountry.  Few hikers use the celestial bodies in the night sky to navigate by.  But on a clear night, the night sky provides a feature that is an excellent source of direction.  It doesn’t matter if it is June or November, if you are in Wyoming or Oregon.

For the backcountry hiker consider that Polaris is fixed in position over the northern pole.  Unique from other celestial stars and planets, Polaris is very closely aligned to the earth’s axis.  Stars and planets rotate around Polaris.  And like the sun, this rotation is from east to west through the sky.  Polaris will be found approximately half way between the northern horizon and straight overhead.  In the northern hemisphere, Polaris can found in our northern sky and is never more 1° from true north – the North Pole. 

Constellations help locate Polaris.  Cassiopeia and the Big Dipper point to Polaris.  Uniquely, Cassiopeia, the Big Dipper and Little Dipper can be seen in relation to Polaris year round.  In winter, the constellation of Orion will also help locate Polaris.

Figure 1.  The Pointing Stars point to Polaris

In the case of the Big Dipper (above), an imaginary line is drawn from the two pointer stars to Polaris.

 Polaris will be found about at a distance of five times the space between the two pointing stars.

Another view of Polaris and adjacent constellations is seen below.

So what does this do for the hiker?

The essence is that Polaris is another visual handrail at night.  In an earlier post, I discussed the process of orienting a topographic map.  Large terrain features were identified as “backcountry handrails.” (Handrails can include roads, railroad beds, ridgelines, power transmission lines and streams.) Handrails help align the map and give the traveler a sense of relationship to the topography both on the map and what is nearby.  For example, if the hiker determines that Butler Butte will always be to the left and west of the trail then that butte becomes a visual aid for navigation. At night geographic features may not be quite so visible and distinct.  So on a clear dark night Polaris can aid the wilderness navigator by providing direction to true north.

This visual reference compliments a magnetic compass.  (Ideally the hiker uses a declination adjustable magnetic compass.)

It's always right there in the same place (even if you can't see it at the moment) and doesn't require batteries.

Cloud cover and forest canopy will limit the ability to navigate and use Polaris.  If Polaris is completely obscured but some sky is visible, attempt to find east.  Like the sun, stars and planets rotate through the sky from east to west.  Find a star and monitor its movement over a period of a few minutes.  Once you’ve determined where east is, north is to the left.

Like all navigation skills, using the night sky takes practice.  Before heading out on your next adventure, practice at home, look for Polaris at varying times. Observe the star’s relationship to the other celestial bodies.

Here is another post on the North Star from my local newspaper.

Here are a couple of good references:

  • June Fleming’s book Staying Found is a fine reference about backcountry navigation. 

  • Google’s Sky Map

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Invasive Species - Robbing You Blind

This information comes from a North American Hunter email; this is worth repeating.  Oregon suffers from people releasing bait fish in pristine trout water each year.

Few hunters these days remember the years of market waterfowl hunting. Skies once black with migrating ducks and geese were harvested by the millions to supply food and feathers for a growing country, and many species suffered from overharvest as a result. However, through extensive conservation efforts by concerned and motivated sportsmen, skies are again filling with wildlife.

Today, there’s a new threat to our nation’s waterfowl: invasive species. Foreign plants, animals and diseases threaten our fish and wildlife. They decrease habitat, create a malady of disease and illness, and are a leading cause for endangered species listing.

Each year, thousands of waterfowl die due to the impacts of zebra and quagga mussels, New Zealand mudsnails, and faucet snails. Unknowingly, these non-native species often hitchhike on waterfowl boats and gear, from one honey-hole to another.

The good news is that, as hunters, we have a tradition founded in conservation. If—together—we clean, drain and dry our boats, trailers and equipment—even hunting dogs—we can stop the spread of the foreign invaders. It’s our duty.

  • Clean: Boats, trailers, boots and hunting equipment. Remove all mud and plants. Don’t transport weeds.
  • Drain: Boats, motors and decoys—anything that holds water.
  • Dry: Equipment for 5 days and/or wash with high pressure, hot water.

Do your part to conserve America’s great waterfowl hunting tradition. Remember: Clean, drain and dry to stop aquatic hitchhikers. You owe it to yourself, fellow hunters and the speicies you love.