Map, Compass & GPS

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

Monday, February 28, 2011

Solar Storms

There has been  a bit of chatter over the last several months in the media about the sun, solar flares and now solar storms.

In an AOL news release, Sharon Weinberger writes about the impact of a pending solar storm.

Roughly every eleven years, the earth enters an new solar cycles.  Reportedly, we are seeing more acitivity than in the past.  Intense solar activity can have a serious inpact on GPS systems, communications, and "disrupt the electrical grid" according to Weinberber. 

Read the complete article here.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Remaining Calm

Leon Pantenburg's web site has another article about what to do in the backcountry when you are lost.

Lot's of good info in the article.  It is a 2009 article from the Billings, Montana Gazette.  Interviewed in the article is John Gookin, the National Outdoor Leadership School instructor. 

My recommendations would include adding a small shelter that is wind proof and water proof and a short discussion on just how much wood to gather for that warming fire.

Wood burns up quicky when you have a warming fire going all night.  A few years ago I was helping out with a Northwest SAR teams survival overnight training mission.  SAR team members were to bring the gear that they carry on a mission.  Lots if interesting and fine ideas.  One team member had a fire pit that was roughly three feet long and two feet wide.  Before we turned in, this team member had a large stack of wood.  That night temps dropped to 5° (F).  The next morning he told me that his wood supply ran low by midnight and he made several forays into the area around his camp during the night to gather more wood. 

Read the article here.

Visit Leon's website at:

Washington Couple Rescued

Attached (see link below) is a AP wire story about a couple from Washington state that were rescued after being lost for four days.

This could have had a much sadder ending.

As you read the article, think about what they did to help themselves once stranded.   Staying with their vehicle was definately the right thing to do.

Read it here.

A trip plan would have been great to have left behind with a family member too.  Trip plan.

Friday, February 25, 2011

GPS Presentation

For those of you living in Central Oregon I will be hosting GPS seminars at the Central Oregon Sportsman Show, Deschutes County Fair Grounds.  Here is the schedule:

  All presentations are 45 minutes long and will be in the Green theater.
Thursday, March 10,  6:30 PM
Saturday, March 12, 4:30 PM
Peter Kummerfeldt will be there all weekend.  I'd recommend you attend his common sense backcountry survival seminars.  Visit Peter's website at; tons of info there.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Hikers Trip Plan

An important element to any backcountry outing is letting that "responsible person" know when you are going and when you will return.  As a SAR team member I can tell you that valid detailed information is critical to help with the search effort.

That is great.  But the the question worth asking is what do you tell the "responsible person?"  Who should that person be?

The "responsible person" should be a person who will take your request seriously and make that decision to call 911; with out hesitation.  There should be a frank discussion of just what you want that person to do and when to do it.  The "responsible person" will call 911 and only 911 to get the search going.  After calling 911 that person can then call family and friends.

Key to this conversation is giving the "responsible person" your trip plan.  Consider the trip plan to be your flight plan in the wilderness.  The devil is in the details and you truely can't provide to much information.  After the Kim family trajedy in Oregon in 2006 I developed a trip plan.  My resourses were books (June Fleming's Staying Found), a trip plan from the State of Colorado and conversations with experienced backcountry travelers.  A .pdf copy of my trip plan is here.  I will also proivide a copy the topographic map of the area will be in.

Outdoor and Survival writer Leon Pantenburg has a great article on this here.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Staying Found

Realizing that you are lost or even worse a family member is lost is a terrible feeling.   So what do you do to stay safe in the outdoors?

Leon Pantenburg has a series of fine articles on the elements of staying found in the back country.

The first article that I am posting is about the actions you should take when you are lost.  Read about S.T.O.P.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A Compass Tune-Up

With the hunting or hiking season behind you, now is the time to take a look at your magnetic compass.  Is it working satisfactorily?  Does the red magnetic needle point to magnetic north?

Not all compasses are worth your time and money.  Though you don't have to spend a ton on money a quality compass is an important part of your pack.

Take a look at my recent post on inspecting your compass and tuning-up your navigation skills here.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Map & Compass Navigation

Visit for a good review of map and compass navigation.  This power point presentation is based on the military's lensatic compass but the vast majority of the material blends nicely with the use of a baseplate compass.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Managing Your GPS Waypoints

Most GPS receivers sold on the market today will hold 500 waypoints in memory.  These waypoints are your saved/recorded geographic locations that you have saved into the receiver's memory.  A waypoint could be the saved location of your camp or truck.

So, just how many  waypoints should you have saved?  On my GPS I probably have about 5 and 0 would be better. 

I like to keep my navigation simple and having hundreds of saved waypoints is can be a headache.

Read my article about waypoint management in Dump the Junk.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Emergency Preparedness: When you lose the grid

Just the other day my wife and I re-learned the value of preparedness, when, during a snow storm we lost power for 18 hours.

We had much of what was necesary.  We were set in terms of an adequate supply of food, warmth and lighting.  Just no supply of electricity.  I had a generator that would power much of what I needed but it was inadequate to power my well pump.

To read more about preparedness, check out Leon's article on cooking off the grid.  It's an interesting read.  Go here.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Red Cross "Bug Out" Recommendations on What to Take Along

Have we had more than our share of disasters in the last ten years?  New Zealand's recent earthquake highlights the need to be prepared.

Leon Patenburg has a fine article with material from the American Red Cross on what you need to have and what to do to be prepared in a disaster. 

Nobody wants to worry about possibly evacuating your home quickly, or having to just grab a few important items and head out the door.

Most of us live in areas very vulnerable to natural disasters! 

Read the rest of Leon's article here.


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Death by GPS; Can Too Much Technology Kill You?

Can too much technology in the backcountry be dangerous? Can you depend on GPS and other electronic devices and technology  to the point of  it becoming deadly?
That seems to be an increasingly recurrent pattern of behavior in some parts of the country, as the following story: “Death By GPS’  indicates.
Any GPS can mislead you or give inaccurate information.
Whenever I see a particularly interesting or, in this case, disturbing story related to land navigation, I forward it for comment and analysis to land navigation expert Blake Miller.

Here are Blake’s thoughts on  “Death By GPS” by Tom Knudson, and published in the Jan. 30, 2011 “Sacramento Bee.” (To read the complete story, click here.)

The scenario mentioned in the “Death By GPS” story  is consistent. Drivers rely solely on their car GPS for directions, they have no map and mostly likely, didn’t talk to anyone about their planned trip.

In Death Valley, 12 vacationer have died under these circumstances over the last 15 years. In Oregon, it was the James Kim family tragedy in 2006 that brought this to the forefront nationally. (To view video coverage of the Kim Tragedy, click here.)

A Death Valley Search and Rescue coordinator commented that: “GPS units are not only fallible but send people across the desert where no road exists.”
I was surprised just how much backcountry road information was provided by the car GPS (a Garmin Nuvi) during a deer hunt last fall on the western slopes of  Oregon’s Cascade Mountains. But GPS road data can be dated. The article commented that some GPS receivers reported closed roads (as active) that had not been used in 40 years!

When traveling with a car GPS, my recommended planning considerations include:
Always carry a map. Maps from the American Automobile Association are a great place to start and complement the car GPS. National Geographic has maps of many of our national parks and are well worth the investment. Delorme’s state gazetteers are wonderful for big picture planning. For deep backcountry travel consider a quality topographic map. (For more information click here.)
Always check in with authorities who can help with your travel planning. Visiting the local Ranger station and visitor center is a good first step. Ask about road and climatic conditions for the area you will be visiting, and what roads are under construction, are permanently closed or are impassible. Many states have online travel sites that provide current conditions. (In Oregon it is
• Internet sources may well have the same issues as GPS receiver data bases. Many sites
on the web provide topographic mapping. Take care to notice the age of the maps. Much can be out of date. Google Maps/Earth are fine products when used intelligently.
Place “via points” into your GPS. For example, to keep you on the desired route, insert new destinations so that you’ll stay on the right path. You can add a small town or intersection as a “via point.” This will cause the GPS to use the route you determine, rather that what the data base builds.
A personal locater beacon such as those made by SPOT and ACR are excellent tools to alert authorities when in trouble. The small units are carried in addition to your GPS.
Always let a responsible person know of your plans. This person is someone you will coordinate with in advance of your trip. For example, if you don’t return from your journey this person will call 911; the search doesn’t start until 911 is called. For a suggested trip plan look here.
• Whether traveling on foot or in a car always have the Ten Essentials with you. This is your emergency kit that will go a long way toward sustaining you and your party. For information on the Ten Essentials go here.

You have to be smarter than your electronics. Electronics are our aids, not our decision makers!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Survival Tips for a Tornado/Cyclone Disaster

I’ve always been afraid of tornadoes, even before I heard of the Wicked Witch of the West and: “Surrender Dorothy!”
by Leon Pantenburg

My Dad saw this funnel cloud headed in his direction when he was cultivating corn. He abandoned the tractor and ran for shelter.

So what is the first step?

An approaching tornado is terrifying: Know what to do before hand, so you don't panic and make fatal mistakes.

Start by learning about tornadoes and what you can do to survive them. Here’s some suggestions from the FEMA:

Before the potential tornado, be alert to changing weather conditions.
  • Listen to the national weather channel or to commercial radio or television newscasts for the latest information. You could also buy a Weather Radio Sima WX-200 Emergency Alert Radio
    that plays weather news all the time.
  • Look for approaching storms
  • Look for the following danger signs:
    • Dark, often greenish sky
    • Large hail
    • A large, dark, low-lying cloud (particularly if rotating)
    • Loud roar, similar to a freight train.
If you see approaching storms or any of the danger signs, be prepared to take shelter immediately.

Here’s a survival scenario learning exercise. You’re aware there is a storm watch with potential twisters, and you’re keeping a lookout.

Then someone spots a funnel cloud headed in your direction – what’s the first thing you need to do? (And don’t depend on others – in any crowd, in any urban or wilderness survival emergency, about 80 percent of the people there will have to be told what to do.)

One choice might be (Please bear with me if I’m starting to sound like a broken record!) to start with STOP (Stop, Think, Observe and Plan), the survival mindset exercise.  You can’t think if you have panicked, and you must force yourself to calm down. Then, make a plan.
That’s where the knowledge part of your wilderness survival gear comes in. Instead of drawing a blank about what to do next, remember this advice from the FEMA. These suggestions are part of your survival kit, and will give you an idea of how to respond.

When a weather advisory is broadcast, keep an eye out for trouble!
  • If you are in a building: Go to a pre-designated shelter area such as a safe room, basement, storm cellar, or the lowest building level. If there is no basement, go to the center of an interior room on the lowest level (closet, interior hallway) away from corners, windows, doors, and outside walls. Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside. Get under a sturdy table and use your arms to protect your head and neck. Do not open windows.
  • If you’re in a mobile home: Get out immediately and go to the lowest floor of a sturdy, nearby building or a storm shelter. Mobile homes, even if tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes.
  • If you’re outside with no shelter: Lie flat in a nearby ditch or depression and cover your head with your hands. Be aware of the potential for flooding. Don’t get under an overpass or bridge. You are safer in a low, flat location.
If you’re caught in a public building or school, FEMA suggests you get to an interior room or hall or the ground floor. Thunderstorms–tornadoes–lightning– : nature’s most violent storms : a preparedness guide including tornado safety information for schools.  The person with the flashlight, who acts like he/she knows what he is doing automatically, becomes the leader.
Know where you’re going.

Avoid halls that open to the outside, or any places with free-span ceiling that could collapse such as an auditorium or gym.

It’s not true that mobile home parks attract tornadoes. But, it is virtually impossible to secure a trailer to a foundation well enough for it to withstand tornado-speed winds.

Flying debris is responsible for most of the injuries related to tornadoes.
And above all, don’t do stupid things. Don’t stand in the yard videoing the approaching cloud – the flying debris can kill you before you realize you’re in danger. I’ve seen oat straw driven into a tractor tire, and a 78 phonograph stuck in a telephone pole by the force of tornado winds. Don’t waste time taking things out of your home if you have to evacuate.

In Iowa, with its precise road system laid out in square mile grids, many people would park during storms at a crossroads, with their vehicle engines idling. If they spotted a tornado, they would drive off at a 90 degree angle from the funnel cloud.

Exercising the wisdom of teenagers everywhere, some of my friends would gather at popular crossroads, just to have a chance at outrunning a storm. According to the NWS, the average speed of a tornado is about 30 mph, but they travel as fast as 70 mph, and they can change directions without warning.

The experts recommend that you never try to outrun a tornado in urban or congested areas. Instead, leave the vehicle immediately for safe shelter.
Farm kids were taught early to seek refuge in a culvert under the road if  they get caught in the open during a twister. I don’t know anybody who ever actually did that, but it seems like a good idea. If nothing else, the culvert would offer some protection from flying debris.

Basically, if you found a safe spot and hunkered down until the wind quit blowing, you should be OK. If you were in a building that blew down, emergency personnel will probably be on the scene shortly after the all clear sirens go off.

Recovering from a disaster is usually a gradual process, according to FEMA. Safety is a primary issue, as are mental and physical well-being. Stay away from the rubble and don’t touch any fallen electrical wires.

Then, be thankful – you’ve experienced one of nature’s most dramatic and deadly displays. And you’re alive to tell the tale!
If you live in an area with the potential for tornadoes or cyclones, you owe it to yourself and your family to be prepared!