Map, Compass & GPS

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

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Families in the Backcountry

Travel safely in the  backcountry with your family.  Start them early and start them with the right skills.

I wrote the following article a year ago for a local family news magazine in Bend, Oregon.

      My wife and I began our outdoor journeys over thirty years ago while in college.  So, it was natural that my children began their trips in the field at a very early age.  Our family continues to backpack and camp all around Oregon.  Though our children are now in college, we still find our trips memorable; it’s still “cool” to spend time together. 

      Central Oregonians are fortunate to be close to some of the finest forests and trails in the nation.  Our woodlands offer spectacular recreation opportunities and vistas, all at amazingly affordable rates.  Children find the outdoors a place to learn, explore, and let their imagination run wild.
For the complete post go here.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Evacuating?? Check In With The Red Cross

If you are forced to evacuate always check in with the Red Cross!

Early this morning I was listening to the news about the recovery efforts ongoing in Joplin, Missouri.  Leveled by a series of tornadoes, Search and Rescue teams were looking for missing citizens.

A K9 search team leader was interviewed.  The K9 team was going through the rubble of a demolished home.  Then the home owner walked up.  He had sheltered with friends away from his residence.

This brief interview caused me to remember an important recommendation made recently by Red Cross staff.  Should you be directed to evacuated due to fire, flood or tornadoes report and register with the Red Cross.  To do this go directly to the evacuation shelter assigned to your locale.  Once there log in and register with the staff.  Should you decide to shelter with friends or family still check in with the Red Cross.  Red Cross maintains a locator service in times of disaster. 

Visit the American Red Cross' web site to find family members or to log in that you are safe and well.  For more information and to log in go here.

My friend Leon Pantenburg (a front page writer for the Bend Bulletin newspaper) has several articles on tornado and earth quake preparation at

Monday, May 23, 2011

Washington SAR Conference

WASAR 2011 was a great conference!

This year's conference was top notch.  Over 700 SAR members from 5 countries (Ice Land, UK, Canada and others) and ten states attended. 

The conference seminars were first rate. 

Better yet, those that could start on Monday received in depth, specialized training in Urban Search, Team Leadership, Lost Person Behavior, and Law Enforcement High Risk Search Operations.

The actual conference (Friday through Sunday) had classes in K9 operations, tracking, search management, evidence search, legal matters pertaining to SAR, electronics, communication, navigation, mountain rescue, a SAR academy... and the list just goes on.  A "boat load" of information and training.

The cost was $65 if you pre-registered, $85 after May 19.  Not bad.

The 2012 conference will be in Goldendale in mid May.


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Night Vision


It looks like I gooned (an old Navy term)  my link to an article on Night Vision.  Apologies.

So, if you are interested or have questions about night vision and night travel in the backcountry go here.

Travel Safe With the Ten Essentials

This is not my first post about the "Ten Essential" but it is information worth repeating.  As the trails and backcountry warm up and you get the itch to get out there lets make sure you are ready. 

I am beginning to look at the "Ten Essentials" as a system of gear and not just individual items.  For example, the complete system of Navigation equipment will be my map, compass, GPS and a trail guide.  I may end up taking two maps of different scales.  Perhaps a pencil too.
No matter what you pack, it has to work for you.  If you take kids, it will have to work for them.  For example, you might be able to get by on a few energy bars but what about that sixteen year old?  His metabolism will be much higher and he will require more food; no kidding.
The “Ten Essentials”
1.    Navigation (GPS, map and compass)
2.    Sun protection (Sunglasses and sunscreen)
3.    Insulation (extra clothing)
4.    Illumination  (head lamp and flashlight)
5.    First-aid supplies
6.    Fire making (fire starter, matches, lighter)
7.    Repair kit and tools
8.    Nutrition (extra food)
9.    Hydration (extra water)
10. Wind and waterproof emergency shelter (poly tarp, 4mil bags)
This is the minimum.  It is a starting point.
I have added to my list and pack:
1.    Communication/signaling (Cell phone, whistle and signal mirror)
2.    SPOT locator
3.    A small folding saw
4.    A “sit pad”  (I use an old sleeping/ensolite foam pad cut in half as my backcountry chair.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Stay Safe With Your Spot Locator

(AP news story) "Sheriff's Lt. Jerry Moore says the 40-year-old Arlington man and some friends had snowshoed from the Granite Falls area on the west side of the Cascades, and Anderson went on alone, planning to camp at Lyman Lakes, then hike to Holden Village.

Anderson's SPOT locator gives rescuers his longitude and latitude. Those coordinates put him near the lakes."

Post By Blake Miller

While backpacking with my sons, hundreds of miles from home in a remote area of Glacier National Park, I was able to send information to my wife every evening.  Those messages from my SPOT (which stands for “SPOT”) locator gave my wife peace-of-mind.

Locator beacons have been available to outdoorsmen for several years.  The basic idea is pretty straight forward: to help someone stay out of trouble in the backcountry by providing a method for them get help.

Spot units are communication devices that use satellite systems to link to control stations to forward messages.  SPOT, manufactured by Global Star Communications, has made locator beacons affordable and multifunctional.  Criticized initially for a lack of GPS sensitivity and other issues, SPOT responded with the SPOT II, an upgraded and improved, smaller and more reliable model.  An annual subscription fee is charged to use a SPOT unit.

SPOT units are a good choice for anyone who wants to stay connected to family, friends and emergency responders.  One of my friends gives his wife the SPOT when they go shopping in Portland, Or., at the malls!  Talk about urban survival skills!

To read the rest of the post go here.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Follow-up to the Cretien Survival Story

The Montreal Gazette has a good follow-up to Mrs. Cretien's experience.

Survivors' stories offer clues to what keeps us alive, despite odds.
For 48 days 56-year-old Rita Chretien survived inside this van, alone in the Nevada wilderness. Her story is remarkable, but not unheard of, say experts.
Two days after Rita Chretien was found alive in northeast Nevada's remote high desert, her son -- still wearing a look of disbelief on his face -- told reporters at the hospital he didn't know she had it in her.

Just goes to show, Raymond Chretien said, "miracles happen."

Even the doctor sitting next to him was stunned the 56-year-old Penticton, woman had survived seven weeks alone with little food or water.

She beat some "overwhelming odds," he said.

To read the entire article go here.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

GPS Electornics

Do you leave your the batteries in your GPS receiver all the time or take them out after a trip?

Garmin 62 owner's manual: "When you do not plan to use device for several month, remove the batteries."

My suggestion would be to check your GPS receiver owner's manual to determine this.  It may take a bit of digging to find the manufacturer's recommendation for your unit. 

The same applies to the use of lithium batteries.  When in doubt call the manufacturer.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Another Traveler Perishes While Stuck in The Snow

Man perishes after being stuck in the snow in Oregon for 70 days.

By the Oregonian

A 68-year-old man died in a sleeping bag in his truck after he got stuck in the snow while camping in February and kept a log of nearly 70 days spent apparently stranded in east Linn County's high country, authorities said today.

A U.S. Forest Service crew surveying roads discovered the body of Jerry William McDonald on Thursday in the back of his 1997 GMC pickup with a canopy. The truck was on Forest Service Road 517, about three miles from Oregon 22 and about four miles from Marion Forks.

 McDonald's truck registration listed an address in Unity, but he had no permanent home, Linn County Sheriff Tim Mueller said in a news release. He was estranged from his family and hadn't been reported missing.

To read the rest of the article go here.

Backcountry Navigation

Compass and Direction Finding Part 1 and 2 
by Dick Blust, Jr., photographs by Mark Furman

Before there was GPS, there was map and compass.
Map and compass are an integral part of a comprehensive approach to back country navigation and, at the same time, the right compass provides a means for position plotting, either as a stand-alone or as backup in the event of GPS failure or loss.
As the essay moves along, instructions will be provided that are specific for each of the three compasses recommended, first in direction finding, and later in position plotting.

Compass Selection
There are a lot of compasses out there on the market, and they range from the meticulously crafted to the downright useless. Fortunately, the best choices for the hunter can be boiled down considerably. The key factors are accuracy, durability, and night operation capability. I put special emphasis on night capability because for a serious hunter the ability to navigate before dawn and after dark are absolutes. The top choices in order of expense:

To read the rest of the post go here.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Free Topographic Maps

Joseph Elfelt is the author of  Joseph has been working on this mapping project for quite a while and the product is maturing nicely.  Best of all it's free.

Quality topographic maps are the mainstay of the wilderness hunter and hiker.  There are lots of free products out there but it is tough to beat Joseph Elfelt's work.

Joseph has been working with top quality mapping software company to provide a very nice product.

Every time I look at his web site there have been new improvements.

In Joseph's words, his main features include:

* View detailed topographic maps (USA and Canada).

* Current magnetic declination displayed for map center (world wide, NOAA)

* Print maps. In your browser menu, click File==>Print Preview.

* Powerful search feature. You can search on addresses, names of places or natural features, and any reasonable way to write a latitude/longitude. (world wide)

* Display your GPS data and create a permanent link that will display that same map and your data. You can e-mail that link, post it on a website, include it in an iframe, etc.

The link below will display a world map. To search for something click Menu==>Search. To see the detailed topographic maps (USA & Canada) zoom in and then click Terrain==>MyTopo.,-16.760195&t=t1&z=2

Visit his site at

Monday, May 9, 2011

Rita Chretien Survives 49 Days in the Backcountry

rita-and-albert-chretien-2010jpg-ed4ea8353fd0bde1.jpgRita Chretien was found on Friday afternoon in a remote area of northern Nevada after going missing for 49 days. Her husband, Albert Chretien is still missing.
By surviving 49 days in the wilderness, 56-year-old Rita Chretien has astonished survival experts. 

"I'm blown away," said Brian Wheeler, who is president and founder of the Northwest School of Survival in Sandy, Ore., a company that teaches survival classes throughout the Northwest.

In what some may call the best Mother's Day ever, her prolonged stay in a remote area of northern Nevada is a surprising feat of human endurance, one that Wheeler attributes to the shelter of the couple's 2000 Chevy Astro van and her attention to hydration. 

Wheeler, who has taught survival classes for more than 30 years, has trained near the remote high-desert area where the couple's van was found. With heavy precipitation, the area is harsh, he said, and even the most experienced survivalist would be challenged there, let alone survive for nearly two months. 

"She did a lot of things right -- enough things right -- she stayed with the vehicle, she stayed hydrated, rationing whatever food she did have and she didn't panic," he said. 
To read the complete story go here.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Backcountry Navigation for the Hunter

I just learned of Dick Blust's excellent series of articles on land navigation. I knew that they needed to be shared. 

Maps and Coordinate Systems 
Part 1 and 2 

by Dick Blust, Jr., photographs by Mark Furman


The technology available to us today in the form of GPS, combined with tools and resources used for centuries - map and compass - makes back country navigation for the serious hunter more feasible and field-practical than ever before. 
Back country navigation should mean more than being able to find your way back to camp or getting yourself sorted out when you're turned around. Regardless of species, hunting style, topography, or location the hunter can - indeed, should - integrate the aggregate resources of map, compass, and GPS directly into his hunting strategy. With GPS, the right compass, and the right map system, the hunter, trained and practiced in their interwoven use, can roam the back country at will, hitting chosen spots day or night. 

I've trained hundreds of fellow cops, rural firefighters, search and rescue volunteers and hunters in back country navigation, and over the years I've developed a hands-on navigation system for serious hunters that emphasizes practicality and utility above all else, focused on a theme of solving the problems most commonly encountered. 

To read the complete post go here.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Garbage Bag Shelter

Make a Garbage Bag Shelter Part of Your Survival Kit!

No it's not like your standard trash bag.  These are exceptionally strong and two compressed take up very little room in your day pack.

I’m not sure how the early settlers along the Oregon Trail or the western frontier  got along without duct tape, WD-40 or trash bags, but life surely would have been easier with them!
Trash  bags, in particular, are included in all my survival kits. They have a multitude of uses, including being containers for picking up trash! But in an emergency,  when correctly used, trash bags can prove a quick, temporary shelter from the elements.

This 55-gallon trash can liner can provide a quick emergency shelter. (All photos by Peter Kummerfeldt)

I first noticed this trash bag shelter use  at an Iowa State University football game in the early 70s. The weather got really bad during the half, with snow, rain and wind. But one row of die-hard Cyclones pulled out a roll of plastic trash bags, cut holes for their heads and arms, and weathered the storm. I don’t recall how the football team did!

Since then, I’ve taken shelter in trash bags on a variety of outdoor activities. Trash bags are particularly valuable on hunting trips, because a large bag gives you a place to lay meat while you’re butchering.

To read the rest of Leon's post go here.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Northwestern Outdoors Radio Show

For hikers, hunters and anglers in the Pacific Northwest there is a great weekly radio show that you should be aware of.  John Kruse produces and hosts this fine program.

Check out this link to the Northwestern Outdoors for schedule and affiliate stations.  In the Bend area John's show airs on Saturday mornings at 6:00AM on 1110am.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Baseline Navigation

A baseline is a feature that you will find on a map.  A baseline can be a road, stream or trail.  It is a simple form of map and compass navigation to help you return to camp.

Even if you have a GPS give this a try!!!

By Blake Miller
Early in the morning the hunter hiked north from camp to Mahogany Butte.  With an hour of light left it was time to return.  He had his day pack with map and compass and he knew how to use them.  But he didn’t have a GPS.  The wooded terrain around him didn’t lend itself to triangulation with a compass.  So what was he to do?  If he was paying attention to his navigation before leaving camp at dawn he was all set.   All he needed to do was to return to the base line.
Returning to a baseline is a pretty straight forward concept.  The idea is that you leave camp from a known location and strike out in a specific direction such as North, or 000°.  When it is time to return aim to the left or right of camp (like 165°T), hit the logging road camp is on and turn right.  That is the concept but there is a bit more to it.
Let’s go over the tools you need and the process of how it works in more detail.
To learn more about baseline navigation go here.