Map, Compass & GPS

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

Friday, October 28, 2011

Topo Maps - Update

Here is a wonderful site to check out on Topo Maps!!!

I am currently teaching a Navigation Class (a 3 credit class) at my local community college.

While preparing for my class on topographic maps I came across this fine power point presentation from the "World of Teaching." 

The power point presentation is FREE and provides a nice overview on topographic maps.

Go here for the presentation; Maps.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Alcohol Stove Review

Hikin Jim has written another excellent post on what is a simple and reliable alcohol stove.

Alcohol stoves seem to be the darling of anyone trying to “lighten up” in terms of their pack weight. Just one problem: There are so many alcohol stoves out there, how can anyone make sense of them all?

Some stoves are fussy and hard to work with. Others are unstable, more likely to spill than to cook your dinner. Still others take forever and the slightest breath of wind robs them of all their heat. While I want to lighten up as much as the next guy, I want a stove that works. There are some good stoves out there, and I’ve “done the math” to pick one out, which is presented below.

But before I go on, let me say that alcohol stoves aren’t for everybody. Most alcohol stoves do only one thing well: boil water. If you’re a gourmet cook, you may as well skip this article. But if you’re seriously trying to lighten your pack, my pick for an alcohol stove is worth a read. With a lightweight stove setup like this one, I’m able to get a typical fair weather weekend load down to under twenty-five pounds including food and one liter of water. That’s without cutting any comforts. If I want to start really scrimping, I can go even lower.

To read the rest of this post go here.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Sharpening Your Knife

What works to sharpen my knives?  This is what works for me.

My friend Leon recently wrote a fine post about what knife to carry in your pack.  He provided several recommendations.

This post supplements Leon's by discussing how to keep that knife sharp.   What kind of knife sharpener I would want in my pack.

There is no better way to spark a campfire discussion than to offer your suggestion on what is the best knife sharpener or sharpening system.   Opinions vary greatly.  There will be lots of experts.   My intent is to discuss what works for me.

Over many years I have experimented with an electric sharpener, wet stones, ceramic sticks and steels.  Most were satisfactory but I was looking for something that was portable, consistently provided a keen edge, worked well both in the field and kitchen and didn't require a box to keep all the implements together.  I sought a tool that would sharpen quickly.  I was not looking for a tool that would turn my knife into a razor.   I was looking for something simple.

At a Outdoor Show in 2005 I bought a sharpener made by Edge Maker (visit   I liked it so well that I purchased several as gifts.

The price was less than $20.00.

The model to the left has crossed metal sticks that you pull through.  One set sharpens your knife blade; it gets you started.  The other hones the blade and is the final step.  As I pull or draw my knife's blade I'll vary the pressure so that at the end I apply minimal pressure while honing.  I've used this system on my German kitchen blades, my hunting knives and most recently on a Case kitchen knife purchased at a local thrift store. 

It there a draw back?  The first worth discussing is that with an extremely dull and beat up knife you will pull some metal away from the blade.  If the knife is in really tough shape consider that you are restoring the bevel to the blade.  Second, the crossed metal sticks can develop flat spots.  The manufacturer's packaging discusses how to fix this by using a process actually twists the metal sticks.  That said, I have used my set on many, many knives and have yet needed to accomplish this repair.

Similar to the Edgemaker product is a tool called the Hunter Honer.   

The first noticeable difference is that it is compact and takes up far less space than the Edgemaker sharpener.  I have sharpened a few knives with fine results.  This model offers two methods of sharpening the blade.  The first is to dry hone the steel as you would with the other unit.  Pulling the knife through with modest pressure.  The other options is to use a small amount of honing oil (provided with the sharpener) to develop and even sharper edge.

The suggested retail price is $29.00.

Leon's article can be found here.

Topo Maps - Your Key To The Backcountry

A quality topograhic (topo) is your key to backcountry navigation.  Coupled with a compass and GPS, a topo is an important planning tool that identifies land features, contours, trails and resources.

Reviewing a topographic map is usually the starting point for the planning of any back country trip.  A topographic map is your road map to the outdoors.  It provides you detailed information at a scale that is meaningful and detailed.  For years, the US Geologic Survey (USGS) has been the principal publisher of accurate maps.  Within the last decade we have seen many innovations in mapping products that include new mapping companies and publishers, software, maps for the GPS, and “Apps” for the iPhone.

Still, the USGS map remains the standard for back country navigation (visit the USGS’s site at   I’d also recommend looking at June Fleming’s “Staying Found” or Bjorn Kjellstrom’s “Be Expert With Map & Compass.”  Once you develop a map foundation you will easily shift to many of the other products on the market today. 

Many publications, videos, and web sites will give you a complete rundown on the features, symbols and components to a map.  This article will discuss a few of the key features that you should be aware on a 7.5 minute map.

To read the rest of the post go here.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Right Knife For Your Pack

Best Choices for Backpacking Knives

by Leon Pantenburg

Elk Lake, Oregon is one of the major re-supply places for through hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail. Every year, a handful of long-distance hikers will walk border-to-border on the trail. They generally start in Mexico in April, and start trickling in to the Elk Lake Resort about August, en route to Canada.

I was eating lunch, and noticed a young lady trekker loading her pack for the next section. She had opened her re-supply box, sliced a chunk of cheese, opened several large packages and cut a shoelace, all with her tiny, Classic Swiss Army knife.

“It’s all you need,” she commented. “I have to go lightweight and I don’t carry an ounce that isn’t needed.”

I carry a Swiss Army Classic on my keyring everywhere. (To read my review of the Swiss Army Classic, click here.   And for lightweight hikers, who go long distances with minimal equipment, a Classic may be a reasonable choice. On a well-traveled trail like the Pacific Crest or Appalachian, you’ll seldom be isolated from other hikers for very long.

But that doesn’t mean you don’t need a knife for backpacking. Get separated from the group, off the beaten path in the backcountry, or in some sort of wilderness survival situation and you may desperately need the appropriate knife.

If I could only pick one tool to take along in the wilderness, it would be a knife. The uses are limited only by your imagination. But which one is best for your backpacking needs? How do you balance weight versus practicality?

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

Friday, October 14, 2011

Compass Navigation

Topic Two: Moving Through the Backcountry.  This post deals with the considerations a hiker should take while navigating and moving through the wilderness.
Before leaving for a backcountry trip, there are three important steps to accomplish before leaving home. First, tell someone where you are going and when to expect your return.  Second, leave a map of your planned route with that responsible person and in your vehicle. Third, fill out the trip plan I have posted on my web site at; the trip plan stays with the responsible person.  As a Search and Rescue volunteer I have learned that these key steps can make a huge difference in you having to spend an unplanned night in the woods and being found----especially if you incur an unexpected injury or loss of communication.
The following are suggestions to consider before and during a trip into the backcountry.
While compass accuracy is important, many underestimate the topographic map as a key component in backcountry navigation.  I recommend carrying a set of maps that include a 7.5’ United States Geological Survey (USGS) map and a map like a United States Forest Survey map.  The USGS map gives me the detail information of the immediate area while the other map covers a much broader area.  I look for significant land features that will surround my direction of travel.  Features such as distinct mountain peaks, a stream, and a ridge line are just of few topographic “hand rails” that can help.  For example, if a large stream is to be on your right and it’s not there, it is time to double check your navigation picture.
Figure 1
Additionally, every hiker must account for declination before leaving the trailhead.  I like to keep my navigation simple and personally use a compass that can be adjusted for declination such as the Brunton 8010G.  This way I don’t have to worry about the math (do I add easterly declination or subtract it?)  Declination information found at the bottom of a topographic map is frequently out of date.  Check the web site to obtain the declination for the location you will be visiting.  For more detailed information on declination visit
To read the rest of the post go here.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Getting Your GPS Ready For Your Fall Hunt

Tune up your GPS before you leave for the woods.  "Dump the junk" and be ready for the backcountry.

With Elk season approaching, last month was range time with my favorite rifle.  I spent several hours sighting-in that rifle and testing my preferred reloads.  Altogether, I’ve spent probably five hours shooting, adjusting and cleaning my firearm.  Then I am spending time getting gear together, going through my check list to make sure I won’t leave anything behind.  I am all done right; wrong.

If I am like the average hunter I am only about 90% complete.  To ensure that all my preparations are done correctly I need to factor in my land navigation.  I have a few suggestions to get your GPS receiver ready for your trip.
  • “Dump the Junk” – Delete those old waypoints from last year. Save old waypoints on your PC by using a free program found at, or write them down on a piece of paper. Don’t use your GPS as a filing cabinet.
  • Open the GPS’s main menu option and then select tracks. Select the option that allows you to clear your tracks or track log. Tracks are what folks call the “bread crumb” trail and can be seen on your map page.
  • Visit your receiver’s manufacture’s web site to see if there are any software updates. You won’t improve the maps that may have come preloaded but upgrades will improve the efficiency of your receiver’s operation. Only download the upgrade that specifically matches your GPS.
To read the rest of the post go here 

    Monday, October 10, 2011

    The Hiker's Checklist

    This is a fine article by Matthew Sturdevant from the Hartford Courant.

    Just what should the hiker carry in the backcountry?

    On a vivid day last fall as the leaves ripened to their fiery hues my fiancee, Susan, and I hiked through woods nearTerryville.

    Our itinerary was explained simply in an online hiking guide: walk in, hike a loop for a few miles and return to our starting point. Trouble is, the trail markers we were supposed to follow were about as common as fallen leaves zigzagging in a labyrinth through the woods. A few hours later and we had wandered into another county — ending up on Johnny Cake Mountain Road in Burlington.

    It was dusk. No way were we going back into the woods to retrace our steps. Following the road back to our car would take more than a couple of hours because there is no direct route. We took the easy way out and called a friend for a ride.
    I didn't expect to get lost during such a short day hike in a patch of Connecticut woods. As an Eagle Scout raised in a camping family and a wilderness canoe guide for five summers in Maine, I thought nothing of a short afternoon jaunt in the Nutmeg State. We couldn't possibly stray too far, right? Wrong.

    To read the rest of Matthew's article go here.

    Oregon Hunter Rescued

    Oregon hunter rescued from the Mount Jefferson Wilderness.  Thankfully they had all the right gear.

    PORTLAND, Ore. --

    The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue Team, along with Linn County Search & Rescue and the Deschutes County Search & Rescue Horse Team, undertook an all-day rescue effort for Mike McLaughlin, 59, of the Portland suburb of Clackamas, said Jefferson County sheriff's Capt. Marc Heckathorn.

    McLaughlin fell while hunting in the Jefferson Lake area late Friday afternoon, making it impossible for him to walk out with his son-in-law and hunting partner, Brett Yeager, Heckathorn said.

    Yeager helped him into a sleeping bag and tent and climbed down the mountain for help, taking about four hours along an overgrown trail, Heckathorn said.

    A plan was devised, and teams from Jefferson, Linn and Deschutes counties began the search at 6 a.m. Saturday. Teams went in by two different routes, utilizing parts of the Pacific Crest Trail. The first team reached McLaughlin at around 1 p.m., and he was evaluated by medics, Heckathorn said.

    The overgrown trail system in the area hampered rescue efforts, making the seven- to eight-mile trek very slow, the sheriff's captain said.

    McLaughlin was brought by horseback to the Cabot Lake Trailhead, where he arrived around 8 p.m., Heckathorn said. He then left the area in a private vehicle to seek additional medical assistance, Heckathorn said, adding that he was in stable condition.

    Yeager's father, Gary Yeager, said the two had gone up Thursday night and on Friday afternoon decided to switch locations.

    “They were all packed and ready to go when Mike just stepped funny,” he added. “He couldn’t put any pressure on it.”

    Brett Yeager then set the tent back up and made sure McLaughlin was in a sleeping bag and had plenty of food, then he started hiking back out.

    Monday, October 3, 2011

    Make A Survival Kit Part Of Your Wardrobe

    by Leon Pantenburg

    I hadn’t dumped a canoe in years, so unexpectedly entering the water just above the John Day River’s Clarno rapids was quite a shock. I righted myself, pointed my feet downstream and tried to follow the course originally set for the canoe.

    The Central Oregon rapids last about three-quarters of a mile, and we’d managed to hit a rock cross-ways right at the head.

    My wife, Debbie, paddling in front, was also thrown out of the canoe. Her head bobbed above the rapids as she navigated the whitewater.  Several minutes later, I pulled myself out in the slack waters of an eddy.

    From downriver, Debbie waved to show she was OK.  Picking my way over the rocks toward her, I did a mental inventory of my survival tools. Everything we had, all of our fishing, camping and survival gear, was headed downstream toward the Columbia River.

    It was a hot day, with no danger of hypothermia, and the other members of our float party were at the scene. Neither of us was injured, and it was not a survival situation.  But if we had been alone, here’s the survival tools we had left: I didn’t lose my hat, glasses or the GPS in my pocket.  But the Moro knife was gone from its sheath on my belt, and the butane lighter in my left front pants pocket had disappeared.  A whistle was attached to my life jacket . I had charcloth in a plastic bag, firestarter and my key ring survival gear, except for the flashlight, still worked.

    Debbie had a whistle, too, but her survival gear was somewhere downstream. But even soaking wet, we could have started a fire to warm up and signal for help.

    You could get dumped out of a canoe, thrown off a horse that runs away or be in a shopping mall or hotel when there is a power failure. In these cases, all you’ll have is a survival mindset and the tools in your pockets or on your person.

    But a little planning can help a lot if you make some basic survival tools part of your wardrobe.

    This is what I carry on a daily basis:

    These items are on a separate key ring that clips to my car keys or belt loop.
    Integrate these items into your wardrobe and "wear" them every day. You may be grateful you did!

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

    Only Three Words That Can Get You In Trouble

    The following post is from Peter Kummerfeldt.  Three words that can get a back country traveler in trouble quickly.

    NEVER SAY "I AM JUST....................."

    I spent this past weekend roaming around Rocky Mountain National Park photographing the glorious fall colors and the antics of the elk in the early stages of the rut.  I also spent time observing the thousands of people from all over the country there to participate in what has become an annual ritual.  With regard to the people I came home with two impressions. Firstly it amazed me how few people of those in the park over the weekend actually set foot on the ground and walked anywhere other than the few manicured walkways around two lakes.  The mentality seemed to be "If I can't drive there I ain't going there!" Secondly, of those that did get out of there car how few had given any thought to the possibility of how quickly the weather can change in the Rockies.  Other than those that were obviously headed out to climb the tall peaks the rest of the weekend warriors were under dressed, under equipped and under skilled to cope with a weather change - or any other emergency situation that might have occurred. Slip-on shoes, shorts and a tank tops were the name of the game.

    I have long maintained that the most dangerous trip that you can go on is the spontaneous "Let's take the kids for a walk this afternoon" type of trip. Little thought goes into the possibility of something bad happening and even less goes into the preparations needed to cope with an accident or incident that place people in danger. They fall into the "I am just............." trap! We're just going to drive up to Rocky Mountain National Park this afternoon and walk the loop around Bear Lake. What could possible go wrong? The sun's out. We won't be very far from the car and if we get in trouble we'll just call the ranger for help! A lot can happen and sometimes people die before help can arrive! Never say "I am just" going to do anything! Again, you are setting a trap for yourself. Instead, in anticipation of a trip stop for a moment and consider all of the "what ifs." Think about the things that might go wrong and ask yourself if you're ready to cope with the consequences of a walk-in-the-park. And if not then don't put yourself or the lives of your family or friends at risk.