Map, Compass & GPS

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

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Maps for Your GPS

Here is a link to the GPS File Depot

Lots of information and maps.  Many of the maps are free.

While you are on the site take a look at the forums for information about quick fixes to many of the Garmin receivers out there.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Poisonous Flowers and Plants

I have never been an expert on the flora and fauna of my surroundings.  I can do better.

I recently received a very nice email from the teacher of a group of young people working on a survival project.  They have used some of the references off my web site ( for their project. 

Best of all, during the course of their research they also found a site on the poisonous flowers and plants in the backcountry.  This site offers a collection of links to other web sites.  Many are links to universities.

Great information.  Thanks guys.

To check out this site go here.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Air Ambulance Support

Air Ambulance Membership-Is it worth it?  Is it too expensive?  Or, is it just right?
I have no problem justifying to myself spending money for hunting tags and fishing equipment.  My wife thinks it crazy that I hesitate at the thought of purchasing an air ambulance service membership.  I mean- how many extra shells and lures could I get for that same expense?  I argue that the chance of needing such a service is few and far between. But truthfully, every now and then I hear a story that easily could be any of us.
Take Bob and his good fishing friend Jason.  They were fly fishing on a beautiful river in Eastern Oregon.   While sitting on the bank and tying on a new fly, Bob experienced excruciating pain that began to radiate throughout his chest. He was certain he was having a heart attack.
It turned out that an air ambulance was critical for Bob’s survival.  Accompanying Bob on his flight to Boise was a critical care flight nurse and a respiratory therapist.  Bob survived his ordeal, attributing the superb care he received in flight as a major factor to his outcome.
This brings us back to my wife’s point.  In Central Oregon, with air ambulance membership, an entire family is covered for only $58.00 a year. Bob, if he didn’t have a membership, would be paying anywhere from $15,000-$30,000 for a single trip. Do the math. That’s one heck of a lot of shells and lures. Not to diminish the added value of having me around for additional hunting seasons too.
How many of us bring our buddies, kids and loved ones with us during an outing? Why do we always pack a First Aid kit? We don’t plan on having to use it, but it sure is nice to have it if needed.  So, how does a responsible backcountry traveler prepare?
An air ambulance service is a very viable option. AirLink is the service in Bend, Oregon.
Earlier this summer, I visited with Stacy Durden of Saint Charles Health Care in Bend. It was a very illuminating conversation.  I learned that AirLink is a contracted component to the hospital’s critical care service program.  AirLink provides helicopter service on site at the hospital and has two fixed wing aircraft at the local air port. The stats are impressive. Routinely, three to four missions are flown daily with over 12,000 missions annually. Since beginning flight operations in 1985 AirLink has transported over 20,000 patients.  I asked Stacy what a hunter or hiker should do in an emergency. Her response was don’t delay making a phone call to 911.  Those initial minutes in an emergency are precious.  Be crystal clear what the situation is. Emergency 911 Dispatch will coordinate and determine what assets to send. Geographic coordinate information (e.g., Latitude and Longitude) from a Global Positioning System receiver and a geographic reference (e.g., the south shore of Suttle Lake) is very helpful. Having a fully charged cell phone is a big plus as you may receive several calls from the 911 dispatch center and other first responders. Though hunter fatality numbers are generally low, the experience and skills an air ambulance crew brings to an emergency is significant. Think how many times do you go out into the woods hiking, fishing or just camping; ever have an unplanned situation come up?  What about the travel time on the highways and over the passes-if a knucklehead crosses the line and rams into you? Do you want to chance that critical time to save you or your child’s life?
The response talent is absolutely the best. Crew assignments flex to patient requirements. Critical care, respiratory therapist, and even neonatal nurses are available. Pilots commonly have years of fight time and are exceptionally experienced; many are former military aviators.
I found it comforting to know that AirLink has reciprocal coverage with other services in the Northwest such as Portland’s Life Flight Network.  Membership runs $58 annually for the family, including children away at school. Extended family (such as a mother-in-law) permanently living with the member’s family are covered too. In an emergency, the patient’s insurance will cover part of the service costs; membership covers the balance.
For my family, the $58 family membership is worth the cost. It doesn’t rust, need maintenance or replacement batteries. It is a great deal for the investment - just remember to reload it every year.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Buying a GPS for Christmas

Are you shopping for a new GPS receiver this Christmas?  Looking to buy one for a spouse or friend?  Here are a few suggestions to keep in mind.

The Holiday Season is a great time to start looking for a new GPS.
Manufactures are offering discounts and coupons can be found on line.  Search the Internet for sales promotions and the ads in the Sunday paper.  I will occasionally use to establish a price baseline.
Keep in mind that some models with good discounts could very well be out of production.  Evaluate what your needs are and if the price is right and the receiver fits all your requirements, then you are set.
One web site to take a look at is  I found this site recently via Twitter. is packed with information on what’s new and happening in the world of GPS.  Importantly, at the top of the page, click on “buyers guide” and then select the category that fits your requirements (e.g., auto, outdoors, etc.)
I think the recommendations provided are spot on the mark.
For example, in the realm of “Budget GPS for hikers” the Garmin Venture HC is recommended.  There are less expensive units on the market but for the dollar/pound you do get a lot for the money.  Importantly it offers a color screen, is USB capable (upload and down load data) and accepts detailed topographic maps.
The Garmin Oregon 450 is recommended as the mid-range receiver for hikers.  The Oregon provides a touch screen display, barometric altimeter, an electronic compass and very capable mapping and imaging systems are available for download.
What would I avoid? I won’t buy a used GPS or one that has been refurbished.
I want a model that allows me to:
·         Enter many waypoints
·         Edit waypoints
·         Manually enter waypoints (example: your friend provides you the coordinates to a wonderful place next to a bubbling brook for a camping site)
·         Many map datum selection options
·         Will accept topographic maps.
·         Those with less steady hands might consider are receiver with buttons on the front.  Test this in the store or borrow a friend’s.  Ditto for touch screen models.
·         Up load and download GPS waypoints and track data.
If I had to, options could I do without:
·         An electronic compass
·         A touch screen display
·         A barometric altimeter
Good luck in your search for that new GPS!!!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Kummerfeldt In Africa

Peter Kummerfeldt is a survival expert and a master story teller.  He is not verbose and gets right to the story!  Lions at 50 feet, oh sure, that happens all the time.  This is from his blog:

The evening started rather unspectacularly with not much being seen except a few impala. Long after dark the spotter saw some eyes that turned out to be two, and then three lions about fifty yards away. When turning off the road to get closer the driver didn’t see a very large warthog hole into which the front end of the Land Cruiser disappeared! The lions came closer. The driver got out to see what could be done about the situation while the spotter tried to keep tabs on the lions and at the same time illuminate the hole so that the driver could see what needed to be done. What was hilarious was watching the antics of the two staff trying pay attention to the whereabouts of the cats while at the same time fend off the insects which were attracted to the headlights and the spot light. It had rained earlier in the day - the flying ants were swarming and the air was thick with beetles and other assorted insects that crawled all over the driver and his helper. It got so bad they had to cease their efforts to get us unstuck and go into the dark and strip off their clothing to rid themselves of the insects. For the four of photographers sitting in the back of a completely open vehicle in the dark it was both scary and hilarious at the same time. Because we were mostly in the dark the bugs didn't bother us as much as the others.
To read the rest of his post and view his wonderful pictures go here.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

GPS Web Site

Check this web site out for a lot of information on GPS receivers.

I found this new website out on Twitter the other day.

Very comprehensive.

Gear reviews, updates and lots of technical data.

Visit GPS Track Log for more info. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

GPS Electronic Compass

What interferes with your GPS receivers compass?

Even an experienced hiker will forget about gear that is carried in the field that potentially impacts a digital electronic compass.  While teaching a community college class on land navigation a student asked me what affects a GPS receiver’s electronic compass? This was a great question and offers an opportunity to assess equipment.
In my map and compass (magnetic) navigation class I make a point of discussing the care that should be taken while handling a compass.  A rifle barrel, flash light, radio and other metal and electronic bodies will impact the compass’ magnetic needle.  To see this first hand, move a flashlight next to a compass and the needle will move noticeably.

It never occurred to me that my digital compass would behave similarly.
In November while elk hunting and camping east of Oregon’s Cascades mountain range, I decided to check this out.
To read the rest of the post go here

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Night Travel

What should you consider if you must travel at night in the wilderness?

The day started clear and bright as the hikers left the trail head near Newport, Oregon. The temperatures were to be moderate most of the day with slight cooling in the evening. They pressed on determined to reach the summit before twilight. After reaching the summit at dusk, the group started to make their way back to the trail head as fog began to roll in. Within an hour the darkness was becoming a problem and the safety of continued travel became questionable.
So what are some basic considerations for night time travel and navigation in the backcountry?
First, let us consider that we are not in a “lost hiker” scenario. If lost, the best thing to do is to just stay where you are. This makes the job much easier for the searchers.
Further, recommendations are based on the concerns and issues of hiking when it is really dark, not during the period of a full moon with some ambient light.
One of the key factors in this situation is to have an understanding of the physiology of the eye. Our eyes are designed to provide optimal performance during periods of light. The components of the eye (the retina, rods and cones) are arranged specific to their function. The cones are the discriminators of fine detail and color. Cones are the most effective in light, and are located near the center of the eye interior. In complete darkness, a cones’ effectiveness is significantly reduced. Rods are located on the periphery of our interior eye, are not fine detail discriminators and have a higher sensitivity to low light levels. Rods are important to our night time vision.

To read the complete post go here.