Map, Compass & GPS

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

Sunday, June 17, 2012

It Has To Work For You

During the course of teaching GPS classes for over 12 years and now wilderness survival I have become attached (so to speak) to a phrase, "It has to work for you."

There is nothing magic here. Nothing novel. Nothing original.

People enjoy talking about new technology, equipment or skills that they have learned. They are justifiably proud of their new knowledge.

A good friend got me very interested in using an alcohol stove while backpacking. It is economical, takes up little space and weighs but a few ounces. The problem is, that I can't get mine going reliably. I need more time with it to learn the basics; how simple can that be. But still, it is not working for me.

In SAR training two years ago, one team member told me how a computer mouse pad is great as a stove platform, in the snow while winter camping. So I try it out. I accidentally spill come Coleman white gas fuel on the pad. When I light the stove, of course the pad catches on fire; just great. The spot fire on the pad quickly burned out and just singed the top surface of the pad other wise it was just fine. This works for me.

There are a lot of books out there on backcountry travel and survival. Survival has become very popular. I suggest reading these with a critcal eye. If there is a particular technique or skill set that you want to adopt, test it at home first. Though the author may be on the speaking/sportsman show circuit, has his own cable show or is repeatedly on network news be critical. Remember, when you are in a jam, you are repsonsible for you.

Become cautious when reading old and dated material. For example, in the late 1960's I was given a copy of Colin Fletcher's book, "The Complete Walker." This book got me hooked on backpacking. That said, the book is based on lessons and experiences from almost fifty years ago. Doing some research and review of current methodology may be best.

Interestingly, I am hearing from my students more often, "I heard this was used by the Special Forces," or "I read in a magazine that this is what Special Forces do." Well, OK, but is that really true or better yet, is that important for your needs. It gets down to research and experience.

Let's consider land navigation. It is a practiced yet perishable skill. You need to be on your game. If you are the team navigator, you skill and techniques have to work for everyone.

So my point would be, as you prepare for a trip or hike, as you put new gear into your pack, test it in advance. Make sure it works for you.

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