Map, Compass & GPS

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

Friday, August 31, 2012

A Hunter's Gear Checklist

As summer winds down with Labor Day approaching, a new group of backcountry travelers have moved into the woods – hunters.

All too often, Search and Rescue teams are tasked to locate folks that are lost, poorly prepared and are not carrying the right gear.  It’s carrying the right gear in the backcountry that I’d like to focus on for a moment.

Check lists for hunters abound on the Internet.  You can find suggested equipment checklists on forums and chat rooms, retailer’s and outfitter’s websites.  All good stuff.

Personally, I build my check list on the foundation established on the “ten essentials.” From the ten essentials I’ll add hunting specific items.  Here is what I use as my baseline:

  1. Navigation (map, compass & GPS)         
  2. Sun protection (Sun screen, sunglasses, a hat)
  3. Insulation (extra clothing, gloves, knit hat, a sit pad)
  4. Illumination (head lamp, flash light)
  5. First-aid supplies (Check with the Red Cross’ web site or McCann’s book listed below)
  6. Fire starting material (metal match, cotton balls soak with petroleum jelly, REI’s storm proof matches, BIC lighter)
  7. Repair kit and tools
  8. Nutrition (extra food)
  9. Hydration (extra water) & filtration system
  10. Emergency shelter (not a space blanket but a windproof water proof shelter, and a blue poly tarp)

I’ll then add hunting specific items to the list by including:

  1.  Communications (signal mirror, a SPOT or ACR locator beacon, cell phone)
  2.  Knife, saw and game bags
  3. Shooting sticks
  4. Surgical gloves
  5. Hunting license

I’ll take this list a step further by checking two of my favorite reference books:

  1. Surviving a Wilderness Emergency by Peter Kummerfeldt
  2. Build the Perfect Survival Kit by John D. McCann

The intent of carrying all this gear is that should you have to spend the unintended night or nights out you will be prepared. You may not be comfortable but you'll have far better odds at surviving.

I also recommend you involve children in the development of your family’s gear check list.  Listen to their recommendations.  Have them carry their gear too.  Start them early and teach them what you know.  Let them participate.

Have fun and be safe.       


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Garmin 450 T GPS

Not an endoresement but what a price.

Check the link below.  REI has a special (throught Sept 3) on the Garmin 450T.  $269.

For more information go here.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

An Ensolite Sit Pad

Leon's recent article about a sleeping pad talks about the use of the ensulite pad? For most hikers, the ensulite pad's days are numbered. Here is thought on another use for that old pad in your closet.

Leon's recent post (see below) on sleeping pads discusses the many options available to the hiker or hunter.

I am finding that most people are moving away from the old ensulite pads for the very reasons Leon outlines. Though inexpensive an ensulite pad doesn't provide a lot of warmth and comfort to the hiker.

Photo by Leon Pantenburg
Today I find myself buying the occasional pad for a new use, a sit pad.

A sit pad is a small piece of pad cut from the original that I will use while hiking, hunting and on SAR missions. Of course I am not getting the full benefit of the pad by cutting it down but I am not looking for something to lounge on either. The pad is used to provide my bottom something to sit on. The smaller pad will help keep me dry, keep rocks from poking uncomfortably in the wrong places and provide some insulation on a cold day.

The shape is a matter of personal choice. My pad is about a third to a half of the length of the original pad. I'll also cut down the sides too.

I can make two pads from one full length pad. I'll put one at the bottom of my SAR pack, day pack and hunting pack.

An old blue ensulite pad at the top of my hunting pack. Blake Miller
I find used pads at my local thrift store, garage sales (for pennies) and military surplus stores.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Sleeping Pad

Are you carrying a sleeping pad?  Does it work for you?  My friend Leon has a great post on what the hiker should carry.

Getting a good night’s sleep in the wilderness depends on a lot of variables. Don’t forget the sleeping pad!

by Leon Pantenburg

Several years ago, my wife bought me an insulated air mattress for backpacking. It was the Exped Downmat 7 and cost about $150. I thought the price exorbitant until the first use. I was at a January camp out in Oregon’s Cascades Mountains, my tent was pitched on ice, and all that was between me and the cold was the tent floor, the downmat and my sleeping bag. I slept like a baby.

I love sleeping under the stars, like on this summer backpack trip in Oregon’s Ochocco Mountains. While I will sometimes forgo my tarp or tent, I won’t leave my Downmat 7 behind! (Scott Langton photo)
I love sleeping out under the stars. While I will not use my tarp or tent, I won't forgo my Downmat 7!A vital part of your wilderness or camping experience is what you sleep on. Too thin, and your bed is hard and unyielding. An uninsulated standard air mattress can let the cold ground suck the heat right out of you.
Too large, and the sleeping pad becomes difficult to carry
and use.

To write this, I got some sleeping pad advice from Bob Patterson, an old friend and camping gear expert. (Check out his creds below!)

To read the rest of the post go here.

Friday, August 17, 2012

GPS In The Backcountry

From the New York Times - Opinion

When GPS Leads to S O S

Watertown, Mass.
THE proliferation of cellphones, satellite phones, emergency locator devices, GPS, and similar technology has led to an epidemic of backcountry rescues for people who have called for help they don’t need, risking the lives of rescuers in the process.
Search-and-rescue outfits around the country are grappling regularly with “false alerts” and novices’ getting in over their heads because they think gadgetry guarantees safety. More and more folks are carrying personal locator beacons, or P.L.B.’s, into the backcountry. With the push of a button they can send out an emergency distress signal, but no information about their predicament.

To read the rest of the article go here.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Knots in The Backcountry

Do you know the knots needed in the backcountry?  Here is  short post to get you started on the right track.

Last spring I had the opportunity to take an abbreviated wilderness survival course conducted by Emergency Response International (visit  One component of their presentation was emergency shelters.  Key to emergency shelter building is the ability to tie a reliable knot.

First, the hunter needs to carry shelter material.  This can range from a poly tarp (with numerous grommets) or one of the many nylon tarps sold through high end retailers such as REI.  A tarp of 8’ by 10’ is adequate.   Secondly, 50 feet good quality parachute cord is needed to tie the shelter to a tree or pole.  Quality parachute cord has a breaking strength of 500 pounds and can be found at a surplus store or on-online.  (There is some junk para cord out there so be careful with your selection.)

An excellent resource for knot tying is an online web site  This site offers downloadable apps for the smart phone and categorizes knots by topic (such as scouting, boating and fishing.  The instructions are concise and easy to understand.

There are hundreds of knots that the hunter can choose from.  I recommend learning just a few knots that expand beyond tying your boots or the square knot.

A great knot to start with is the timber hitch.  Wikipedia claims that the timber hitch was first mentioned in a nautical source around 1620. 

“The timber hitch is a used to attach a single length of rope a cylindrical object. Secure while tension is maintained, it is easily untied even after heavy loading.”


 The timber hitch is a friction knot.  The many wraps of rope or parachute cord hold firmly under tension.  It’s simple and easy to use and can be the anchor of a tarp.  Best of all, after being placed under tension it won’t become next to impossible to untie; we have all been there.

For complete instructions watch the video at animated knots:

Friday, August 3, 2012

Evaluating Back-Up Compass Models

See my latest post on evaluating a back-up compass on the SeattleBackpackersMagazine web site. 

Go here for the complete evaluation.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Oregon Eartquake

From the Oregonian.

Last year's Tohoku deadly earthquake and tsunami in Japan decimated a swath of the country. Across the ocean, Oregon escaped major damage.

But an earthquake of similar magnitude is in store for Oregon at some point, and scientists at Oregon State University have raised the warning flag again -- they predict it could be soon -- in a
new report. In fact, the probability of a major quake in the next 50 years could range as high as 40 percent.

To read the rest of the post go here.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Set-up Your GPS For The Fall Hunt

Is your GPS ready for the fall hunting season?  My post offers some suggestions to get the hunter set up for the fall.

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.

·        If you download maps on to your GPS make sure you have your hunt area installed in memory. 

·        Set up your map page on the GPS.  I’d recommend you set your zoom setting at 800 feet.  While you’re moving on foot to your hunting spot, 800 feet allows the GPS to provide a good amount of topography, trail and road information.

·        If you have a GPS with an electronic compass you will need to calibrate the compass each time you replace the batteries.  To do this, select menu while you are viewing the compass page.

·        Replace the AA batteries.  I’d suggest you get new batteries and save those old ones in the drawer for you kid’s electronic games.  If the receiver is powered on during the day, all day, be prepared to replace the batteries nightly.

My last preparation will focus on map and compass:

·        Long ago, I got rid of my cheap compass.  I replaced it with a Brunton 8010G.   This new GPS allows me to adjust the compass for declination.  (The angular difference between magnetic north and true north.)   Declination changes with time and the declination data found on your map key may very well be out of date.   You can find the declination for your hunt area at

·        I use a great software program made by MyTopo called Terrain Navigator.  Using this program I have all my 1:24,000 scale maps for my state on two DVDs; that is almost 2000 maps.  With that program I’ll print out the maps of my hunt area and then make several sets.  I leave one set at home with my family, a set for my hunting partner and an extra for myself.  If the weather looks questionable, the set I carry goes in a gallon zip lock plastic bag.  If you have questions about Terrain Navigator contact me through

Now I am ready to leave for hunting camp.