Map, Compass & GPS

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

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Ten Essentials

This is not my first post about the "Ten Essential" but it is information worth repeating.  

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.

Garbage Bag Shelter

Is a garbage bag shelter part of your survival kit?

Just why would you put a garbage bag is your survival kit?

I don't. I use something that I think is better.

I am particular about my survival kit and it's components. I use several of the simple shelters made available from I carry one in my hunting day pack and my hiker's pack.

I don't use a garbage bag. I'll use two brightly colored, 4 mil bags. They weigh next to nothing. They are highly visible. Most importantly they provide a wind and water proof shelter. Don't think that such a shelter is going to be warm and "comfy." Think of them as an emergency shelter that will keep you out of the elements. It's all about maintaining 98.6.
Kummerfeldt has an excellent explanation is his book, "Surviving a Wilderness Emergency."

Take note that the shelter bag will be cut to provide an access for your head but your arms are kept inside with no opening for them.

I'll take this one step further. I'll take a large, 2-3 mil bags that are used by my local tire ship. These bags are folded and then compressed with a couple of heavy books. The bags are then put in a sandwich bag for storage in my pack. I'll use these bags to keep my pack and gear dry in a rain or snow storm. After one use I'll toss them.

Friday, September 21, 2012

A Hunter's Checklist

Have you built a hunter's checklist.  Here is a start.
Perhaps it is my navy training because I like checklists.  It is my security blanket; of sorts.

My rifle and day pack.
This morning while going through the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (ODFW) web page I came across a recommended hunter’s checklist.   Read the checklist by ODFW here.

It is a start.  This list is designed to be tailored to the hunter’s specific needs.  Per the website:

Below is a list of recommended items to take with you in the field. However, individual needs and preferences may require an individual to take more than the recommended items below. Use good judgment and remember: It is better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it!

A quick evaluation of items that I like:

·         Carry one full day of food

·         Map & Compass

·         $20 in cash (I hadn’t thought of that)

·         2 knives and a sharpening stone

There are more but those jump out.

I would add several items that include:

·         A GPS

·         Shelter to replace a space blanket

·         The Ten Essentials

·         Fire starter (more than matches)

·         My locator beacon (SPOT)

I’ll print out the ODFW list and compare it with my older list to ensure I’ve not forgotten anything.  That is the security mentioned earlier.

For another comprehensive checklist, visit Peter Kummerfeldt’s web page and click on “Contents of Outdoorsafe Daypack” found here.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Planning an Escape Route


For the last several days I have been working with my Search and Rescue (SAR) team on a forest fire in the Pacific Northwest. The team has helped to coordinate the potential evacuation of a small community and has worked with Forest Service staff to assist stranded hikers. Getting these hikers out safely has been a priority.

To read the rest of the post go here.

GPS Seminar

Heading to the Cabelas store in Springfield, Oregon to hold two GPS seminars this Sunday, Sept 23.  Seminars begin at 10:00 & 1:00.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Compass in Your GPS

Is your GPS set up correctly?  Does your GPS's electronic compass match with your magnetic compass?

The hunter is at the trail head ready to strike out for the back country.  The GPS receiver is powered on and is tracking 10 satellites.  The receiver’s batteries were replaced earlier at camp.  All looks good. 
The hunter marks a waypoint to record the location of trail head and truck. 

While moving down the trail, the hunter notices that the GPS receiver’s electronic compass just “doesn’t seem to look right.”  He checks his magnetic compass and confirms his direction of travel with the topographic map.  The GPS receiver's compass is about 15° off.  Not far from the trail head and with the hunter’s truck in view, he takes a bearing and neither magnetic compass nor the electronic compass match.

There are two considerations that need to take into account.

First, every time the GPS receiver’s batteries are replaced, the electronic compass needs to be calibrated.  It’s a simple process that requires a quick check of the owner’s manual.

Second, both the compass and GPS receiver must be set to complement each other.  For example, if the hunter has a basic base plate compass (one that cannot be adjusted for declination)  then the GPS receiver’s “north reference” must be set to magnetic.  If the hunter has a compass adjusted for declination then the receiver should be set to true north.  If compass and GPS receiver don’t match then the bearing information may be as much as 10° to 20° off.  That is not good.

I carry a Sylva Ranger style compass that can be adjusted for declination.  Before leaving home I visit to verify the correct declination for my planned hunt location.  With that information I adjust the compass.  Yes, the magnetic needle still points to magnetic north but the rotating dial provides degree/azimuth information in degrees true.  I’ll then set my GPS receiver’s “north reference” to true north.

Now my GPS and compass settings match my topographic map. That is the best way to do it.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Map Reading - All About Benchmarks

Check out my latest post at SeattleBackpackersMagazine.

When looking at a US Geologic Survey (USGS) map the hiker will find benchmark symbols sprinkled across the topo; these and the many other symbols provide the details of a map. Such symbols represent features such as mines, bridges, dams and many more items. To see a complete look at symbols visit the USGS site for more information.

To read the rest of the post go here.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Making Sense of Declination

Check out my post at about making sense of magnetic declination.

Go here to read the post.

GPS Waypoint Management - Dump the Junk

How do you manage your GPS waypoints --- hint: Keep your navigation really simple.  Fact --- it is easy to do!!!

Robin is one happy GPS user. He has owned his Garmin GPS 60 for two years. The Waypoint file is full of entries. He had recorded hunting trips, camping expeditions with the kids, a few geocaches, and of course the favorite fishing spot. His GPS receiver will hold 500 Waypoints and he has over 350 saved. What a collection of data. But is Robin really managing his Waypoints effectively?


Before getting to detailed lets understand just what a Waypoint is.  With your GPS powered on, the receiver in your hand receives position updates about once a second.  When you select "mark", that position information is automatically saved to memory.  This data is the latitude/longitude of your position, your coordinates. This position information is automatically tagged with a default number like 001.  Managing these tags is what waypoint management is all about.
Lots of things can happen to a Waypoint or data file. You can put data in. You can take data out. You can lose it (the GPS breaks or the wrong button entry is selected.) But be careful, far worse, too much data can make your navigation difficult.

In my land navigation class I stress keeping your navigation simple. Frequent and simple Waypoint management is essential to GPS use. When it’s time to return to the truck, it should be obvious what Waypoint to select.

Dump the junk before the start of a trip. As you leave the trail head your GPS should have only necessary data saved on your GPS. That Waypoint for the fishing hole is important but needs to be saved elsewhere.
To read the rest of this post go here.

Thursday, September 13, 2012


I've been away from my blog for the last week due to a forest fire in my near by National Forest.  I've been working with my SAR team to plan escape routes for a small community north of the fire.

A lesson learned by many of the 30 hikers extracted from the area was the need to plan an escape route before starting their trip.  More later.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Searching for Autistic Children

SAR folks:  The following is an interesting interview about searching for autistic children.  For the July OUTSIDE  magazine.

Professor Rescue
Christopher Keyes talks with Robert Koester, the renowned search-and-rescue specialist, about looking for autistic children and being involved in the hunt for Robert Wood Jr.
"Robert Koester, known affectionately as Professor Rescue, has been deeply involved in the search and rescue community since 1981. His 2008 handbook, Lost Person Behavior: A Search and Rescue Guide on Where to LookFor Land, Air, and Water is one of the most influential field manuals used by today’s SAR professionals. "
Read the rest of Christopher Keys article here.

Building a Fire - Scandinavian Log Candles

Want to make a long-lasting wooden “candle” for outdoor emergency lighting, warmth and cooking? All you need is a log and saw!
by Leon Pantenburg

It takes a lot of wood to build and maintain a bright, warm campfire. But what if there isn’t much wood available, you want to stay warm and also be able to see in the dark? One possibility might be to make a log candle.

These three Scandinavian log candles will provide light, warmth and a cooking area fro several hours. (Pantenburg photos)
These three Scandinavian log candles will provide light, warmth and a cooking area for several hours. (Pantenburg photos)

I was camped along a popular lake in Central Oregon recently and noticed a man at a campsite working on a four-foot long log. He had already done some work with a chainsaw, cutting six pie-shaped cuts about 18 inches lengthwise into the end of the log.

“It’s a Swedish candle,” he commented, while poking pine pitch into the saw cuts. “I’m making it for a wedding present.”

The idea, he said, is to make a controllable fire that provides warmth and light. The base doesn’t heat up, so the fire won’t melt down through the snow and put itself out.

To read the rest of Leon's post go here.  Be sure to watch his video at the end of the article.