Map, Compass & GPS

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

Sunday, March 31, 2013

89 Year Old Trail Angel Retires

A Pacific Crest Trail Angel retires after many years of helping hikers on the trail.

The following article is from the Bendbulletin.

If a backpacker doesn't know what a Trail Angel is read this article.

From the Bendbulletin by Alandra Johnson:

Lloyd Gust fell in love with the Cascade Range the first time he saw it.

He was a teenager driving a beat-up truck full of tomatoes from Eugene to Bend in the 1930s. Gust got to McKenzie Pass and was so struck by the beauty of the mountains that he decided to explore and never made it all the way to Bend. “I really fell in love with The Sisters," said Gust.

That passion for nature — and the Three Sisters in particular — has never wavered in Gust, now 89. He and his late wife, Barbara, hiked the entire Pacific Crest Trail, from the Mexican border to the Canadian border.

It's more than 2,600 miles of beautiful — and sometimes brutal — trail that winds through the Mojave Desert, the high Sierras and the Cascade Range, including the Three Sisters.
“I hiked it almost all my life," said Gust, who settled in Bend.

When he could no longer backpack and hike, Gust started volunteering to help other hikers who were passing through the area along the PCT.

Gust helped about 300 hikers a year, driving some to get medical attention and helping others find a good local pub. He was what is known as a trail angel, one of the most well known on the PCT.

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

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Map Reading - All About Benchmarks

Topographic Map Benchmarks.  Read my post at
 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.

LifeStraw Water Filter Review

I’m always on the alert for ways to shave ounces from my backpack. Cutting water weight is one option, and the LifeStraw Portable Water Filter can really help.

by Leon Pantenburg

I started backpacking about four decades ago and don’t intend to ever quit. But a complete knee replacement four years ago, and an unwillingness to get left behind on Boy Scout backpacking overnighters means lightweight gear is not optional.
The LifeStraw Water Filter is easy to carry and effective.

This Central Oregon high desert spring is the only water source for miles. The water will require clarification and purification before using.
This Central Oregon high desert spring is the only water source for miles. The water will require clarification and purification before using. (Pantenburg photo)

I’ve pared ounces wherever possible. Cooking is handled by a biomass-fueled product such as the Solo Stove or, more recently, the Kelly Kettle Trekker. Neither of these stoves require carrying fuel, so the weight savings could be impressive. I use a lightweight tarp whenever practical, and carry freeze dried food.

To read the rest of Leon's post and to learn the pro and con of the LifeStraw go here.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Weather Forecasting: Thunderstorms

The following is my latest post found at  This post is about backcountry forecasting thunderstorms.

In the backcountry, weather forecasting is an important skill for the hiker to have. Learning the basics is an important first step.

Previously, I posted a short article about using your GPS to monitor barometric pressure while in the backcountry and think it worthwhile to cover a few other topics concerning in-the- field observations starting with thunderstorms.

Let me begin by stating that forecasting begins at home. Monitor your local cable channels and radio stations to get a broad, general idea of the weather conditions before an outing. Further refine that information by checking Internet sources such as Weather Underground and the National Weather Service’s site.

To read the rest of the post go here.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Backcountry Survival Training with Kummerfeldt

If you are looking for a quality backcountry survival training program check Peter Kummerfeldt's program below.  Dates are June 13-17.

by Peter Kummerfeldt

I’d like to put in a pitch for the outdoor safety class that Ralph Wilfong and I teach for the US Forest Service each year at the Nine Mile Heritage Center in Huson, Montana. This is the only class I teach where I set the date and invite others to attend. Normally I go wherever I am invited to speak, present the class and then go back to Colorado.

Land navigation and practical wilderness survival skills will be emphasized at the camp. (Peter Kummerfeldt photos)
The class is five days long. Two and half days of survival training followed by two and a half days of of map, compass and GPS training. I lead the survival phase and Ralph leads the navigation phase.
It is a very comprehensive program and, by the time you graduate, you will have a very solid foundation in those skills you need to survive an unplanned night out and the knowledge and skills to effectively navigate the back country.

For more information go here.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Stay Safe While Hiking in HOT Weather

What do you consider when hiking in really, really hot weather?  Do you know the signs of heat stress?  What should you do.

The following article was forwarded by outdoor enthusiasts and guides Georgia and Rylie. 

Heat Safety & Heat Wave Dangers in America

When the human body is taxed beyond more than it can handle, excessive heat can lead to death. During the summer, heat kills around 175 Americans every year. Of all the natural hazards, nothing takes a greater toll on people other than winter colds. From 1936 to 1975, almost 20,000 individuals in America lost their lives due to solar radiation and heat. There were over 1,250 people who died in the 1980 heat wave. Summers in North America are hot and, although the heat may be different depending on the region, it can be very, very dangerous. Fortunately by knowing the symptoms and signs of heat-related illnesses and understand how to properly treat heat disorders, we can help prevent more heat-related fatalities.

To read the rest of the post go here.

To read a related post from NOAA go here.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Wolf Attacks Woman

A wolf reportedly attacks a Canadian woman.

From the CBCNews of Canada:

There are puncture wounds on both sides of Dawn Hepp's neck.There are puncture wounds on both sides of Dawn Hepp's neck. (Courtesy Dawn Hepp)
A Manitoba woman credits a childhood lesson for saving her life when she was attacked and bitten by a wolf at the side of a highway.

Dawn Hepp was driving along Highway 6 near Grand Rapids on March 8 when she pulled over to help another driver.

When she walked over to the car, a wolf lunged at her.

To read the complete post of the attack go here.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Ranger Bands

Ranger Bands - Light weight and useful in your day pack.

Ranger Bands are nothing more than  small sections of bike inner tubes cut across the tube.  These bands are a larger variant of the common rubber band but much stronger.

At Christmas a good friend gave me a very compact fire starting kit in a small tin box.  A ranger band surrounded the outside of the box and kept it closed.  I'd never seen one before.

These bands are supposed to have been  popularized by use in the military; I don't have any thing to back that up.

"Ranger bands are essentially sections of tire inner tubing cut into various sizes. They have the advantage of being versatile, durable, and resistant to weather and abrasion. They are commonly used for lashings, and can also be used for makeshift handle grips, providing a strong high-friction surface with excellent shock absorption."  - Wikipedia

I would caution that with age rubber product loose their strength.  Check the bands occasionally.

Commonly you can get a used tube free at bike shops; with a hole in it no doubt.

These bands are handy and straight forward to use.  Like a common rubber band, it is nice to have one available when you need them.

Here are a few YouTube links for more information:


Saturday, March 16, 2013

Pacific Northwest Earthquake

The following article is about a recent study regarding the Cascadia Earthquake. 

From: The Associated Press

Written by Lauren Gambino

Northwest quake would kill thousands, study’s authors tell Oregon Legislature

SALEM — More than 10,000 people could die when — not if — a monster earthquake and tsunami occur just off the Pacific Northwest coast, researchers told Oregon legislators Thursday.

Coastal towns would be inundated. Schools, buildings and bridges would collapse, and economic damage could hit $32 billion.

These findings were published in a chilling new report by the Oregon Seismic Safety Policy Advisory Commission, a group of more than 150 volunteer experts.

In 2011, the Legislature authorized the study of what would happen if a quake and tsunami such as the one that devastated Japan hit the Pacific Northwest.

The Cascadia Subduction Zone, just off the regional coastline, produced a mega-quake in the year 1700. Seismic experts say another monster quake and tsunami are overdue.

To read the complete article go here.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Garmin Oregon 600 GPS

Here is a review of Garmin's newest in the Oregon series by Rich Owings.

As we predicted, Garmin is updating their Oregon handheld line by adding GLONASS capabilities. But they didn’t stop there; the newest Oregons have a bevy of new features and improvements. Read on for the details.


We’re in love with the awesome accuracy of the newest eTrex units, and now Garmin has brought GLONASS support to the Oregon series. According to Garmin:
When using GLONASS satellites, the time it takes for the receiver to “lock on” to a position is (on average) approximately 20 percent faster than using GPS. And when using both GPS and GLONASS, the receiver has the ability to lock on to 24 more satellites than using GPS alone.
To read the rest of his post go here

As an aside, I talked to a reviewer about the Oregon 600.  He confirmed Rich Owings comments.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Navigating a Topo Map

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 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 complete post go here.



Sunday, March 10, 2013

Viking Sunstone Found

A crystalline sunstone believed to have been used as a Viking Navigation aid was recently identified.

From the National Post Staff:

Researchers believe they may have in their possession a fabled Viking “sunstone” — an fabled device which let the ancient mariners navigate the ocean.

The honed crystal was found in a wreck in the English Channel 30 years ago, but was only recently tested by a team of scientists at the University of Rennes in France. This came after earlier research that suggested sunstones were in fact Icelandic Spars, a unique form of transparent calcite which can double refract light.

It was with that discovery that the team realized the small spar found in the wreck could have been the mythic navigation tool.

To read the complete article go here.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

GPS Mapping

Visit GPS File depot for free maps for your Garmin receiver.

Solar Activity

Solar Activity impacts the operation of GPS receivers.  This was to be a year of significant solar activity.  It's quiet right now.
The following post is from the UK's Mail online. 
By Mark Prigg

'Something unexpected' is happening on the Sun, Nasa has warned.
This year was supposed to be the year of 'solar maximum,' the peak of the 11-year sunspot cycle. But as this image reveals, solar activity is relatively low.

To read the rest of this article go here.


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

An Unsuspecting Danger Along the Trail

Poison Hemlock is a deadly plant that grows around water sources.  It’s a killer.

Poison Hemlock is a plant that I have never paid much attention to.  It didn’t rank very high on my “need to know” list.  Recently, a seminar speaker discussed poison hemlock and its effects.  That caused me do a bit of investigation in my home state of Oregon.

Figure 1 Photo from

What I found out surprised me.  An invasive plant, Poison Hemlock is widespread throughout Oregon.  It can be found along streams, in pastures and irrigation canals.  Several deaths of livestock and people are attributed to this plant each year (check the Oregon web site for more information.)

The Oregon Department of Agriculture’s web site states:

Juice from the poison hemlock taproot and its crown are extremely poisonous….. It has also accidentally poisoned many who have mistaken it for parsley. Poison hemlock is considered to be one of the most poisonous plants in North America, and is often mistaken for water-parsnip or other edible members of this family.”


Figure 2 Photo by Bonnie Rasmussen, Oregon Dept. of Agriculture

My other online resource (Encyclopedia Britannica) for further states:

 The toxic alkaloid coniine, present throughout the plant, causes paralysis, loss of speech and depressed respiratory function with eventual asphyxia if gone untreated. Surprisingly, the mind remains unaffected until death.”

My recommendation:  Keep your hands off don’t touch it at all.  Don’t let anyone in your party put any part of poison hemlock in their mouth (as a young boy would put a piece of straw in his mouth.)
The attached video (below) is from the University of Wisconsin.  It gets a bit technical but it does a wonderful job of identifying this toxic plant.

Let Someone Know

When you head out on a trip into the back country do you let a responsible person know when you will return?  Do you explain what you are asking of them?

Before you leave home on a trip into the backcountry always ask a responsible person to be the one who will contact authorities should you fail to return.   This can be family or friend.  Most importantly, this will be someone reliable and one who won't hesitate to call 911.  This person won't ask someone else what to do, won't be "wishy washy" (is that a word) this is someone who will take action.  Select carefully.

Tell the responsible person what time to call authorities.

But your work is not done.  You need to provide them the information for 911 and Search as Rescue to do the job.  Frequently you'll read about leaving a note with the responsible person; that's not good enough.  Give them a trip plan of your travel.  Give the responders the details to effectively do their job.

Go here for a sample trip plan.

Remember to call that responsible person when you get home.

Friday, March 1, 2013

GPS "Track" Management

Have you noticed that trail on the map page that develops as you move in the backcountry?  That is the track. 

The GPS receiver function known as “Track” is an outstanding feature. Track information is displayed on the map page. The track is the historical record of the hiker’s path through the woods. As long as the receiver is powered on, the track provides a complete history of the journey. The track function must be activated to be used. On my Garmin 60 receiver, this is done by selecting the Main Menu, and then selecting an icon labeled “Tracks,” found in the upper left hand corner of the page.

To read the rest of the post click on the link below;