Map, Compass & GPS

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

Monday, May 27, 2013

Topographic Mapping

Check out the USGS' new topographic maps.  See the article below written by Eric Gakstatter.

The United States Geological Survey announced that US Topo maps now have a crisper, cleaner design – enhancing readability of maps for online and printed use. Map symbols are easier to read over the digital aerial photograph layer whether the imagery is turned on or off. Improvements to symbol definitions (color, line thickness, line symbols, area fills), layer order, and annotation fonts are additional features of this supplemental release. Users can now adjust the transparency for some features and layers to increase visibility of multiple competing layers.

To read the complete post go here.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Snake Bites

Are you ready for rattlesnakes?  The following post is from a site that I just found:  This is great info as you head into the back country.

Be Rattlesnake Safe
05/22/13 -- As warm weather returns, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is reminding the public to be rattlesnake safe. All of California is snake country. Much like bats, rattlesnakes are often misunderstood. They play an important role in the ecosystem by keeping rodent populations under control.
California has six venomous snakes, all of which are various species of rattlesnake. They are heavy-bodied, blunt-tailed with triangular-shaped heads. A rattle may not always be present, as they are often lost through breakage and not developed on the young. Additional species information can be found here
California snakes, rattlesnakes, venom, outdoor precautions, bite, hiking, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, King snake, poison
Rattlesnakes are generally not aggressive and usually strike when threatened or provoked. Given room, they will retreat and want to be left alone. They are not confined to rural areas and have been found in urban environments, lakeside parks and golf courses.
The best protection against unwelcome rattlesnakes in the yard is to have a “rattlesnake-proof” fence. The fence should either be solid or with mesh no larger than one-quarter inch. It should be at least 3 feet high with the bottom buried a few inches in the ground.
Keep the fence clear of vegetation and debris. Encourage and protect kingsnakes, which prey on rattlesnakes, and other natural competitors like gopher snakes and racers.
On rare occasions, rattlesnakes can cause serious injury to humans. Most bites occur between the months of April and October when humans are most active outdoors. The California Poison Control Center notes that rattlesnakes account for more than 800 bites each year in the U.S. with one to two deaths.
CDFW recommends the following outdoor safety precautions:
  • Wear hiking boots and loose-fitting long pants.
  • Never go barefoot or wear sandals when walking through wild areas.
  • When hiking, stick to well-used trails.
  • Avoid tall grass, weeds and heavy underbrush where snakes may hide during the day.
  • Do not step or put your hands where you cannot see, and avoid wandering around in the dark.
  • Step ON logs and rocks, never over them, and be especially careful when climbing rocks or gathering firewood.
  • Remember, rattlesnakes can swim so never grab “sticks” or “branches” while swimming in lakes and rivers.
  • Teach children to respect snakes and to leave them alone.

What to do in the event of a snake bite:
  • Stay calm and wash the bite area gently with soap and water.
  • Remove watches, rings, etc, which may constrict swelling.
  • Immobilize the affected area and go to the nearest medical facility.
What you should NOT do after a rattlesnake bite:

  • DON’T apply a tourniquet.
  • DON’T pack the bite area in ice.
  • DON’T cut the wound with a knife or razor.
  • DON’T use your mouth to suck out the venom.
  • DON’T let the victim drink alcohol.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

DeLorme inReach Review

Check out my review of the DeLorme inReach two way satellite communicator at

The DeLorme inReach is a two-way satellite communication transceiver with GPS capability. DeLorme has steadily updated the inReach product line over the last several years. The latest model is a robust device that outstrips many of the competitors’ products in terms of capability; specifically in the field communications options, social network messaging and position reporting is a big step beyond sending preloaded messages.

To read the rest of the post go here.

Monday, May 13, 2013

GPS Navigation Discussion

Recently a friend emailed me the following thread from a Search and Rescue forum.  The comments below are right on the mark and worth remembering.

"......In the case of a GPS, its' the person following the GPS and relying far too heavily on the technology and not common sense. ......

When I had my class in land navigation, my instructor told me that to accurately navigate one needs at least 2 out of the 3 tools: map, compass, and GPS. A map will give you a picture of what's happening. A compass will tell you what direction reality is. And a GPS will show you where to go. But in all cases, a liberal dose of brain matter must be applied.

The problem is not technology, it's the application of technology. People can be taught the most effective and safe way to apply technology, but there are times even that doesn't solve the problem. I guess what I'm saying is this is what they call "the human element", and with today's technology, there may not be an answer."

I really liked the comment:

            The problem is not technology, it's the application of technology.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Your Outdoor Plan

The following is a post from September 2011.  The information is worth repeating.

There are lots of articles and posts about letting the responsible person know about your travel plans. Should you not return home on time they are the trigger to begin the search process.

This may be the most comprehensive plan made yet!!!

After the loss of James Kim in the Oregon back country in 2006 I wrote a hiker's trip plan and posted it on my web site. I had input from several valued sources. I wanted something better for the wilderness traveler than a note to a neighbor. My intent was to provide the search responders something valuable to go by.

In far too many SAR missions, the reporting party has little information for the searchers to go on to begin their search.

My plan can be found here. It is a basic .pdf form.

Suggestions are certainly welcome.

Today, while reading a Linkedin email, I received a tip on what might be the most complete plan yet. It's from Paul Kirtley's blog. He is an experienced bush craft author in the UK. This plan is much like the hiker's flight plan. It includes a place for a picture of the hiker, data for one's route and much more.

Check out Paul Kirtley's plan here.

911 Call center
Still, that responsible person plays a huge role in contacting authorities to begin a search. My recommendation would be to pick a person that will make the 911 phone call without hesitation.

Travel safely.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Rechargeable Batteries for the GPS

I recently read a post of Rich Owings' blog ( about a new product from SANYO called the Eneloop.  I checked them out.

I have never been a fan of rechargeable batteries for my GPS receiver.  They just didn't work for me.

So far these batteries are working just fine.   I have them in my GPS receiver and small radio that I use nightly.

Here are the stats on these batteries:
  1.  The unit can be charged 1,500 times; an increase of 30%
  2. They hold there charge for a long time.  The claim is made that the battery will retain 75% of its charge after three years.
  3. The cost is roughly 4 per charge.
I found the batteries at COSTCO in a pack of several AA & AAA batteries, charger and adapters for size C batteries.  The price was $29 for the pack.

For more information on the Eeneloop visit SANYO's site here.

To read Rich Owings' post go here.

Monday, May 6, 2013

GPS Error part II

There are a few other techniques that I use to get ready to navigate with my GPS receiver.

While driving to camp, turn on the receiver and place it on the dashboard. If the GPS hasn't been used for several months or if the user has traveled a great distance since last use the unit needs to initialize and update satellite data received from the GPS constellation. If that is not possible, allow the receiver to process satellite data for 10-15 minutes in an area where the sky view is open and not blocked by terrain or forest canopy.

Second, give your receiver the time to do it's job, especially with older receivers. For example, with an older GPS (my 10 year old Garmin 12CX) before marking a waypoint I will ensure that at least 4 satellites are being tracked and that the horizon isn't completely obstructed by canopy. While my friends might have been able to mark waypoints considerably faster, I am going to give mine the time to accomplish the task. I will evaluate the estimated position error and if the value is getting smaller I will just wait until it steadies up.

Third, I tend to navigate through the backcountry with my GPS powered up, all day, during a day hike. This allows me to record a track and keeps my position data current. Should I be hiking the length of the Pacific Crest Trail battery consumption would be a concern. That said for my long day jaunts battery conservation isn't really an issue to me.

Older models and those without an electronic compass require motion to develop heading and bearing data.  For example, when returning to a waypoint/destination, take a few steps and observe the display changes and adjust as necessary.  Once the GPS has settled on the correct bearing to the waypoint use your compass to back up your navigation.

Remember to calibrate the electronic compass each time batteries are replaced.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Boston Bombers Tracked by GPS

Rich Owings from has an interesting post on how the Boston police tracked and located the bombers.

Remember the Mercedes that the Boston Marathon bombers carjacked? Turns out that the police tracked it using GPS after the carjacking victim managed to escape and alert authorities.

To read the rest of the post go here.