Map, Compass & GPS

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

Friday, June 28, 2013

Solar Flares

A solar flare that could wipe out the communications and electrical grids while frying a wide variety of electronics, quickly sending us back to the 19th Century.

From the Newspaper, USA Today: by Glenn Harlan Reynolds

So this week the news is consumed with the Supreme Court, the immigration bill, Edward Snowden and the NSA scandals, and the IRS scandal and the lingering Benghazi scandal.

 But behind the scenes there are things going on that may be much more important. Earth-shakingly important, even.

No, I'm not talking about the threat from asteroid strikes. This time, though, I'm talking about a different kind of civilizational threat: A solar flare that could wipe out the communications and electrical grids while frying a wide variety of electronics, quickly sending us back to the 19th Century.

To read the rest of the article go here.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Topographic Map Scale defines map scale as:

“A ratio which compares a measurement on a map to the actual distance between locations identified on the map.”


A topographic (topo) map’s scale information is located at the bottom center of the map.  Other maps will generally have scale information in the large map key that outlines many of the features and data printed on the map.


The map scale for a United States Geologic Survey (USGS) 7.5 topo minute map is highlighted below.




A closer look of the scale information:


 The area circled in red is the ratio discussed by  Note that the ratio has no units of measurement assigned (e.g., feet, meters, acres.)

 But, if you add measurements to both sides the ratio value becomes more meaningful.  For example:

                                                       1inch :  24,000 inches

 This now means that 1inch of measurement equals 24,000 inches on the map.

 Divide the 24,000 inches by 12 inches (one foot) the ratio value now becomes:

                                                        1 inch = 2000 feet

There are many other maps produced by government agencies (federal and state), parks and private companies.  There are also many scale options to be found too.  Some maps will use similar ratios such as 1:250,000 while others will simply state: 1inch = 2 miles.  Here is another example; below.


The bar scales (see above) provide the best visual representation of scale.  The bar scales provide data in miles, kilometers, nautical miles or feet.  Notice the small graduations to the left of each scale.  In the case of the kilometer scale, the graduations are in units of 1000 meters.  This gives you the detail for measuring distance on a map.

For the backcountry hiker the USGS topo 7.5 minute topo (scale of 1:24,000) is your best source of information.   At this scale, the map has much more validity and provides more usable information for your backcountry planning.  You can view important landmarks, streams and geographic features.

To complete the navigation picture I always refer a second map, such as a map of the national forest (e.g., the Deschutes National Forest.)  Commonly, such a map will be “zoomed” way out and have a scale of 1:100,000 or 1:250,000.  Imagine that such a map would be made up of many 7.5 minute quadrangles.

Other options are available to the hiker.  For example DeLorme produces an atlas and gazetteer for every state; visit National Geographic has excellent 1:24,000 scale maps for many of the national parks.  My most recent map came on waterproof paper and was very up to date.  My favorite product is made by and is the mapping software Terrain Navigator.  I’ve been using this software in its various releases since 1998.  Terrain Navigator allows the hiker to up load/down load waypoints and tracks from many GPS receivers, has tools for backcountry planning, provides several map scale and zoom options and is very simple to use.

 Finally, I pack my map into a 1 gallon zip lock bag with my compass and GPS.  Never leave home without this trio.

New Garmin GPS

Garmin has just introduced an android operating system for their latest GPS.

From Garmin:

"Monterra, Garmin’s first WiFi-enabled outdoor handheld GPS that combines Garmin’s powerful location and mapping capabilities and the versatility of the Android™ operating system. It has a vivid, sunlight-readable touchscreen, and users can easily access the Google Play Store™ and download apps through an available WiFi connection right on the device. Developers are also free to create new apps that are ideally suited for the rugged, waterproof, and sensor-loaded handheld device."

Check out the Garmin press release here.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Choosing A Rescue Beacon

Are you looking for a beacon or satellite communicator?  Are looking to upgrade?

I am a happy SPOT 2 user.  It works well for me and I have used it under many types of conditions.  Last spring, I did a formal riew for the online magazine Seattle Backpackers Magazine.

That said, the folks at The Outdoor Gear Lab have done a very comprehensive review:

"We took some of the best and most popular emergency electronic devices and used them side-by-side for six months. Our mission: to find out what is the best for telling your family and friends you are okay and what the is best for sending out an SOS signal."

To read their complete review go  here.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Pacific Crest Trail Maps

Free Maps of the Pacific Crest Trail.

Yesterday during a SAR mission a team member showed me some maps that he had downloaded.  The quality was excellent.  If you need some maps of the Pacific Crest Trail that are free check this site out.  Go here for the site.

Customizing Your GPS - Part 2

 Dan continues with the steps to properly set up a GPS receiver (eTrex30).  Everyone in your hiking and hunting group should consider what Dan has to say. 

Is your GPS set up correctly?

First Steps

Garmin refers to the square tiles such as Map, Compass, Calendar, etc. as Pages and the default setting is to show all available pages. This makes the display unnecessarily crowded and frankly, you will most likely never use at least 50% of the pages. So let’s clean up our display by hiding a lot of the superfluous pages. Ultimately it’s up to you as to which pages to show/hide and remember, you can always add pages back in if you miss them later on.
To remove a page, select any page and click the Menu button. This will display a popup that says, “Change Item Order”. Press the Thumb Stick to select this option and you’ll see a list of all the pages. Navigate to one that you don’t want (say, Photo Viewer) and press the Thumb Stick again. You’ll see two options: Move and Remove.

Choose Remove, press the Thumb Stick to select this option and then it will return you to the list of pages. Navigate to another one you want to remove and repeat this process. The pages in the list will depend on your device, however, at a minimum you should KEEP the following pages:

1.       Map

2.       Mark Waypoint

3.       Where To?

4.       Compass

5.       Trip Computer

6.       Setup

7.       Waypoint Manager

8.       Track Manager

9.       Profile Change

The pages don’t have to be in that order (if you want, you can reorder them by using the Move option as shown above and then using the Thumb Stick to move the page up or down in the list of pages). Those nine pages should allow you to accomplish 99% of your navigation activities and will greatly simplify the display of information. Later on we’ll talk about some tricks that will allow you to see information from some of the pages you removed without actually having to go to that page.

One last thing about pages before moving on: The list of pages that you see is actually also a page (no matter which/how many pages you’ve chosen to display, it is referred to as Main Menu). This can get a bit confusing, so let’s talk about how this works. The idea here is that you have your Main Menu of frequently-accessed pages, but you can also quickly cycle through specific pages just by pressing the Back button. You configure this in Setup > Page Sequence > Add Page.

So let’s say that you want quick access to the Compass and the Map pages. Using the Add Page option, you can add both of those to the list of pages.

Once you’ve done that, navigate back to the Main Menu. Everything looks like it did before, right? Now click the Back button once. What happened? Click it again. What do you see now? The first click of the Back button should’ve taken you to the Compass page, and when you clicked it again, the Map page should’ve been displayed. To return to the Main Menu, click the Back button a third time.

Basically, the concept here is that you can create a list of “Favorites” and then simply change between them by clicking the Back button. Personally, I’m more a fan of navigating to pages via the Main Menu, but if you like this method, feel free to add as many pages as you want. In fact, you can almost entirely do away with the Main Menu page itself by adding all the pages above as separate pages and then removing the Main Menu (you’ll see this option in Setup > Page Sequence > Main Menu.

The catch here is that there is no separate page for Mark Waypoint. This is a very important feature for most GPS users, so if you want to see it, you would need to add the other eight as separate pages and retain the Main Menu. Then, when cycling through the pages using the Back button, you’ll see the Main Menu page in the sequence with only one tile on it—Mark Waypoint.

Before moving on, if you’re lost in the myriad of pages on your device, keep pressing the Back button until you get to the Setup page. Then follow the steps above to reset your settings and after that, re-do your list of pages so that it looks like the list above. Since the GPS can only display icons for 6 pages, two screen captures are shown below:

(In case you haven’t already discovered this, you don’t always have to scroll down through options; you can also scroll up—simply press up on the Thumb Stick when you’re at the top-most visible option on a screen and then it will take you directly to the bottom-most option.)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Customizing your GPS - Part 1

The following post was written my my fellow SAR team member Dan M.  I am going to spread this out over a the next several days.  Lots of detail.  Enjoy 

Like most consumer electronics nowadays, GPS Receivers (commonly just referred to as “GPS”) come out of the box with many more features than the average (or even “above-average”) user will ever need/want/use. The good news is that with a bit of patience, most GPS units can be customized to simplify the display of information, make the interface more user-friendly and optimize the use of your device. In this post, we’ll explore how to accomplish these goals and discuss what this means for your experience when in the field.

The Garmin eTrex series (10, 20, and 30) is one of the most popular GPS units for backcountry navigation due to its (relatively) low price, small size and reliable performance. The examples in this post are all from a Garmin eTrex 30, so for those of you non-eTrex users (or non-Garmin users), you may be wondering if you should bother to read on…the answer is “YES!” Although the screen captures and instructions here will only cover eTrex options, almost all GPS units allow for some kind of user customization. So even though your display, menus, etc. may not be exactly the same as what’s presented here, most of the ideas and concepts should be transferrable to your GPS. Additionally, this will be a great way for you to familiarize yourself with your GPS interface and the various options supported by your device’s software.

So, speaking of software, one of the first things you should do as part of your GPS setup is to check for updated software from your GPS manufacturer. The process to do this varies between devices and is outside the scope of this post so we won’t be covering that here. However, the instruction manual (you still have that, right?) will explain how to do this, or you can find that information on the manufacturer’s website. Usually you won’t notice a big difference in the interface after a software update, however there might be some enhanced functionality for certain features and there will most likely be bug fixes that address any known issues with your device software.

Starting with a Clean Slate

If you’ve already tweaked your settings and you want to return everything to the defaults, the easiest way to do this is to go to Setup > Reset > Reset All Settings.

Choose Yes and this will set all of your menus, options, etc. to how they were when you first got the unit out of the box. Interestingly, this does NOT remove any of your previously-created Profiles (you may not have created any yet, but we’ll be doing so here in just a bit.) This WILL remove all of your Waypoints, Routes, etc., though, so if there are any that you haven’t backed up to your computer, be sure to do this before wiping out your data on the unit.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Ten Essentials

Another look at the Ten Essentials by a King County SAR member.

Glenn Wallace takes another quick look at the Ten Essentials.

Carrying the 10 Essentials when you’re in the outdoors will greatly increase your chances of survival. We recommend you carry them while hiking, hunting, fishing and driving in remote areas. The mistake that many of our rescued subjects make is thinking they will go for a “short day hike” which takes a turn for the worse when they get lost or injured. Being prepared means that when conditions change you have a better chance of survival.

To read the rest of Glenn's post visit the online magazine -  here .

Sunday, June 2, 2013

SAR - A Busy Morning

It was busy at Smith Rock State Park (Oregon) Saturday morning.  A tough extraction but it ended well.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Cold Steel SRK: The Best Survival Knife?

My friend Leon has a strong review about the best survival knife/

You can’t compromise on survival gear quality, so over 20 years ago, I invested in a Cold Steel SRK. If I could only have one survival knife, which would also be used as a field dressing tool for big game and a meat cutting implement, it would be a  SRK. Here’s why.

If I could only have one survival knife, which would also be used as a field dressing tool for big game and a meat cutting implement, it would be a Cold Steel SRK. Here's why.
My Cold Steel SRK has had hard use for nearly 20 years and is still my first choice for a survival knife.

by Leon Pantenburg

After my first Idaho elk hunt in 1990, I had to make some gear changes. My wood-stocked BDL 7mm Remington Magnum caliber went synthetic. I got heavier boots, warmer hunting clothes, better binoculars and a Cold Steel SRK.

To read the rest of Leon's post go here.

Bushwacking - Is It Right For You?

Section Hiker has a nice post on bushwacking through the back country.

Bushwhacking is a form of off-trail hiking where you need to navigate through dense
vegetation to locate you destination. Getting really good at it is an art form that takes years of practice and lots of hikes in all kinds of different terrain.

Bushwhacking is not for everyone and about 90% of the people who try it for the first time hate it. They think it’s insane. Bulldozing through dense spruce that tears up your clothing and gear, scratches your skin, and makes you bleed is not for the faint of heart.

To read the rest of the post go here.