Map, Compass & GPS

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

Friday, August 30, 2013

GPS Reception Problems

What can you do about GPS signal reception?

By Rich Owings at

Is your GPS not locking onto satellites? There’s usually a simple solution that works for both auto and handheld GPS units, but first, let’s look at why this is happening.

The science of GPS

GPS satellites are always on the move – they are not geostationary. If your GPS receiver knows where to look for them, it can speed reception. The satellites transmit several signals, one of which is almanac data, which provides the orbital information for the satellites in the system.

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

Rich Owings post is almost two years old and technology changes.  For example, the newer smart phones can be complete stand alone receivers and do not require a cell tower.

Taking your time and paying attention to one's navigation is fundamental to backcountry navigation.  When I rush my navigation I make mistakes. 

Though I have written this before, Rich Owings has a great site and should be check often.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Monitoring the Weather While In the Backcountry

Check out my latest post about monitoring the weather while in the backcountry.  This post helps you determine the rough (very rough) direction to a high or low pressure system.

Visit to read the post, here.

Reliable Web Site

My friend Leon has provided a good analysis of how to determine the credibility of a web site.

Survival/prepper websites are a dime a dozen. To set up a survival website, all you have to do is buy a domain name and start posting. That’s what I did. But how do you, the reader, tell if a survival site is providing valid information? Can you trust what you read or view?

by Leon Pantenburg

Can anyone verify the authenticity of a website? What about websites that rate other websites? How important are Google rating? How can you tell if a website is providing practical information or just plain BS?

You gotta wonder…so it was with great interest that I sat in recently on a journalism research class at Central Oregon Community College, in Bend, OR. The instructor was COCC Emerging Technologies Librarian Michele DeSilva, and the topic was how to verify web source information.

To read Leon's complete post go here.

Monday, August 26, 2013

GPS vs. Smart Phone

Do you carry a stand-alone GPS or a Smart phone?

Phillip Werner has an interesting poll going on at his blog

What are the pros and cons of using a GPS vs. Smart phone?

Do scroll down to see the comments that have come in.

Find the poll/info here.

What do you use?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Signal Mirrors

Signal Mirrors – an often under appreciated piece of your survival gear.

by Peter Kummerfeldt


There may come a time when you will need to attract the attention of a rescuer.   It could be because your car has broken down and left you stranded miles from help.   You might be injured and unable to get back to family and friends.  You might be lost and have no idea which direction to take to get back to your vehicle or perhaps your camp.  In situations like these you need to be able to draw attention to yourself, to signal quickly and effectively.  Not being able to do so could place your life in danger.   With emergency signaling several things must be remembered.  First, if you haven’t left a trip plan (trip plan) with a couple of reliable family members or friends indicating what your intentions are, where do those who will be looking for you, search?  Second, if no one knows you are in trouble, your attempts to signal for help may be totally ignored.  Third, even if search and rescue personnel are looking for you it may still be very difficult to locate you unless you do something to increase your chances of being seen or heard.

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

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Selecting a Magnetic Compass

Check out my latest post on SeattleBackpackersMagazine about selecting your next
The Components of a Compass
go here

Friday, August 16, 2013

Topographic Map Symbols

Symbols provide the definition of features on a topographic map.

I recently wrote a short post about understanding the features and contours of a topographic map.  For the complete post go here.

While doing class preparation for my Navigation class at the local college I came across a fine site by  Though perhaps not as comprehensive as the formal US governement map index I found the diagrams to be especially useful.  The discriptions are quite helpful.  The following is a short sampling:

Woodlands. An area of normally dry land containing tree cover or brush that is potential tree cover. The growth must be at least 6 feet tall and dense enough to afford cover for troops.
Scrub. Area covered with low-growing or stunted perennial vegetation, such as cactus, mesquite or sagebrush, common to arid regions and usually not mixed with trees.
Orchard. A planting of evenly spaced trees or tall bushes that bear fruit or nuts. Plantings of citrus and nut trees, commonly called groves, are included in this type.


Working with Topographic maps.
To get to MyTopo's information go here.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Contours of a Map - Map Reading

Read my post about reading and understanding the contour lines of a topographic map.

Contour lines provide the 3D view of a map by giving it shape and texture.

To read the post go here.

Emergency Management

The State of Oregon's legislature directed that a comprehensive report be made that outlines the danger of the Cascadia Subduction Zone to the citizens of the state.

The eight page Executive Summary is a snap shot of that reports findings.  To read that report go here.

Notice the anticipated time it will take to get state infrastructure to return to capacity and operation.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Lost in Oregon's Backcountry

The following article is from the Oregonian and was written last June.  It highlights just how hazardous it can be in the backcountry.  The writer, Richard Cockle highlights several case studies of day hikers and backpackers who just never return and are never found. 

One of Cockle's phrases really hits home:

     "It only takes a mile before you get totally turned around and don't know which      way to go," said Kleinbaum...."

The following is from Richard Cockle's article:

Searchers will resume combing the rugged Willamette National Forest after the snow leaves the higher elevations in weeks to come, looking for the remains of a 32-year-old Eugene hiker who disappeared last summer.
James "Jake" Dutton, a 5-foot-10, 180-pound Lane Community College graduate, left his 1998 Nissan Frontier pickup at a U.S. Forest Service trailhead near Cougar Reservoir June 15, 2012. An unmarried former Coast Guardsman who stayed fit by hiking and riding bicycles, he carried a backpack and was believed heading toward the Three Sisters Wilderness boundary.

Dutton had plans to return to his truck June 18, according to the trailhead pass he signed.
He was never seen again.

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

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

How Do People Get Lost

Recently, I was skimming through one of my favorite books, Staying Found, The Complete Map & Compass Handbook by June Fleming. This book is the framework for many of my navigation classes.

In Fleming’s book I found a section titled “Why Do People Get Lost?”

I am going to reset her section and discuss “How Do People Get Lost?”  I will be using my short background in Search and Rescue to make several conclusions.

  • Many hikers do no planning before beginning their hike.  The do not carry the “Ten Essential” and have no navigation equipment.  Without pre-planning their trek the hiker has no terrain association developed for the hike; they have no mental map.  For more on the Ten Essentials go here.
  • Hikers have substandard equipment.  For example, the map is out of date, the compass is so old that it has lost its polarization or the compass is a cheap model.  Regarding the later, frequently the compass goes from the packaging strait into the pack.  (Read my post about selecting a magnetic compass.)
  • Hikers lack the basic skills to use their navigation equipment.
  • Declination has not been accounted for.
  • A group of hikers rely on one person to do the navigation and there is no double check.
  • Hikers tend to under estimate the distance and over estimate their ability.
  • When walking along a slope, known as side-hilling, the hiker doesn’t compensate for drift off the intended route.

The following are a list from Fleming’s section that I found interesting:

  • “Their knowledge of the route isn’t current enough; trailheads and access roads change, trail are rerouted or cease to be maintained.
  • They rely on the navigation know-how of a companion who is in the process of getting lost himself.
  • The travel without a map because the route seems obvious, a sin the casual day strollers are guilty of more often than overnight hikers.”

And my favorite from Fleming is:

“When adverse circumstances start to enter the picture – deteriorating weather and visibility, fatigue, flagging spirits, and dulled awareness - they charge ahead anyway.”



Sunday, August 4, 2013

Taking a Bearing with a Magnetic Compass

Taking a bearing or sighting with a compass is an important skill that can determine direction to an object or help the hiker locate and identify his position in the backcountry.   

A compass is an important part of the backcountry navigator’s kit.  The knowledge of how to use a compass is still important; do not underestimate this skill. 

Sighting with a compass allows the hiker to determine the direction to an object such as a mountain peak or lake.  The compass direction to an object is known as the “bearing” or azimuth.   Bearing is the more common term in outdoor recreation and is a term used heavily in GPS navigation.  For example, if a mountain peak is due north of you, the bearing to the peak is 000° (spoken as zero zero zero degrees.)

Taking a bearing with a compass allows the hiker to do several things.

First, sighting on a distant object can provide direction to that object and repeated sightings can provide course corrections along the way.  Secondly, with several sightings on different objects a person’s position can be triangulated.  (Triangulation will be the topic of a later post.)

This post will focus on using a standard baseplate compass such as the two examples pictured below.  (The lensatic and military compass will not be discussed.)

To read the rest of the post go here.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Families In the Backcountry

Travel safely in the  backcountry with your family.  Start them early and start them with the right skills.

I wrote the following article a year ago for a local family news magazine in Bend, Oregon.

      My wife and I began our outdoor journeys over thirty years ago while in college.  So, it was natural that my children began their trips in the field at a very early age.  Our family continues to backpack and camp all around Oregon.  Though our children are now in college, we still find our trips memorable; it’s still “cool” to spend time together. 

      Central Oregonians are fortunate to be close to some of the finest forests and trails in the nation.  Our woodlands offer spectacular recreation opportunities and vistas, all at amazingly affordable rates.  Children find the outdoors a place to learn, explore, and let their imagination run wild.
For the complete post go here.

Friday, August 2, 2013

The New SPOT Generation 3

The next SPOT in on it's way.  More expensive but more capable.

By Darren Murph:


It looks nearly the same as it did in 2007, but Spot's outdoor beacon has evolved quite nicely on the Spot Gen3 is designed to help wandering argonauts keep their loved ones informed of their location for an even longer period of time. Engineered to be worn by those intentionally heading off of the conventional grid, the Spot Gen3 adds unlimited tracking (enabling wearers to pre-set the device to send tracks every 5, 10, 30 or 60 minutes), motion activated tracking and longer battery life.

To read the complete post go here.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

If You Evacuate Always Check In With The Red Cross

It's Fire Season in the Northwest.  Remember, if you are forced to evacuate always check in with the Red Cross!

Early this morning I was listening to the news about the recovery efforts ongoing in Joplin, Missouri.  Leveled by a series of tornadoes, Search and Rescue teams were looking for missing citizens.

A K9 search team leader was interviewed.  The K9 team was going through the rubble of a demolished home.  Then the home owner walked up.  He had sheltered with friends away from his residence.

This brief interview caused me to remember an important recommendation made recently by Red Cross staff.  Should you be directed to evacuated due to fire, flood or tornadoes report and register with the Red Cross.  To do this go directly to the evacuation shelter assigned to your locale.  Once there log in and register with the staff.  Should you decide to shelter with friends or family still check in with the Red Cross.  Red Cross maintains a locator service in times of disaster. 

Visit the American Red Cross' web site to find family members or to log in that you are safe and well.  For more information and to log in go here.

My friend Leon Pantenburg (a front page writer for the Bend Bulletin newspaper) has several articles on tornado and earth quake preparation at

Massive Solar Flare

From the Washington Examiner by Paul Bedard

The earth barely missed taking a massive solar punch in the teeth two weeks ago, an "electromagnetic pulse" so big that it could have knocked out power, cars and iPhones throughout the United States.

Two EMP experts told Secrets that the EMP flashed through earth's typical orbit around the sun about two weeks before the planet got there.

"The world escaped an EMP catastrophe," said Henry Cooper, who led strategic arms negotiations with the Soviet Union under President Reagan, and who now heads High Frontier, a group pushing for missile defense.

To read the complete post go here.