Map, Compass & GPS

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

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Emergency Shelters

By Peter Kummerfeldt
Based on what we read there should always be a convenient hollow tree, rocky overhang or cave a person in trouble could use for shelter. It’s strange how when you are not in trouble any number of suitable shelters can be found but when you really need one – they are in short supply. Murphy’s Law I guess!
I have always believed that if you are going to need a shelter you had better have the materials with you to build it! I also believe that it is impossible for the typical survivor to build a waterproof, wind proof shelter from natural materials!

To read the rest of the post go here.

GPS Set-up - Using the Right Coordinates

A good friend has given you the coordinates to his favorite fishing spot at Elk Lake. He was genuinely excited and pleased to give you this treasured location. Now you can enter this information into you GPS and you will be all set.

Well maybe not.
A GPS is a very versatile backcountry computer and satellite receiver.  Today’s receiver can be taken anywhere around the world and when setup properly will provide accurate position information.  Coordinate information can be uploaded/downloaded to a PC and edited.  It is the setup process that our fisherman needs to be aware of.

To read the complete post go here.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Signalling Your Rescuers

When you are lost in the backcountry it is essential that the hiker be able to signal to the searchers.  There are many ways to do this.  Consider a signal mirror.  They are compact and their flash (reflection) can be seen from a long distance.

Check out Peter Kummerfeldt's short video on signalling with a mirror here.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Myths Surrounding Search and Rescue

This is such a timely piece about Search and Rescue that I thought it time to post it again.  The site listed below is top notch and full of wonderful posts/articles.

This is a fine article from about the myths associated with Search and Rescue teams.

by Erika Klimecky

 So now you know who they are. They are the people that the news stations refer to when “a search is underway”. They are the teams that roll out of bed at all hours and go out into the back-country to find missing or lost people. They find evidence, follow tracks and bring people out of the wilderness and back to safety. But there is still a lot of confusion and questions about how Search and Rescue operates. So let’s straighten that out a bit.

Let’s debunk some myths about search and rescue.

To read the rest of the post go to here.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Your Escape Route

When hiking in the backcountry do you plan an escape route?  It could be invaluable.

I wrote this post in the fall of 2012 during a particularly nasty forest fire.  

It was a time of extreme dry weather and the forest was a tinderbox waiting to ignite.

This fire was first observed about 6:30 AM by residents of a small town near the actual fire.  Sadly, this information was not relayed to the agency responsible for fighting the fire.  By around 11:00AM teams were being dispatched to the scene and assets were being organized.

There were several groups in the backcountry.  Going back to their originating trail head was not an option, they needed to escape.


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.

Monday, November 18, 2013

REI's Early Sale

REI is now selling the Garmin 62S for $199.  Great price.  The 62S was $350 when I bought mine last summer.

This is a fine GPS.

View the REI's web page here.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Customizing Your GPS

The following post is by my friend and fellow SAR team member Dan about setting up your GPS.

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 transferable 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.

To view Dan's complete post go here.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The 20 Most Essential Trail Skills

Dave Collins of Clever Hiker as an excellent artilcle on the 20 most essential trail skils for the hiker.  I look forward to his videos.

A few months ago, I was trying to determine a focus for the next CleverHiker video series. For our second season, I wanted get away from gear and focus on teaching skills. The idea came about to make a 10-episode series on the most critical trail skills and I started to scribble down ideas.

It didn’t take long to realize that there were far too many critical skills to cram into a single series. So, instead of filming one full series, I decided to film two. I’m calling the two-part series Essential Trail Skills I & II and I’m excited to hear your thoughts. The series will be 20 HD instructional videos to teach the most important trail skills for backpackers of all levels and it’s set to launch in early 2014.

To read the rest of the post visit here.

Check out Dave Collins' web site at

Thursday, November 14, 2013

It Has To Work For You

During the course of teaching GPS classes for over 12 years and now wilderness survival I have become attached (so to speak) to a phrase, "It has to work for you."

There is nothing magic here.  Nothing novel.  Nothing original.

People enjoy talking about new technology, equipment or skills that they have learned.  They are justifiably proud of their new knowledge.

A good friend got me very interested in using an alcohol stove while backpacking.  It is economical, takes up little space and weighs but a few ounces.  The problem is, that I can't get mine going reliably.  I need more time with it to learn the basics; how simple can that be.  But still, it is not working for me.

In SAR training two years ago, one team member told me how a computer mouse pad is great as a stove platform, in the snow while winter camping.  So I try it out.  I accidentally spill come Coleman white gas fuel on the pad.  When I light the stove, of course the pad catches on fire; just great.  The spot fire on the pad quickly burned out and just singed the top surface of the pad other wise it was just fine.  This works for me.

There are a lot of books out there on backcountry travel and survival.  Survival has become very popular.  I suggest reading these with a critical eye.  If there is a particular technique or skill set that you want to adopt, test it at home first.  Though the author may be on the speaking/sportsman show circuit, has his own cable show or is repeatedly on network news be critical.  Remember, when you are in a jam, you are responsible for you. 

Become cautious when reading old and dated material.  For example, in the late 1960's I was give a copy of Colin Fletcher's book, "The Complete Walker."  This book got me hooked on backpacking.  That said, the book is based on lessons and experiences from almost fifty years ago.  Doing some research and review of current methodology may be best.

Interestingly, I am hearing from my students more often,  "I heard this was used by the Special Forces," or "I read in a magazine that this is what Special Forces do." Well, OK, but is that really true or better yet, is that important for your needs.  It gets down to research and experience.

Let's consider land navigation.  It is a practiced yet perishable skill.  You need to be on your game.  If you are the team navigator, you skill and techniques have to work for everyone.

So my point would be, as you prepare for a trip or hike, as you put new gear into your pack, test it in advance.  Make sure it works for you.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The following is by Peter Kummerfeldt.  I check his web site and blog routinely.

by Peter Kummerfeldt

The single most important step in getting rescued quickly is to leave a trip plan with two reliable people you can count on to raise the alarm when you don’t show up on time. It follows, then, that having left a trip plan you abide by it and if you deviate from the plan, inform those with whom you left the original plan.

Include in the Plan:

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

Friday, November 8, 2013

About Google Earth

Here is another website to check out.  I keep my eye on
This is a site that is serious about land navigation and GPS in particular.  I subscribe to their newsletter - great info.

Here is a sample from Peter at their site.  This came in their latest newsletter.

He has a info sheet on using Google Earth too.

About Google Earth

"Your Did you know how easily you can use Google Earth as a planning tool? Gone are the days when GPS owners had to pay for access to Google Earth; anyone can now import/export gps data to/from Google Earth, create a pathway in Google Earth (the equivalent of a GPS track),save to a computer and import into their gps device or favourite computer mapping software.

    The secret of easy exchange of data is the compatibility of computer mapping like Basecamp with Google’s file format (KMZ) and or an ability to accept and exchange gps data in both KMZ and the International GPS file format GPS eXchange (.gpx)
     OK in some cases it may be a two-step process and you may have to use something like BaseCamp to convert a saved KMZ file into a GPX file, but it’s still a straight forward process. If you would like to know more we've added our worksheet to the technical support pages of team membership and a new lesson to our online resource."


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Topographic Map Contour Lines

Ever wonder how to read a topographic map? Here’s how to fully understand contour maps.
Contours are the thin brown lines that snake across a topographic (topo) map.  Contour lines connect equal points of elevation such that every point on a specific line will be at that same elevation above sea level.

To read the rest of this post visit and go here.

Read my other post on topographic lines  here.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Android-based Garmin Monterra

Is an Android-based Garmin GPS Monterra in your future?

Garmin's Monterra is a new receiver being reviewed right now.

Read a review here.

Topographic Maps For the Hiker

Do you need some help with using a topographic map? Do topographic maps make sense?

There are lots of references to help the hiker use a topographic maps. 

Sometimes there is nothing better than using a quality power point presentation.

There are two that I recommend taking a look at. is a comprehensive site dedicated to map and compass training.

A site at the World of Teaching presents a good introduction to topographic maps.  Go here to their web site