Map, Compass & GPS

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

Friday, January 31, 2014

Winter Survival Kit For Your Vehicle

After watching the mess in Atlanta, I thought Leon's post and video was most timely.

Travel can be very dangerous this time of year. Black ice, slippery pavement, high winds and blowing snow, or reduced visibility due to fog, rain and snow storms can all happen within a few miles. It doesn’t matter if you live in the Oregon high desert or the frigid
Click here to buy survival kits

A survival kit for your car can be indispensable when the weather turns bad.
A survival kit for your car can be indispensable when the weather turns bad.
Midwest. If  your car slips off the road in an isolated area, during a blizzard, a routine drive to visit the family can turn into a nightmare.
by Leon Pantenburg
Nationwide attention was brought to winter survival in a stalled vehicle in 2006.
In December, Californian James Kim, 35, died in Oregon’s Rogue River Wilderness after leaving his wife and children to get help. The family car was stuck in snow on a remote road for several days.
Mr. Kim departed from the car, he  left the road and apparently got lost in the deep snow. He bushwhacked five miles down steep canyons, covering about eight miles through rough country, but ending up only about a mile as the crow flies from his car. Mr Kim’s body was found several days later, and he had apparently died of  hypothermia His family was found alive in their car a few days later. (To view the complete story, click on Kim Tragedy video)
To watch Leon's video and read the rest of the post go here.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Backpacks - Internal vs. External Frame

The information below is from the Swiss Army website.  Of course they want to sell you their pack but they do offer a nice explanation of the options available to the hiker.

Internal or external frame backpacks- When considering purchasing backpacks. There are some differences that you need to know about.
For example, for hiking trips that last 2 days or more. You should look at the internal or  external frame backpacks.
Here I will explain the subtle differences between internal or external frame backpacks.
To read the rest of the post go here.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Cleaning Your CamelBak Reservoir

Keeping your CamelBak hydration system clean is a must.  Section Hiker has a great post on the process.

If you use a Camelbak Hydration Reservoir you’re going to want to keep it, its hose , and bite valve clean. If you just drink water, you can store it empty in the freezer or dry it out after each use and nothing bad will grow in it. But if you put any kind of flavoring or performance enhancement powder into your Camelbak, you definitely need to take a more active approach to keeping them clean between uses. These things can turn into science experiments quickly if you’re not careful.

To read the complete post go here.

As an aside, to air dry my reservoir I use the brown cardboard roller from a old roll of paper towels.  The roller keeps the body/sides apart allowing for better air drying.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Danger Using Gasoline

The following article is from the Bend Bulletin newspaper.  Four injured in an explosion that could have been prevented.
An explosion in the backyard of a Sisters home reportedly injured four people Saturday evening.
The blast, in the 300 block of West Oak Avenue, was reported shortly after 6 p.m. Four people at the home were burned, three of whom were transported by helicopter to St. Charles Bend for treatment.
Sgt. Ty Rupert, of the Deschutes County Sherriff’s Office, said two or three of the injured have been or will be taken to the Oregon Burn Center at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in Portland for further treatment
Rupert said it appears the injured people had lit a fire in a backyard fire pit and attempted to revive their dying fire by putting gasoline on it.

One of the injured has died from burns.

Can gasoline be used to start a fire?  Is there a safe way; sure....but not this way.  More on this later.

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Universal Transverse Mercator Grid System

Philip Werner of invited me to write a navigation post for his readers.

To read my post go here .

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Calibrating a GPS' Electronic Compass

Check out my latest post with about calibrating your  GPS receiver's electronic compass.

To read the complete post go here.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Navigation With The North Star

The North Star is a beacon that we can use to guide us in the backcountry.
Few hikers use the celestial bodies in the night sky to navigate by.  But on a clear night, the night sky provides a feature that is an excellent source of direction.  It doesn’t matter if it is June or November, if you are in Wyoming or Oregon.
The North Star or Polaris is the principle star that I will focus on. 
For the backcountry hiker consider that Polaris is fixed in position over the northern pole.  Unique from other celestial stars and planets, Polaris is very closely aligned to the earth’s axis.  Stars and planets rotate around Polaris.  And like the sun, this rotation is from east to west through the sky.  Polaris will be found approximately half way between the northern horizon and straight overhead.  In the northern hemisphere, Polaris can found in our northern sky and is never more 1° from true north – the North Pole. 
Constellations help locate Polaris.  Cassiopeia and the Big Dipper point to Polaris.  Uniquely, Cassiopeia, the Big Dipper and Little Dipper can be seen in relation to Polaris year round.  In winter, the constellation of Orion will also help locate Polaris.

To read the rest of the post go here.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Making Sense of The Declination Diagram

Topographic map users are familiar with the small diagram at the bottom of the map. 
The diagram is located at the bottom center of the map.

Let’s zoom in to the diagram itself.
The graphic and information presented relates directly to the declination of the map area, orientation of magnetic north, orientation of grid north and true north. 
Let’s discuss what that all means.
The line on the left with the star on top is the reference to true north.  True north is the principle geographic reference on all maps.  True north is oriented to the North Pole, the top of the earth.  The left and right borders of a topographic map are aligned to true north too.  True north is the principle compass orientation that the backcountry traveler will use with compass navigation.
Care should be taken when looking at the other grid lines on a map.  For example, not all township and range lines are oriented to true north.  The red lines on the map below
represent township and range.  The red numbers refer to each of the 36 sections found in a township. (A section is a square that is one mile by one mile on each side.)  Determine if these red line are oriented to true north in advance of your trip.
The next line over is “grid.”  Grid in this case refers to Universal Transverse Mercator Grid (UTM).  UTM is a derivative of the military’s grid reference system and came about after World War Two.
Some maps come with UTM grid lines laid out in a shade of light blue.  Many topographic maps only have UTM tick marks (color blue) along the four sides of the map.  The map above has those tick marks.  Small they can be seen as numbers 6 21 and 22 at the bottom.  If one was to use a straight edge to connect the 6 21 at top and bottom the line drawn would be in relation to grid on the declination diagram.  (For more information on UTM Grid check out Lawrence Letham’s book GPS Made Easy from library.)
The last line refers to magnetic north.  This data is circled in red (below.)
The line with the partial arrow head points to magnetic north (MN.)   Without getting bogged down in the pole’s location, the key thing is to understand is that magnetic north is what a compass’ red magnetic needle point to. The numerical value of 19° refers to the declination; the angular measurement between true and magnetic north.  In this case, the declination is 19° East.  It is this value that the hiker will compensate for in navigation. 
To keep things simple, I use a declination adjusted compass so that I do not have to calculate compass values.  For example, if the hiker is using a standard compass, 19° East declination (from the West Coast) would be subtracted from a bearing/azimuth of 100° True to get the correct magnetic heading.  This gets a bit sticky and that is why an adjustable compass is so valuable.  With an adjustable compass, you adjust the compass housing once for the local declination.  Once adjusted you are set and won’t need to worry about adding or subtracting the declination value.
The declination value on older maps has probably changed from what is printed.  Declination changes over time.  As a matter of routine I visit to get the correct value before leaving home.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Remote Survival

My friend Leon had Peter's video posted on his site and I thought I would pass this one on to my readers too.

Do check out Leon's outstanding site by going to

Peter Kummerfeldt is a true authority on wilderness survival.  Check out his site at

New GPS from Garmin with iPhone Connectivity

From - a new GPS with Glonass capability and has iPhone connectivity.
Garmin has announced the GPSMAP 64 series, updating the 62 series (of which the 62s is currently my go-to handheld). Let’s dive right into the improvements…


First up is GLONASS support, which should allow for improved accuracy, especially in northerly latitudes and urban canyons. Garmin says that with GLONASS you’ll average 20% faster satellite lock than with GPS alone.

To read the rest of this interesting post go here.

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Ten Essentials - What You Should Carry

In a recent post, a news article highlighted the rescue of two stranded hikers.  These folks were lucky; they were not carrying the right gear for the climate.  The following is  post I wrote last fall.

In my Map and Compass class yesterday one fellow asked what should you carry in your day pack.  I start with the Ten Essentials and the foundation of my pack.

Check lists for hikers and hunters abound on the Internet.  You can find suggested equipment checklists on forums and chat rooms, retailer’s and outfitter’s websites. 

Personally, I build my gear check list on the foundation established on the “Ten Essentials.” From the ten essentials I’ll add items that specifically work for me.  Here is what I use as my baseline:

  1. Navigation (map, compass & GPS)         
  2. Sun protection (Sun screen, sunglasses, a hat)
  3. Insulation (extra clothing, gloves, knit hat, a sit pad)
  4. Illumination (head lamp, flash light)
  5. First-aid supplies (Check with the Red Cross’ web site or McCann’s book listed below)
  6. Fire starting material (metal match, cotton balls soak with petroleum jelly, REI’s storm proof matches, BIC lighter)
  7. Repair kit and tools
  8. Nutrition (extra food)
  9. Hydration (extra water) & filtration system
  10. Emergency shelter (not a space blanket but a windproof water proof shelter, and a blue poly tarp)

I’ll then add a few selected items to the list by including:

  1.  Communications (signal mirror, a SPOT or ACR locator beacon, cell phone)
  2.  Knife and small folding saw
  3. A small ensolite pad shaped to become a sit pad.

I’ll take this list a step further by checking two of my favorite references:

  1. Surviving a Wilderness Emergency by Peter Kummerfeldt
  2. Build the Perfect Survival Kit by John D. McCann

The intent of carrying all this gear is that should you have to spend the unintended night or nights out you will be prepared. You may not be comfortable but you'll have far better odds at surviving.

I also recommend you involve children in the development of your family’s gear check list.  Listen to their recommendations.  Have them carry their gear too.  Start them early and teach them what you know.  Let them participate.

Have fun and be safe.       


The Northern Lights

(AP) Wire Story follows:

WASHINGTON (AP) - Northerners thawing out from a bitter freeze may get rewarded with shimmering northern lights the next couple days.
Federal space weather forecaster Joe Kunches said the sun shot out a strong solar flare late Tuesday, which should arrive at Earth early Thursday. It should shake up Earth's magnetic field and expand the Aurora Borealis south, possibly as far south as Colorado and central Illinois. He said best viewing would probably be Thursday evening, weather permitting.
The University of Alaska's Geophysical Institute predicts much of Canada and the northern fringes of the U.S. should see the northern lights. Chicago, Boston, Cleveland, Seattle and Des Moines might see the shimmering colors low on the horizon.

Lost Hikers

This happens all to often - carry the right gear for the conditions.

Rocky Mountain National Park (CO)
Lost And Unprepared Hikers Rescued from Backcountry

On the afternoon of Wednesday, January 8th, two hikers – a man and a woman, both 23 and both from out of state – contacted the park by cell phone and reported that they’d become lost while hiking back down from an ascent to the summit of Flattop Mountain (12,324 feet). 

Park SAR personnel immediately began a search for them in the Flattop Mountain and Mill Creek Basin areas. They were found above the Banana Bowls at an elevation of roughly 10,600 feet around 8 p.m. They were escorted out of the backcountry, arriving at the Bear Lake trailhead around 9:45 p.m.

Neither of the hikers had snowshoes or backcountry gear, and neither was prepared either for the freezing temperatures or for a night in the backcountry. Due to post-holing in deep snow, the man’s jeans, cotton socks and leather work boots were frozen solid when searchers found them. Rescuers used a backpacking stove to thaw his boots so he could walk out. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Night Travel and Navigation For The Backcountry Hiker

What should you consider if you must travel at night in the wilderness?

The day started clear and bright as the hikers left the trail head near Newport, Oregon.  The temperatures were to be moderate most of the day with slight cooling in the evening.  They pressed on determined to reach the summit before twilight.  After reaching the summit at dusk, the group started to make their way back to the trail head as fog began to roll in.  Within an hour the darkness was becoming a problem and the safety of continued travel became questionable.
So what are some basic considerations for night time travel and navigation in the backcountry?
First, let us consider that we are not in a “lost hiker” scenario.  If lost, the best thing to do is to just stay where you are.  This makes the job much easier for the searchers. 
Further, recommendations are based on the concerns and issues of hiking when it is really dark, not during the period of a full moon with some ambient light.
One of the key factors in this situation is to have an understanding of the physiology of the eye. Our eyes are designed to provide optimal performance during periods of light.  The components of the eye (the retina, rods and cones) are arranged specific to their function.  The cones are the discriminators of fine detail and color.  Cones are the most effective in light, and are located near the center of the eye interior.  In complete darkness, a cones’ effectiveness is significantly reduced.  Rods are located on the periphery of our interior eye, are not fine detail discriminators and have a higher sensitivity to low light levels.  Rods are important to our night time vision.  

 To read the complete post go here.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Marking a GPS Waypoint

Marking a waypoint with your GPS is easy.  I offer a few recommendations improve your techniques and make it a "sure thing."

The solo hiker was ready to return to the car after a long day on the trail.  The weather was slowly degrading; it was getting cooler and overcast.  It was time to march to the car.  He pulled out the GPS, selected the “Find” feature and scanned the waypoint listing.  No waypoint.  Nothing to identify his car was shown.  Now that sinking feeling slowly crept in.  It was going to be a longer afternoon.
Marking a waypoint takes just a few button pushes.  The process ends with the saving of coordinates, elevation, date, time of entry and a name into the memory of a GPS.
My recommendations to mark a waypoint include the following steps.
Start with a quick look at the “satellite view” page.  Ensure the GPS is tracking four or more satellite signals.
Next, select the mark button.  Touch screen models will require you to go to the main menu to touch “mark waypoint.”
To read the rest of the post go here.

Emergency Tips For Handling the Cold

Posted on January 2nd, 2014 by Leon in Leon's Blog
The weather in Bend, Oregon, where I live, has been beautiful, with highs in the mid-50s and sunshine. But for those of you in the colder areas, here are some survival tips from the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.
by Leon Pantenburg (
Cold weather and storms are battering much of the country. How will you survive when the power goes out?
Cold weather and storms are battering much of the country. How will you survive when the power goes out?
Cold weather and storms are battering much of the country, and for people without power, the situation may be grim.
But if  you are reading this in a cold, dark room, and wondering what to do next, here are a couple suggestions.
Click on prepare for cold inside to learn simple techniques keep your house warmer without electricity.
The following information on  from the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency was distributed Thursday by the Milford  County Health Agent.
 To read the complete story, click on handle the cold.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Is Your Compass or GPS Receiver Broken?

What do you do when a compass breaks or the GPS just doesn’t seem to be working right?  Here are a few suggestions that will help the navigator.

The theme of this post is to discuss what options the backcountry navigator has with equipment that might not be working correctly. 

When equipment does not appear to provide the correct indication (such as the GPS bearing to the trail head) it’s time to stop.  Never rush navigation.  Stop and take the time to really look over the information provided.  Consult with the rest of the group.

Being able to recognize the proper operation of the hiker’s equipment is important.  This is obtained through field checks well before any trip.  The gas stove can be tested at home before the journey.  The navigation kit can be evaluated throughout the year at the local park or forest. I recommend to the elk and deer hunters in my GPS classes to take their receiver everywhere they go for two weeks prior to leaving for camp.  Push buttons, change displays, mark a waypoint and finally, return to a destination.  Like a pilot of a plane, a map, compass and GPS are the instruments in the backcountry cockpit.

Normally a magnetic compass’ needle rotates freely.  The needle rotates on a jeweled pivot point.  The magnetic compass should be kept level while in use allowing the magnetic needle to move about in the compasses housing.  My Suunto recently just stopped rotating.  I would change direction about 30 degrees and the magnetic needle would move about 15 degrees and then just hang up.

Sadly, there is no simple in the field fix for this.  I gently tapped the compass body and checked the movement of the housing but nothing seemed to work.  Never let broken gear clutter your pack or be used mistakenly.

A back up compass is very helpful in such a situation.  It doesn’t have to be expensive, just reliable.  No matter what you use for a back up, it has to work well and requires testing.  I take all my new compasses to a location in town where the streets run north and south (degrees true.)  I will hike the streets insuring that the compass is on the mark.  This only takes a few minutes.  Recently I noticed that one of my small ball compasses seemed to be at least 20 degrees off; it’s a goner.  Note, that a small back up compass may not be as precise as your primary model.  Also recognize that some compass will only provide a trend of direction such as moving in a northerly direction as opposed to tracking on a direction of 025°.

Before throwing a quality compass out, contact the manufacturer to see what the warrantee offers.

So what does the hiker do if the GPS receiver appears to be broken?   .
The following are steps that I’ll perform:

1.    If I have a GPS with an electronic compass I’ll ensure the compass is activated.  For example on the Garmin 60 series, pressing and holding the “page” button will turn the compass on or off.

2.    I’ll ensure the electronic compass is calibrated.  The compass must be calibrated after each battery change.

3.    Check the charge on the batteries.  If in doubt replace them.

4.    When the “Go To, Find or Where Is” option has been selected, older models will require motion to cause the compass arrow and displays to adjust.  Take five or more steps and see if there are any changes with the display.

5.    Turn the GPS receiver off, open the battery case and remove one battery for about twenty seconds, return the battery and power up the receiver again. 

6.    Once powered up, I want to be certain that the receiver has captured the signals from at least four satellites.

7.    Worse case - call the manufacturer.  Call early in the morning.

In the field, I leave my receiver powered on, collecting data the entire trip.  I keep my receiver in a holster that attaches to one of my shoulder straps.  Before leaving the trail head I “dump the junk” and get rid of old waypoints (e.g., last year’s fishing trip hot spots), I reset data fields on the odometer page and I will clear out my track log.  As I hike, my receiver is collecting all my trail data.  Should my receiver’s compass display fail I can follow my track (the “bread crumb trail” on the map page) back to the trail head.

Lastly, I will consult my map. Using the major land features (e.g., ridge lines, peaks, etc.) I will orient the map, determine my location (using terrain association) and direction of travel.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

15 GPS Tips

Rich Owings at has a super post on key tips for the new hand held GPS user.  Learn how to better use and set up you personal GPS.  

If you got a new handheld GPS, I’m hoping the weather is nice enough for you to get out and play with it. Here are some tips to help get you off on the right foot.

To read Rich's post go here.

A tip I would add is to "dump the junk."  Get rid of those old GPS waypoints that you don't use.  Keep the waypoints that you will need for y9our next journey afield.  I recommend not using your GPS as an electronic filing cabinet.