Map, Compass & GPS

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

Monday, September 29, 2014


Are we ready in the Pacific Northwest for a major earthquake?

Last Saturday I attend the Clackamas County SARCON, a convention  for Search and Rescue (SAR) volunteers.

I learned that the Clackamas County Sheriff staff prepared a series of youtube videos on earthquake preparedness.

Here is the first one:

Compass Accuracy

Just how accurate is your magnetic compass?
After speaking at a land navigation lecture at a recent sportsman’s show, an attendee asked my opinion about the accuracy of his compass.  His compass was a new model and about the size of a nickel.  The rotating body was a circular plate rather than a more traditional red magnetic needle.  The four cardinal points of a compass (e.g., north, east) was the only bearing information displayed.  His compass was very limited in the information it could provide. It could only be counted on to provide a general trend of direction.  I told him the accuracy of a compass depends on many different factors. 
Do not assume all compasses give the same information; they do not.  The type of compass purchased impacts the dependability of its information. Compass selection is critical to accuracy.    
Grandfather’s compass from decades ago may no longer be the best selection for the hiker.  The image below is of a compass made between 1910-1920.  Though the dial is fairly detailed, the accuracy may be reduced due to the polarity of the magnetic needle.  In general terms, the polarity is how the magnetic needle will react to the earth’s magnetic field.  Over a period of almost 100 years, the compass’ magnetic needle may not move in relation to magnetic north as it did when new; that could mean the differences of several degrees.  To prove this point take a new baseplate compass and compare the two (do not hold them near each other.)  A navigator can also compare it a new compass or a location where a street or trail is known to run true north.
To read the complete post go here.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Survival Knives - The Right Blade

My friend Leon has an interesting video post regarding chosing the right blade for your survival knife.  Leon has become a self trained expert on quality knives for the hiker and hunter.

Survival knife video: Choose the correct blade spine for ferro rod firestarting
Posted on September 23rd, 2014 by Leon in Leon's Blog
An often overlooked part of a survival blade is the back, or spine. With the proper grind, the back can provide an edge that saves the razor edge for other uses.
by Leon Pantenburg
It’s easy to ignore the dull part of the knife blade. But the spine, ground correctly, can becomes another useful part of the knife.
Before  you consider buying a blade, here’s some spine grinds you  don’t want:
No guthook: A guthook is a specialized grind that is designed to be used in a few specialized cuts while field dressing a big game animal. Other then a few times every year, the guthook is just an impediment. The hook, if properly sharpened, could also hook your hand or clothing. The hook eliminates any other use of the spine. If you must have a guthook, get a specialty one, apart from your main survival/hunting knife. The seperate guthook  will do the specialty cuts you want it to, and you won’t have to deal with the hook on your blade.
To read the rest of Leon's post go here.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Winter Survival - Fire Starting

Take a look at your pack/kit and critically evaluate what you are going to use for fire starter this fall and winter.

Late this past spring my SAR team was called upon to extract two men hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.  They had quality equipment and had invested a lot money in their gear.  That said, the couldn't start a fire to warm themselves during a weekend of mixed snow and rain.  

They had only one method of fire starting and it did not work for them.

My recommendation is to have a small zip lock sandwich bag loaded with several types of fire starters.

For example, I am a big fan of the Stormproof Matches.  These are available at REI, Sportsman's Warehouse, Cabelas and of course  These are far superior to
many of those matches found at the discount stores such as the windproof models.

The old Bic lighters are nice to light a stove with but make sure the one purchased works in cold weather.  Place the lighter in the kitchen freeze over night and see if it lights once pulled out.  If it won't light at about 30 degrees what good is it in the back country.

Pitch wood is a super fire started.  Pitch wood  are found in
pine forests and usually at the bottom of a stump.  The wood is loaded with dried sap.  The wood is shaved with a knife and easily catches fire when lighted.  If you find a large chunk break it up and share it with friends.

I also carry a small container of cotton balls infused with petroleum jelly.  I can get roughly four cotton balls packed into the container.  Rain or shine, these small fire starters burn for about 6 minutes.  I place a small sheet of aluminum foil under the cotton ball to retain the petroleum jelly once it starts to melt due to the heat of the flame.  I also carry a ferro rod fire started that gets the petroleum burning nicely.  I get mine from

And yes, I do carry a small amount of "Strike Anywhere" matches that I use for camp chores.  I store those in a small orange vial that can be found at most outdoor retailers.

But most importantly, whatever you carry "it has to work for you."  Try your fire starter at home before heading out.  

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Winter Survival

Winter is right around the corner.  It's time to get prepared.

 As we move into early fall there is a youtube video that I enjoy watching; it gets me into the right frame of mind.  

It is a BBC documentary/drama hosted by Ray Mears.  Mears is a bush craft authority from England.  His video is roughly a three hour production broken up into 16 segments, each about 15 minutes long.

This is a video we can all learn something from. 

Finding Direction Without a Compass

Preparation and carrying the ten essentials is vital to any outdoor trip.  Map, compass and GPS make up my navigation kit.  Still, the unplanned happens and the magnetic compass may be broken or left at home.  Knowing a few common practices can make a difference.
How can you determine direction without a compass or when the compass is broken?
There are a few viable techniques that can be used to determine direction.  But first, let’s eliminate two methods that are not practical.
Let’s eliminate the old axiom of moss growing on the north side of a tree.  It is just not reliable.
Secondly, dismiss the concept that deciduous trees (e.g., oaks, maples) develop significantly more vegetative structure on a southern exposure.  Generally, one would expect more branch development and canopy on the southern side because of the amount of sunlight received.  This is getting a lot of attention on the internet.  In the Pacific Northwest the Forestry professors that I have discussed this with tell me not to depend on such an observation.
The following are a few methods that are worth remembering.
To read the rest of the post go here.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Yellowstone Volcano

From  Time

Atricle by 
2 September.

An eruption could blanket the east coast in a few millimeters and bury the Rocky mountains in several meters of ash. 

If Yellowstone erupted into a massive, ash-spewing volcano, how far might the plume travel across the continental United States? From coast to coast, blanketing every city in ash, according to an unsettling new study.
Geophysicists developed a computer model of a Yellowstone “super eruption” that would spew 330 cubic kilometers of volcanic ash into the sky. The resulting ash cloud, depending on wind conditions, would blanket the continental United States in ash deposits of varying thickness, according to the study, published late August in the journal Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems.
New York and Washington D.C., would get a light dusting of ash measuring roughly one-tenth of an inch, while San Francisco and Seattle would get a heaping 2 inches. Billings, Montana, meanwhile, would have to dig out from a 70-inch pile up.
If the findings sound far-flung, so to speak, researchers point out that Yellowstone’s last massive eruption spewed ash over tens of thousands of square kilometers. Deposits from that eruption have been traced as far afield as Canada and the Gulf of Mexico. Fortunately, the last time Yellowstone erupted on that scale was some 2 million years ago and counting.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Calibrating The GPS Electronic Compass

Calibrating your GPS receiver's electronic compass is a must.
Recently I held a GPS navigation seminar at a Sportsman’s show in Oregon.
At one point during the seminar one man described the inaccuracy of his GPS and asked what he could do about it.  He was frustrated that on several occasions while returning to camp the GPS compass arrow (while in the “Find,” “Where to” mode) was providing unreliable information.  He’d arrive in camp and the receiver would direct him in a new direction and distance.
As he related his story, I noticed that several other attendees nodded in agreement that they too had the same problem.  I asked the fellow if he had ever calibrated the electronic compass.  “Yes, when I first got the GPS,” was his reply.
When I explained that the electronic compass should be calibrated after EVERY battery change, the group’s response was one of surprise.
To read the rest of the post go here.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Solar Flare

New flare headed our way.

WASHINGTON (AP) - An extreme solar flare is blasting its way to Earth and could mess up some power grids, satellites and radio transmissions, scientists say.
It's been several years since Earth has had a solar storm of this size coming from sunspots smack in the middle of the sun, said Tom Berger, director of the Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colorado.
Solar storms happen often, especially during peaks in the solar cycle, and don't directly harm people. But what makes this one more worrisome is its location on the sun along with its strength, he said.
"There's been a giant magnetic explosion on the sun," Berger said. "Because it's pointed right at us, we'll at least catch some of the cloud" of highly energized and magnetized plasma that can disrupt Earth's magnetic sphere, which sometimes leads to temporary power grid problems.
To read the rest of the post go here.