Map, Compass & GPS

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

Friday, October 17, 2014

Backcountry Travel Off The Beaten Path

I just finished teaching a land navigation class at the local community college.  I had lots of questions about hiking off the beaten path; bushwacking through the backcountry. 

I paused my presentation to capture the moment by engaging the students in what their key considerations and thoughts were.  Here is a round up of some of what we talked about and some of the recommendations made by the group:

  • Off trail hiking preparation starts at home.  This is the time to review maps of the area paying particular attention to terrain, landmarks, water ways and potential hazards along the way.  Even though the hiker might be bushwacking trail guide books might have some good info of the area.

  • Maps are prepared and stored in a zip lock bag or map case.

  • The hiking party needs to ensure that their navigation equipment is all set up  such that every one is on the same page.  Compasses should be adjusted for declination, GPS receiver set-up options (coordinate system, map datum, north reference) should all match.

  • I like to consider that hiking has the apects of a team effort.  We work and stay together during the hike.  This isn't the time to hike alone.

  • When going off trail save the point of departure as a waypoint on the GPS receiver and give the waypoint a name.  Mark that position on the map too.  Mark a waypoint at key crossings abd course changes.  Those new to GPS should mark frequently to develo the muscle memory. 

  • Topo maps provide a general description of the area through the use of colors, symbols and contour lines.  I like to evaluate and orient my map during breaks and keep my position data current.  Terrain association plays a big part.    Maps could be updated with position data during breaks, stops for lunch or when ever it just makes sense.

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