Map, Compass & GPS

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

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Invasive Species - Robbing You Blind

This information comes from a North American Hunter email; this is worth repeating.  Oregon suffers from people releasing bait fish in pristine trout water each year.

Few hunters these days remember the years of market waterfowl hunting. Skies once black with migrating ducks and geese were harvested by the millions to supply food and feathers for a growing country, and many species suffered from overharvest as a result. However, through extensive conservation efforts by concerned and motivated sportsmen, skies are again filling with wildlife.

Today, there’s a new threat to our nation’s waterfowl: invasive species. Foreign plants, animals and diseases threaten our fish and wildlife. They decrease habitat, create a malady of disease and illness, and are a leading cause for endangered species listing.

Each year, thousands of waterfowl die due to the impacts of zebra and quagga mussels, New Zealand mudsnails, and faucet snails. Unknowingly, these non-native species often hitchhike on waterfowl boats and gear, from one honey-hole to another.

The good news is that, as hunters, we have a tradition founded in conservation. If—together—we clean, drain and dry our boats, trailers and equipment—even hunting dogs—we can stop the spread of the foreign invaders. It’s our duty.

  • Clean: Boats, trailers, boots and hunting equipment. Remove all mud and plants. Don’t transport weeds.
  • Drain: Boats, motors and decoys—anything that holds water.
  • Dry: Equipment for 5 days and/or wash with high pressure, hot water.

Do your part to conserve America’s great waterfowl hunting tradition. Remember: Clean, drain and dry to stop aquatic hitchhikers. You owe it to yourself, fellow hunters and the speicies you love.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Baseline Compass Navigation

Baseline navigation is a fundamental map and compass skill.  It is a process of using terrain and land features to the hiker’s advantage.

Outdoor Quest image
Returning to a baseline is a pretty straight forward concept.  The idea is that you leave camp from a known location and strike out in a specific direction such as North, or 000°.  When it is time to return aim to the left or right of camp (like 165°T), hit the logging road camp is on and turn right.  That is the concept but there is a bit more to it.

Let’s go over the tools you need and the process of how it works in more detail.

The essence of backcountry navigation is to keep it simple.  If you are new to compass navigation, having a compass that can be adjusted for declination keeps things simple.  

(Though the red magnetic needle still points to magnetic north, the rotating dial (that has been adjusted) now provides information in degrees true.  A compass that is aligned to degrees true now works well with the traditional topographic map that is oriented to degrees true as well.  Take a look at June Fleming’s book Staying Found or visit

The next tool is your map.  USGS topographic maps and National Geographic maps of the major national parks are great examples of what works well in the backcountry.  (Let’s leave the Gazetteer or AAA road map at home.)  I’ll also carry a copy of the Forest Service or BLM map because they will provide a broad overview of the area.

On the map, locate what will be the base line.  A baseline can be a road, river or trail.  Key to the selection is that you want a baseline of sufficient length.  It must also be obvious when you approach the baseline; it needs to be distinct.  Do not overshoot the baseline and keep on walking.

So let’s take a look at a map and develop a baseline.

The red arrows on the map above point to a road.  This road travels in a general direction of Northwest - Southeast.  Further, the road travels for many miles in either direction. 

Think of the baseline as a geographic boundary.  The baseline is designed to keep the hiker  within a specific area.

The map above  is of the same location but it has been zoomed in for clarity.
Notice the location of camp to the east of the baseline; the road.  Notice that the planned destination has been added.  The destination is to the Northeast of camp.  Roughly the destination bears 070°T (T for degrees true) from Camp.

The intent now is to travel from Camp to Destination.

Outdoor Quest Image
At this point, adjust the compass such that the adjustable outer dial is rotated to 070°T and is aligned with the direction of travel arrow or index line.  

Now proceed towards the destination.  You have the option of looking down range in the direction of “Destination” or monitoring the compass the entire length of the hike; that is a bit tedious.

Note that in a hike such as this you are going to the general location of the area you want to be in.  If you decide to go to a specific, defined location you must triangulate with a compass to fix your position, use pace count or use a GPS.

It is the return hike to camp that will take advantage of the baseline. Rather than trying to go directly back to camp offset the direction of travel to the south. Roughly one will travel in a direction of 230°T.

The key point is that the hiker will knowingly head south of camp to intersect the baseline.
Of course the option of going north of camp on a direction of 280°T could be considered too.


Upon arriving at the baseline turn right and follow the road back to camp.
That’s it.

Remember the cautions mentioned earlier:

  1. The baseline must be of sufficient length.
  2. The baseline must be obvious when you reach it.  If you are in an area of multiple trails or logging road think carefully if your choice is going to work for you.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

GPS Black Friday Sale

GPS sales starting for Black Friday.

Looking for a place that highlights GPS receivers that are on sale --- visit GPStracklog.  Select GPS Deals at the top.

The other place to look is at GPSCity.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Compass Deviation

Compass deviation is not declination.  As a Royal Australian Naval Officer told me years ago, "it is man's earthly sins" that give us deviation.  So just what is it?

Deviation is the deflection of a compass' magnetic needle due to natural or man made interference.

Natural deviation is cause by iron or nickel deposits near the surface of the earth.  Such deflection may also be called "natural attraction."  Further, on a small scale, natural objects such as belt buckles, and rifle barrels may also cause error too.

Man made deviation is caused by electrical circuitry (e.g., florescent lighting), the electronics of a car, significant power line systems and the body of a vehicle.  Notice that being inside a structure will also impact and deflect the magnetic compass needle too.

Over the 15 years of teaching compass navigation I have had two or three people tell me that they had wrapped their compass' lanyard around GPS and compass  and left the intertwined units on the dashboard of their truck.  They claimed that this effected the polarity of the magnetic needle.  Interesting to consider.

So, how is the deflection removed or canceled?  Move.  Move away from the power lines, move the rifle barrel and other ferrous objects. (Move at least a hundred feet from power lines.)

Saturday, November 22, 2014


I just built my facebook page for Outdoor Quest.

Please check it out here.  Feedback welcome.

Rescue Beacons

I came across this article by Jessi Loerch of the "Washington Times Herald Writer" about rescue beacons.  Worth your consideration.

"Lisa Jo Frech was five days into a 10-day, 170-mile hike on the Pacific Crest Trail near Glacier Peak when she passed out. She’s an experienced hiker, had trained hard for the trail and was feeling strong up to that point.
Oh, well, she figured, sometimes people faint."
Lisa's condition deteriorates.

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

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Gear Check Lists

While in the Navy I learned the value of a good, user friendly check list.  Brian Green (at Brian's Backpacking Blog has a interesting post about checklists.  At the end of his post he shares a blank template.  Good stuff.

"In addition to using a gear list to track weight it can be used as a checklist tool to help you gather, inspect, and pack all of your gear before a trip. There’s nothing worse than getting a few miles into a hike and realizing that you left a critical piece of gear at home on the kitchen table. Your gear list will help you to avoid that from happening. I have three check box columns on the left of the spreadsheet I use that are designed to walk me through the this process: Find, Check, Pack." 

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

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Backcountry Stoves in Cold Weather.

Check out Hikin Jim's latest post on cold weather stoves.

The Jetboil Joule – Preview
I've been loaned a Jetboil Joule for the purposes of conducting a review.  I haven't started the review process just yet (I'm still working on the new MSR Windboiler), but I thought I'd post some photos and make a few remarks.

The Jetboil Joule is a powerhouse of a stove, designed for snow melting and cold weather.  It's an inverted canister stove which gives it a 20 Fahrenheit degree cold weather advantage over regular upright canister stoves.
He always has great information.  To read his complete post go here

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Navigating At Night In The Backcountry

This is a rather technical  overview of navigating at night.  Proper preparation is essential.

Navigation during periods of exceptional darkness and reduced visibility is a serious issue for the hiker.

Important navigation features (e.g., mountains, roads, forest, etc.) can be nearly impossible to see.  The impact is a significant loss of geographic reference used for daytime travel.  Geographic reference validates the hiker’s map.

Further compounding the nighttime challenge is 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. In complete darkness, a cones’ effectiveness is significantly reduced.  Rods are important to our night time vision.

What that translates to is this:  in periods of extreme darkness, the ability to see with clarity straight ahead is significantly diminished. If you absolutely must continue traveling at night, the hiker should first make an effort to become adapted to the night environment.  Avoid looking at any white light. Select a member of your group to follow behind you with the GPS and flashlight/headlamp, as its light will negatively impact your vision.

Red light is now best.  Allow 15-30 minutes for the eyes to become adjusted; older hikers may need almost one hour.  Continue to protect the now adapted eyes from sources of bright illumination; discuss this with the other members of the group before embarking.
To maximize clarity, the lead hiker will need to scan the surroundings (by turning their head side to side) rather than looking directly at objects.  This is where prior map study, commonly known as having a “mental map” will pay off significantly.

Navigation procedures are essentially the same as during daylight.  Global Positioning Systems (GPS) lose no capability and will continue to direct the hikers as before.  Do note that the display screens backlight capability do not have red lighting, only white, and use will quickly degrade battery life.  Always carry spare batteries.

Without a GPS, the navigator has the option of navigating by a process known as dead reckoning.   Dead reckoning is the careful application of map and compass by evaluating azimuths and distance by pacing.

Navigating at night is challenging, potentially dangerous, and requires a high level of knowledge.  Confidence from lots of practice performing these skills is essential.   Practicing at night is strongly recommended before heading out to the wilderness.  

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Final Update on Missing Oregon Climber

Sadly the missing climber was recovered by Lane County SAR/Eugene Mountain Rescue this afternoon.

SURVIVAL Top 10 Survival Tips Every Hiker Should Know

I was searching the web for some information on hiking and came across the post.

By Alexander Davies:

"If you’re planning on going hiking sometime soon, that’s terrific — it’s a great way to get exercise, push your limits, and connect with the natural world. But like any outdoor activity, it comes with its share of dangers: weather, wild animals, poisonous plants, and so on. So if you want to get into the great outdoors and make it home again, brush up on these 10 hiking safety tips."
This is a quick read. 

To read the complete post go here

Land Navigation Errors

Land Navigation is a very perishable skill.  It is a skill that takes practice.  As a SAR team member I find that all to often people who get lost in the back country don't have that skill or the equipment.

In 2012 I came across a blog dedicated to land navigation.  Lyle Brotherton had a super post on the 12 most common errors navigators make. I will highlight just a few his points.

  • Compass deviation - Keep ferrous objects away from the compass body.  Items such as rifle barrels, watches, ice axes and some electronics will impact compass accuracy.
  • Declination - Keep your navigation simple and buy a declination adjustable compass like the Silva Ranger; that's a great compass for the price.  Verify your declination and visit for current data.  Many maps are dated and present declination information that is out of date. 
  • Orient the map - Orient your topographic map at the trailhead and at trail junctions.  The map and its features (terrain, streams, man made objects) should correlate with the ground that is laid out before you.  If terrain and map do not agree pause until they do.  For more information on orienting a map go here.

  • Compass bearings - Keep your compass close at hand.  When shooting a bearing turn your body to the bearing don't just turn the compass base plate.  For more information about shooting a bearing go here.

  • Terrain Clues -  Key terrain features such as mountain peaks, trails, waterways and
    elevation should be compared regularly.  This begins at home before striking out.  Study the map to develop a mental image of the backcountry route; his pays off once in the field.
  •  GPS receivers - A few recommendations:
    1. Keep fresh batteries in your receiver
    2. Delete old waypoints that haven't been used recently
    3. Give important waypoints a name such as camp or truck
    4. Calibrate the electronic compass after changing batteries 
    5. Delete the old track log (the bread crumb trail) via the track manager
To read Lyle Brotherton's complete post  go here.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Update on Missing Climber

A break in the weather Saturday allowed search teams to resume the hunt for an avid Bend mountain climber who fell, possibly hundreds of feet, while descending the Middle Sister late Wednesday night.

Mountain Climber Lost in the Central Oregon Cascades Range

An party of two climbed the Middle Sister mountain in Oregon's Cascade range.  Both were experience climbers.  Sadly one climber stumbled and slid hundereds of feet downt the mountain.  Degrading weather halted search efforts.

To read the post from KTVZ go here.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

What Map Datum Do I Use?

What is the best Map Datum to use with your GPS receiver?

I was questioned about this recently in a GPS class.  What is the best datum?

It just depends on what the hiker is going to do.  If one is going to plot coordinates on a map then the datum (in the  USA) to use is NAD27 CONUS (Continental United Sates.)  This matches the map best.

Receivers come from the factory set to WGS 84.  WGS 84 isn't the best datum to use with older maps.  That said, mapping software (Terrain Navigator PRO) and www.caltopo can shift to WGS 84.  Day hikers can feel comfortable using WGS 84 anytime.  Cell phones use WGS 84 too.

For more information about map datum go here.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Adventures in Stoving

This is one web site you need to bookmark.

Jim has a dozens of reviews on stoves for the hiker.

Find adventures in stoving here.

Wolves in Washington State

The following is from the Washington Department of Fish and Game's Web Site.

" Rp (Reporting Party) was hunting with several other people when he saw a wolf skirting along the brush headed in the same direction he was going.  He yelled and shot into the air and the wolf left.  He then saw three additional wolves about 25 yards ahead of him, and they ran in the same direction as the first wolf.  Rp then heard a noise in the brush, yelled to see if it was his hunting partner and got no response. A black wolf then appeared within 15-20 yards of him and approached him.  Rp shot at the wolf, believes he hit it, and the wolf ran off.  Fish and Wildlife officers responded and investigated and found the Rp to be within his lawful rights."

To visit the web site go here.

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Hiker's Trip Plan

Leave a Trip Plan with a responsible person when you head out. Consider this to be the hiker's flight plan.  As a minimum The Trip Plan is your backcountry itinerary.  

I started my version of the of the Hiker's Trip plan back in 2006 after James Kim and his family became lost in step terrain of the Oregon coastal range.

I have learned that when people fail to return from a trip those calling for Search and Rescue (SAR) assistance generally have little knowledge  of the details of the hiking party's plan.  The Trip Plan gives the searchers more information.  The Trip Plan provides the specifics.  The Trip plan provides the details to begin an effective search.

To use the plan down load the document here.  Write in as much information as possible.  Attach a topo or Forest Service map of the planned route and identify the area to be traveled.

Do make sure your responsible person knows what you expect from them.  Importantly as soon as the hiking  party fails to return or check in - 911 is called.

To read another post on your personal outdoor plan go here.