Jun 14, 2012 at 10:04 pm #1291049
I'm curious about how many people usually take a map & compass with them when backpacking. I usually stick to well worn trails when backpacking or hiking, and though I always have a compass with me, I've never used it! I don't have any maps of the areas I hike (Sierras – Tahoe area mostly), and I'm debating the merits of buying some. Every time I see a list of the "10 Essentials" it has a map & compass on it somewhere, and I wonder if I'm being remiss in not carrying maps. I almost always have a GPS with me (DeLorme PN-40) which has topo maps on it, but I use it more for measuring how far I've gone and finding nearby geocaches than actual navigating, and half the time I don't bother turning it on. What are everyone's thoughts on this? Do you carry a map and compass religiously, or only if you're expecting to be off the beaten track?Jun 14, 2012 at 10:22 pm #1887106
@saparisorLocale: Pacific Northwest
I always carry a map & compass. I rarely (very rarely) use the compass, but I carry one anyway.Jun 14, 2012 at 10:32 pm #1887110
The size and resolution on a GPS display is poor (compared to a printed topo map), so you really can't see that much detail. So, my primary navigational tool is a printed custom topo map for the area where I am operating. That stays in a very thin transparent plastic bag. I do carry a tiny GPS receiver with me, but it is more of a backup tool. Often I will turn it on only once or twice per day, and it is used more if the weather gets bad and the visibility decreases. I carry a tiny compass with me, but that is more of a backup to the backup, and it gets used about once per year.
–B.G.–Jun 14, 2012 at 10:44 pm #1887114
"I do carry a tiny GPS receiver with me"
Which one?Jun 14, 2012 at 10:46 pm #1887115
@wandering_bobLocale: Oregon, USA
I carry both religously, even if I think I know the area well. Rarely does the compass get used. My maps are handy most of the time if for nothing other than personal comfort, knowing I can get a good overview of the area I'm in – especially when I wander off the correct path.
With a well-groomed, well-marked trail, especially one that you're familiar with or have researched at home carefully, maps may be of little use.
Maps are invaluable when (1) forced to take an alternate route for some reason [blowdown, trail closure, forest fire, landslide, swollen waterway, etc.] or (2) to find an emergency bailout route [where does this trail/road go?] or (3) for when I want to go exploring from my campsite. That side trail might lead to a really secluded lake where I can skinny-dip or get away from the unwashed hiker trash.
Strip maps may be fine for the trail, but they're useless for anything else (ok, maybe as fire tinder) because they don't show features more than a few yards either side of the trail. Be sure you get large enough scale maps for the area you're in. Two perfect examples – the Trails Illustrated maps from National Geographic and the for maps of a particular National Forest/BLM area/Wilderness area.Jun 14, 2012 at 11:13 pm #1887120
It's a rather old Garmin Geko. With batteries, it is about three ounces.
On a different trip, if I think I will need to do some moderately serious GPS navigation, I use an even older Garmin GPS 12XL.
–B.G.–Jun 14, 2012 at 11:25 pm #1887123
@nzbazzaLocale: New Zealand
Always carry map and compass, and sometimes a GPS. The compass only gets used off track, the GPS is usually only used for altitude rather position , and the map is looked at often.Jun 14, 2012 at 11:31 pm #1887125
"the GPS is usually only used for altitude rather position"
That's interesting. Altitude is one of the least accurate functions of a plain GPS receiver. Some have barometric altimeters built in, but that is mostly separate from the GPS functions. Of course, barometric altimeters are only as accurate as the weather is stable.
–B.G.–Jun 15, 2012 at 1:48 am #1887141
@nzbazzaLocale: New Zealand
A lot of the tramping I do is climbing or descending steep bush-clad ridges to/from the ranges above the bushline. I know what ridge I'm on and its far easier for me to determine my position on that ridge by using the altitude from the GPS and the contour lines on the map, rather than try and hazard a guess on some poor sightings through the trees and weather, or try and work out the co-ordinates on a print-out topo map that has no grid numbers.
BTW I use an Etrex H, it claims an accuracy of about 10 metres either way, which is close enough for me.Jun 15, 2012 at 6:57 am #1887170
Map and compass. Always. I've never used a GPS, but a good topo and compass has seen me through many miles, and I wouldn't want to go anywhere without them.Jun 15, 2012 at 7:05 am #1887173
@paulmagsLocale: People's Republic of Boulder
Always have them. Tend to use a map more, but I always have the compass handy.
Don't have a GPS. :)Jun 15, 2012 at 7:15 am #1887178
My Garmin Legend is long defunct, but my ultralight compasses live on. I carry either a very old Silva or newer Brunton Trooper. Small, but very useful and with little weight penalty.Jun 15, 2012 at 7:20 am #1887181
as many have said the compass goes unused on many trips, but always carry it (the topo map is used extensively)- I also carry a small GPS (Foretrex 401) set to UTM, my topo map(s) are marked w/ UTM grids
my small compass (Silva 27) has a small mirror, so it can used for signaling or to self examine for fist aid related matters, @ 21 grams tough to leave it homeJun 15, 2012 at 8:48 am #1887211
@oroambulantLocale: San Francisco
I carry all three. What peak is that in the distance? Compass and topo tells you. Difficult by GPS with small screen, coarse direction.
I use the GPS for "collecting" bench marks. Find the brass benchmarks on the topo, hike to them, and add a waypoint.
Orienteering is a lot of fun too.Jun 15, 2012 at 9:29 am #1887221
@ngatelLocale: Southern California
Usually take a map and compass. Some trips neither. When doing cross country hiking in canyon country I take a military lensatic compass with USGS 7.5 maps for the difficult areas, Nat Geo Topo! maps for other sections. On one trip last year I expected to be able to purchase USGS maps at a National Park Service visitor center. It was closed for remodeling. I drew maps by hand from the USGS website (I was far from home with no printer access). That and my compass got me through some difficult canyons and I was able to find water at the critical points.
My wife bought me a GPS for my birthday a few years ago. I only take it on day hikes with her, makes her happy that I use her gift. Other than that, I have no use for one.Jun 15, 2012 at 9:41 am #1887223
Bob pretty much described what I use…
Map, small compass and a GPS.
The map is used constantly (custom printed section, with grids, folded up in an aloksak)
Compass is a backup and never used.
GPS is rarely used but left turned on in my pack (I match my photos to my tracks when I get home).
GPS screens are not adequate for navigation so my non-mapping Garmin Foretrex 301 goes on most trips. I load my GPS with my route, a few way points and hope I won't need to look at it. That said, it has saved me a lot of time finding a trail on a number of occasions.
I occasionally carry a mapping GPS but that's purely because of it's "cool factor" not needed functionality (love the Birdseye imagery, color maps etc.).Jun 15, 2012 at 10:27 am #1887231
@ewolinLocale: Hampton Roads, Virginia
Always take map and compass, GPS on occasion, but rarely use any of them for navigation.
We do use the map all the time to find out the name of some peak or other landmark, to figure out where alternate trails go, etc.
I actually need a map to remind myself which trail I need to take, thus my wife is always the navigator. I have to remind her to stop at all trail junctions and wait for me or I'll head down the wrong path. I'll even head off the wrong path on a reasonably well-marked trail with no trail junctions…no one can figure out how I manage this! I think I just zone out while hiking and mistake game trails for the real thing. No one else does, though…Jun 15, 2012 at 12:16 pm #1887268
"or try and work out the co-ordinates on a print-out topo map that has no grid numbers."
I think I see the problem here.
"BTW I use an Etrex H, it claims an accuracy of about 10 metres either way, which is close enough for me."
One of the dirty secrets of GPS receiver marketing is that accuracy claims can seldom be substantiated. Much of the time, the only accuracy that they mean is the horizontal accuracy (Horizontal Dilution Of Precision=HDOP), and only once in a while will they mention Vertical Diution of Precision or VDOP. As it turns out, the very best that VDOP can be is 1.5 times the HDOP, and sometimes it is at its worst of several times the HDOP. VDOP is the worst when you have poor geometry in the view of the sky. In other words, when you are on the side of a cliff or within a ravine is when it has the worst vertical accuracy.
–B.G.–Jun 15, 2012 at 12:39 pm #1887277
Map and Compass come along on any multi-day trips. Most day hikes are on well marked/known trails. Nevertheless, I will often print out just an 8.5 X 11 topo map of the day hike section I may be in. I have the 7.5 minute quads for all of Colorado on my computer.
My Garmin 60CSx is with me most trips because
1] I like having the tracking history for later review
2] Current Altitude
3] Miles traveled
4] Average speed
5] Occasionally used to orient myself when off trail
Nothing critically important but nice and useful nonetheless.Jun 15, 2012 at 12:50 pm #1887281
@mikefaedundeeLocale: Under a bush in Scotland
I think this thread is a good example of how diverse the folk on BPL are.
Here in Scotland, you can't really go hiking unless you have navigation gear, and know how to use it. There are very few waymarked trails, and unless you know how to navigate, you could spend days going round in circles in low mist or cloud. Or even worse outcomes in winter.Jun 15, 2012 at 3:10 pm #1887328
Mike – I find that interesting. We have incredibly different environments to navigate in, but the problem here is the same. The difference is that we can't see the landmarks for the trees!
When I wander off trail (usually bush whacking to find a lake or section of stream), I drop a waypoint where I leave the trail and leave my tracking on as I go (so I can follow it back).
The problem with map and compass in this environment is that the trees block out most land marks. The underbrush is very dense and there are so many blow downs that you will have to walk 10 times the straight line distance before you reach your destination. While careful course plotting with a map and compass is possible, it's far easier to use a GPS (preferably with a pre-trip waypoint entered as the destination). Returning via the GPS bread crumb trail is never as easy as it would seem, as the accuracy under tree cover makes it difficult to walk the same path and nothing ever looks familiar (but it gets me home).Jun 15, 2012 at 7:01 pm #1887377
@rcaffinLocale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
> Here in Scotland, you can't really go hiking unless you have navigation gear, and
> know how to use it.
I suspect Mike means map and compass here. The Scots have been wandering Scotland for an awful long time, way back before transistors were ever invented.
And I am not sure the Creagh Dhu bothered with those…
CheersJun 16, 2012 at 3:40 pm #1887572
Come on Roger, you're a scientist… move with the times. The satellite coverage was a bit thin back then… otherwise, who knows :)Jun 16, 2012 at 9:04 pm #1887611
@dipinkLocale: Western Washington
For my navigation class, I was forced to purchase a bulky full-featured compass. I find I like the mirror, it does make readings easier, but it would be nice to have a compass that takes up much less room. Any recommendations on baseplate compasses?
I like the looks of the Silva Ranger 27 that someone mentioned earlier in this thread, but the only locations I"ve found on the web that are selling it are in the UK–a bit far to go. And, how sturdy is the hinge on the Ranger 27? It looks similar to a Silva compass sold by LL Bean, which had several bad reviews on how flimsy it was.Jun 16, 2012 at 11:05 pm #1887636
It is funny how different things are.
I'm with Mike, I live at the opposite end of the UK in Cornwall and do most of my reasonably local walking on Dartmoor. The las 2 trips I have done have involved walking on a bearing in 0 visability and could not have been contemplated without decent navigation skills!
I have a very basic GPS app on my phone which gives me a position if I really need it. I have only used this once, in January when I was out with my 11 year old daughter. Had I taken a wrong turn it would have involved an extra 10 miles or so which she wouldn't have coped with, so better safe than sorry. Had I been on my own I would not have bothered with it.
I used to have a garmin about 10 years ago when they first started to be affordable. It did not have maps on it just way points etc and I found my self using the map more than the GPS as I found a waypoint in the middle of a blank screen fairly meaningless. I think a modern GPS with decent mapping software on it would be another story, but electronics go wrong, so you would still need to carry a map and compass.
Using electronics also raises the issue of power, there just doesn't seem to be alichtweight option. When I first got my android phone I thought that might be the answer, you can get some very fancy mapping software for it, it is also a phone, a camera and can track where you are, a feature my wife really likes when I am off on my own! However the battery only lasts for 7 hours and unless it s mid winter, I walk more than that each day. I have tried carrying spare batteries, but at more than 1 a day, it soon mouns up. I tried a battery pack which you plug int with a USB. That gave me an extra 2 days, but then you have waterfroofing issues. I looked into solar chargers, but they were relatively heavy and we are not always bathed in sunshine!
My conclusion was that some knowledge and a map and compass was the best and lightest option.
I also use laminated maps which are a bit heavier, but dont fall apart at the first sign of moisure, and double up as an excellent picnic blanket when you stop for lunch!
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