Topic

Why it’s best not to rely on cellphone navigation when hiking


Forum Posting

A Membership is required to post in the forums. Login or become a member to post in the member forums!

Home Forums General Forums Philosophy & Technique Why it’s best not to rely on cellphone navigation when hiking

Viewing 25 posts - 1 through 25 (of 210 total)
  • Author
    Posts
  • #3626125
    HkNewman
    BPL Member

    @hknewman

    Locale: Western US
    #3626154
    Brad P
    BPL Member

    @brawndo

    I agree with the article, but this is false.  What app is this person using?

    “The GPS won’t tell you there is a mountain in the way or there is a huge river that won’t be safe to cross, but a map will,”

    #3626398
    Joshua S
    Spectator

    @thejosh

    I know how to read a map/use a compass and pack them unless it’s a well traveled trail, but if I ever could take only one (either GPS or  map+compass) I would always choose the GPS. Being able to see which side of the trail I’m standing on is fantastic, walking in area’s with livestock paths maps are pretty much useless. I have yet to have a GPS fail me. I can’t remember ever taking a map out of my pack.

    “In October 2015, a surveyor found the remains of Geraldine Largay, 66, who was hiking a section of the Appalachian Trail alone in the summer of 2013, stepped off the path and apparently became disoriented. She tried to use her cellphone to text for help, possibly causing further disorientation, especially if she was moving around while looking at her device instead of her surroundings. But she was in the dense woods of Maine, and she couldn’t get a signal. She survived almost a month before dying of exposure and starvation.”

    This is at best far fetched to me. The only example they could come up within the modern GPS era, and she wasn’t even carrying a GPS. Probably would have been a good thing for her to have seeing as those who knew her claimed she had a knack for getting lost..

    Honestly if any friends or family asked me about going on a solo trip into trail in a wilderness without knowing how to read a map, but they had some topography maps and trail maps downloaded on their phones I’d tell them to go for it. Though, I would want them to be able to figure out at least roughly North/South/East/West though and have some common sense.

    There is not as much data as I’d like on search and rescues so I’ve kind of had to piece some stuff together, but according to this report (behind a paywall unfortunately, sorry) https://www.researchgate.net/publication/26795932_Dead_Men_Walking_Search_and_Rescue_in_US_National_Parks there were some 65,00 Search and Rescues (SAR) operations by the National Park Service (NPS) for the 15 year period between 1992 and 2007 averaging about 4,300 per year. Before GPS was common place.

    According to this (https://nps.maps.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/b526c87ae21f4a669eb6c9238c2c4bcf) published by NPS 2017 saw only 4100 SARs despite having 330 million visitors. (https://www.nps.gov/aboutus/visitation-numbers.htm) This shows we have about 55 million more visitors per year to national parks.

    So despite more people visiting these areas, and I would surmise fewer of the people can read maps today than those that could in 1992, we are seeing fewer SARs on average I think this is in part because of GPS.

    #3626412
    Matt Dirksen
    BPL Member

    @namelessway

    Locale: Mid Atlantic

    … so, up to 2007, about one out of 10 folks were getting rescued, on average. Now the average is one out of a thousand?

    wow.

    Obviously trail maintenance (and access) may also have to do with some of that, but I’d agree with you that overall, the GPS has probably helped with those numbers going down. But are most folks using a standalone GPS or a GPS app on their phone?

    Sadly, GPS dependency has definitely impacted peoples willingness to learn basic map & compass skills (like even simple proper map orientation). It aught to be taught in conjunction with basic first aid skills.

    At lest my girls are still learning (and teaching) map & compass skills in BSA.

    Funny, I swear I just had a dream last night about finding a Garmin In Reach Mini on a trail last night…

    #3626415
    Jerry Adams
    BPL Member

    @retiredjerry

    Locale: Oregon and Washington

    GPS has the same maps as a paper map, shows where rivers are for example.  From a map or GPS you don’t know whether a river is easy or difficult to cross.

    The only problem with a GPS is it can fail, but that’s rare.  Getting into a survival situation is rare.  The chance of them both happening at the same time is so rare as to not worry about.  99.9% of the time when I’m in a survival situation the GPS will work so it’s good to have it.

    Once my GPS failed, but it was when I first turned it on at the trailhead.  Occasionally it’ll lose satellite but it shows the last location so it’s easy to figure out where I am, it comes back after a while.

    I think relying on GPS or map can be a problem.  It’s more important to be looking around where you are, how you’re going to get back to trailhead – ridges, valleys,…   Don’t just enthusiastically set out without occasionally looking back so you’ll know how to return to trailhead.  I can say this from experience : )

    #3626417
    Mike M
    BPL Member

    @mtwarden

    Locale: Montana

    horse pucky

    a gps app on one’s cellphone does NOT rely on a cell signal (actually most who run gps apps shut down the cell reception via airplane mode to conserve battery life) but satellite signal- just like any dedicated gps does

    the app shows whatever map(s) you prefer- USGS quads to sat maps (or even hybrids)

    should you have a map/compass (and know how to use them)?  certainly, but the gps apps on phones can be relied on- ask anyone who had done the Bob Marshall Open the last five years

    #3626435
    Joshua S
    Spectator

    @thejosh

    I should clarify – I can’t figure out how to edit so — in the 15 years between 1992 and 2007 the NPS saw a total of roughly 4,300,000,000 visitors and had a total of 65,000 SARs so about 1 in 68,000 on average (I rounded numbers in millions down to nearest million to save time) and 2017 saw 4200 SARS and 330,000,000 (up about 55,000,000 from the average visitors from the 1992-2007 period) visitors, so about 1 in 78000 roughly (again some rounding). Which is an improvement. Although I can only find SAR for 2017, I can’t find anything published by NPS for 2018/16/15. And there are other factors that go into that for sure.

    #3626447
    Rex Sanders
    BPL Member

    @rex

    Locale: California

    The mapping app built-in to most phones most definitely requires a cell signal, though most do a fair amount of caching. I’ve repeatedly run off the edge of detailed Google maps in areas with little to no reception – and the lower-resolution “backup” maps don’t show trails or even local roads. I’ve helped a bunch of lost, smartphone-dependent hikers in local parks with poor reception, and I started carrying extra paper maps. But handing them a map frequently involves a quick course in map reading and orientation.

    I’ll bet that the vast majority of National Park visitors have not downloaded Gaia and local topo maps before heading out and getting lost. SAR has probably dropped in park areas that have cell coverage.

    — Rex

    #3626448
    Jerry Adams
    BPL Member

    @retiredjerry

    Locale: Oregon and Washington

    ahhh…  good point

    I use Gaia and make sure I have the area I’m going to downloaded

    Yeah, probably most users don’t do that

    I have all of Oregon, Washington. northern California downloaded at low res

    #3626478
    Dale Wambaugh
    BPL Member

    @dwambaugh

    Locale: Pacific Northwest

    I like using a GPS or phone with pre-loaded maps, BUT, the old Boy Scout in me screams for a paper map and a compass tucked into my pack. Stuff happens and Murphy wrote his law with mechanical things in mind, let alone anything with a battery and electronics.

    User error looms large. I was going to the ghost town of Monte Cristo in the Washington Cascades. The trail crosses a large river and follows an abandoned road but I still ran into people who were lost. One couldn’t read the map he had or orient himself with a river and road as well as a clear view of the sun. Another group started out with a map on a phone but one of them inadvertently deleted the map. They too were disoriented with the river in plain view 20′ from the trail. I’ve seen people lost in a canyon 1/2 mile wide with a stream running down the middle.

    I took a physical geology class in college and a large part of the class couldn’t grasp basic stream morphology. I spent my younger years crawling around stream banks and saw them change from year to year too. It seemed so simple, but it finally dawned on me that those classmates had never gone for a walk up a stream. Talk about a reason for outdoor/environmental education!

    Something I found while traveling with a phone and navigating a city. Turn the wireless off and you may find the accuracy on Google Maps drops, regardless if you have a good cell signal. I was in Lisbon and the blue dot was three or four blocks off which is significant in a city with steep hills!

    #3626486
    Jerry Adams
    BPL Member

    @retiredjerry

    Locale: Oregon and Washington

    Once I ran into a lost person that couldn’t figure out a map they printed from the internet

    It was a map I had created

    Full service – not only create internet maps but follow along to explain it if they can’t figure it out

    #3626491
    Joshua S
    Spectator

    @thejosh

    They pointed out that 46% of SARs are day hikers who get lost and only 13% are overnight backpackpackers who tend to be a little more prepared.

    I do wish they’d provide more up to date and more specific statistics for some comparison, but I supposed with budget cuts and no director that is not exactly a priority.

    #3626493
    Dale Wambaugh
    BPL Member

    @dwambaugh

    Locale: Pacific Northwest

    @retiredjerry Oops? Did you tell them that the map was your creation? Sounds like a fat disclaimer might be in order.

    Ultimately, like the guy says, “you can’t fix ‘stupid'”— the lost hikers, not you Jerry :)

    #3626496
    Mike M
    BPL Member

    @mtwarden

    Locale: Montana

    the article’s title is pretty misleading

     

    should be “if you’re an idiot, then don’t depend on a cellphone, nor a map or compass”

    #3626527
    Jerry Adams
    BPL Member

    @retiredjerry

    Locale: Oregon and Washington

    Yeah, I told them that was mine.  And implied that I was there to explain to anyone that needed help understanding it.

    I think city folks aren’t stupid, just unfamiliar with how to read maps and find where to go.  It’s all good to me though, go out there and they’ll figure it out.

    #3626599
    Roger Caffin
    BPL Member

    @rcaffin

    Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe

    started out with a map on a phone but one of them inadvertently deleted the map.
    Now that is a good one!

    Cheers

    #3626602
    Dale Wambaugh
    BPL Member

    @dwambaugh

    Locale: Pacific Northwest

    One of those Darwin Forehead Slap moments.

    It has been my impression that wilderness disasters are clusters: someone goes out, gets lost, it gets dark and they have no lights, they fall down a cliff, it starts to rain and no one knows they went for a hike. A ranger found their car at the trailhead and Search and Rescue gets close, but the hiker has no whistle. Etc, etc, etc.

    #3626636
    Jerry Adams
    BPL Member

    @retiredjerry

    Locale: Oregon and Washington

    started out with a map on a phone but one of them inadvertently deleted the map.”

    I find phones to be very confusing.  It would be easy to accidentally delete a map.

     

    #3626685
    Roger Caffin
    BPL Member

    @rcaffin

    Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe

    To my mind, a huge problem with maps on phones is that you can’t look ahead by 10 or 20 km at any decent resolution, whereas on a paper map it is easy.

    Cheers

    #3626689
    jscott
    BPL Member

    @book

    Locale: Northern California

    Leave the phone, take a map, save weight. Less fiddle factor. Less to go wrong.

    #3626691
    Dale Wambaugh
    BPL Member

    @dwambaugh

    Locale: Pacific Northwest

    To my mind, a huge problem with maps on phones is that you can’t look ahead by 10 or 20 km at any decent resolution, whereas on a paper map it is easy.

    Actually Gaia can load full resolution maps but there’s still the Murphy’s Law factor. But you’re in New Zealand, right? The only directions there are up, down, dry or wet :)

    #3626692
    Mike M
    BPL Member

    @mtwarden

    Locale: Montana

    “Leave the phone, take a map, save weight. Less fiddle factor. Less to go wrong.”

    especially useful in thick clouds/fog and at night

    how about folks actually learn how to operate a gps along with the skills to navigate w/ map and compass- such a radical idea I know

     

     

    #3626693
    rubmybelly!
    BPL Member

    @sleeping

    Locale: The Cascades

    “To my mind, a huge problem with maps on phones is that you can’t look ahead by 10 or 20 km at any decent resolution, whereas on a paper map it is easy.”

    I don’t find this to be true, not with Gaia anyway.

    #3626698
    Roger Caffin
    BPL Member

    @rcaffin

    Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe

    Oh sure, you can load a full resolution map onto phone: that is not what I am criticising. It’s the huge difference in size between a mobile phone screen and a spread-out paper map I am targeting.

    I can spread a paper map out on a table and scan a 20 km distance in a literal second, noting ridges and rivers in a flash. You simply can not do that with a tiny screen. I can see alternate routes for that 20 km and compare them in seconds, for things like water and height change. I can PLAN.

    Sure, if you are going to be following a marked and cleared track with printed track notes, it may not matter. I gather some people walk some of the tracks in America with neither a map nor a phone: they just follow the signposts. The only planning required there is transport for the start and end points. But that is not ‘navigating’.

    My 2c.
    Cheers

    #3626700
    rubmybelly!
    BPL Member

    @sleeping

    Locale: The Cascades

    As in other things, we’ll agree to disagree. I can do all of the things you do with your beloved maps on my phone, including alternate routes and such. I can also PLAN (or, you know, plan). Most certainly I can’t do them as quickly as you can with a map, but I can do them, and I’m not in a hurry, generally, when I’m backpacking, so I don’t see that as much of a detractor.

    You’re set in your ways, I get it. But for those of us who do use our phones regularly, we can navigate and PLAN/plan pretty easily and fairly quickly.

Viewing 25 posts - 1 through 25 (of 210 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.
Forum Posting

A Membership is required to post in the forums. Login or become a member to post in the member forums!

Loading...