- Dump those old AA batteries, put in new ones. If you leave your GPS on all day in the
field expect to change the batteries nightly. Consider using lithium AA’s, they last longer and work better in cold temperatures.
- “Match the map” with the receiver’s navigation selection options. Specifically, match the coordinate system (e.g., UTM or Latitude/Longitude) and map datum that are found on the map. Consider shifting the receiver’s compass to degrees true. Further, let’s have everyone in a hiking or hunting group use the same settings too; let’s all be on the same page.
- Keep you navigation simple. It’s easier to work with a handful of waypoints rather than list of 300. Dump the Junk – Delete the old waypoints, the ones you will never use again. Log important waypoints (e.g., that lake side camp site) on your PC or in a notebook. Visit www.easygps.com or www.garmin.com for a place to store waypoints.
- Install maps on your GPS receiver. Maps on the receiver are a natural complement to your paper field map. Quality maps are available from onxmaps.com and GPSFiledepot.com (free).
- Adjust your map pages’ zoom setting to see what works best. For general trail hiking I keep my zoom setting at 800 feet. This setting allows me to view trails, water sources, roads and elevation contours.
- Visit the manufacture’s web site to see if there are any firmware updates. I do this every couple of months.
- When batteries are replaced calibrate the electronic compass.
- Verify that you are receiving enough satellite signals. Check this on the satellite status screen. Four satellites are the minimum. Give older receivers the time to collect satellite data; don’t rush the navigation process.
- Give key waypoints names. When marking a waypoint enter names like “camp” and “truck.” It’s easier and more meaningful to find “truck” in the list of waypoints than is waypoint 542; or was it 245.
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When it’s time to return to a destination chose “Where To” or “Find” on your keypad or menu. Select the waypoint from the list provided. Press the “Page” button and rotate through the many displays to the “Compass” page. A large red arrow should appear on the face of the compass pointing to the selected waypoint. When on course to the destination the arrow points to the top center of the receiver. Practice this specific process at home before heading to the field.
- Navigation is a perishable skill. I recommend that two weeks before an outing take the GPS receiver everywhere. Add waypoints, delete waypoints and find a saved waypoint. This process develops familiarization with the unit and allows the user to develop confidence with the receiver and personal ability.
- Compliment GPS skills with a good review of map and compass fundamentals. Learn to back up electronic position fixing with bearing triangulation. Worst case, a broken GPS becomes a paperweight for your map while afield. For more information visit www.outdoorquest.blogspot.com .