This interesting news article was in a local paper on February 15.
Article by Brett French, The Billings (Montana) Gazette.
“Camping in winter can be miserable. The nights seem painfully long. I toss, turn and check my watch frequently, wondering how it is that only an hour has passed since I last checked the clock.New research may give winter campers like me some hope that those cold outings may be of benefit in an unusual way.According to a study published in “Current Biology” by the Sleep and Chronobiology Lab at the University of Colorado Boulder, sleeping outside is a good way to reset your restless winter internal clock.”
Brett French’s complete article.
You are in the backcountry and in a survival situation. You need to make a decision. Do you remain in place or “self rescue” and head out.
My friends Peter Kummerfeldt and Leon Pantenburg have both posted articles on this
|Blake Miller/Outdoor Quest Image|
subject. This post captures some of their comments and my additional suggestions.
“GO – NO GO Decisions”
Check out a suggested trip plan.
|Blake Miller/Outdoor Quest Image|
Critical to this first step is to have the right gear. A day pack with the “ten essentials“
is a must have.
Make a plan. While waiting for rescue decide if it is better to remain in place or attempt self rescue. Don’t let your movement compound your situation.
Is anyone in the group injured? If so don’t leave that individual alone.
Get SAR activated early. Call 911 and energize a rescue beacon (SPOT, InReach) early while there is still light. It can take hours before SAR may arrive on the scene.
Gather the material necessary to build a fire.
Set up an emergency action shelter. This can be a tarp or a tent.
|Blake Miller/Outdoor Quest Image|
Sectionhiker.com has a great post about 9 important winter navigation hazards.
“Winter hiking navigation is different than three season navigation because easy trails can become unsafe from avalanche danger, deep snow, or dangerous weather conditions. When planning winter hiking routes, it’s important to factor these hazards into your route plans and preparation, even if it means taking a longer and safer route.”
In 1857 Dutch professor Christopher Buys Ballot postulated that there was a relationship between wind direction and air pressure. Buys-Ballot’s law provides a rough approximation of the location and direction of the low pressure system as it tracks through a region.
A base layer is the garment worn closest to the skin. In the past, most outdoorsmen thought of a base layer as a simple set of “long johns.” The days of cotton long johns are fading. Cotton clothing retains moisture and in winter provides no insulation when wet.
Ms. Gross provided a fine discussion of the options of the various base layer choices available to the hiker.
· Synthetics – These are popular big sellers and big advertisers in outdoor magazines (e.g., Under Amour). Synthetics are fine in moderate temperatures. Wet material close to the skin may be chilly until dry. Moisture wicking is excellent; that’s the big plus. Synthetics dry faster than any other base layer material. Synthetics can get stinky so launder after each use.
Positioning System (GPS) receivers has simplified navigation to an extent but the knowledge of how to use a compass is still important; do not underestimate this skill.
- They are declination adjustable
- Liquid filled housing to dampen the magnetic needle’s movement
- 2° increments on the bearing dial of the compass housing
- A clear baseplate of adequate size with map scale information and a small magnifier.
- Using the owner’s manual, adjust the compass for declination.
- While holding the compass at waist level, turn squarely towards a distant object. Hold the compass so that the direction of travel arrow points directly at the object. (Point the direction of travel arrow away from you; perpendicular to your body.)
- While holding the compass, turn the compass housing (the dial) and align the orienting arrow (engraved in the rotating housing) underneath the red magnetic needle.
- In this example, the compass has been adjusted to a bearing of 011° degrees. The bearing data is found where the direction of travel arrow intersects the compass housing.
- Identify three distinct objects to sight on. Note that the objects need to be on the topographic map (topo) of the area. I recommend carrying a forest service map (or something similar) of the area in addition to the topo just incase the objects are too far away.
- Orient the topo using the compass. Orienting the topo means that the map’s left or right border is pointing to true north or 000° degrees true. See “Orienting a Map” for more information.
- Sight on an object such as a mountain peak or church spire. (Note that not many objects in the backcountry are so distinct and crisp. Do the best with what you have.) Ensure the direction of travel arrow is pointed towards the object.
- As discussed earlier, turn the compass housing until the orienting arrow is directly under red magnetic needle. Do not move or rotate the compass housing, keep the new bearing in place.
- At this point, and while plotting the bearing on the map, the compass will now be used like a protractor.
- Lay the compass on the map with either the top left or right corner of the baseplate on the landmark. This will be a pivot point while aligning the compass.
- With the edge of the baseplate in position, rotate the compass (swing) left or right until the N (north) of the compass housing aligns with map North (the top of the map.) What is even better, with the map oriented to north, as the baseplate is rotated, the red magnetic needle will swing back into position on top of the orienting arrow.
- Draw a line (along the baseplate) from the object to your approximate area.
- Repeat the process two more times.
A trail is highlighted in the map above. Trails are black dashed lines.
Topographic map users are familiar with the small diagram at the bottom of the map.
The graphic and information presented relates directly to the declination of the map area, orientation of magnetic north, orientation of grid north and true north.
represent township and range. The red numbers refer to each of the 36 sections found in a township. (A section is a square that is one mile by one mile on each side.) Determine if these red line are oriented to true north in advance of your trip.
The line with the partial arrow head points to magnetic north (MN.) Without getting bogged down in the pole’s location, the key thing is to understand is that magnetic north is what a compass’ red magnetic needle point to. The numerical value of 19° refers to the declination; the angular measurement between true and magnetic north. In this case, the declination is 19° East. It is this value that the hiker will compensate for in navigation.
It has been a while since Hikin’Jim evaluated a new stove.
“OK, so, what’s all this about the Soto Amicus? I mean why all the fuss? There are dozens of upright canister gas stoves available out there. Primus, MSR, Optimus, Snow Peak, Jetboil, etc. – in short, all the major stove companies – have upright canister stoves out on the market, in fact, most of those companies have multiple stoves available. So who cares about just one more upright canister gas stove? Big deal. Yawn. Well, maybe. But maybe not. Maybe there’s more to it than that. Let’s keep reading, and we shall see. The New Soto Amicus OK, so why am I excited? Well, I’ll….”
Hikin’ Jim’s blog – Adventures in Stoving is one to book mark .
There are lots of articles and posts discussing the importance of letting a responsible person know about your travel plans . Should you not return home on time they are the trigger to begin the search process.
Further, building your personal outdoor plan is important too.
|Outdoor Quest/Blake Miller image|
After the loss of James Kim in the Oregon back country in 2006 I wrote a hiker’s trip plan and posted it on my web site. I had input from several valued sources. I wanted something better for the wilderness traveler than a note to a neighbor. My intent was to provide the search responders something valuable to go by.
In far too many SAR missions, the reporting party has little information for the searchers to go on to begin their search.
My plan can be found here. It is a basic .pdf form.
Suggestions are certainly welcome.
Recently while reading a Linkedin email, I received a tip on what might be the most complete plan yet. It’s from Paul Kirtley’s blog. He is an experienced bush craft author in the UK. This plan is much like the hiker’s flight plan. It includes a place for a picture of the hiker, data for one’s route and much more.
Check out Paul Kirtley’s plan here.
|911 Call center|
Still, that responsible person plays a huge role in contacting authorities to begin a search. My recommendation would be to pick a person that will make the 911 phone call without hesitation.
Reviewing a topographic map is usually the starting point for the planning of any back country trip. A topographic map is your road map to the outdoors. It provides you detailed information at a scale that is meaningful and detailed. For years, the US Geologic Survey (USGS) has been the principal publisher of accurate maps. Within the last decade we have seen many innovations in mapping products that include new mapping companies and publishers, software, maps for the GPS, and “Apps” for the iPhone.
Still, the USGS map remains the standard for back country navigation (visit the USGS’s site at www.topomaps.usgs.gov.) I’d also recommend looking at June Fleming’s “Staying Found” or Bjorn Kjellstrom’s “Be Expert With Map & Compass.” Once you develop a map foundation you will easily shift to many of the other products on the market today.
Many publications, videos, and web sites will give you a te rundown on the features, symbols and components to a map. This article will discuss a few of the key features that you should be aware on a 7.5 minute map.
· Contour Lines These are the thin brown lines that snake across the map. Contour lines connect equal points of elevation such that every point on that line will be at that elevation above sea level. Visually, the contour lines give you a mental three dimensional view of the terrain. These lines provide a view of slope and pitch, depressions, ridge lines and level ground; the highs and lows of the earth’s surface.
These lines provide shape and a sense of texture. There are two primary types of lines, index and intermediate lines. Index lines stand out as they are a touch wider, a darker shade of brown and indicate the elevation with numbers such as 4500; the elevation is in feet. Between the index lines are the thin intermediate line that are spaced uniformly and further define the elevation, slope and contour. The intervals between the intermediate lines are specified at the bottom of the map adjacent to the scale data.
· Scale Consider scale as your view of the map; it is like your “overhead zoom” setting. To cut to the chase, a 7.5 minute map or quadrangle has a scale that is referred to as 1:24,000; where one inch is equal to 2000 feet. It is your best source of information of the back country. At this scale, the map has much more validity and provides more usable information for your backcountry planning. You can view important landmarks, streams and geographic features. To complete the navigation picture I always refer a second map, such as a map of the national forest (e.g., the Deschutes National Forest.) Commonly, such a map will be “zoomed” way out and have a scale of 1:100,000 or 1:250,000. Imagine that such a map would be made up of many 7.5 minute quadrangles.
· North Features on a map such as trails, roads, mountain peaks and streams are all laid out in relation to true North; the North Pole. The north-south borders of the map and the small declination diagram are your best references for true North. Other grid lines (such as the red Township, Section and Range lines) may not be aligned to true north at all. Be careful of these lines should you need to triangulate your position on a map.
· Declination This is the angular difference between true North and Magnetic North. The red needle on your magnetic compass points to Magnetic North. The accuracy of the information found in the Declination Diagram is dependent on the age of the map. To get the latest declination for any area visit www.magnetic-declination.com.
Personally I use a magnetic compass that I can adjust for declination; it just makes my navigation easier. When adjusted, my compass provides bearing information in degrees true as does my map and my adjusted GPS.
· Coordinates Latitude and Longitude (Lat/Long) are the familiar coordinate system to most outdoorsmen and women. Coordinate data is found at the top and bottom corners of each map. Lat/Long coordinate increments are also found every 2’ (minutes) and 30” (seconds) on the sides of the Map. A scaling device is necessary to pull complete coordinates off a map; this is a pain.
In the 1940’s a coordinate system know as Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) was developed. To keep a very long story short, your 7.5 minute map has a new grid laid over it, the grid dimensions are 1000 meters by 1000 meters. For more complete information on UTM grid visit the USGS’s web site UTM or Lathem’s “GPS Made Easy” (which is probably at your local library.)
Simplicity is the essence of UTM. Scouts, hunters and hikers have joined Search and Rescue (SAR) teams around the country in using this system.
Your GPS receiver can easily be switched to UTM from the set-up menu.
· Bar Scales Notice the bar scales at the bottom of the 7.5 minute map. The scales provide measuring data in miles, feet and meters. On the far left side of the meter scale, the scale is broken down into units of 100 meters, this applies directly to UTM.
Notice on the scale bar (feet) that 1 inch equals 2000 feet.
· Map Datum Information about map datum is found in the lower left corner of a 7.5 minute map. I have found that the simplest definition from GPS maker Garmin is:
“A math model which depicts a part of the surface of the earth. Latitude and longitude lines on a paper map are referenced to a specific map datum. The map datum selected on a GPS receiver needs to match the datum listed on the corresponding paper map in order for position readings to match.”
The bottom line: most 7.5 minute maps are made to the North American datum of 1927 (NAD27 or NAD27 CONUS on your GPS). New GPS receivers are set to datum WGS84. The difference between the datum could be over 100 meters/yards. The solution: When pulling points off a map shift your GPS’s datum to match the map.
If precision is not an issue for your outing don’t worry about datum.
As you begin your trip planning don’t forget the magnetic compass, the important partner to any topographic map. See Selecting a magnetic Compass for more information about buying a good compass.
While researching the ten essentials a few years ago I came across a post about the Norwegian Mountain Code.
1967, Norway tragically lost 18 backcountry hikers during an Easter weekend storm. Later the Norwegian Red Cross and Norwegian Mountain Touring coordinated the development of the code; a common sense approach to back country winter travel.
The code compliments the Ten Essentials and builds on it.
The Norwegian Mountain Code captures the elements of travel that includes:
Choose safe routes.
Recognize avalanche terrain and unsafe ice.
Leave Nothing Behind
I have often wondered about the accuracy of my Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver.
The accuracy inherent in my receiver has generally been “good enough for me.” That said, I was interested in finding technical information to build on my field experience.
I did a bit of google surfing and found a fine article from Outside Magazine writer Erin Beresini titled Your GPS Is Lying to You About Distance, Outside Magazine, Dec. 7, 2015. She distills a complex scientific paper by researchers into understandable terms.
The bottom line for backcountry hiker is that GPS receivers overestimate distance. There are three reasons for this:
- “The first is positioning error, or the fact that there’s a difference between where you actually are and where your GPS thinks you are at any given point in time.
- The second error is the variance of the GPS measurement. Even if you don’t move, the samples your GPS takes won’t each be in the same location. In other words, your samples will form a cloudlike cluster of points around your actual location. The smaller that cluster and the closer it is to your actual location..,
- The third is the autocorrelation of GPS measurements. If each measurement is off from your actual location by approximately the same amount, they’re said to be highly autocorrelated, ” Outside Magazine, Dec. 7, 2015.
There are many other factors that impact the accuracy of a GPS receiver. These include atmospherics, solar flares, heavy treed canopy, terrain masking and freeway overpasses. ]In discussions with serious back country hikers ( Search and Rescue members) heavy weather can impact accuracy.
To improve GPS receiver accuracy consider enabling the Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS). Newer units can also take advantage of the Russian satellite system known as GLONASS. It is similar to our GPS system. Enabling WAAS and GLONASS combined offers a significant increase in available satellites for navigation process and give the receiver the time needed to establish solid positioning information.
Hard numbers are only vague estimates. For example, a basic recreation receiver should be accurate to +/- 15 meters. With WAAS enabled accuracy could become as good as +/- 3 meters.
A GPS receiver is great to have but don’t leave the map and compass at home.
Looking for a good overview of map and compass basic procedures. Take a look at United States Search and Rescue Task Force’s post on map and compass basics. The following is a excerpt from this site:
“A topographic map tells you where things are and how to get to them, whether you’re hiking, biking, hunting, fishing, or just interested in the world around you. These maps describe the shape of the land. They define and locate natural and man made features like woodlands, waterways, important buildings, and bridges. They show the distance between any two places, and they also show the direction from one point to another.”
Frequently I am asked what is the best GPS receiver to buy? To answer that question I went to Rich Owings’ website to find what are the best selling receivers in the “sport/hiking” category..
Garmin eTrex 30
Garmin Oregon 450
Garmin Dakota 20
I would add to this roster the GarminGPSMap 64s or 62s.
All of the above models are fine models to buy but I like the size and push button reliable characteristics of 60 series. I feel that the buttons are more resilient to the rigors of the outdoors.
To read more about buying a GPS:
Buying a GPS Receiver
Buying a Used GPS Receiver
GPS users need to be aware of the impact that a solar flare would have on land navigation and communications.
Take a look at FOX News post by Michael Harthorne
“A big enough solar flare could wipe out electricity on Earth. The White House announced Thursday it wants to be ready. (AP Photo/NASA)
If a giant solar flare hit the Earth, it could knock out the entire power grid, meaning no more new Justin Bieber singles, no more televised presidential debates, and no more Facebook photos of babies.
But it wouldn’t be all good news. The Washington Post reports the electromagnetic pulse—or EMP—created by such an event could wipe out electricity for months on end, creating a global catastrophe. recent post outlines the current administrations plans to prepare the USA for a solar flare’s impact.”
|What should the hiker consider regarding night time travel in the backcountry?
First, let us decide that this is not in a “lost hiker” scenario. If lost, the best thing to do is to
just stay in place. This makes the job much easier for the searchers.
At night the term used to describe our ability to see is “night vision.” Good night vision is important. Therefore, avoid bright lighting. Flashes of bright white light will ruin night vision. Recovery can take about 30-45 minutes. Low level white light and low intensity red light are better.
Care should be taken with the use of a GPS. The normal white backlight function of the GPS receiver will impair night vision. The good news is that the backlight can be adjusted.
Here are a few recommendations:
Night time navigation is not something to be taken lightly. From reviewing my books, US Army field manuals and conversations with experienced backcountry travelers it should be carefully considered and practiced before an actual outing. Practise your navigation at a local park with map and compass. Consider geocaching to improve your GPS skills.
A new post by guest contributor Lee.
1. Bring a Bear Canister
2. Use Publicly Established Bear Lockers
5. Keep Your Food Far Away From Your Campsite
Not selecting the correct map datum could induce an error of over 100 meters/yards. I emphasize that hiking groups should all be on the “same page” regarding the set-up options of their GPS receivers.
While planning a journey or at the trail head, taking the time to adjust settings among hiking partners is critical. Before departing, validating map datum and coordinate format should be a priority.
First, match the map’s datum. A topographic map identifies datum in the map key. Once the datum is identified ensure that all GPS receivers are set to match the correct datum. See the illustration below.
For more information on GPS setup setting check out:
Improving GPS Accuracy, Setup Your GPS
There are lots of options available to the hiker when building a fist aid kit.
The American Red Cross has a listing online that identifies what you might consider.
John D. McCann’s book Build The Perfect Survival Kit is a fine resource that offers several lists of what should be contained in a kit. I particularly like how his kit changes with regard to activity. For example, a day hiker might not carry as much gear as the Search And Rescue team member.
Adventure Medical offers several kits for purchase. SeattleBackPackersMagazine has a quick post for you to review.
John D. McCann’s facebook post today reminded me about the ability to leave a message or a note when one is lost. Check out McCann’s web site.
It’s not rocket science. Just a simple note to say “I need help.”
I use the Rite In The Rain products quite a bit. Their note books are rugged and reliable.
Don’t forget to fill out your travel plan. Leave this plan with a responsible person who will call for help (911) if you don’t return home on time.
consider before hitting the trail?
- Sun protection
- Insulation (extra clothing)
- First-aid supplies
- Fire starter
- Repair kit and tools
- Nutrition (extra food)
- Hydration (extra water)
- Emergency shelter
This summer my local Search and Rescue team has been really busy and is on track to go over 120 search missions this year.
Search and Rescue teams are dedicated volunteers and professionals found in each county and province across North America. They spend hours in training, certifications, and on missions looking for the lost and injured.
Helping the searchers begins at home well before the trip or hunt. In Hunter Education, students are taught to always let a responsible person know where you are going and when you are expected to return. If you don’t return, they are to call 911. But there is more to it than that. I suggest that your fill out a Trip Plan (visit the Link page at www.outdoorqest.biz for the plan) just as a pilot would fill out a flight plan. This plan gives the searchers more to go on; details are important to the searchers. A vague statement of “he said he’d be hunting off the 400 road by Ball Butte” doesn’t help much. Your trip plan should cover a lot more information such as the coordinates of your start point and camp, license plate numbers of your vehicle, a comment regarding any medical issues and the names of your partners in the wilderness. Attach a map of your hunt area to the Trip Plan too.
Leave a copy of your Trip Plan with a responsible person, your family, a copy in camp, a copy with your partner’s family. Be generous.
I’d like to share a few thoughts about that responsible person. Discuss exactly what needs to be done. The responsible person should clearly understand what your expectations are. For example, if you don’t return on time, this person knows to call 911 right then. They aren’t calling others asking for advice. The search will begin only after 911 is called; wasting valuable time doesn’t help anyone. As R. Lee Emory would say, this is not the time for a “namby-pamby” helper.
So, what can be done to help the Search and Rescue team?
· The first thing to do is STOP right where you are. Just “park it.” Searchers spend too much time locating wanderers. They spend less time finding those that stay in place.
· Try calling 911. Call 911 before calling your responsible person and family. Conserve your cell phone’s battery. Use your emergency beacon or SPOT locator.
· Think about your situation and observe your surroundings. Can you make your situation better for the Search and Rescue team to find you?
· Plan what you are going to do for the next hour, the next four hours and through the remainder of the night.
· Establish your emergency camp. Get your emergency shelter ready.
· Maintaining your body’s core temperature of 98.6 is now your primary job. A warming fire goes a long way towards improving your situation and is a signal to the searchers. Gather as much wood as you can in the remaining day light.
· Manage your mind (that’s easy to say.) Remain in control of your emotions and actions. If you are with a small group that is lost, work as a team and share the load, resources and friendship.
· Remember to stay where you are. Wandering at night, navigating in the dark is a fool’s journey. At night we have lost our visual clues and reference points.
· Stay hydrated.
Use a whistle.
Of course, there are other actions you can take. These are but just a few recommendations.
There are two references that I would suggest you consider:
· Surviving a Wilderness Emergency, Peter Kummerfeldt, Outdoor Safe Press, 2006
· Deep Survival, Laurence Gonzales, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2004
The first book by Kummerfeldt is an excellent primer on your road to learning about surviving a wilderness emergency. Gonzales’ book is a fascinating read on who survives while others don’t.
A frequent question that I get is how long do batteries last? What can be counted on for GPS battery power.
From my experience the answer is about 12 hours when used continuously.
I have noticed that the “battery power meter” provides OK information. It seems that four or five power bars last reasonable well initially. But after the receiver has been on for most of the day, I have noticed that the GPS battery power goes from three bars to two and then one quite quickly.
I keep my GPS powered on all the time. I like to keep and evaluate the track data. For example, when I am in the field hunting I discard the batteries at the end of the day, replace with new one, and calibrate the compass.
I particularly like the Duracell and COSTCO batteries.
For short duration hikes I will use the chargeable ENLOOP batteries. I bought my set at COSTCO.
- 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 huntinggps.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.
|Outdoor Quest Image|
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 .
The Sun provides an excellent means of direction finding too. The ideal situation is one where the sky is bright and relatively free of clouds.
The first method is called a “shadow stick compass.” In an open area, clear away forest debris and duff. Place a stick or trekking pole (extended about three feet – longer is better than shorter) into the ground as deep as possible (see image below.)
To find north, I simply put the toes of my boots next to the markers with my body perpendicular to the yellow line made by the twine. Facing away from the trekking pole, north is straight in front of me.
“An ordinary watch can be used to determine the approximate true north. In the North Temperate Zone only, the hour hand is pointed toward the sun. A north-south line can be found midway between the hour and 12 o’clock. (See image below.) This applies to standard time; on daylight saving time, the north-south line is found midway between the hour hand and 1 o’clock. If there is any doubt as to which end of the line is north, remember that the sun is in the eastern part of the sky before noon and in the western part in the afternoon. On cloudy days place a stick in the center of the watch and hold it so that the shadow of the stick falls along the hour hand. One-half of the distance between the shadow and 12 o’clock is north.”
Surviving a Black-Out is submitted by guest contributor Lee. I don’t scan the survival sites often but I think Lee’s post offers some great common sense.
Though it is easy to go through life without planning to experience a Black-Out, chances are you will endure a black-out in your lifetime. Depending on where you live, black-outs might be a seasonal occurrence. Black-outs happen for a variety of reasons. However, when a blackout happens, you’ll lose power and the ability to operate as normal. When the power goes out, this shuts down access to fresh food, the ability to cook, see, use electronics and much more. Experiencing this type of inconvenience can be debilitating if it lasts for a long time. However, the crisis doesn’t need to be unbearable if you prepare an emergency survival/preparedness kit. If you’re experiencing a blackout, there are a few resources you need to keep in your possession.
Sources of Light
Even though the sun is the main source of light for the Earth, inside of buildings, people rely on electricity to power on the lights. In those eco-friendly cases, people use solar energy. However, it is important to have alternatives during a blackout. Flashlights are excellent to keep stored along with lots of batteries. Compared to flashlights, certain brands of candles are cheaper light sources as well. They’re not as easy to manipulate and maneuver as flashlights. Just make sure to keep a bunch of matches on hand to light the candles. If your home has a fireplace and a chimney, these are good resources to use during a blackout to circulate heat.
Sources of Nourishment
In order to survive, the body needs to stay nourished. The best way to do this is through food and water. Some emergency preparedness guides offer great advice regarding how much water to store. Keep one gallon per person for each day of a blackout. This should be enough water for a person to stay hydrated and stay clean. In terms of food, it is possible to eat and get nourished during a blackout. Make sure to keep lots of canned food on hand. Keep an eye out for the expiration date of the canned foods as well. Be sure to discard any expired foods. Canned foods like fruit, vegetables, beans and meats can work well. Don’t forget to keep a manual can opener stocked. To heat foods, use aluminum trays with sternos and keep foods warm for hours. There are plenty of items that will stay good on the shelf such as powdered milk and dry cereals. Dried beans and lentils are easy to soak for a period of time and then enjoy. Storing dehydrated foods is a fairly easy and convenient process. Dehydrated foods are easier to keep safe from insect contamination than dried foods. You can dehydrate foods like mushrooms and fruit. Keep them stored in sterile, glass jars. Put the lids on tight and you’ve got an array of food to enjoy during a blackout.
Other Helpful Resources
Even though the electricity might be out, there are still ways to remain connected to the outside world. Keep a battery-operated radio on hand to connect to a radio signal with emergency information, local updates and weather forecasts.
A blackout has the potential to last overnight or for a couple of days. If you find yourself in this predicament, make sure to store a few pillows and sleeping bags in plastic or garbage bags. They’re more likely to stay dry this way. If possible, pack an air mattress that doesn’t rely on electricity for inflation. These resources will make will make the overnight experience a lot more comfortable.
With decreased lighting, the chances increase for someone to accidentally trip or miss their step somewhere. If so, make sure to have a first-aid kit on hand. Injuries notoriously happen in emergency situations. Keeping the proper medical supplies on hand will ease the angst involving an injury
Overall, emergency situations like blackouts are scary. Though they’re never ideal, it is ideal to make the most of the situation by staying prepared. As you go to the grocery store for weekly groceries, purchase an extra few cans of food or a gallon of water. Before long, your entire emergency preparedness kit will be complete.
My latest issue of Field and Stream arrived the other day. On page 14 there is a short article about a fellow who is bitten by a timber rattle snake in Mississippi. His self aid procedures sounded good which were primarily keep calm and get to the local emergency room.
12 vials of anti-venom later he probably thought he was bitten again when the hospital bill rolled in with a charge of $420,000.00. Though not mentioned, this fellow must have had a pretty lengthy stay in the hospital.
Check out my earlier post on Snakes . Lots of good info on what to do when hiking in snake country.
If you hike with your pup take special precautions. For example, I live in the high desert and right now I won’t let my labs romp through the green foliage near the river and I keep them on a leash.
Managing Your GPS Waypoints
Robin is one happy GPS user. He has owned his Garmin GPS 60 for two years. The Waypoint file is full of entries. He had recorded hunting trips, camping expeditions with the kids, a few geocaches, and of course the favorite fishing spot. His GPS receiver will hold 500 Waypoints and he has over 350 saved. What a collection of data. But is Robin really managing his Waypoints effectively?
Lots of things can happen to a GPS Waypoint or data file. You can put data in. You can take data out. You can lose it (the GPS breaks or the wrong button entry is selected.) But be careful, far worse, too much data can make your navigation difficult.
In my land navigation class I stress keeping your navigation simple. Frequent and simple Waypoint management is essential to GPS use. When it’s time to return to the truck, it should be obvious what GPS Waypoint to select.
Dump the junk before the start of a trip. As you leave the trail head your GPS should have only necessary data saved on your GPS. That Waypoint for the fishing hole is important but needs to be saved elsewhere.
Start by deleting Waypoints that really are not needed. Free those data bites to the atmosphere.
To save your “got to have, must save Waypoints:”
1. Use Garmin’s “Trip and Waypoint Manager.” It probably came with your GPS. It can also be purchased from Garmin for about $30.00; www.garmin.com. Down load those Waypoints to your PC.
2. If you don’t have the Garmin program, consider “Easy GPS.” It is free and available at www.easygps.com.
3. Log the important data in a notebook.
Electronic storage allows you to save Waypoints and track data (that bread crumb trail on your map screen.) Further, you can upload old Waypoints another day for a trip to that special fishing spot. This data can also be down loaded into your friends GPS too. It can also be uploaded to your new GPS in the future.
Remember though; when you receive or transfer GPS Waypoint data always verify that you have the compatible map datum and coordinate system set on your receiver.
Finally, give important Waypoints a name. It’s easier to remember a Waypoint named “CAMP” instead of 21 (or was it 25.)
Now, when Robin is ready to return to the trail head he’ll see 30 are saved instead of 350. His navigation is a bit simpler and should he have to navigate under stress due to weather or injury it will make more sense and eliminate mistakes.
Used receivers in thrift stores, estate sales and auctions are generally overpriced and outdated.
I have seen many used or re manufactured receivers fail during classes that I teach.
If the hiker is in need of a back-up receiver here is what I would suggest:
It’s common in my navigation classes to be asked – what is better, a standalone GPS
receiver (such as a Garmin 64) or smartphone navigation apps?
Philip Werner’s blog has a fine post that takes a look at what hikers are using on the trail for backcountry navigation. His post offers a survey of what is most common in the hiking community.
I was gratified to see that a large majority use a traditional paper map and compass.
Smartphone navigation App use is large and from my perspective getting larger.
Thoughtfully, Mr. Werner provides a nice listing of popular smartphone navigation app.
Personally, I’ll stick with my waterproof and reliable Garmin 64s.
Considerations When Buying a GPS –
Recently, one of my students showed me a book by Greg Davenport. This was a new one for me. Davenport’s book Advanced Outdoor Navigation is a great read.
This book is very detailed and is an excellent resource for the backcountry navigator. I found a copy on Amazon. My copy was printed in 2006. The GPS section needs to be brought up to date.
I wish it was still in print as I’d use it as the required reading material in my next class.
chaos of everyday life. However, if you find yourself weighted down with a pack full of heavy equipment, you may have a hard time enjoying the journey. You will find that you can still carry everything you need down to your camo wallet and be lightweight enough to hike with ease. Here are 4 practical ways to cut weight for your next backpacking trip.
More informaition relating to GPS Accuracy.
|The graphic below tells an interesting story. Through the center of the topographic map, marked with dashed lines is the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) in Oregon’s Cascades mountain range. Next to the trail is my track log (in red) downloaded from my GPS to my Terrain Navigator software. The track log is my electronic path calculated by the receiver.
I walked on the PCT the entire time.
My GPS receiver was in a holster attached to the shoulder straps of my backpack. The receiver’s antenna was exposed but only received data from my front and straight up, my chest blocked signals from behind my back.
As the green of the map indicates I was in a forested area. Tree canopy was moderately thick and may have interfered with signal reception.
Further, I was on the move the entire time, stopping only occasionally.
Obviously, there is a distinct difference between the map and the track log.
To improve the accuracy of my track information I could do three things. First, I would have removed the receiver from the holster. Second, I could have moved into an area clear of forest canopy. Third, I would give the GPS time to develop good satellite tracking information.
Post by Lee Flynn
If there were ever an emergency, then the first 10 items anyone would want in bulk would be the 10 items below in the list. They have been selected carefully for a number of reasons. They’re easy to store, and many of them are essential nutritionally. Here are 10 foods absolutely necessary for an emergency food plan.
This is an old post about an old menace to folks in the backcountry. Hemlock is deadly.
Hemlock is a deadly invasive plant species that grows just about everywhere in the USA.
Noxious weeds are a real problem in Oregon.
My county has an aggressive program to get rid of these invasive weeds.
The image to the left is from a flyer that identifies the many weeds found in my region.
Hemlock is indeed a killer.
These plants are found along waterways and irrigation canals.
The mature poison hemlock –
“….is a biennial that grows 6 to 8 feet tall. Stems are erect, stout and purple spotted at all stages. Leaves on mature pants, as well as seedling plants, are fern-like in appearance. All plant parts are poisonous including the large white taproot. Humans ave been poisoned by mistaking the plant for parsley.”
Note that the quote states that all plant parts are poisonous. I’ve talked to several ranchers who thought that only the taproot was dangerous.
Early in the morning the hunter hiked north from camp to Mahogany Butte. With an hour of light left it was time to return. He had his day pack with map and compass and he knew how to use them. But he didn’t have a GPS. The wooded terrain around him didn’t lend itself to triangulation with a compass. So what was he to do? If he was paying attention to his navigation before leaving camp at dawn he was all set. All he needed to do was to return to the base line.
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.
My recommendation is to first purchase a reliable compass that can be adjusted for declination.
A solid compass made by Suunto, Brunton (the 8010G) and Silva (the Ranger pictured above) are great choices. Learn how to adjust the compass for the declination or your location. (Note: declination is the difference between true north and magnetic north. Declination for your area can be found at www.magnetic-declination.com. ) Note that some of the inexpensive compasses will indicate that it has declination marking/grid on the packaging. You want a compass that can be mechanically adjusted.
If the sales clerks eyes glaze over you are in the wrong store.
The essence of back country navigation is to keep it simple. If you are new to compass navigation, having a compass that can be adjusted 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 www.landnavigation.org.
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 roadmap at home. I’ll carry a copy of the Forest Service or BLM map of the area too.
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.
For example, in the case of the hunter mentioned above, he would have potentially tragic consequences if he over shot his base line and just kept on walking.
So let’s take a look at a map and develop a baseline.
The red arrows on the map (to the left) 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 you within a specific area.
The map directly 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.
Also notice that the planned destination has been added. The destination is to the Northeast of camp. Roughly the destination bears 070°T (degrees true) from Camp.
The intent now is to travel from Camp to Destination.
Remember that the compass must be adjusted for declination. In this location the declination is 16° east (below.)
At this point, adjust the compass such that the adjustable outer dial is rotated to 070°T (T for degrees true) and is aligned with the direction of travel arrow or index line. After the dial is adjusted turn your body so that the magnetic needle rotates on top of the red baseplate
needle (engraved into the plastic of the baseplate (below.)
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 to fix your position, use pace count or use a GPS.
Observe how the topographic contour lines (brown lines) in the center of the image are far apart which means that the land is somewhat flat. The lines in the bottom left of the image begin to merge indicating a hill.
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.
Remember the cautions mentioned earlier:
- The baseline must be of sufficient length.
- 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.
Many things can affect the operation of a compass.
Keep ferrous objects away from the compass body.
I went to the U.S. Army’s manual on Map Reading and Land Navigation verify this issue.
The manual stated:
“Metal objects and electrical sources can affect the performance of a compass. However, nonmagnetic metals and alloys do not affect compasses readings. The following separations distances are suggested to ensure proper functions of a compass:
High-tension power lines …………………………………..55 meters
Field gun, truck or tank………………………………………18 meters
Telegraph or telephone wires and barbed wires …..10 meters
Rifle ………………………………………………………………..1/2 meter”
I would offer that a compass should be protected from some electronic/electric equipment such as flash lights and GPS receivers.
- Sun protection
- Insulation (extra clothing)
- First-aid supplies
- Fire starter
- Repair kit and tools
- Nutrition (extra food)
- Hydration (extra water)
- Emergency shelter
- Be prepared –Be sufficiently experienced, fit and equipped for your intended trip.
- Leave word of your route – Tell a responsible person your travel plan. (See the recommended Hikers Trip Plan at click on links.”)
- Be weather-wise – An old adage advises that you should always be alert to forecasts of bad weather, yet not rely completely on forecasts of good weather.
- Be equipped for bad weather and frost. – Always take a rucksack and proper mountain gear. Put on more clothing if you see approaching bad weather or if the temperature drops.
- Learn from the locals.
- Use a map and compass. Take a GPS too.
- Do not go solo. – If you venture out alone, there is nobody to give you first aid or notify a rescue service in an emergency.
- Turn back in time – sensible retreat is no disgrace. – If conditions deteriorate so much that you doubt you can attain your goal, turn around and return.
- Conserve energy and build a snow shelter if necessary..
Today’s post is by a new guest writer – Lee. He has made some very valid points that the East coast is experiencing once again. Please comment to let Lee know what you think.
Although spring has officially arrived, it is important to still be prepared for snow storms. Snow storms frequently occur in the late spring months, and if you are not prepared for them, you could find yourself trying to survive a drastic situation without the necessary supplies. As with many natural disasters, preparation is the key to survival. Therefore, if you have the items listed below, your chances of survival are greatly increased.
As with any natural disaster, one of the first utilities to be affected is electricity. The same is true with snow storms. When a snow storm comes in, the weight of the snow and ice will damage power lines, thus causing power outages. However, if you have a working flashlight, you will still be able to move around in the dark without causing damage to your home or injuring yourself. Additionally, a working flashlight will allow you to move around safely to get other materials that you may need.
First Aid Kit
If there is an accident, it is important to have a first aid kit. Since there may be days before electricity is restored, you need to be able to assist with any medical emergencies. Furthermore, because of the amount of snow that will be at your front door, there may be days before you are able to leave your home. The first aid kit will prevent the small accidents from becoming large emergencies.
With a snow storm, it is important to have lots of bottled water. Ideally, according to the Red Cross, you should have at least one gallon a day for each person in your home. Because it will be cold during a snowstorm, many people have the false belief that water is not as important since there will not be much sweating. However, water is as important during the cold weather as it is during the hot weather. Without the necessary amount of water each day, you will find yourself becoming dehydrated quickly.
As noted earlier, one of the first utilities to be affected by a snowstorm is the electricity. Without electricity, your home will become cold in a matter of time. By having layered clothing, you will be able to keep your body temperature at its normal rate. The best type of clothing will be the type that has thick fleece fabric embedded within it. This type of fabric will hold heat inside much better than other types of clothing. Fortunately, this type of fabric is available in all sizes. In fact, the CDC notes that layered clothing is one of the single most important items needed to survive a snowstorm.
Just as water is important, canned food is equally as important. Since you will probably be without electricity, you need to make sure that your canned food does not have to be heated. There are many types of canned foods that will be beneficial during this time. There are vegetables, fruits, meats, and whole grains that come in cans. For optimal results with canned food, you need to pay special attention to your food storage techniques. It is important to store your food in places that are dry and can be easily reached. Also, you should store your foods on low shelves as opposed to high shelves. By storing your food on a low shelf, you will reduce your chances of injury by having to climb to higher shelves.
No one wants to have to endure a snow storm. However, if you have to go through one, it is important that you are truly prepared. Preparation will make this time much more manageable for you. By having the items listed above, you will be prepared for a snow storm.
- · Over the period from 1883 to 2009, there were 269 bear close encounters, bears inflicted injuries in 151 encounters and killed 17 people.
- Bear spray was first introduced in 1985. From 1985 to 2006 there were 83 close bear encounters involving 156 people. Heil reports that “In all the incidents involving spray, there were only three injuries and none of them were fatal…”
- Interestingly, an associate professor in Plant and Wildlife Sciences, Tom Smith, was asked to provide guidance on how to be safe in bear county. “But all the information I could find was based on no data at all or just misguided impressions”
- Keep bear spray in a holster readily accessible and out of the backpack.
- Get the spray out in front and get ready to activate. Spray has a limited volume. Check Counter Assault’s info videos on their web site.
- Stay in a group and group up when a bear is seen.
- Stand your ground, make noise.
- Don’t make eye contact.
- Waypoints – These are your navigation coordinates that you have saved to memory within the GPS. Most receivers will hold 500. That said, you only need to keep a few on your GPS all the time. Use the free program at www.easygps.com to store the rest.
- Find/Go To – This is the navigation function of the receiver. It is this function that will “steer” you to your destination.
- Coordinates: This refers to a geographic grid system and pinpoints your position in the world. The most common is Latitude and Longitude though many outdoorsmen quickly shift to Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) because of its simplicity.
- Compass – An electronic counter-part to your magnetic compass. The GPS compass is dependent on batteries, like the rest of the system, so don’t leave your magnetic compass at home.
- Decide how much you want to spend. If you don’t know what a GPS might cost, visit www.walmart.com, www.gpscity.com and www.rei.com to get a good price baseline. Check the manufacturer’s web site (such as www.garmin.com) for rebate offers. Then research the web with for reviews on specific models.
- Ask friends with GPS’s what they use theirs for and what their recommendation would be. One size definitely doesn’t fit all! An avid geocacher would have different needs than a hunter. A hunter might opt for a model with a two way radio such as the Garmin Rino series.
In the store, pick up the receiver, look at the controls and hold it as you would when using it. Ask yourself:
- Does it feel like a good fit?
- Can I read the buttons and comfortably push them? (With gloves?)
- Is the screen size adequate?
- Is the GPS simple or just too complex for me?
- Mapping programs are nice but expect to pay $100.00 or more. Ask a friend with a GPS and see for yourself if the mapping is an asset for you. Can you read what is presented on the screen or is it just clutter? Visit GPS File Depot for free maps to load on your GPS.
- Find out what the store’s return policy is on electronics and what their return rate is with various models.
- Whatever you buy, hang on to that receipt and register the product soon after purchase.
Once you buy a GPS:
- Keep fresh batteries in it. Don’t put it in the closet, or store it in your survival kit. Take it out and use it; now. You can’t break it,.
- You should practice your GPS and map and compass skills often. Your wilderness land navigation skills could, given a bad turn of weather or situation, become a matter of survival.
- Visit the manufacturers website once every six months or so. The manufactures frequently offer free up-grades allowing the GPS’s internal software to run more efficiently. It is usually a simple down load to make your GPS current.
A good way to learn is to take a class where you will learn the basics and how your receiver works. Check with your local Community College’s continuing education program or Sporting Goods stores to see if they offer classes.
And don’t forget: a GPS is no substitute for a map and a quality compass and the knowledge of how to use them. The most expensive GPS on the market is only as good as its batteries. Anything electronic can fail and they do so at the most inconvenient time.
Philip Werner at Section Hiker has a super post about the poor quality of the new USGS topograhic maps.
“Have you ever noticed how incomplete and out of date digital maps are when it comes to hiking trails? At least on the free USGS maps you can download on the web and that come bundled with GPS devices or Smartphone navigation apps. In my neck of the woods, you still need to use the waterproof paper maps published by local cartographers because they’re far more up-to-date than digital maps.”
Before getting too detailed lets understand just what a waypoint is. As long as the GPS is on, it will collect information from the satellites of the GPS constellation. The receiver in your hand collects updates about once a second. When you select “mark”, that position information is automatically saved to memory; this is a waypoint. This data is the latitude/longitude of your position, your coordinates. This position information is automatically tagged with a default identification number like 001. Managing these tags is what waypoint management is all about.
datum and coordinate system set on your receiver.
Cloud cover and forest canopy will limit the ability to navigate and use Polaris. If Polaris is completely obscured but some sky is visible, attempt to find east. Like the sun, stars and planets rotate through the sky from east to west. Find a star and monitor its movement over a period of a few minutes. Once you’ve determined where east is, north is to the left.
Here is another post on the North Star from my local newspaper.
- June Fleming’s book Staying Found is a fine reference about backcountry navigation.
- Google’s Sky Map
While searching the web on land navigation I came across the Columbia River Orienteering Club’s Youtube Channel.
Still going through the video’s but my first impression is that this club has done a very nice job.
Link to the club channel: Columbia River Orienteering Club.
Section Hiker has a post that I recommend backcountry hikers consider. Hikers know that a waist belt is vital to comfortable travel with a pack. But rarely do you find information on how it should fit your waist and hips.
“When buying a backpack you want to make sure that the hip belt is long enough so that it transfers most of your pack weight off your shoulders and onto your hips so that you can use the biggest muscles in your body, your legs, to carry most of the weight.” Visit Section Hiker’s site for the details.
Silva Ranger on the Suunto M2.
- The dial moves freely and does not stick.
- There are no bubbles internal to the liquid filled compass housing.
- Information engraved on the base plate must be legible. If there is a magnifying glass verify that it is clear and not scratched.
- The tick marks on the dial are in two degree increments. The tick marks should be readable.
- The base plate, rotating dial assembly, and mirror are not chipped or broken.
- The sighting assembly hinge allows freedom of movement without excess side to side movement at the hinge .
Packaging should clearly state that the compass is declination adjustable. Adjustable compasses may have a small metal tool that allows for setting the declination. If the packaging states that the compass has declination marking but does not use the word adjustable move to another model.
|Outdoor Quest Image|
little bit different. I completed my first summit of the 14,411-foot Mount Rainier when I was 12 years old – something normal by my family’s standards. Some of you may know my uncle, Jim Whittaker, the first American to summit Mount Everest. Or my dad, Lou Whittaker, the founder of Rainier Mountaineering.
A good friend alerted me to Sectionhikers‘ post about the Suunto M-3D compass.
“The Suunto M-3 D Compass is a baseplate style adventure compass with a declination adjustment that is optimized for use in forested or mountainous terrain where you can rarely see your destination. I’ve been using mine for 4 years, ever since I became really interested in off-trail hiking and navigation and started teaching those skills as a instructor for the Appalachian Mountain Club.”
To read the complete post go here.
The Suunto M-3D is a super compass. Think of it as a rugged scientific instrument.
This is a great choice for a Christmas present.
I’d offer a few suggestions:
- Batteries will generally last for a reported 20 hours of continuous use; more on that shortly. If you just turn it on, mark a waypoint, and turn the receiver off, the batteries will last quite a while.
- I prefer the Duracell and COSTCO alkaline batteries. I have found that cheap batteries don’t last as long and require replacement more frequently.
- If a GPS receiver can use Lithium batteries then consider that option and do check the owner’s manual. Lithium batteries are more expensive but last longer and work better in cold temperatures (down to -40°F).
- Carry a spare set of AA batteries.
- I keep fresh batteries in my GPS all the time. That said, because of my SAR responsibilities and the frequency of my trips, fresh batteries are always loaded. It’s my personal preference that “works for me.”
- If you have an older receiver such as the Garmin 12, keep batteries in it always. The four AA batteries keep the internal lithium battery charged. The internal lithium provides power to retain saved waypoints and tracks.
- Features such as the backlight, audible tones and electronic compasses drain a set of batteries. On many models the electronic compass can be turned off by pressing and holding down the page button. Manage your power needs.
I don’t have a baseline for rechargeable batteries. My suggestion would be to keep extra’s on hand and really “wring them out” over a full day to see how well they work. Do this before your trip afield; remember, it has to work for you.
I keep my GPS powered up all day when in the backcountry. I download my track and waypoint data at the end of a hike to my Terrain Navigator software. This gives me the best historical record of my outing. Usually batteries become drained after a full day and it just easier to change them out as I get my gear ready for the next day.
A fully charged GPS is a wonderful tool that complements your backcountry experience. Remember, even though you have the latest and best receiver, always take that map and compass on every trip.
The compass maker Brunton has listed the top 5 “navigation goofs” when using a compass.
- Having the map 180 degrees incorrect when taking a bearing ie getting north and south mixed up.
- Using a compass near metal objects, or near electronic items, causing the magnetic needle to be inaccurate.
- Looking at the map all of the time and not looking at visual clues in the real world.
- Losing concentration and walking too far when you get to your point, falling victim to confirmation bias – the tendency to see things that confirm you are right, but miss things that show you are wrong.
- Only carrying one compass with you. If one breaks you are stuck.