PDA

View Full Version : compass vs gps



giggy
03-03-2006, 03:37 PM
ok you electro geeks - I am old skool - but not that old - but old enough - but still young - :eek: :D

I have always relied on compass and/or map to get me in the right direction if off trail/loss trail, etc. and 9 times of out 10 - I just use my brain to get back on trail in the whites -

what is the advantage of the GPS over a map and compass - personally, I would be too scared to rely on one as electronic things die at the worst times and work great when you don't need them.


I am wondering for the 300 bucks - if there is a clear advantage - or is this just a rich guy toy :eek: :eek: :eek:

serious question tho

sleeping bear
03-03-2006, 03:52 PM
I've got a bottom of the line Garmin e-trex that is pretty fun to play around with. Since it doesn't have maps built into it, it's almost useless without a map and compass. However, used in conjunction with those it's pretty much IMPOSSIBLE to get lost, which is fun, especially in areas with ambiguous topography.

The other features are nice too, like speed, elevation, distance etc. The speed feature is really fun while canoeing :D . I can paddle solo 6 miles and hour! Yay for me!

Despite all of the nifty things it does, I almost never bring it. Marking waypoints and waiting for a signal is time consuming. My batteries always get low toward the end of a multi-day trip or I just stop using the thing. It's a fun gadget, but certainly not necessary, and probably overly-relied upon these days. :)

lumberzac
03-03-2006, 04:04 PM
personally, I would be too scared to rely on one as electronic things die at the worst times and work great when you don't need them.

serious question tho

When I us my GPS, I always have a map and compass for backup. I always have at least one backup for my navigation when I hike. I learned this from experience because I've had both GPS and compass fail me in the field. I've had batteries die and I own at least two compasses that no longer point to magnetic north.

lx93
03-03-2006, 04:06 PM
I have found my Garmin E-Trex Legend to be both useful and a disappointment.

There was 1 situation where I came out at 4am after camping in the woods 200-ish feet away from my car & the trail, headed towards the trail in the wrong direction, but used GPS to get me back. Same thing when I was coming off of bagging a Catskills 4k'er, another hiker & I took the wrong trail back to our cars, but GPS guided us back to the trailhead.

It's very useful for marking waypoints, that way you always have a reference point.

As other people will undoubtably point out, no gadget is infallible, but mine has held up pretty well. It seems fairly ruggedized.

I would disagree on the battery life issue- if you leave it turned on all the time, then they don't last long. But most of the time I just use mine to get a fix (usually 2-4 minutes- a downside), then turn it off. Using it in that way, I'm guesstimating that I only replace the batteries once every 6? 8? 10? dayhikes.

Another drawback is that you have to have a pretty good view of the sky to get a good signal. In other words, in the woods in the 3-season, unless you're in a clearing, you're not going to get the 3 or more satellites you need to tell you where you're at.

One other thing- do get one w/ a color screen; battery life is longer than with the black & white screens. The reason why is newer design electronics which consume less juice.

Hope this helps!

Neil
03-03-2006, 04:13 PM
I used map and compass for decades and always though gps was a tech toy, especially useless for hiking over trails. Then I got one just over a year ago. I took the thing on every hike I did since then. I took it jogging, played around with it, drove in the car etc.

My bottom line: for off-trail hikes where I want to get to a specific objective (one or more summits) and back to my car that same day the gps can't be beat. This holds true especially if I'm pushing the envelope.

Sometimes you could care less about exercising your M&C skills, studying the topography, figuring it all out...you just want to get there and back ASAP. That's when I like the gps.

Another use: following herd trails in the winter through open hardwoods. If I want to follow a herd trail but it's invisible then the gps tells me where I am relative to the trail.

The gps can take away from the fun, challenge and improvisation of navigating with M&C.

One really great thing is using it as a recording instrument and then seeing where you went when you get home.

timmus
03-03-2006, 04:21 PM
I didn't really need orienteering tools yet, because most of my hiking is done on trails, near roads and towns, and I'm sooo affraid of getting lost that I usually take all precautions so it doesn't happen. So far, I have been able to locate myself and know where to go with my map only (sometimes the sun help to).

That said, I do carry a compass (two, actually), and I'm looking foward to use it more often.

Even if I had the money, I would not allow myself to buy a GPS before being totally comfortable with the compass and map. Otherwise I would feel stupid.

GPS is just another tool. It can help, but it could never garantee you a summit. And another tool is just more complications (batteries), you have to pay for it, and you have to learn all the features on it, so IMO, GPS means more worries, less money and less time to enjoy hiking.

Kevin Rooney
03-03-2006, 04:25 PM
Truth is, they're both useful. Lots of resistance to the GPS still, but that's human nature as it's a new tool. Remember all the heated threads re: "real hikers don't carry cell phones"? Well, you rarely see those anymore.

With a GPS always carry extra batteries. And always carry 2 compasses ...

Motabobo
03-03-2006, 04:27 PM
Lots of resistance to the GPS still, but that's human nature as it's a new tool.

You can't be more right ! :D

Nessmuk
03-03-2006, 04:31 PM
I've got a bottom of the line Garmin e-trex that is pretty fun to play around with. Since it doesn't have maps built into it, it's almost useless without a map and compass. However, used in conjunction with those it's pretty much IMPOSSIBLE to get lost, which is fun, especially in areas with ambiguous topography.

The other features are nice too, like speed, elevation, distance etc. The speed feature is really fun while canoeing :D . I can paddle solo 6 miles and hour! Yay for me!

Despite all of the nifty things it does, I almost never bring it. Marking waypoints and waiting for a signal is time consuming. My batteries always get low toward the end of a multi-day trip or I just stop using the thing. It's a fun gadget, but certainly not necessary, and probably overly-relied upon these days. :)Nice geeky features, bottom line GPS is a tool, an aid. It is not more important or better than your brain and logic with any other tool. Once you get beyond the argument of convincing people it is a fallable electronic gadget, fun but not necessary for recreational hiking, then I don't care if it comes along in someone else's pack or not. I personally believe it is a distraction from the joys of observing your surroundings and achieving that accomplished feeling of navigating even in ambiguous topography. Take your time, study your map, follow tons of natural clues, and precision navigation is possible in any terrain we find in the NE woodlands with or without GPS. For me, the wilderness navigation part is as much of a goal as reaching any summit. For others, I understand it may not be so important.

Having said that, I do own a GPS receiver. I've played with it a lot to understand how to use it and know its limitations. But it stays home packed in my SAR Ready Kit with fresh batteries, on call for any search mission I may be called to support. If I was a DEC ranger or a surveyor or had some other such precision needs for my job, then I'd use one too. However, I can not think of very many instances when hiking for my own enjoyment that I needed to know my exact location coordinates to within a few feet, nowhere that it mattered that I couldn't get that information just by looking around. If standing on a shoreline or a mountain peak or almost anyplace in between, you can be as good as a GPS needs to be or better. Otherwise, in featureless flat landscape it doesn't matter if my terrain following and dead reckoning skills are off by a couple of hundred feet - soon enough I'll come to defining natural navigation clues.

I just ask that people using a GPS understand how to continue navigating should any one of their tools fail, including a GPS or a compass (I carry 2, sometimes 3 compasses). I'm not supposed to like getting called to go out on a search. :D

HockeyPuck
03-03-2006, 04:50 PM
I carry both the Map & Compass along with a GPS.

The GPS is a great tool but I'm unable to put my faith in 2 things, 1 - Batteries and 2 reception. I found it's tough to get good reception in a low lying valley on a cloudy day and end up wasting a set of batteries while trying to pick up a signal.

I prefer the old fashioned way. Map & Compass and only relying on my abilities to get out of trouble.

Neil
03-03-2006, 05:02 PM
Like everyone says, I always carry spare batteries, 2 compasses and maps. But you know, I've never seen that thing fail. I've never heard of one failing either.
I have mismatched the datums though. :)

Anybody else?

C.Tracy
03-03-2006, 05:05 PM
GPS works great. I use it down here in the flat lands, (where there are no Mountains for reference), when I am on property I am not that familiar with. Waypoints work great for reference and also the "Goto" option will lead you to whatever waypoint you ask it. It takes time to earn your trust (but sometimes that is the same with a compass). Yea, they can be a little pricey, but I think they work excellent.

timmus
03-03-2006, 05:17 PM
Lots of resistance to the GPS still, but that's human nature as it's a new tool.

Yes, I do resist. To marketing, lazyness and easy living. But hey, what do I know ? I like wool, remember ? Maybe one day I'll understand and join the mainstream. And drown :)

Nessmuk
03-03-2006, 05:35 PM
Like everyone says, I always carry spare batteries, 2 compasses and maps. But you know, I've never seen that thing fail. I've never heard of one failing either.
I have mismatched the datums though. :)

Anybody else?Silly, you haven't heard because they never found their way out to tell the tale!!!..... :eek:

But I honestly have heard from a ranger friend of a case in Colorado where a hiking couple cell-phoned a local ranger from someplace in the backcountry to ask how to turn on the GPS they just bought on the way to the trail. Other similar anecdotal tales exist that I cannot better verify, probably generated by traditionalists like me. :cool:

DougPaul
03-03-2006, 06:11 PM
As others have noted, all 3 (map, compass, and GPS) are just tools. Each can fail, or be lost, etc. And each tells you something different. All integrate together well.

I use a mapping GPS. If I want, I can plot out my intended route and enter it into the GPS beforehand. Or, since it already has the appropriate maps in it for my usual hiking areas, just do no preparation and see my current location and my track plotted on a topo while hiking.

Sometimes I carry it in a pouch attached to my pack shoulder strap which allows me to pop it out at any time and see at a glance where I am. In adition, if I have an active route or an active "goto" on a waypoint I can see how far and what direction to the next waypoint. (Just did a battery life test on my 60CS last night: 14hrs continous operation using possibly less-than-fully-charged 1600MAh NiMH batteries, so I should be able to get 20hrs or so out of 2200+ MAh batteries or lithiums.)

Sometimes, I just throw the GPS in my pack and only get a fix if I need it. This would allow one to get weeks of battery life if needed. A bushwacker using map & compass might do this as a backup. ([Technical] climbers might call this "carrying one's security in one's rucksack". :) )

Another mode would be to carry the GPS in the top of one's pack turned on to record a track so that one can see where one has been after one gets home. This works best if you can load the track into a computer and view it on the large screen plotted on a topo.

2 examples of actual use:
1. Last March, I did a solo Isolation bushwack. http://www.vftt.org/forums/showpost.php?p=63014&postcount=68 . Following a route description, I put waypoints at the turns and connected them into a route and loaded it into my GPS. I also printed out a nice 1:25K scale topo to augment my AMC guidebook topo map. I used the GPS to verify each waypoint as I arrived plus an occasional check along each leg of the bushwack. I also waypointed the stream crossing. I put each leg heading into my compass and used that to guide me between waypoints. (Spider Solo was a few hours a head of me and while I followed his tracks much of the way, I navigated as if there were no tracks. On the way back I broke away from his path for a good bit and followed a compass heading back to the stream crossing. The GPS conviently gave me the heading to the waypoint I had recorded on the way in.)

2. I was doing a long solo BC XC ski. I was 12 mi from the car (at Lincoln Wds) when the sun set (junction of Shoal Pnd Tr and Ethan Pnd Tr) and it was a dark overcast night (new moon). I had been on parts, but not all of the trail before. I had the route programmed into the GPS and used it to keep track of where I was as I skied back to the car. I was able to follow the trail by visual means, but there was one wide open spot which I used prior knowledge to get though. (It might have been difficult or at least taken some time to find the continuation of the route without that prior knowledge--it wasn't obvious as I passed through the opening.)

In both of these cases, I probably would have been ok without the GPS, but it was comforting to have the backup.

Doug

DougPaul
03-03-2006, 06:19 PM
But I honestly have heard from a ranger friend of a case in Colorado where a hiking couple cell-phoned a local ranger from someplace in the backcountry to ask how to turn on the GPS they just bought on the way to the trail. Other similar anecdotal tales exist that I cannot better verify, probably generated by traditionalists like me. :cool:
Sure such tales exist and I'm sure that many are true. But there are also hikers who carry topo map and compass and don't know how to use them either.

Basic use of all three tools is pretty easy and the fact that some do not know how to use them is not much of a reason pro or con any of them.

timmus:
I use both wool and map, compass, and GPS. Each for what it does best.

Doug

Kevin Rooney
03-03-2006, 06:22 PM
Yes, I do resist. To marketing, lazyness and easy living. But hey, what do I know ? I like wool, remember ? Maybe one day I'll understand and join the mainstream. And drown :) I hear what you're saying, and agree (mostly). I think one of the keys is to carefully select which new idea/gadget/etc you choose to integrate. I find such things as Goretex, 4x4's, cell phones, plastic boots, aluminum snowshoes and Windstop fleece hats have added a dimension of safety that allows me to focus more on the physical beauty of the mountains, and helps my family worry less. I'm not ready yet to go back to animal skins, and I know each one of us has to decide where the line is.

the starchild
03-03-2006, 06:42 PM
hey all you multi compass packing people out there. are y'all actually carrying 2 or 3 regular compi (yeah, its a word now) or a real compass and a mini-one with a thermometer? that's what i do and i can't imagine carrying multiple full compi (yeah, its still a word, kinda like guinni, mmmm.....beer). are you mostly worried about losing it or breaking it on whacks? or do y'all bring extra compi on trail hikes too?

just curious, thanks,

DougPaul
03-03-2006, 06:51 PM
hey all you multi compass packing people out there. are y'all actually carrying 2 or 3 regular compi (yeah, its a word now) or a real compass and a mini-one with a thermometer? that's what i do and i can't imagine carrying multiple full compi (yeah, its still a word, kinda like guinni, mmmm.....beer). are you mostly worried about losing it or breaking it on whacks? or do y'all bring extra compi on trail hikes too?
I bring a good sighting protractor compass (silva ranger http://www.rei.com/online/store/ProductDisplay?storeId=8000&catalogId=40000008000&productId=737&parent_category_rn=0&vcat=REI_SEARCH ),
a 1/2 inch diameter mini on a wrist strap http://www.rei.com/online/store/ProductDisplay?storeId=8000&catalogId=40000008000&productId=4399&parent_category_rn=4500670&vcat=REI_SEARCH
and a thermometer-compass mini http://www.rei.com/online/store/ProductDisplay?storeId=8000&catalogId=40000008000&productId=748&parent_category_rn=4500570&vcat=REI_SEARCH

I also carry 3 lights: a big one and two lightweights.

I use the lights far more often than the compasses...

Doug

Kevin Rooney
03-03-2006, 07:08 PM
hey all you multi compass packing people out there. are y'all actually carrying 2 or 3 regular compi (yeah, its a word now) or a real compass and a mini-one with a thermometer? that's what i do and i can't imagine carrying multiple full compi (yeah, its still a word, kinda like guinni, mmmm.....beer). are you mostly worried about losing it or breaking it on whacks? or do y'all bring extra compi on trail hikes too?

just curious, thanks,The compi are the real deal - something serviceable. The mini's on therometers are good for when you're on the summit, and someone argues with you about which way is North. You win the arguement, but nothing's at stake.

forestgnome
03-03-2006, 07:22 PM
I admire technological advancement and those minds that create it. The concept of putting the satellites in orbit and communicating with them via mminiturized devices to determine exact location, or to communicate, is really cool.

Any tool that helps people from being lost while recreating is fine with me. It's a 'hike your own hike' situation. Nessmuck makes good sense about the usefulness of GPS for SAR type operations, etc.

GPS does not have a place for my forest wanderings. I carry three compasses and two watches, but I seldom even use those when I'm off trail. I like to get as far away as possible from trails, watching the land and sky the whole way. Sometimes I'll pull out the watch or compass to see how acurate my senses are. Otherwise, I'm smelling, listening and observing all that is the forest. GPS just wouldn't fit in.

Nessmuk
03-03-2006, 08:16 PM
Sure such tales exist and I'm sure that many are true. But there are also hikers who carry topo map and compass and don't know how to use them either.Yup, I've sure run into a lot of them too. The same "but I brought the equipment with me" (but not enough knowledge) philosophy applies.

And last November I helped haul the cold body of a 76 year old man out of the western ADK woods after searching for him for 7 days. The guy owned and had hunted the property for the past 50 years, but for some reason wandered off into a thick spruce swamp (perhaps stalking a deer) before it started to snow. He probably hadn't used even a simple compass in there for years, but this time that's all that would have saved his life. So would have an air horn (he was not far from first day searchers), and a GPS, and a satellite phone, and a personal helicopter equipped with bull horn and radios with infrared camera tracker keeping tabs. He had none of those either.

Point is, you gotta know what you need, know how to use what you've got, and not get complacent. Not ever.

Nessmuk
03-03-2006, 08:37 PM
hey all you multi compass packing people out there. are y'all actually carrying 2 or 3 regular compi (yeah, its a word now) or a real compass and a mini-one with a thermometer? that's what i do and i can't imagine carrying multiple full compi (yeah, its still a word, kinda like guinni, mmmm.....beer). are you mostly worried about losing it or breaking it on whacks? or do y'all bring extra compi on trail hikes too?

just curious, thanks,I wear my primary compass around my neck, which used to be a Silva Ranger but a recent bubble in the liquid has caused me to retire my old friend mirrored ranger for a quality rectangular baseplate orienteering model. With terrain observation nav techniques, I rarely had need for the minimal extra accuracy of the heavy mirror anyway. I keep a spare, equally good but slightly smaller baseplate model compass in my emergency kit in my pack. A wise man once told me... carry 3 compi (strange word)... one for yourself, one in case you lose the first, and a third for a forgetful friend. So the third yet smaller baseplate style compass I put in a third place, tucked in my map case. I do not carry a spare map, but I spend enough time pre-trip on map study to recognize the lay of the land enough to find my way out with one of the compi (weird word) if the map should become lost. It never has, though it once went for a swim down the river for a bit without me, another time it decided to keep company with a beaver dam after I moved on.

CaptCaper
03-03-2006, 08:52 PM
Well one thing sure is if the Pilgrims had it in 1620 maybe Boston would still be woods. Eh?

dms
03-03-2006, 09:44 PM
I've been bushwacking for over 25 years with a map , compass and altimeter, never once have I had any one of them fail me. I've done all the 3ks in VT, ME, and I have only a few bw's left in ME, to finish the New England 3k's. To the best of my knowledge no one who has finished the NE 3ks has done so using anything but those tools, so those are the standards that guide me in my quest. On any bw's I do, gps's are not part of the mix. I am definitely an old school bushwacker, unapologetic and proud of that fact.

dr_wu002
03-03-2006, 10:11 PM
I've been bushwacking for over 25 years with a map , compass and altimeter, never once have I had any one of them fail me. I've done all the 3ks in VT, ME, and I have only a few bw's left in ME, to finish the New England 3k's. To the best of my knowledge no one who has finished the NE 3ks has done so using anything but those tools, so those are the standards that guide me in my quest. On any bw's I do, gps's are not part of the mix. I am definitely an old school bushwacker, unapologetic and proud of that fact.
I agree with Dennis except that I'm much younger and less experienced. It does come down to a matter of opinion and what your goal is. I have to say though, when I first started hiking I'd wander off trail, miss junctions etc. But I've been able to develop a keen sense of not only the forest around me but also features, logging roads, grades in the distance, moose paths, animal traffic, cliffs, slides etc. I don't think I'd have been able to develop that had I used a GPS. I'm still learning how to recognize and read subtle features in the landscape and sometimes I don't even find the canister but for me it's been important to develop a strong sense of logic, and a crisp, clean awareness of my surroundings.

I carry a GPS and know how to use it but never have while hiking. Even as a safety advice, I would rather know and understand where the nearest trail is and what direction if I had to just bust out and bail.

I realize that my ideas are my own. If you want to use a GPS, that's fine by me. We could get into an ethical debate about posting waypoints to various off trail peaks, cliffs, waterfalls etc. but that is for a different (and much more heated) thread.

-Dr. Wu

Woody
03-04-2006, 02:32 AM
With my map and my compass along with my gps I have a high degree of confidence that I know exactly where I am and I know how to get where I am going. I always try to have waypoints programmed into my gps from my topo software especially when going above tree line. When I actually get to the programmed waypoint (99.8 percent of the time without using the gps) my gps shows me of being within 300 feet of the mark downloaded off the computer. I will then reposition the waypoint to the actual position on the gps. I do carry several lithium AA batteries on all my hikes for both my gps and my headlamp.

forestgnome
03-04-2006, 06:11 AM
What is meant by 'posting a waypoint'? I hope it doesn't mean leaving some visible device in the forest.

lx93
03-04-2006, 06:41 AM
What is meant by 'posting a waypoint'? I hope it doesn't mean leaving some visible device in the forest.

Forest,

No, "Posting a waypoint" just means that you program a reference point into your GPS. For example, the trailhead, a trail junction, spring, hut, etc.

CaptCaper
03-04-2006, 07:53 AM
Here we go again. O.K. Here's my 02 cents.
This argument is similar to one found down on the ocean. Some guys like to spend time down at the chart station ploting a course with the red light, sliding rule,using dead reckoning,etc. That's fine I enjoy it too. Heck I aced the Ploting part for the USCG Master Captains exam. But navigating that way it has it's limitations.. That's were the GPS can take over.
Don't get me wrong I use maps,compass's as well. And should only use the gps as backup or as a enhancement tool. Usually we have three different types of maps and two or three compasses as use. But after using GPS's of all kinds since 1996 to navigate in thick fog,finding shipwrecks,etc. I can't fight the urge not to use it in the mountains. I find coupled with the the PC it brings into the scene a whole new experience and to a greater level.
One example is my son's and I exchange recorded hikes instantly over the IM along with pic's it tells the whole story of what his hike was like that day and I can save the track to reload for back up if I ever want to do that hike.
Also on the summits I can tell exactly what summits were looking at and distance on a 90 mi. visibility day from any angle with. An aid for a flatlander like me who didn't grow up in the mountains.
The list goes on and on.

Capt.

giggy
03-04-2006, 10:06 AM
What is meant by 'posting a waypoint'? I hope it doesn't mean leaving some visible device in the forest.


the ones I leave are all invisible - no worries.

forestgnome
03-04-2006, 06:47 PM
Forest,

No, "Posting a waypoint" just means that you program a reference point into your GPS. For example, the trailhead, a trail junction, spring, hut, etc.

Awesome! Thanks. :)

Gamehiker
03-04-2006, 10:07 PM
I'm a map freak, always have been always will be. I'm somewhat a novice with a compass but I'm learning. So far I am using the GPS only to check my elevation. I haven't bought the map software and from what I've read on this site I probably won't. I experimented with entering coordinates from Google Earth into the GPS and came out .6 mile off. (This was in town not in the woods!) This confirmed for me that map and compass are the way to go.

DougPaul
03-04-2006, 10:27 PM
I'm a map freak, always have been always will be. I'm somewhat a novice with a compass but I'm learning. So far I am using the GPS only to check my elevation. I haven't bought the map software and from what I've read on this site I probably won't. I experimented with entering coordinates from Google Earth into the GPS and came out .6 mile off. (This was in town not in the woods!) This confirmed for me that map and compass are the way to go.
It more likely confirms that you mixed datums.

None of the 3 technologies is proof against operator error...

Doug

Gamehiker
03-05-2006, 06:41 AM
It more likely confirms that you mixed datums.

None of the 3 technologies is proof against operator error...

Doug


All the more reason for me to stick with map and compass, I should think.

MattC
03-05-2006, 07:06 AM
I don't own a GPS-if I had that much $$$ for a single piece of gear, I would spend it on something else. I've hiked a few times w/ friends who are using their GPS and I have mixed feelings about it. Case in point, yesterday-T-max and I were bushwhacking in the Catskills. We used a combination of map, compass and GPS. There were a couple of points where her GPS was a very helpful source of information.

She was basically using it like this-she would look up a waypoint for a peak she had saved in the past, and the GPS would give her a compass bearing for that peak. I would then use that information along with the map. They weren't always peaks we were headed for, but knowing their location helped confirm where we were at times. She was doing this with peaks that weren't visible to us due to forest cover. Had we been standing in an exposed area, we would just be able to see the peaks, take compass bearings and obtain the information that way. So the GPS was being used in this case to sort of lift us over the tree cover. One might also use it this way when weather conditions prevent visibility, sort of the way pilots use radar.

Now, having said all that-I personally feel that I was pretty lazy and lackadaisical about orienteering before this hike and early on during the hike. We had to compensate for this later and I feel it made the hike harder than it had to be. Was I lazy early on because I was w/ someone w/ a GPS? I don't know, perhaps. If I was alone, would I have been much more meticulous both pre-hike and during the hike? Absolutely no question about it, yes. A little more care early on and we never would have had to check those wapoints in the first place.

So, to sum up-it's the old cliche that all technology can be useful and it can be abused. I think GPS can be a very useful tool, as long as you don't let it substitute for m&c skills. Some people use it to augment map and compass, others rely on it excessively. One or two I have met seem to need the thing to find their way in and out of their boots. I remember one guy I met who took out a GPS at a trail junction to "figure out where he was."
Not just a trail, a trail junction. With signs. :rolleyes:

Matt

spencer
03-05-2006, 02:21 PM
I've voiced my thoughts many times before on this subject. I use GPS units routinely for work but I find it takes most of the fun out of my free time in the woods.

Let's say you like to bushwhack and you come home from a trip and you are pretty cut up with all those puffy red scrapes on your face and arms, bruised, wet, and smiling. Your family and friends scoff at you and wonder what you could possibly enjoy about such a trip.

Well, you give them the usual answer of it's the whole package: challenge, solitude (or companionship), getting away from it all, seeing the views, etc.

Now imagine you took away the challenge component??? Why bother leaving the trail?

I'm with Schlimmer. Based on the handful of threads we've both piped in on, I suspect we have a lot in common (he's just several hundred peaks ahead of me!)

A couple of days ago I got lost in a part of campus that I don't frequent. My boss, who I was with, turned to me and said, "for a guy who orienteers all over Maine this sure threw you for a loop. Maybe you should have brought a GPS today." He just doesn't understand....

spencer

Nessmuk
03-05-2006, 02:39 PM
I've voiced my thoughts many times before on this subject. I use GPS units routinely for work but I find it takes most of the fun out of my free time in the woods.I think we should form a club. :D

Dennis C.
03-05-2006, 03:30 PM
I've used map, compass, and altimeter for years bagging peaks all over the Northeast. I think the GPS was in its infancy when I completed the NE 770 in 1997, and still needed a lot of refinement to what they are today. Needless to say, I didn't have one then and still haven't gotten one for a more limited climbing agenda in the present. But that doesn't mean I don't respect their potential as an instrument to pinpoint accurate locations. Like all climbers, I have gotten disoriented at times out there in the bush. I think they're a good supplement to the basic skills necessary for back country maneuvers.

cushetunk
03-05-2006, 08:26 PM
I gotta say, even on bushwhacks I rarely use my compass. Usually, I just study the map and backstop everything. I supose if I had a GPS, I could have added a few more destinations to some sort of check list, but that seems a bit silly. Count me among those who prefer their off-trail challenges without a "you are here" sign.

Kevin Rooney
03-06-2006, 01:36 PM
I wonder if we carried the question of GPS versus compasses to another level/era:

I wonder if all those men (and perhaps women) who explored the coasts of North America, like the Vikings, the Phoenicians and others who left no record; or the peoples who navigated the South Pacific from Micronesia to South America - those people had only their knowledge of the stars and constellations to guide them - how would they view the efforts/accomplishments of those who lacked knowledge of the stars but instead relied upon a mechanical device, the compass? Or, come forward in time to when the sextant was invented - would those who used only a compass for navigation regard those who used a compass AND sextant with mild distain? Would that be regarded as "un-fun"? If you made it to the West Indies with the aid of a compass would you be snubbed at Navigator's Ball?

sleeping bear
03-06-2006, 01:42 PM
The mini's on therometers are good for when you're on the summit, and someone argues with you about which way is North.

I read in an article in Backpacker a while ago that people who compete in orienteering challenges/courses(??) just use the little mini ones. They are so good at reading the map and the landscape that they only need to know the general direction.

I would like to be that good too. :D

Motabobo
03-06-2006, 03:00 PM
I wonder if we carried the question of GPS versus compasses to another level/era:

I wonder if all those men (and perhaps women) who explored the coasts of North America, like the Vikings, the Phoenicians and others who left no record; or the peoples who navigated the South Pacific from Micronesia to South America - those people had only their knowledge of the stars and constellations to guide them - how would they view the efforts/accomplishments of those who lacked knowledge of the stars but instead relied upon a mechanical device, the compass? Or, come forward in time to when the sextant was invented - would those who used only a compass for navigation regard those who used a compass AND sextant with mild distain? Would that be regarded as "un-fun"? If you made it to the West Indies with the aid of a compass would you be snubbed at Navigator's Ball?

I'll say it again; You can't be more right ! :D

DougPaul
03-06-2006, 03:17 PM
I wonder if we carried the question of GPS versus compasses to another level/era:

I wonder if all those men (and perhaps women) who explored the coasts of North America, like the Vikings, the Phoenicians and others who left no record; or the peoples who navigated the South Pacific from Micronesia to South America - those people had only their knowledge of the stars and constellations to guide them - how would they view the efforts/accomplishments of those who lacked knowledge of the stars but instead relied upon a mechanical device, the compass? Or, come forward in time to when the sextant was invented - would those who used only a compass for navigation regard those who used a compass AND sextant with mild distain? Would that be regarded as "un-fun"? If you made it to the West Indies with the aid of a compass would you be snubbed at Navigator's Ball?
Could go either way--in some applications, navigation is just a job, not a hobby.

Ever navigate a boat in heavy fog in tidal waters? Been there several times, once with no electronic aids. I think we would have been happy to have a GPS, had they existed at the time.

Doug

dr_wu002
03-06-2006, 03:23 PM
Could go either way--in some applications, navigation is just a job, not a hobby.

Ever navigate a boat in heavy fog in tidal waters? Been there several times, once with no electronic aids. I think we would have been happy to have a GPS, had they existed at the time.

Doug
I think that in ancient times, navigation was solely a job/way of life/necessity and not done for fun.

The GPS/Compass issue comes down to a matter or personal preference. I can't imagine how one person can be more correct than another on it. You like it, you don't like it, you don't care, you don't know, so what?

We see again and again on this bulletin board that people have different person preferences about things. Whether it's doing lists/not doing lists; day hikes, camping, ultralight-hiking, heavy pack hiking, taking ice axe/not taking ice axe etc we all have different preferences. Some things are obvious... it's probably not good to go into the woods with no food under the assumption that you'll find undigested morsels in bear scat to snack on. But people have done the 770 without a GPS and enjoyed it. People bushwhack with a GPS and enjoy it. So what's the issue? One assumes that safety wasn't necessarily a factor for Dennis C if he hiked the 770 (he's still alive, right?) so I don't see an issue except for "I like, you like..."

That said, I appreciate various opinions a lot. I've stated mine on this subject and it's not going to change. However, I have changed/modified my opinions on other things based on some very insightful posts by members of this site.

-Dr. Wu

SAR-EMT40
03-06-2006, 03:32 PM
I read in an article in Backpacker a while ago that people who compete in orienteering challenges/courses(??) just use the little mini ones. They are so good at reading the map and the landscape that they only need to know the general direction.

I would like to be that good too. :D


There are many places you don't even really need a compass. In general this is how you use an orienteering map but there are places that the terrain is so similar over the entire area that this cannot be done. Then you must use pace (distance) and direction in order to go from point to point. Also you must realize how accurate and constantly updated orienteering maps are compared to USGS maps. This makes a big difference. This is when I teach people about orienteering and bushwhacking using USGS maps I try to explain to them that orienteering is to bushwhacking what rowing is to speed boating. :D They are similar but knowing how to orienteer does not mean you know all about bushwhacking. There are a lot of subtleties in bushwhacking that have no consideration in orienteering. The resolution of the maps, the accuracy, the age of the maps, etc. Learning about declination, the symbols are different and it goes on and on. Bushwhacking is a different animal. Not only do I teach orienteering and land navigation and have helped make the orienteering maps and have been a map checker at adventure races but I also taught land navigation in the Army. I was an armored reconnaissance specialist (11D20) later renamed as Cavalry Scout. In the past I patrolled the Czech border so correct navigation was very important. GPS’s where just being introduced (‘77 to ‘80) and the Czech border was a dangerous place for several reasons. Obviously the two have similarities but there are enough subtle differences that one can get themselves in trouble if they don't consider them separate. At least that is my humble opinion.

Keith

Remix
03-06-2006, 03:46 PM
I like the convenience of adding notes to way points, such as water sources and flow, great potential campsites, an odd hook in the trail, bluberries, bail outs, a rattlesnake sighting, photographs, whatever. Its like a diary without the hassle of keeping a pad of paper and pen at the ready.

I have a gps which takes a 1gb SD card, so I can save all of the stuff. Managing the information is another topic.

Nessmuk
03-06-2006, 03:50 PM
I wonder if we carried the question of GPS versus compasses to another level/era:

I wonder if all those men (and perhaps women) who explored the coasts of North America, like the Vikings, the Phoenicians and others who left no record; or the peoples who navigated the South Pacific from Micronesia to South America - those people had only their knowledge of the stars and constellations to guide them - how would they view the efforts/accomplishments of those who lacked knowledge of the stars but instead relied upon a mechanical device, the compass? Or, come forward in time to when the sextant was invented - would those who used only a compass for navigation regard those who used a compass AND sextant with mild distain? Would that be regarded as "un-fun"? If you made it to the West Indies with the aid of a compass would you be snubbed at Navigator's Ball?There is a huge fundamental difference in goals and purposes in the examples you cited, vs what many of us do as recreational routefinding. In the latter case, land navigation by observation of terrain is in itself a major goal and the reason to go into the woods. I don't think anyone today would deny use of GPS in performing a job outdoors requiring as much precision as you can get. Surveyors, SAR searchers, map makers, loggers, discoverers of new lands in the name of the king, or finding your way to a new place to live some one has pointed out beyond the horizon. Anyone needing to get from point A to point B by most efficient and precise means... surely should use every possible aid possible. GPS fills that need exellently.

Going to the woods and mountains "just for the fun of it" is a fairly modern concept. I don't think many Vikings or Phoenicians were having much fun out there recreating in their travels... they were exploring new lands and charting them by the most modern methods they had available. If they had GPS, sure, use it on the job, like any other tool a surveyor and map maker uses.

One might ask us then, why even use a map or compass at all, just go blindly into the woods like the first indigenous peoples did, make your own sketches of the terrain as you go (if you had the technology to do even that). Well, one answer is that it took thousands of years for inventive people moving into new areas to get there to do that. Some "modern" concessions must be made in this day and age for modern efficiency and time available. So we use the a map, a concept itself thousands of years old, and a compass not much younger. Using a compass relies on external natural forces, just as does looking up at the stars utilizes starlight. But those forces have been there a lot longer than we have existed, and are not the same as being told without effort "you are here" with human generated electronic signals.

I don't think the majority disdains the use of GPS if that is your recreational pleasure to get from A to B. It's just that there's a school of thought that there is so much more you can do with terrain observation and brain power that enhances the experience sought after, even without a compass. It's all in your perspective of the recreational experience.

Nessmuk
03-06-2006, 04:05 PM
Ever navigate a boat in heavy fog in tidal waters? Been there several times, once with no electronic aids. I think we would have been happy to have a GPS, had they existed at the time.

DougOne of my most memorable and enjoyable experiences was in the fog. Granted, I was on a large lake and thus I was at no time in any danger of becoming permanently "lost". My goal was a trail, 5 miles down the length of the lake. At the launch site the fog was literally as thick as it could be, I could barely see the end of my canoe. From my map I measured the course and dialed it into my compass, which I placed on the bottom of my canoe at my feet. The only navigation aid I had was the compass. For the next hour I paddled, my course based only on that compass needle. What a wonderful quiet experience that was. After a while the sun began to shine through a bit, and helped guide me on a constant angle but provided no new information. Eventually I came to the edge of an island, exactly where I had predicted. Soon after the fog burned off and revealed a new world, just before reaching my landing beach. "Not knowing" where I was made the trip challenging. Coming out where I expected to be based on such limited information made the trip rewarding.

Neil
03-06-2006, 04:11 PM
It's just that there's a school of thought that there is so much more you can do with terrain observation and brain power that enhances the experience sought after, even without a compass. It's all in your perspective of the recreational experience.
Do you mean like the difference between drinking instant coffee with "whitener" in it versus drinking carefully selected, freshly ground (by yourself) and brewed designer coffee?

Nessmuk
03-06-2006, 04:16 PM
Do you mean like the difference between drinking instant coffee with "whitener" in it versus drinking carefully selected, freshly ground (by yourself) and brewed designer coffee?Yes, kind of, if you mean you actually enjoy doing the selection and preparation process as a means to eventually enjoy drinking it. :rolleyes:

Kevin Rooney
03-06-2006, 04:17 PM
Nessmuk - My previous tougue n' cheek post seems to be misunderstood. Maybe I should resort to some of those squiggly faces.

In any case - to comment on some of your points about why people do what they do: I'm always extremely suspicious of any suggestion that somehow human nature has changed one iota in the hundreds of thousands of years (perhaps millions?) homo sapiens has wandered this planet. Certainly we've adapted to our local climates, and some are taller/shorter/darker/lighter based upon local influences, but even with the benefit of recorded history, we still make the same dumb errors/"re-discover" the same things, etc, over and over and over again. About the only thing that has changed is that we can do the same dumb things faster.

Certainly, some European exploration was done for "God and Country" and it's those expeditions which were documented and read about in history books. Undoubtably there were countless others made because we needed more land or food. But ... do I think 20th century hiking is new? No way - certainly more do it because we have more leisure time than many past generations, but people have been traveling 'just to see what was over the ridge' forever. It's in our nature.

One serious comment on the use of compass versue GPS: serveral have commented they see more terrain when using a compass, and that seems to be part of their preference. That distinction is lost on me - whether I'm using on or the other at any point in time doesn't change how much/little I'm looking at the scenery. That has more to do with my state of mind at that point in time than anything else -

Nessmuk
03-06-2006, 04:47 PM
people have been traveling 'just to see what was over the ridge' forever. It's in our nature.My point is... no one needs accuracy to 10 meters or better to get themselves over that ridge to see what is on the other side. Just go do it. You can tell by using your eyes alone when you are at the crest of the ridge. Upon reaching the crest you would get the same wilderness view as your ancestors.

On the other hand, if I wanted to make a map of where that ridge is in relation to the fresh water spring my family needs, or what is over the ridge and the most efficient way to tell others how to find the wonders I see in an anthill sized plot of ground without using any flowery verbal terrain following description, then I'd use a GPS to record every step. ;)

SAR-EMT40
03-06-2006, 05:02 PM
My point is... no one needs accuracy to 10 meters or better to get themselves over that ridge to see what is on the other side. Just go do it. You can tell by using your eyes alone when you are at the crest of the ridge.

Kind of my feeling also. I mean lets face it. The bushwhacking to a peak algorithm consists of the following. Get yourself to the base of the peak at any location. Climb until there is nothing higher than you. Congratulations, you made it. :D :D

Other forms of bushwhacking could be more difficult. :D

Don't get me wrong though. I enjoy using all forms of navigation. I have many maps and several compasses and more than one GPS. I fully agree with Erik Schlimmer's comment about maps being works of art. I have always loved studying and looking at maps. Old ones, new ones, it doesn't matter. I also enjoy using all forms of navigation and many times I will take the GPS but don't turn it on. Sometimes I don't even take it. :eek: ;)

Keith

DougPaul
03-06-2006, 07:19 PM
One of my most memorable and enjoyable experiences was in the fog. Granted, I was on a large lake and thus I was at no time in any danger of becoming permanently "lost". My goal was a trail, 5 miles down the length of the lake. At the launch site the fog was literally as thick as it could be, I could barely see the end of my canoe.
A canoe on a lake is a very different situation from a 30--40 ft sailboat on salt water (includes currents, tides, waves, rocks, shoals, other traffic, etc). Navigation, even in recreational boating, becomes serious when the consequences are serious.

The nautical navigators of yesterday may have been very skilled (and likely proud of their skills), but they paid in sunken boats and lost lives. IMO, they would have adopted modern electronic navigational tools had they been available--they certainly have now that they are available.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The hiking that we do in the NE is recreational. A hiker has the option of carrying heavy or light and we do not decide for him whether his experience is better or worse because of his choice. Similarly, a hiker has the option of using a GPS or not and anyone else's opinion is irrelevant.

The smart navigator uses multiple information sources and integrates information from all of them. He also has to be on the lookout for failure of any of the sources and able to react appropriately.

Doug

Neil
03-06-2006, 07:35 PM
Yes, kind of, if you mean you actually enjoy doing the selection and preparation process as a means to eventually enjoy drinking it. :rolleyes:
Well, I really meant the quality of the product as consumed. That is, if hiking is a consumable product, an exportable good.

Here's a cool use of a gps and all the trimmings: I want to hike the Dix range as a dayhike in winter and would like to use the route up the North and South forks of the Boquet for both approach and exit. It's a long way without a marked trail and the first 2 times I went in there I ended up doing some unplanned bushwhacking. In preparation for the winter trip where time will be a very important factor I hiked up to the Grace-Carson col last November and did some planned bushwhacking. The route up the Boquet is now on my computer and has been merged with someone else's (very reliable) data from their hike over the range. (I first opened their data in another program and deleted the segments that don't interest me). The whole route has far too many trackpoints so I used yet another program to "spline" it which means the program took 1000 or so points and removed every 5th one so now I have a reasonable # of points to upload into my gps. I almost forgot, I took some pics of important landmarks and the mapping program is able to merge the timestamps on the pictures in conjunction with the timestamp of each trackpoint to place a camera icon on the map at the exact location from where each pic was taken. Click on the icon and the picture fills the screen.
Pretty neat eh?

What will I do if the gps system gets shut down while I'm doing the hike? Uh, are you busy that weekend Paul? :D

Nessmuk
03-06-2006, 07:37 PM
A canoe on a lake is a very different situation from a 30--40 ft sailboat on salt water (includes currents, tides, waves, rocks, shoals, other traffic, etc). Navigation, even in recreational boating, becomes serious when the consequences are serious.Geeze, in no way was I comparing my canoe in the fog experience with a dangerous coastal fogbound situation requiring all the navigational aids possible for safety and survival. Purely by your mention of navigating in the fog in a prior post, I was keyed to a very memorable and pleasurable experience I had in simple and ideal conditions, not off a stormy Maine coast. I thought I'd share that particular experience, that's all.

cushetunk
03-06-2006, 07:56 PM
The hiking that we do in the NE is recreational. A hiker has the option of carrying heavy or light and we do not decide for him whether his experience is better or worse because of his choice. Similarly, a hiker has the option of using a GPS or not and anyone else's opinion is irrelevant.

Using another imperfect analogy (in good fun)... the rock climbing we do in the NE is recreational. A climber has the option of using aid or free climbing the route. Perhaps I love climbing, but just can't get up those fun 5.11 pitches without a little help. So I hang on a cam a few times and occasionally use etriers. No rock was damaged. Everyone had a good time. Besides, I don't want to climb easier routes, they are boring.

But hey, why won't anyone call me a 5.11 climber? :rolleyes:

Nessmuk
03-06-2006, 08:09 PM
I took some pics of important landmarks and the mapping program is able to merge the timestamps on the pictures in conjunction with the timestamp of each trackpoint to place a camera icon on the map at the exact location from where each pic was taken. Click on the icon and the picture fills the screen.
Pretty neat eh? Ayup, it is very neat indeed. There's nothing wrong with the way you use natural navigation clues and technology in my book. I also make digital slide shows of my trips, a little more crudely I must admit, though I still know where every photo was snapped. I understand you know what you are doing, Neil, and appreciate your methods because you are so complete in integrating appreciation of technology and traditional methods to include all your natural surroundings have to offer. You enjoy the pursuit of technology without forgetting the simpler joys of skilled experience. I get plenty of high technology gee whiz stuff at work to play with. I find joy and prefer to take less, but what I feel is an adequate amount of tools and knowledge with me outdoors.

Neil
03-06-2006, 08:20 PM
I get plenty of high technology gee whiz stuff at work to play with. I find joy and prefer to take less, but what I feel is an adequate amount of tools and knowledge with me outdoors.
Very interesting. Being a chiropractor I work with only :eek: my brain and hands all day long integrating very high tech knowledge with basic hands-on healing. Exactly the opposite of you. Over the past year I've been having lots of fun integrating the new techie stuff with the hands on M&C "buggy whip" stuff. Very interesting indeed! :)

Woody
03-06-2006, 10:02 PM
Some very interesting discussion on using gps systems here. In my own case, while I think that I am pretty good with a map and a compass, the gps just gives me that little bit of information to ease my mind. I wanted the gps specifically for above treeline travel in case of bad weather. If the weather is bad on my way up I will still turn around and go down. On the other hand, if the weather turns ugly while I am above treeline I have waypoints programmed into my gps so that I know how to get back to the trail at treeline. Granted, this is not a very frequent occurance, but it gives me some piece of mind.
Now that I have the gps I have found other uses for it as well. While using a map and compass and observing my surroundings I feel that I am pretty good at figuring out my location pretty closely. Using the gps to also take an altitude reading I can essentially pinpoint my location. While this is not really necessary to get from point A to point B, it is nice to know exactly how far I have gone and how far I have left to go to arrive at my destination.
Good map and compass skills are essential for backcountry travel. The limited bushwacking I have done has only been with my map and compass. The gps is just another tool to use, and I have fun using it. We all have our own hiking styles and essential equipment lists. Personal preference and experience determines these things. I tend to do quite a few solo hikes so taking the gps along gives me that piece of mind that I will get to where I intend to go.

Neil
03-06-2006, 10:13 PM
You enjoy the pursuit of technology without forgetting the simpler joys of skilled experience. Just for the record. Are you implying that gps is "non-skilled"? :D Hah! Gotcha!

Neil
03-06-2006, 10:24 PM
I really enjoy these discussions. It reminds me of my early days learning to get around the woods with only a map and a compass and not having a clue how it was supposed to work. So many times we wondered where the hell we were, willing the map to tell us. That's when we learned to throw an imaginary rectangle onto the map and say, "we are probably somewhere in here". I was only really scared a few times but those times did teach me more than any book or course ever could.

Kevin Rooney
03-06-2006, 10:28 PM
This item was posted on Yahoo's News Service a few minutes ago.


Sun's next 11-year cycle could be 50 pct stronger By Deborah Zabarenko
Mon Mar 6, 3:49 PM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Sun-spawned cosmic storms that can play havoc with earthly power grids and orbiting satellites could be 50 percent stronger in the next 11-year solar cycle than in the last one, scientists said on Monday.

Using a new model that takes into account what happens under the sun's surface and data about previous solar cycles, astronomers offered a long-range forecast for solar activity that could start as soon as this year or as late as 2008.

They offered no specific predictions of solar storms, but they hope to formulate early warnings that will give power companies, satellite operators and others on and around Earth a few days to prepare.

"This prediction of an active solar cycle suggests we're potentially looking at more communications disruptions, more satellite failures, possible disruptions of electrical grids and blackouts, more dangerous conditions for astronauts," said Richard Behnke of the Upper Atmosphere Research Section at the National Science Foundation.

"Predicting and understanding space weather will soon be even more vital than ever before," Behnke said at a telephone news briefing.

The prediction, roughly analogous to the early prediction of a severe hurricane season on Earth, involves the number of sunspots on the solar surface, phenomena that have been monitored for more than a century.

TWISTED MAGNETIC FIELDS

Every 11 years or so, the sun goes through an active period, with lots of sunspots. This is important, since solar storms -- linked to twisted magnetic fields that can hurl out energetic particles -- tend to occur near sunspots.

The sun is in a relatively quiet period now, but is expected to get more active soon, scientists said. However, there is disagreement as to whether the active period will start within months -- late 2006 or early 2007 -- or years, with the first signs in late 2007 or early 2008.

Whenever it begins, the new forecasting method shows sunspot activity is likely to be 30 percent to 50 percent stronger than the last active period. The peak of the last cycle was in 2001, the researchers said, but the period of activity can span much of a decade.

The strongest solar cycle in recent memory occurred in the late 1950s, when there were few satellites aloft, no astronauts in orbit and less reliance on electrical power grids than there is now.

If a similarly active period occurred now, the impact would be hard to predict, according to Joseph Kunches of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration's Space Environment Center in Colorado.

"It's pretty uncertain what would happen, which makes this work more relevant," Kunches said.

"What we have here is a prediction that the cycle is going to be very active, and what we need and what we're of course working on is to be able to predict individual storms with a couple days or hours in advance so the grids can take the action," Behnke said.

Neil
03-06-2006, 10:48 PM
I guess I better expand that rectangle.

dms
03-06-2006, 11:06 PM
I think Erik said it just right. My comments about using a map and compass are not given in the context of Viking explorers and the like, nor to snub anyone at the "navigators ball". I am only talking about using a map and compass to do the the hundreds of off trail peaks that I am familiar with on the NE 3k list. I agree with Erik that to use a gps on these peaks makes the trip unchallenging, uninteresting, and "un-fun".

Nessmuk
03-06-2006, 11:54 PM
Just for the record. Are you implying that gps is "non-skilled"? :D Hah! Gotcha!Don't even think of going there in this thread!!! :eek: :eek: :eek: :eek:

Nessmuk
03-07-2006, 12:04 AM
"This prediction of an active solar cycle suggests we're potentially looking at more communications disruptions, more satellite failures, possible disruptions of electrical grids and blackouts, Ahh, to be back in the days of the nuclear threat, when Air Force Strategic Air Command navigators routinely trained to fly across the globe using only dead reckoning and celestial techniques, without hope or expectation of any electronic or radio navigation aids surviving the first strike EMP. Throw me back into that briar patch. :D

forestgnome
03-07-2006, 07:13 AM
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Sun-spawned cosmic storms that can play havoc with earthly power grids and orbiting satellites could be 50 percent stronger in the next 11-year solar


YESSSS!!!!!! :) I surely hope so!!! I don't use GPS, but I do love the northern lights, which are spawned by solar storms. What a treat after a long day hiking. :)

tonycc
03-07-2006, 10:10 AM
Also note that solar activity may be a significant factor in global temperatures on Earth, more sunspots mean more solar output. The last 50 years or so have been the most active period of solar activity recorded. Nicely confounded with GHG emissions unfortunately. This prediction could be bad news for glaciers and other fun places to play.

Taking this thread back on topic, I have to wonder how many people who protest so strongly against using a GPS have actually used one? My experience is that a GPS is just one more tool in the arsenal to have a safe and fun off trail experience.
- It doesn't help you avoid cliffs or dirty areas.
- I find it provides less route finding information than my map (I hate those contour lines and tiny screens), and is typically no more useful in pointing a direction than my compass and dead reckoning skills.
- I find it can really slow you down sometimes, ie. like looking at the screen instead of just walking uphill and keeping the sun over your left shoulder. But, I've seen this happen with compass users also.
- At times it can significantly reduce the stress level and make a trip go faster, ie. in groups doesn't it seem that everyone tends to have a different opinion about where they are on the map exactly? And, the more critical knowing your location is the more likely there will be differences and you spend more time discussing it?

I have been brought into the modern age kicking and fighting the entire way. The thought of carrying a sat phone in a remote region disgusted me, but now that I have given in I find my stress level has gone down significantly. I tend to carry a GPS, but seldom turn it on. Knowing it is there is comforting to me. Using it to settle a location/route finding dispute among a group is very helpful. Knowing that I will be able to find a specific location quickly in case of an emergency is almost mandatory to my sense of security.

Tony

DougPaul
03-07-2006, 11:07 AM
Geeze, in no way was I comparing my canoe in the fog experience with a dangerous coastal fogbound situation requiring all the navigational aids possible for safety and survival. Purely by your mention of navigating in the fog in a prior post, I was keyed to a very memorable and pleasurable experience I had in simple and ideal conditions, not off a stormy Maine coast. I thought I'd share that particular experience, that's all.
OK.

Being in heavy fog can be rather eerie. On land, on a lake, or at sea. And it can be enjoyable on any of the three. When the hazard level is high, I'm frequently too busy to enjoy it, but the rest of the time it is often fun.

I was also trying to emphasize the broader point that we hikers are just playing games for our own amusement and are at liberty to ignore (or not) modern electronic navigation aids if we wish. But there are times and situations where they become very useful...

Anyone for a 4K peaks in the clouds list? They don't count if you can see more than 20ft. :)

Doug

DougPaul
03-07-2006, 11:15 AM
This item was posted on Yahoo's News Service a few minutes ago.
Sun's next 11-year cycle could be 50 pct stronger
The designers of GPS were aware of this and chose frequencies that would continue to be usable under these conditions. The primary effect is increase ionization of the ionosphere which will decrease the accuracy of GPS somewhat. (This also happens on a day-night cycle--GPS is more accurate late at night.)

The GPS satellites are also radiation hardened. Remember it is a DoD system designed for military use--I rather doubt that they want to schedule their operations around the sunspot cycles...

However for us Hams that like VHF (30-300MHz), the peak of the cycle brings E-skip, F-skip, and aurora bounce which allow international communication on frequencies that are usually limited to a few hundred miles. (Solar flares can do the same at any time.)

Doug

DougPaul
03-07-2006, 11:31 AM
Ahh, to be back in the days of the nuclear threat, when Air Force Strategic Air Command navigators routinely trained to fly across the globe using only dead reckoning and celestial techniques, without hope or expectation of any electronic or radio navigation aids surviving the first strike EMP. Throw me back into that briar patch. :D
Dead reckoning is still very much alive in the form of inertial navigation systems (INS) which are increasingly integrated with GPS. And I wouldn't be surprised if manual dead reckoning and celestial techniques are still taught, if only as backups.

Both techniques are still alive in the nautical community, if only as backups. Charts, compass, and dead reckoning are the tools of choice for small boats when landmarks and/or navigation markers are visible.

Doug

Tim Horn
03-07-2006, 01:09 PM
GPS or compass? It does not matter they both perform the same basic function. GPS enables altimeters, auto tracking ect ect. It just stores the info automatically rather than in long hand or marking up your map. Personally I have found that the GPS is a fair weather friend (Garmin Etrex)That is it works perfect in good weather but in the clouds it rarely finds a signal. GPS are very good for deep forest work like Owl tracking, marking game trails and migration routes. By using the waypoint system you can move from one nest to another in much less time than it would take with a map and compass. This is due to the ability to just forge on through the brush following the path of least resistance and instantly being able to see the direction to your target. Sure you can pull out the map and compass but if you have ever whacked your way up an down a steep canyon you know how much you sweat and how much a hassle it is to pull out the map and compass and read it while clinging to a tree. You can argue symantics but in real life GPs's save research time and that is probably their best and highest use. For the most part here in the east I feel comfortable using dead reckoning and a map to navigate. Still I never whack without a compass or 2. The GPS I carry when I am curious about elevation gained, speed ect ect. I guess the question is, Is it "cheating" to use a compass and map when whacking?

DougPaul
03-07-2006, 01:31 PM
Personally I have found that the GPS is a fair weather friend (Garmin Etrex)That is it works perfect in good weather but in the clouds it rarely finds a signal.
The GPS signals are virtually unaffected by the weather. Perhaps there is a problem with your individual GPS or you have it in a wet case?

Water droplets and snow flakes are much smaller the wavelength of the GPS signal (~19cm) and thus have little effect. Larger objects containing water (plants, leaves, flesh) absorb the siganal very strongly. (People have been known to hold their thumbs over the antenna of the Etrex--the antenna is just under the globe symbol above the display.) Also if the GPS is enclosed in a wet case, the case would aborb the signal.

Doug

Pat R
03-07-2006, 09:16 PM
I use both...for the trailless in the Catskill Mnts, a GPS can come in handy near the summit ;) and a map and compass are always in my daypack!

Neil
03-07-2006, 09:24 PM
This thread and most of the posts have completely missed the mark.

All that's missing is a ref yelling, " In this cornah,... Garmin. And in this cornah,...Silva.

The thread title should read, Gps AND compass.

Real men use both, and women prefer it that way, aint that right gals? ;)

Nessmuk
03-07-2006, 10:09 PM
Dead reckoning is still very much alive in the form of inertial navigation systems (INS) which are increasingly integrated with GPS. And I wouldn't be surprised if manual dead reckoning and celestial techniques are still taught, if only as backups.

Both techniques are still alive in the nautical community, if only as backups. Charts, compass, and dead reckoning are the tools of choice for small boats when landmarks and/or navigation markers are visible.

DougI can't speak for on the sea, but celestial nav is not taught at all anymore to air navigators, and the traditional (pre-gps) navigation techniques are hardly addressed. The few navigators being turned out today would have to think twice to remember if "dead reckoning" was ever mentioned in training. The last time I flew with an INS system (PINS) on board, it crapped out literally within sight of the north pole and was worse than worthless, occupying time that could have been better spent with the sextant. :D

DougPaul
03-08-2006, 12:23 AM
The last time I flew with an INS system (PINS) on board, it crapped out literally within sight of the north pole and was worse than worthless, occupying time that could have been better spent with the sextant. :D
Everything is capable of malfunctioning...

Many (most?) long range commercial aircraft have INS systems. And many military aircraft have integrated INS/GPS systems--the INS covers any gaps in the GPS locations. Probably a little heavy to carry on a hike...

Doug

KayakDan
03-08-2006, 11:00 AM
Different scenarios-different means-they are all tools to get you where you are going.

Map and compass-there's nothing like taking a bearing and paddling into the fog for a couple of miles and landing on the beach on an island-right at your campsite! Excellent!
I just wouldn't get that feeling with "goto".
Never been "lost" in the woods-just misplaced ;)
Quick check of the map and heading-short bushwhack and we're back on trail.

GPS-sailing on the coast of Maine,the scenery moves a whole lot faster,and yeah,I wanna know I'm headed towards that ledge in the middle of nowhere!

I like 'em both for different reasons,and plan to get better at using both.

diehard
03-13-2006, 02:39 PM
I am interested in various minor geologic features in the Whites, I subscribe to the two compass, one GPS with extra batteries. method. The compass, and a minor amount of common sense, gets me in and out of the woods. The GPS, allows me to plot locations on my maps, for future investigations, or not. Pre GPS, I had been known to climb up some nasty trees, just so I could get two or three compass fixes. I have found the GPS to be a much safer and more accurate method of recording my data points. - DieHard