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Thread: LF hikers ― is “Map & Compass” a dying art?

  1. #21

    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Gig Harbor, WA

    Re: LF hikers ― is “Map & Compass” a dying art?

    I've always had problems using a compass (except the obvious uses) and always realied on maps and translating the landscape and features with one additional item, an Avocet altimeter watch. When calibrated (barometer) and set (specific elevation) they're accurate to 10 feet of elevation and with maps I've pretty much found my location. Directions, on the other path where I often find myself, have always been another problem, and this being a geographer. I have no sense of direction anywhere, which is why I use a compass.

    I have gotten "lost" on a number of occasion, but I prefer to say, "I'm not lost. I just don't know where I am at the moment." Last fall I bought an iPad. I don't use it when driving (too distracting), only finding location(s) and basic directions. At least now with it I can show the map on the iPad and tell people, "See, I know exactly where I'm lost." A GPS has been on my list of things to get, especially one with add-on topographic maps, but it's never been a priority. In the end I always drag out a paper map.

    As for compasses, they're good when the declination is set or known when not set, and we know magnetic north is slowly moving and some day may jump or even reverse. Let's hope we're not in some remote backcountry location surrounded by unfamilar terrain when the latter happens. According to scientist this is due or overdue.

    Scott M. Knowles, MS-Geography

    "All things merge into one, and a river flows through it."
    - Norman MacLean

  2. #22
    Abuser of God's Sunlight
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    brooklyn, nyc

    Re: LF hikers ? is “Map & Compass” a dying art?

    Quote Originally Posted by Drew Wiley View Post
    One more story. My nephew was chosen for an expedition to an unexplored area of the Karakorum...
    Yes, an unexplored area of the karakoram is a place where i'd want a gps, maps / notes from more than one source, an altimeter, a compass, and better compass skills than what I got.

    Quite a different place from of the north american mountains where I play.

  3. #23

    Join Date
    May 2005
    Olympia, Washington

    Re: LF hikers ― is “Map & Compass” a dying art?

    A map and compass are part of the ten essentials. They are called that for a reason. And why not take them? Weight? For the featherlite hikers, drill a couple more holes in your toothbrush handle and you've offset the weight of a compase and map.

    As far as knowing how to use them: I don't know how someone can use a GPS without first knowing the basics of map and compass.

  4. #24
    jp's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2009

    Re: LF hikers ― is “Map & Compass” a dying art?

    Much of the woods I hike in the GPS doesn't reliably work due to the thick canopy.

    I like a GPS for recording my "tracks" and distances covered.

    For most photographic purposes, I visit the same woods over and over and over and don't worry about getting lost. Understanding an area of woods and returning for different light and seasons is very creatively productive.

    I'm apt to come across an ATV/snowmobile trail or come out in someone's yard if I walk far enough if I were lost. This is coastal maine woods, not inlands woods which are indeed huge and deserve at least a compass, map and other "be prepared" things one learns about in boy scouts.

  5. #25

    Join Date
    Jul 2006

    Re: LF hikers ― is “Map & Compass” a dying art?

    I use maps in urban areas. I'd hopefully be able to work out a map in a rural area. I prefer GPS because it saves time.

  6. #26

    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Minneapolis, MN

    Re: LF hikers ― is “Map & Compass” a dying art?

    GPS is like an automatic dishwasher. It's handy sometimes, but I'm just as happy doing it the old way.

  7. #27
    Preston Birdwell
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Columbia, CA

    Re: LF hikers ― is “Map & Compass” a dying art?

    I like doing it the old way, too. A map and compass are always in my truck, or in my pack when I am in unfamiliar terrain, including cities.

    Preston-Columbia CA

    "If you want nice fresh oats, you have to pay a fair price. If you can be satisfied with oats that have already been through the horse; that comes a little cheaper."

  8. #28

    Join Date
    Sep 1998
    Oregon and Austria

    Re: LF hikers ― is “Map & Compass” a dying art?

    I carry a GPS a lot of the time, but am pretty good at orienteering as well.

    However, unless the landscape is really featureless, I rarely carry a compass. I find a good quad map and a scan of the landscape features and sun position to be adequate most of the time. I really don't like hiking on a heading, preferring instead to follow features and contours. I try to plan my routes using the lay of the land as much as I can.

    A lot of my day hikes are "out and back" hikes. Since I often don't pay good attention to where I am when I'm photographing, I've learned to carry a roll of surveyor's tape with me and blaze the trail out if I need to. Then, I return along the same route, collecting the tape as I go.

    When I'm hiking other routes and really don't want to spend time with the map, I often just use my cheap handheld GPS to find my way back. I make a waypoint for "car" or "camp" when I set out and then turn the thing off to save the batteries. If I need to find which way to go at any point when I'm hiking out, I turn the thing on and get a bearing and distance. Yes, sometimes this results in walking around obstacles or doubling back, but unless I'm really pressed for time, this often results in photo opportunities too.

    I guess one uses the tools necessary for the situation: out-and-back in a canyon requires nothing. Long hikes over featureless landscape to an exit point different than the start requires the whole shebang.


    Doremus Scudder

  9. #29
    Drew Wiley
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    SF Bay area, CA

    Re: LF hikers ― is “Map & Compass” a dying art?

    I've been backpacking for half a century now, often drift far from trails, always have had a good compass tucked away somewhere in my first aid kit, and have never used
    it, not even once!

  10. #30
    Scott Walker's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Okotoks (rural), Alberta, Canada

    Re: LF hikers ― is “Map & Compass” a dying art?

    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Hughes View Post
    GPS is like an automatic dishwasher. It's handy sometimes, but I'm just as happy doing it the old way.
    I find the GPS very handy and an exceptional tool especially when breaking trail, when your average speed is less than 2 miles per hour it can be the difference between having a very bad night or sitting back at camp sipping a rum and thinking about the great day you just had. It is less accurate to calculate this manually unless you know the area very well and there ate lots of good locational markers.

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