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

  1. #11
    Roger Thoms's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    San Francisco, CA, Flagstaff AZ

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

    A compass and a topo map came in very handy a while back while hiking in the back country in Yosemite. Started to get that uneasy feeling that we were going the wrong direction. Took a little time with the map and compass and we figured out that we were off coarse and going completely the wrong direction. Saved our butts or at least so unnecessary hiking for sure.


  2. #12
    Format Omnivore Brian C. Miller's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 1999
    Everett, WA

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

    Just ran across a new article in the local paper:
    GPS can steer unwary drivers into disaster
    "It's what I'm beginning to call death by GPS," said Death Valley wilderness coordinator Charlie Callagan.

  3. #13
    Land-Scapegrace Heroique's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Seattle, Wash.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Heroique View Post
    My sense is that today’s most common perception is that map-and-compass orientation is “primitive,” and prone to error.
    I should say prone to “compass-inherent” error. That’s what these people mean, but there’s a lot less of that than they think.

    And much more human error.

    In fact, human error has almost “done me in” a couple of times! Once when I was taking & following readings, my Ricoh 35mm camera decided to interfere by hanging from my neck, dangling next to my handheld compass. The camera’s electronics kept skewing my readings 20 and 30 degrees (and my sanity even more). Another time, the igneous (volcanic) rocks in my region – because they can be strongly magnetized – did the same thing. This time I was in the forested Big Lava Beds south of Mount Adams (Wash. state) that are so fun to get lost in . I caught both mistakes before I led myself too far astray. In each case my compass was acting quite dependably.

  4. #14
    Vaughn's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Humboldt County, CA

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

    Mostly by topo map...but their accuracy is not too dependable at times. During the daytime and decent weather, it is fairly easy to tell general directions. I don't really trust compasses -- and GPS even less.

    When I was a wilderness ranger for the US Forest Service (10 years), I was sent up to the top of a mountain a few times as a fire look-out during lightning storms. The look-out tower was condemned, so I sat in my truck during the worst of the lightning storms and then ventured out in the calm periods.

    Basically I called in the fires by orientating the maps to the land and calling in their location by township, range and section (and usually quarter section). A helicopter flew over one fire I had just called in and the helicopter radioed in a different location using the equivilent to GPS. They got it all wrong. As I could see the flames, and the location the copter called in was the backside of the ridge from me, it was obvious who was in error.

    Once, after the lightning stopped playing around, I got out of the truck and walked around the look-out tower and saw a fire on my mountain -- that one was fairly easy to call in.

  5. #15

    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    San Mateo, California

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

    I'm with the people who have used topo's without compass and have done fine. Of course I've mostly used them in distinctive terrain during daylight so it is not very difficult. In featureless desert, forest or at night it would be more difficult. I'd still rather have a topo than any other sort of map, electronic or otherwise.

  6. #16

    Join Date
    May 2004
    Montara, California

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

    This is a true story.

    Once I was hiking alone in the Amazon. I had been dropped in by helicopter with the pilot given specific instructions to fly to a remote location--one not shared with me. We arrived before dawn.

    I had my trusty Garmin and I had my trusty maps and compass. I would need them.

    The vastness of the Amazon rainforest and the dangers therein presented no worry. I've got cojones the size of melons and a view camera to match. Back at the office I read about the he-man purchases on Luminous Landscape and laughed, my head thrown back laughing a long satisfying laugh, before heading out to cook the fresh-killed meat I had hanging from trees in the back yard.

    In the Amazon, I was soon bitten by the sti-sti fly, a little known insect whose bite is poison. I was soon blind, alone, and disoriented.

    No matter. I had my GPS with voice interface. All was well until the batteries died. Without hesitation, I pulled out my maps and navigated straight to my camp, four days away.

    How did I read the map when I was blind? Before I left for the Amazon I had carefully marked in pencil a spider-web of trails from all points of the compass leading back to my camp. Later, in my blindness, I simply slid my finger along the map feeling for the slightly slicker areas of graphite and followed the line home.

    It is trivial to find one's way with maps and proper preparation.


  7. #17
    Steve Smith's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Isle of Wight, near England

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

    I would take a map over a GPS any day. I have no experience of GPS whilst hiking but have watched in car navigation systems turn normally sensible drivers into complete idiots. They take the long way round on a route they already know very well just because the Satnav tells them too.


  8. #18
    Brett Simison bsimison's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Middlebury, Vermont, United States

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

    As I've mentioned in another thread discussing what we carry in our camera bags, I always have a compass with me on trips, even when walking around major cities. In those urban situations, cutoff from the sun by overcast skies and/or the concrete jungle, it helps to know which way to walk when you emerge from an unfamiliar metro station.

    I use GPS fairly often on trips to mark spots of interest, or to plot a track log of my wanderings for later review. But I always have a topo map and compass with the correct magnetic declination dialed in for the actual routefinding.

    And as for car GPS, or "SatNav" -- they're handy, but I view them as offering only "guidelines" for travel. I've run across too many of them with incorrect or out-of-date map data to trust completely.

  9. #19

    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Atlanta, GA

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

    Don't worry about getting lost, just push the button on your PLB and they'll send a helicopter out for you.

  10. #20
    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 Jim Michael View Post
    Don't worry about getting lost, just push the button on your PLB and they'll send a helicopter out for you.
    Sure, in a perfect world. I have an EPIRB and plan to never use it. These tools are for dire situations not to help you find your car at the mall.

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