haven't read the article yet; came across this Thread first. will read article shortly. therefore, the following comments should NOT be taken as a criticism of the article - which, again, i haven't read. i'm sure the wise D. J knows much more about this than i do. the following are just some comments based upon my experience in my neck of the woods.
GPS works at most 50% of the time (only on some higher, more open trails), generally far less than 50%; 25% would be a more accurate generally maximum estimation. far too much tree cover - even on trails - bad for both overhead & horizon. also, the hills all around; some low trails parallel the hill or run b/t hills - bad for horizon. so, often, neither horizon based or overhead based GPS is any benefit. on one trail, i've gone nearly two miles without being able to pick up a GPS signal (except at two very short open high, only ~550' ASL, rocky points where the signal will be reacquired - IF i stop for half-a-minute or so). sometimes, if i stop at a likely spot, like these, a signal will be re-acquired. most certainly, however, it would be lost again if i moved on a bit. most of the time it comes and goes - frequently (mostly "goes") and is of no value.
i guess GPS could be still be used like this in open/high spots: stop, re-acquire signal, get GPS coordinates, and accurately note locations on a map and get one's bearings, but to dispense with the map altogether under these conditions, i don't believe would work. forget about following any "bread crumb" track.
i recall laying down GPS bread crumbs on one high trail - somewhat open in parts. approx every 100' a new bread crumb was laid down. while tracking back in the dark, following the GPS direction indication: at one point, if i were to blindly follow the "arrow" and not pay attention to the terrain, i could have stepped off the rocky part of the trail (no slope down to the edge; bascially flat and then nothing but air) and experienced a 200' drop straight down. don't get me wrong, this was not something that almost happened, but it could possibly have. the trail made a small 'U' shaped deviation (about 20'-30' or so across) from a straight line due to the shape of the cliff. the "U" was between bread crumbs, hence the GPS telling me to go straight across the void. a GPS doesn't replace one's eyes, intuition, and common sense.
ok...read the article. so...'bout the only pt on which my initial general comments (not specific to my "neck of the woods") differ appear to be the dispense with map & compass matter. do we always need a map & compass? no. are they good to have along when in unfamiliar territory. yes. i don't think that this is any diff. than what Dr. J was saying.
i think the danger here is one similar to a recent post of mine on another topic - which there, i could have been a bit clearer, perhaps. even though mentioning training, skill, and practice. based upon the replies, perhaps it was not stressed enough there. i think others were thinking that i was advocating that everyone could and should do this.
these same points might be applicable here.
in various areas each person's skill level is different. sometimes when writing, one conveys the idea that anyone can do the exact same thing under the exact same conditions. start small. work up to larger adventures. things which one person is capable of attempting should not be attempted by lesser trained, experienced individuals.
one should be aware of their limitations. the danger comes from not recognizing this and crossing too far over the line. a step over - yes. often, it's good to push oneself. However, to blindly race too far over the line too soon, invites disaster.
should everyone run out blindly and try their hand at this? don't think so. i'm guessing Dr. J wasn't advocating such either. need to "balance" two statements Dr. J made in his article, viz.
"I encourage you to do take a trip without any navigation device whatsoever. Start in familiar terrain. Be prepared to get lost, or even spent an unplanned night or two out while you find your way back to civilization." [emphasis mine]
AND [note 6 in the article]
"There is a serious element of risk in navigating this type of terrain with no navigation tools. It requires clear weather, acute awareness of visible landmarks, and an understanding of the calculation of direction and time using sun and stars, in some cases."
well. those are my thoughts.
liked the editorial very much; also the gear list. comments were very thought provoking. the entire article is definitely worth a re-read once or twice more after posting this.