Is GPS needed in Denali?
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Elliott Wolin
(ewolin) - MLife

Locale: Hampton Roads, Virginia
Is GPS needed in Denali? on 06/27/2011 11:34:28 MDT Print View

We plan to spend a week backpacking in Denali in Aug and another week in the Kenai peninsula backpacking and kayaking. This is our first trip to Alaska. I've read that there are almost no established trails there, especially in Denali.

Although long ago I learned the principles of using a map and compass, my skills have somewhat atrophied due to lack of use. The places I've been to have such well-marked trails that I can't remember the last time I took out a compass. And I only seem to pull out the map to identify a distant peak or check on route possibilities at trail junctions.

How important do you think it is to bring a GPS to Denali? I don't own a GPS and have never felt the need for one. If you think it is required, which one would you suggest?

Art Sandt
(artsandt) - F
Re: Is GPS needed in Denali? on 06/27/2011 21:11:25 MDT Print View

I have done exactly zero hiking in Alaska, but I am curious on the effectiveness of magnetic compasses up so close to the north pole.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Is GPS needed in Denali? on 06/27/2011 21:50:47 MDT Print View

"but I am curious on the effectiveness of magnetic compasses up so close to the north pole"

Magnetic compasses work fine, even so close to the North Pole. They work near the Magnetic North Pole, but things start to wander around a bit. Just know what your magnetic declination is. The sun is also helpful for navigation, as long as the sky is clear.

GPS works fine in Alaska as well. As you get very far north, like 70N, the satellites do not appear to be overhead as directly, and they appear to be closer to the horizon. GPS antenna performance can get a bit limited if you are in deep vegetation, especially if it is wet. However, you learn to get out to a clearing if it becomes a problem.

--B.G.--

Joseph Reeves
(Umnak)

Locale: Southeast Alaska
Re: Is GPS needed in Denali? on 06/27/2011 22:20:14 MDT Print View

Bring the GPS. Take a look at recent articles in the Anchorage Daily News detailing the plight of lost hikers in Denali. You may still get lost, but at least you will know where you are ;-).

Denali Sunset

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Is GPS needed in Denali? on 06/28/2011 00:29:22 MDT Print View

In Denali, on the Kenai Peninsula, and across Cook Inlet, I always seemed to know my position. The problem was that I could not go in the direction that I wanted to go, primarily due to thick vegetation. Willow thickets are tough.

--B.G.--