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Diplomatic Mike
(MikefaeDundee)

Locale: Under a bush in Scotland
Re GPS Accuracy on 01/02/2012 08:06:41 MST Print View

Following a track on the GPS in a white-out. I was aiming for a cliff edge that i could 'handrail' onto safer ground. Knowing a cliff was ahead, i was also throwing snow balls in front of me to give a visual reference point. I didn't want to step over the edge. A snowball didn't land in front of me, and i knew it had gone over the edge. According to my GPS, i still had a distance to go!

Chris Townsend
(Christownsend) - MLife

Locale: Cairngorms National Park
GPS or Compass on 01/02/2012 10:16:51 MST Print View

Interesting discussion with good points on both sides. I usually carry both a compass and a GPS. I must admit the latter is usually for speed and convenience. I can glance at it and see where I am in thick mist (common in Scotland) or dense forest (not that uncommon in Scotland). On the Scottish hills trails are often sketchy or non-existent, visibility is often minimal and there are plenty of cliffs and gullies so you need to know where you are and have good navigation skills. I've hiked and skied in the High Sierra, including on the Pacific Crest Trail and on a 500 mile round trip, and I can say that hiking there is much, much easier than in the Scottish Highlands due to the weather, open terrain and well-maintained trails. Even when off trail or when the trails are snow covered navigation is simple. On my 500 mile hike in the High Sierra I never used my compass once (and didn't carry a GPS back then). In the Scottish Highlands I use a compass frequently. It's also possible to hike for a week without resupplying anyway in the Highlands - I've done it several times.

Here's an example of how GPS can be useful and save time. Last year I hiked the Pacific Northwest Trail. In places I was on sketchy trails in dense forest. I wanted to find a junction and follow another sketchy trail, as this linked up with a better trail further along. On a couple of occasions I overshot the junction, backtracked, and overshot the junction again because there wasn't actually anything visible on the ground. The GPS map (I really think that to fully utilise GPS one with topo mapping is needed) showed where the junction was and the direction of the invisible trail so I used that to find the turn-off and then follow the line of the trail until signs of it appeared.

Modern GPS units are tough and have good battery life. Last February I hiked the 217 mile Southern Upland Way in southern Scotland. I was hiking it for a web site and needed a GPS route for the whole trail so I had a SatMap switched on in the top pocket of my pack the whole way. The batteries lasted 3-4 days. The weather was wet and the GPS was often damp at the end of the day. However the SatMap is waterproof (and shockproof) so this wasn't a problem.

Mike W
(skopeo) - F

Locale: British Columbia
GPS Accuracy on 01/02/2012 10:28:18 MST Print View

Why is it always assumed that if you use a GPS you don't know how to use a compass?

I've used a GPS for a little over 10 years but I've been walking in the woods for over 40 years and am quite capable with a map and compass. I now prefer to take a GPS because I consider it a better tool for the job (it's gear innovation... I'm trying to keep this relevant to this thread). I will however, make it very clear that I am not suggesting that a GPS replaces a map, that is not the case. It does however replace a compass very nicely and I haven't used my compass in years on the water or on land (although I do carry a compass as a backup).

What is very obvious from the comments above is that many of you don't know how to use a GPS or have not kept up with this technology (old GPS units?).

Can I project a bearing? Of course, that's what GPS units were designed for. I can drop a waypoint on a feature or plug in coordinates from my map and the unit will take me to that point and display my bearing and distance constantly. I can also project a bearing at a given distance (I can key the distance) if all I want is a projected bearing line (like a compass).

As for holding a course, once again, that is what these units were designed for but most people don't even know this feature exists. It was designed initially for boating but is just as valuable on land. Instead of a compass pointer you can change to a course pointer. This will display the amount of "drift" you are off of your desired course (works with parallel lines on the display). I use this mostly in boating to compensate for drift caused by ocean currents however it keeps you on course on land just the same.

It's also evident that most people here think that their maps are accurate. I've worked in the survey and mapping field for decades and I can tell you that if the maps in your area are as accurate as the GPS coordinates (+-10 metres) on your handheld GPS then you are lucky to have such good mapping... that is not the case for most small scale topo mapping.

Lastly, I will ask Roger, how you can align your map and compass accurately to one degree if you don't know "exactly" where you are? I can only assume you are lucky enough to hike in an area that has an abundance of natural land features that show up on your map. Try that in BC! (one tree looks pretty much like the next).

Diplomatic Mike
(MikefaeDundee)

Locale: Under a bush in Scotland
"Cottage Stagnation and Recent Gems" on 01/02/2012 10:40:44 MST Print View

Good post Chris.
Do you think your 'boutique hiking' experience in Scotland helped you on the real hiking in the US? ;)

Hiking all the Munros in one go must be so easy. I'm surprised Nick hasn't come across and done it in a weekend.

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: The Great Lakes Bay Region
GPS on 01/02/2012 10:43:30 MST Print View

I am with Mike and Chris on the use of GPS.

I hike a lot in Ireland and Scotland and trails are non existent in most areas and have had to use GPS to navigate on a number of occasions in white out conditions.

Edited by stephenm on 01/02/2012 11:00:27 MST.

Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: WNC
Re: GPS on 01/02/2012 10:53:52 MST Print View

I started with a Garmin Legend from the original eTrex line. After enough experience with it losing signal I upgraded to a Garmin GpsMap 60. Signal was much better but I found myself rarely using it because I spent most of my time on the AT (you need neither map & compass nor GPS on the AT). As I started spending more time in Wilderness areas and on lesser used trails or off trail I moved back to carrying a compass and custom maps. After a few mishaps, though, due to dense tree cover and being unable to sight any landmarks, I've started carrying a Foretrex 301. I primarily use it for tracking routes, especially off trail in the Rockies, but it also comes in quite handy when I need to confirm I'm where I think I am on my map.

Edited by simplespirit on 01/02/2012 10:55:50 MST.

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: The Great Lakes Bay Region
Smartphone GPS on 01/02/2012 11:10:24 MST Print View

I always carry a map and compass and its my prefered method of navigation, I use View Ranger Mapping on a Motorla Defy WP\Rugged phone(with 2 spare batteries) some times I leave it switched off and other times I will leave it on to record a track.

Tom Clark
(TomClark) - MLife

Locale: East Coast
Re: Re: GPS on 01/02/2012 11:15:44 MST Print View

Hey guys,
Compass, map, GPS, smartphone, years of experience...none of those seem to help keep this thread on track, however open-ended it was when it started. ;)

Tom

Richard Scruggs
(JRScruggs) - MLife

Locale: Oregon
Re: Re: Re: GPS on 01/02/2012 11:22:32 MST Print View

To close the circle and return to the thread's path, when is someone going to innovate the GPS to include a comforting voice giving directions?

Like, "Go a little bit to the left. Good. Now go straight ahead. Wow! You're doing just great! You deserve a reward, so dig out some of those M&M's."

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: GPS on 01/02/2012 11:39:13 MST Print View

To close the circle and return to the thread's path, when is someone going to innovate the GPS to include a comforting voice giving directions?

Panasonic has done just that with their "TabiNavi" traveler's GPS here in Japan (only sold in Japan in Japanese). I'm not sure if the Sony NV-U37 does this. I don' think so.

Thom Darrah
(thomdarrah) - MLife

Locale: Southern Oregon
Re: GPS on 01/02/2012 11:45:59 MST Print View

Maybe the GPS specific posts could be moved to a topic specific thread so the the OP could better remain on topic - "Cottage Stagnation and Recent Gems"!

Michael Fogarty
(mfog1) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Slowing down............ on 01/02/2012 12:40:56 MST Print View

I agree with some of what Ryan says mainly slowing down on needing to purchase the latest and greatest gear. Its a never ending sickness, that is really unnecessary for the most part.

I would disagree on some of the points on the cottage gear makers though, and the HMG Porter pack, (yes I own one too) First off it is a nice pack, but nothing really groundbreaking with it. A few things are actually borrowed or copied from McHale. Reinforcement stitching on the Porter is not the best I've seen. This is just my observations and not a criticism of the Porter. It remains to be seen for myself as to whether the Porter will hump 30-35lbs, better than my McHale Merkibeiner (#1 choice) or the ULA Circuit.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife

Locale: Gateway to Columbia River Gorge
Cottage Stagnation and Recent Gems on 01/02/2012 12:57:24 MST Print View

From what I saw on their site, I didn't think that much of the HMG Porter Pack, either. YMMV!

I am far more impressed by the Elemental Horizons Aquilo and the forthcoming Kalais (I hope I spelled that right). The Aquilo is the one that got the Highly Recommended rating in Will Rietveld's review (I hope I spelled Will's name correctly). I don't know how "innovative" this pack design is, but it has all the features I want in a pack and seems to be the first of the under-2-lb. framed packs to have the stays actually connected to the hip belt.

On the other hand, I'm not in the market for a pack, because my almost 7-year-old pack from Six Moon Designs (2005 Comet, unfortunately discontinued) is still holding up just fine and is still very comfortable for me. I've had as much as 35 lbs. in it--my shoulders, back and hips felt fine, although my knees and feet were screaming--but most of my trips I'm under 25 lbs.

I will, however, be looking for a pack for my 12-year-old grandson in the spring, and the Kalais might be one of those on my list. Like me, he needs a good supportive frame with load lifters (evidently my pressure-sensitive shoulders are hereditary), but not a 3 1/2 to 4 lb. pack such as most of the "youth" packs on the market.

Edited by hikinggranny on 01/02/2012 13:00:17 MST.

John Gilbert
(JohnG10) - F

Locale: Mid-Atlantic
Dynema Ripstop on 01/02/2012 17:32:44 MST Print View

I personally think the ripstop looks WAY cooler - but I have a non-ripstop ”packcloth” pack from the 1970's with no rips and only a few small spots of wear through where there was something hard on the inside at that position most of the time to provide the rocks something to abrade the fabric against.
I think the pack cloth is 420 denier. The pack weighs 3.0 lbs. It had 1 medium sized pocket and a simple flap lid. It has dense strap and belt padding that doesn't feel cushy, but carries lots of weight without digging in.
Wish someone still made simple durable packs...

Andrew F
(andrew.f) - F - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: John on 01/02/2012 18:22:22 MST Print View

John, if you want a burly pack without many features and aren't too concerned about weight, check out Cold Cold World. http://coldcoldworldpacks.com/

Andrew

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: GPS Accuracy on 01/02/2012 18:38:01 MST Print View

> how you can align your map and compass accurately to one degree if you don't know "exactly" where you are?
'Alignment' is NOT the same as 'Location'. Very different in fact.

> an area that has an abundance of natural land features that show up on your map.
Actually, our area sound like BC. LOTs of forest with NO visibility. Forested plateau country - with canyons.

Yes, I know about map errors. Chuckle! Some of our topo maps are notorious. Some of them show gentle spurs with contours; reality is that very often those contour lines translate into decent cliff lines. Watersheds and ridges are usually not too bad though.

I have no objection at all to people preferring to use a GPS instead of a compass. It's a free world. But I will strongly refute the idea that the GPS has replaced the compass. NO WAY!

Cheers

Jonathan Pratt
(Tyke)
An article with balls! on 01/02/2012 18:42:18 MST Print View

Now let's have more articles on BPL about trips, techniques and experiences. Too much gear talk - almost obsessive and getting boring...

BPL helped me move from a heavy pack to lighter one. Thank you. It's helped my back and knees, allows me to travel further and arrive in better condition. It's been like moving from Economy to Business class...

But now I want to read about techniques, skills and knowledge as well as trips and these seem to be lacking on the site.

What does BPL stand for these days?

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: GPS Accuracy on 01/02/2012 18:47:47 MST Print View

"But I will strongly refute the idea that the GPS has replaced the compass."

Besides, if you are standing still, the GPS receiver cannot tell you which way you are facing. In that respect, it can't tell north from south. Once you start moving, the GPS receiver can tell you which way you are moving, but it still can't tell you for sure which way you are facing. That's a big deal in the nautical environment.

Now, some of the wise GPS manufacturers have put a compass function into their normal GPS receivers. That's not such a bad idea. However, if that is a fluxgate compass, then it still requires battery power to operate.

Lots of GPS users complain about the lack of accuracy in positioning. Probably it is a lack of accuracy in the built-in map database, and the basic GPS receiver position data is very close. I suggest you take the lat/long numbers and find those on a paper map, and that will be very close.

--B.G.--

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
In Defense of the Gear Shop and Ryan on 01/03/2012 09:55:14 MST Print View

In defense of the former gear shop I always got good customer service. Addie and Sam where very easy to work with when there were some complications (long story but basically I was paying them for things at the same time BPL owed me money for an article so it got complicated).
In defense of Ryan, I might have written the article so there'd be less chance of confusion (I doublt he'd bash McHale packs for example, they seem to be the only pack he's used consistantly over long period). That said he's tried a lot more gear out than I have. If he thinks things could be better I'm inclined to at least listen.
Whether or not the cottage gear makers are "stagnant" is partly a question of perspective. On the one hand there have been some cool new ideas lately. On the other hand I think if you compare the big gear makers to the cottage makers the big companies are offering some nice, relatively light gear that your average Joe can use. Compared to that cottage gear makers haven't changed there basic offerings all that much in five years. Basically unless I want to go SUL there is less and less reason for me to go to a cottage gear maker than REI.

Jamie Shortt
(jshortt) - MLife

Locale: North Carolina
Re: Cottage Stagnation and Recent Gems on 01/03/2012 15:38:48 MST Print View

reposted on following page

Edited by jshortt on 01/03/2012 20:02:01 MST.