It's not the most reliable, and may require some clicking around, but the publicly posted tracks at GaiaGPS.com can often give you a track for your hike or climb when no other source works out. Here's how to go spelunking and (maybe) find a GPX track for a hike or climb.
Want to quickly measure straight-line distance between points on your map? Just take a twig, and break it to match a mile or kilometer on your map’s scale bar.
“Triangulation”, espoused In just about every navigation book, is a method of using a map and compass together to theoretically get yourself unlost in the backcountry. What the books fail to mention is that it only works in extremely favorable circumstances, and should not be relied upon to stay found. Learn the three cases where triangulation fails.
This week - map scale. Understanding scale lets you calculate real world distances on a topo map. You have a map with a ratio scale of 1:50:000. One cm on your map equals how many km in the real world? Would a 1:100,000 scale map be a good choice for a technical climbing trip? How can you use a twig to measure distance on your map?
“Which Way Wednesday”, features a post about wilderness navigation or trip planning. We’ll share a few excerpts from the Wilderness Navigation Challenge; this week - contours and terrain. What’s a saddle look like on a topo map? The contour lines are bending; does that show a ridgeline or a gully? I see a closed circle on a topo map; is that a mountain top, or just a small knoll? How is the summit of a major mountain indicated on a topo map?
“Which Way Wednesday”, features a post about wilderness navigation or trip planning. We’ll share a few excerpts from the Wilderness Navigation Challenge, this week - contours and terrain. Understanding these lets you “read” a topo map. When contour lines cross a gulley or ridgeline, which way did they bend? Does a stream flow into or out of a lake? How can you tell higher vs. lower elevation areas just by looking at stream patterns?
“Which Way Wednesday”, features a post about wilderness navigation or trip planning. We’ll share a few excerpts from the Wilderness Navigation Challenge, covering contours and terrain. What’s an index contour? Are contour intervals the same on every map? How can you use them to determine elevation of a point on the map?
Today is “Which Way Wednesday”, with a post about wilderness navigation or trip planning. We’ll share a few excerpts from the Wilderness Navigation Challenge, covering exactly why a map is more useful than a compass, why USGS quad maps are lame, and why you probably want a map with shaded relief.
You probably don't need to use this for every trip, but for outdoor adventures in extreme wet or demanding environments, waterproof paper is just the ticket.
Gaia GPS has an astounding number of map layers for you to choose from. Here's a short list of my personal favorites.
Need to contact 911 when you're in the backcountry? Better have a way to tell them where you are. Learn three different ways to get your latitude longitude coordinates from your phone.
Want to instantly see the correct declination for anywhere on earth? One click on this Google map gives you the answer. (Forget about entering your zip code or latitude longitude coordinates on those other clunky websites.)
Tired of using ancient USGS topo maps printed decades ago that lack modern roads and trails? Discover the benefits of using “open source” maps, the Wikipedia of cartography.
Headed for New Zealand or Patagonia? That compass you bought in North America might not work. Here's two solutions.
Sure, you can use the free version of this superb mapping software, but for a modest subscription fee you get a few more very helpful features.
Trails you know very well, and trails you've never been on it all, generally pose a low probability of getting lost. It's those “I-was-on-this-hike-a-few-years-ago-and-pretty-much-remember-where-it-goes” that can get you.
In Gaia GPS, the “create route” tool is a sort of hack to quickly see the distance between two or more points on your map.
Most people think the string/lanyard on your compass is for hanging around your neck. That’s actually not the best place.
Caltopo has one map base layer that’s a superb choice for most any backcountry adventure - MapBuilder Topo. See a side-by-side comparison of the old-school USGS map.
Gaia GPS is a great navigation app for your smartphone. Make it even better by adding a custom map layer, Open Topo.
There are lots of options for compasses. Let’s make it easy - here’s 3 recommended models from Suunto that should cover the needs of every backcountry traveller.
Using a map with shaded relief makes seeing the terrain features much easier than a standard topographic map. Fortunately, it's quick and free to print your own shaded relief maps with Caltopo.
A large metal object, like your car, and the delicate magnetic needle of your base plate compass, do not play well together. Read this cautionary tale.