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GPS and online map instruction?

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GPS and online map instruction?

Postby bandguy5686 » Fri Jul 29, 2016 10:07 pm

Hello community:

I'm an older guy-I just don't get this GPS business. I'm not asking anyone here to take the time to teach me, but how do I learn how it works and how to use it in the back country (and on this forum as well)? Is there a book or pamphlet that you know of that helps me learn how to use it? (I have GAIA GPS on my Mac and and on my phone, but the whole coordinate thing-um...)

How about online maps-I see you post maps with your routes drawn on them-how do you do that?

I'll own that it's a dumb question for most of you, but I'd sure appreciate some guidance.



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Re: GPS and online map instruction?

Postby jkenagy » Fri Jul 29, 2016 10:54 pm

If you use the Gaia gps app then you don't really need to ever use coordinates, in my opinion. Just use the map by zooming out, scrolling to the area, and zooming in to find where you want to go. Then hit "record." Then when you're stopping for a long time or for the day, hit the time display in the app and select either "stop..." Or "pause..." That's the main thing you need to do. By doing this, your track will be recorded and will be visible to you on the map.

Beyond the above, the next steps would be to some of the following:
Check your trip stats while or after hiking,
Press the camera button to take a photo while recording a track and it will be added to the track,
Add waypoints,
Draw routes in advance,
And eventually care about coordinates,
Etc.

Lots can be done in this app. I used to use a gps unit and a gps watch but I've left them behind. A smartphone with background gps ability and some app like Gaia gps is all you will probably need. And you can take photos (leave the standalone camera behind), read books on it (leave the traditional print books behind), etc. But I may be biased since the smartphone biz is my livelihood. :-)
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Re: GPS and online map instruction?

Postby AlmostThere » Sun Jul 31, 2016 12:21 pm

Learning how to use a map should be a precursor to learning how to use a GPS. Rather than relying entirely on a gps you partially know how to use, which has gotten plenty of people in the kind of trouble that helicopters and SAR personnel help you out of....

There are online sources such as this: http://www.learn-orienteering.org/
There are classes at REI, although, if they are only in a classroom and not actually out letting you use the compass, they are going to be advertisements for things you can buy in REI.
There are clubs such as this one here and there. http://www.us.orienteering.org/new-o/re ... nt-courses

The Sierra Club can have classes at times.
I would never in a thousand years advocate for solely using a GPS, whether it is an app or a dedicated GPS unit. There are too many things that can go wrong -- weak/dead batteries, losing the unit, dropping the unit, glitches, interruptions in satellite service, dense tree cover interfering... A good up-to-date map is priceless. I have seen four GPS units try to send a SAR team two different directions -- all of them with new batteries, the same settings and the expertise of four highly trained SAR folk operating them. Fortunately, we trained monthly in map/GPS use and quickly confirmed which way to go with the map and compasses we all had in our possession, and no time was lost being misdirected from doing what we were there to do.
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Re: GPS and online map instruction?

Postby Tom_H » Sun Jul 31, 2016 1:49 pm

Having more information about you and also about your intent would be helpful.

I note that you say you are "an older guy" and your profile says you are a level three backpacker. Several backpackers at the same experience level can have different skill levels at maps and compass. In my personal opinion, the ability to read a topo map and navigate by compass are absolute necessities. Even more basic and important than that are the ability to navigate by stars, time, position of the sun, and the ability to read landforms. When it comes to things like backpacking and sailing, GPS should never be more than a supplemental tool. The batteries can fail, the device can fall into a lake or rushing stream, or fall off a cliff.

To me, GPS is far more useful in a maze of city streets than in the wilderness. Even then, it can give wrong directions, but I can always pull the car over and get alternate directions. As a fall back in backpacking, it can be helpful if you are stranded but can send exact coordinates somehow to SAR. I feel very strongly that no person should ever venture into the wilderness or out to sea with GPS being the only or even the primary method of navigation. To do so is beyond foolhardy. On the other hand, having GPS as a backup, using it for automotive navigation, or simply wanting to have an understanding of how it works are all admirable goals. I do see your question regards use of GPS in the backcountry. Do I assume correctly that you intend to use it as a backup tool to maps and compass?

As for the online maps, I find them very useful, and not just for backpacking. It is like having an endless free supply of maps from the whole planet upon which you can draw. The thing is, they have minor differences in the way you create them, depending on who created the software; this means you have to read the instructions each gives and simply do a lot of experimenting in drawing maps. The easiest way to learn is just by playing with them and having fun; it will not break anything, so don't be afraid as you experiment. I use them not only to create trail routes, but also road trips, locations of restaurants and businesses, etc. The one I like best and use is caltopo.com This one allows the user to switch between a number of differing base maps. You can use multiple colors, icon markers, etc. Once a path is plotted, it can give precise distances from point to point, elevation profiles which show steepness and elevation lost and gained at every point along the way, and numerous other helpful analysis tools.

I hope this helps.

Thanks,
Tom
Last edited by Tom_H on Sun Jul 31, 2016 9:58 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: GPS and online map instruction?

Postby bandguy5686 » Sun Jul 31, 2016 3:24 pm

Tom_H wrote:Having more information about you and also about your intent would be helpful.



I hope this helps.

Thanks,
Tom


Hello folks. Yes I can see that would help. Rereading my original post it sounds like I want to rely on GPS-only. I wouldn't EVER do that. I feel very confident reading a map and almost as confident using a compass (though I use mine a lot less than a paper map). My question was more general. I see people talking "waypoints" and posting tracks of their hikes and I don't exactly know what all that means. Thus the question.

I appreciate the links to the orienteering site and the obvious level of concern my correspondents show (why this board is so great!). I see you guys quote this stuff and just want to get up to speed. If my phone can indeed supplement my travel off trail I'd like to know more about it. That's my intent! Thanks!
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Re: GPS and online map instruction?

Postby Tom_H » Sun Jul 31, 2016 9:52 pm

I am no expert on these things. However, if I were going to use GPS on a backpacking trip, I personally would take a dedicated GPS device rather than a phone that happens to have GPS as an app.
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Re: GPS and online map instruction?

Postby Robmannn » Sat Aug 06, 2016 10:48 pm

I use my map and compass. I have Backcountry Navigator on my phone. It has lots of features, but I just turn it on to confirm that I'm where I think I am.
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Re: GPS and online map instruction?

Postby Shawn » Sun Aug 07, 2016 1:28 am

Hey bandguy, if you're still following this thread have a look at this book. I bought an earlier version of the same book and studied it before I took my first solo adventure off trail. The book really puts it altogether, a bargain at that.

https://www.amazon.com/Wilderness-Navig ... sing+a+map

EDIT to to add after Sheps rant: :rolleyes:

Is there a book or pamphlet that you know of that helps me learn how to use it? (


I should have underscored that I shared this book particularly because it has a solid section on the use of GPS, whether or not one cares to read the other chapters.
Last edited by Shawn on Sun Aug 07, 2016 8:56 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: GPS and online map instruction?

Postby sheperd80 » Sun Aug 07, 2016 5:18 pm

Its not a dumb question, cant say as much for some of the answers you got though. Why is everyone giving map and compass advice? The OP didnt ask for anyones opinion on GPS vs map, or what you advocate. And he didnt ask for any help learning orienteering.

Bandguy the best advice i can give is to search Youtube. I use a different app so i cant help with Gaia, but there are lots of great videos for general gps info, and Gaia specific videos that can walk you through using the app, saving maps, uploading gpx files etc.

With a little time spent learning youll be able to download maps into the app so that you can view them in the mountains even without cel service, record a track of yourself hiking, and place that track onto other map sources like Google Earth where you can see your trips in 3d.

Its all pretty simple once you find some good instruction to demystify it all. As mentioned above, you dont need to know how to read coordiantes to use a gps.

Sent from my SAMSUNG-SM-G890A using Tapatalk
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