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National Geographic rep discusses GPS at REI store

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National Geographic rep discusses GPS at REI store

Postby ERIC » Tue Jan 29, 2008 11:23 pm

National Geographic rep discusses GPS at REI store


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By Tiffany Carney
Bay Area News Group
Article Launched: 01/29/2008 03:23:12 PM PST
http://www.mercurynews.com/valley/ci_8110953?nclick_check=1


Technology is everywhere, even in the middle of nowhere, with the help of handheld global positioning systems.

More than 50 hikers and backpackers filled the back room at REI in the El Paseo de Saratoga shopping center in West San Jose for a free clinic Jan. 6 on how to use outdoor recreation software. REI hosts free outdoor education clinics, and the featured speaker at this event was Jeff Caulfield of the National Geographic Maps division.

Caulfield spent 11 years using and teaching others how to use GPS units. These handheld units can tell a person exactly where they are. The National Geographic TOPO! Outdoor Recreation Mapping Software allows users to create and plan their trips. The product compiles more than 20 U.S. Geological Survey maps and can be loaded onto GPS units.

The purpose of Caulfield's visit was to demonstrate TOPO! capabilities.

TOPO! was not designed to give turn-by-turn directions, Caulfield says; rather, the product was designed for backpackers, hikers and climbers and works by plotting two points on a map and finding a way to get from one to the other.

Over the years Caulfield has used 23 GPS units, but even when using the most advanced unit, he always takes a map and magnetic compass along. Caulfield also reminded the audience that technology can malfunction and batteries can die.

TOPO!, which Caulfield referred to as "point, click and go" software, was created to plan trips easily.

Caulfield used his computer to plan a trip to Half Dome from a camp site at Yosemite National Park. He started searching for summits, then chose "Half Dome" to view a map of the area. He then created waypoints on a trail, or exact locations, including start and endpoints.

GPS units show how to get from point A to point B in a straight line, which isn't always the best route. TOPO! software allows a climber to draw in a customized route.

The route can then be analyzed by elevation, mileage and much more. Before the climber leaves the comfort of home, he or she knows exactly what to expect.

Most in attendance had their own GPS units and some had even used the TOPO! software, but they oohed and ahhed as Caulfield demonstrated the 3D flyover capabilities. This allows users to navigate through a 3D version of their designated trail.

Once a route has been created, a customized map can also be printed. "I'm still going to recommend that you print your map and take it with you," says Caulfield, who always carries extra maps in addition to his GPS.

Backpacker Rebecca Sowards-Emmerd owns a GPS and loves the TOPO! product.

"I use the software all the time, but I figured I could learn a few new tricks," she said.

Sowards-Emmerd uses the software to plan her backpacking and ski trips. She likes customizing her own maps.

"I can prepare all my maps specifically to what I want to do, so I'm not carrying a big, giant map with me that has every single trail," she said.

Most units can transfer created waypoints, but Caulfield said the new Magellan Triton series handheld GPS units allow the user to grab a section of their customized map and copy up to 2,500 square miles to their GPS and use it while navigating trails.

"The Bay Area has wonderful parks," says Steve Wood, marketing supervisor of REI's outdoor school, "but you can hike for hours in what is essentially wilderness, and you really do need to know where you are."

Wood loves his GPS and uses it frequently, but those afraid of the new technology can attend an REI class. The school offers classes where users can learn beginning basics and expert techniques all related to handheld GPS units and more.

"We demystify it, and then we couple it with how it is going to be used with a map and compass on the trail," Wood says.

He also says high-tech items are fun to use, but they are luxuries, not necessities.

Either way, Sowards-Emmerd can't wait to buy a new Magellan Triton GPS.

"They are like cell phones; you always need a new one," she says.

For a complete list of REI classes and clinics, visit http://www.REI.com, the store at 400 El Paseo de Saratoga, San Jose or call (408) 871-876
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ERIC
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Postby Trekker » Wed Jan 30, 2008 12:16 am

Eric, I believe Rebecca Sowards-Emmerd is "Calipidder," a member of this board, which may be one reason you posted it. I believe she's also an equipment tester.
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Postby ERIC » Wed Jan 30, 2008 7:26 am

I did not know that. :)
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Postby calipidder » Wed Jan 30, 2008 10:16 pm

Yeah, that's me. :nod:

I was there with a bunch of geocachers, but I was more interested in the software in terms of backcountry use (backpacking/snowshoeing/skiing). I also wanted to check out the new Magellan Triton. It's a waaaay cool unit with lots of features (it uploads and displays NG topo maps - how cool is that!), but it's really unstable. I might end up with a Garmin Colorado instead.
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