Principle Form of Navigation.

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Principle Form of Navigation.

Postby Mechanic-AL » Sat 23 Jan, 2021 10:44 am

I recently overheard an experienced bush walker say that a GPS was his primary form of navigation and he only carried a map and compass as a back up.
This seemed odd as I tend to do things the opposite way around .
The only way a map and compass is going to conk out is if one or the other is lost where as a GPS is reliant on a power source and a satellite to function.
I am much more comfortable using a map and compass right from the first footstep and using a GPS as a back up.
Interested to know if this is the way most people go about finding their way ??
"What went ye out into the wilderness to see?
A reed shaken in the wind"?
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Re: Principle Form of Navigation.

Postby Neo » Sat 23 Jan, 2021 11:25 am

I prefer a map and compass.
Like to flick to a larger view which works better in my head/overall perception,
dislike looking at a small screen and relying on technology.
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Re: Principle Form of Navigation.

Postby commando » Sat 23 Jan, 2021 2:12 pm

GPS accuracy to one square metre on the planet... that's pretty comforting, but has a risk factor requiring a good power source.
Everyone has grown up with a map and compass but you can still be deceived about where you actually are.
When the operator is in full swing and 100% au fait with a GPS settings and capabilities nothing can beat that.
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Re: Principle Form of Navigation.

Postby Aardvark » Sat 23 Jan, 2021 3:37 pm

It takes time and practice to learn how to read maps and use a compass effectively. It would seem so many people find it difficult to dedicate that time.
Hence they eagerly take up the technology.
No different to when pocket calculators came into being. I was using trigonometry tables and the like when we were compelled to take up a calculator. It was difficult at first to trust the calculator because you couldn't see the workings. It took time to realise the errors made were likely human. Likely due to incorrect data input or simply punching the wrong key. I liked the challenge of using the tables correctly and seeing the workings but succumbed eventually to the understanding that the calculator was probably quicker and more efficient over time.
I imagine i am not alone with the application of technology in that once i have a device and can work it to a capacity whereby it achieves my initial goal, i don't take much more time to understand it further. This shortcoming has revealed itself with my wristwatches and digital cameras over the years. The GPS has been no different.
I am satisfied to have been brought up with map and compass and to have such fascination for maps that using them is a preference. They don't rely on batteries and permit a greater understanding of the topography. So much so that just having a map is adequate enough most of the time. There are plenty of other ways to estimate direction.
I feel that people nowadays are missing out a little. (even being dumbed down somewhat) because they just rely on technology. No doubt they think they are the lucky ones and are somewhat smarter.
It's just like the reliance on GPS in cars over the use of a UBD for example. I still use a UBD out of habit and i appreciate how it gives me a better understanding of the area i'm focused on. I don't want a car with GPS. If i had one i would not likely use the GPS.
However i do apply the GPS (to a limited capacity) in the bush. Mostly just to confirm a grid reference and to check my direction along with the map. Most of the functions on the GPS are ignored and i have next to no understanding. I imagine my grounding with map reading facilitates this. I don't know if GPS users (exclusively) see the advantage. I'm certainly not spending much time standing around looking for a signal or simply staring at a GPS screen and having no idea of the topography around me.
Ever on the search for a one ended stick.
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Re: Principle Form of Navigation.

Postby warnesy » Sat 23 Jan, 2021 6:42 pm

Iphone with memory maps has long been my preferred form of navigation while walking for some time now.

I always make sure there is a map and compass among the 2 or 3 other people walking with me, but I'm yet to have to fall back onto that.

Spent many early years using the map and compass, but the ease and accuracy of the navigation on the phone is hard to beat in my experience.
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Re: Principle Form of Navigation.

Postby Walk_fat boy_walk » Sat 23 Jan, 2021 7:55 pm

Should definitely carry, and know how to use (and be experienced with, not just having been "shown") map and compass. But nothing wrong with using gps as primary navigation if the above boxes are ticked. (Probably should also have experience driving the gps too, not just how to read a grid ref or navigate to a way point. This differs from unit to unit of course).

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Re: Principle Form of Navigation.

Postby CBee » Sat 23 Jan, 2021 8:06 pm

Accuracy of GPS is questionable if you tackle a terrain that shelter satellite signal, such thick rainforest canopy or in proximity of rock walls (especially some mobile phone GPS). To me, compass and map are still the primary navigation tools. GPS, used to pinpoint your position is a pretty valuable device and convenient to carry. But I'm assuming, mostly, this debate refers to off-track navigation and I'm sure the vast majority of off-track bushwalkers know how to use map and compass and don't rely solely on technology.
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Re: Principle Form of Navigation.

Postby Mechanic-AL » Sat 23 Jan, 2021 8:45 pm

Not actually a debate, but yes the question was mainly regarding off track navigation. I'm just interested to hear what method people place the most faith in. Regardless of which method is 'best' I personally enjoy using a compass. And I've found that by the time you are getting a bit directionally challenged it's usually too late to dig out the map and compass. Particularly in situations of limited visibility. Like most things Map and compass use is a skill that continues to get better the more you use it.

I imagine one day the use of a compass and map will be looked up with the same disregard black and white TV or the kerosene lamp.
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A reed shaken in the wind"?
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Re: Principle Form of Navigation.

Postby Mark F » Sat 23 Jan, 2021 8:58 pm

For me it is a combination of gps (on phone with geopdf map) and map & compass. For close navigation and keeping track of progress I now prefer my phone while for planning a route a map is better given its wider world view. I always do a validation check when confused comparing what I see to the gps and/or the map as a safeguard. Both gps and map can cause issues in various circumstances.
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Re: Principle Form of Navigation.

Postby Xplora » Sun 24 Jan, 2021 4:51 am

Map and compass is primary and the GPS helps to fix a position only if that cannot be determined. There are times when you can walk without good landmarks visible for some time. As already said, the bigger picture on a map is invaluable. A GPS has value also. It is not a bushwalking sin to use it but it may be to rely on it entirely.
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Re: Principle Form of Navigation.

Postby ILUVSWTAS » Sun 24 Jan, 2021 6:28 am

20 years of off track walking in Tas, never had to dig a compass out yet. Maps are essential to look at regularly but it's often so wet down here I wouldn't trust using a phone or want to have to get the map out too often. GPS all the way.
Nothing to see here.
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Re: Principle Form of Navigation.

Postby MrWalker » Sun 24 Jan, 2021 6:59 am

When I was at high school I learned to use a slide rule (Yes I'm that old). A few years later these fancy electronic calculators came in and I said, "But what happens when the batteries go flat". Well, I found you can carry spare batteries and you get greater accuracy than the 3 figure accuracy of the slide rule. I still own a slide rule and keep it on my desk, but it's not my primary method of calculation any more.

I did orienteering for many years so I know how to navigate off track using only a map and compass. But my GPS not only has map, it also has a little marker showing "You are here". Why wouldn't I use it as my primary method of navigation? I have a huge collection of paper maps that are ideal for planning trips back at home, but they are never my primary method of navigation.

I still carry paper maps and a compass, but I never use them while bushwalking, they just stay in my pack like the first aid kit and PLB. It's a good idea to carry them but you hope you never need to use them. It's true that GPS batteries can go flat or you may fall over and smash your phone on a rock. But I have seen people fall over and smash their compass, or their maps get soaked in rain and become unreadable. So you need a backup for any system, but why use a map as your primary method when it doesn't have a You Are Here marker on it.
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Re: Principle Form of Navigation.

Postby Moondog55 » Sun 24 Jan, 2021 8:49 am

I use a map and compass because that's what I learnt with.
I like my phone and the GPS map system but I like the way a map give me the big picture.
I might prefer a GPS if the screen was a better size, say 220mm * 180mm but how much does the big Samsung tablet weigh?
Ve are too soon old und too late schmart
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Re: Principle Form of Navigation.

Postby Mark F » Sun 24 Jan, 2021 11:39 am

MrWalker wrote:When I was at high school I learned to use a slide rule (Yes I'm that old). A few years later these fancy electronic calculators came in and I said, "But what happens when the batteries go flat". Well, I found you can carry spare batteries and you get greater accuracy than the 3 figure accuracy of the slide rule. I still own a slide rule and keep it on my desk, but it's not my primary method of calculation any more.

I did orienteering for many years so I know how to navigate off track using only a map and compass. But my GPS not only has map, it also has a little marker showing "You are here". Why wouldn't I use it as my primary method of navigation? I have a huge collection of paper maps that are ideal for planning trips back at home, but they are never my primary method of navigation.

I still carry paper maps and a compass, but I never use them while bushwalking, they just stay in my pack like the first aid kit and PLB. It's a good idea to carry them but you hope you never need to use them. It's true that GPS batteries can go flat or you may fall over and smash your phone on a rock. But I have seen people fall over and smash their compass, or their maps get soaked in rain and become unreadable. So you need a backup for any system, but why use a map as your primary method when it doesn't have a You Are Here marker on it.


I am like you - still have a Darmstadt system slide rule - and very much like the "you are here" dot. The other advantage is the pointer built into the dot that shows the direction the phone is pointed towards - makes orienting oneself so easy.
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Re: Principle Form of Navigation.

Postby CasualNerd » Sun 24 Jan, 2021 2:24 pm

I use phone maps almost 100%, but always carry a paper map and compass.

I find the GPS location to be very very accurate, but direction arrow not so much. Phone has definitely got me out of the fog and back on the track in a way that paper maps will never be able to.
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Re: Principle Form of Navigation.

Postby madpom » Sun 24 Jan, 2021 2:56 pm

My issue with gps / phone is that it does not build a memory map (literally - in your mind) of your trip. Using map & compass you are looking for key landmarks - forks, peaks, saddles either on your route or to take bearings off.

This lays down a remembered route that you can back-trace from memory & instinct even if you lose your map & compass.

Staring at a arrow on a screen lays down no such memory map and as such if the gps fails or you are separated from your gear you have no remembered route to retrace (I have the same issue when working with the dog tracking: no idea where we are when the dogs internal GPS packs in, as it sometimes does)

As a result when I do use the offline topomaps on a phone I force myself to navigate by (phone-)map, compass and landmarks primarily and only use gps functions to check before committing. Always carry paper maps too but small size of phone often handier in waterproof bag on lanyard.

As with others I find the compass on phones inaccurate to the point of being useless.
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Re: Principle Form of Navigation.

Postby wildwanderer » Mon 25 Jan, 2021 7:34 am

I'm a hybrid :lol:

I use my phone as a digital map and compass. I turn on the GPS rarely maybe a couple of times a day for 30 seconds.. This saves a stack of battery.

Using oruxmaps I can take bearings and see the altitude. I find my map to ground skills are more accurate using oruxmaps than using a paper map.

The trick with getting an accurate digital compass bearing is

A: have a phone with a good accelerometer and magnetometer. I'm using a Google pixel and it's always within a couple of degrees accuracy to my physical compass.

B: most important step. Calibrate the compass before you open the map app at the start of the walk. I use an astronomy app 'sky map' which when opened runs through a calibration operation. Takes about 10 seconds. Make sure you recalibrate the compass each morning if you turned your phone off.


As you can see from the below screen shot I'm using the app to take a bearing along a ridge. (Image is compressed so it got a bit blurry.. everything is sharp including contours on my phone)

I'm getting all sorts of useful information.

Bearing.
Current altitude.
Distance from my location to the end of my bearing line.
Change in height along the bearing line.
My current heading. (Way I'm facing expressed in degrees)
Lat/long and Grid Reference.

All this without turning on the GPS.

As madpom said, if you're only using the GPS you lose a valuable bread crumb mind map of your journey, which I think is a huge part of navigation. Using map to ground skills (checked with bearings) to interpret the features on the map with what your seeing on the ground is the most important part of navigation imo. It's not just where you are but where you have been and where your going.
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Re: Principle Form of Navigation.

Postby ribuck » Mon 25 Jan, 2021 8:35 am

wildwanderer wrote:... if you're only using the GPS you lose a valuable bread crumb mind map of your journey, which I think is a huge part of navigation. Using map to ground skills (checked with bearings) to interpret the features on the map with what your seeing on the ground is the most important part of navigation imo. It's not just where you are but where you have been and where your going.

As some people no doubt said when printed maps first became a thing: "If you're using a map, you lose the valuable knowledge of the terrain: having to learn where the watersheds are, how the tributaries flow, where the ridges meet, how there's more moss on the south side of the tree trunks, where the rock changes to granite..."

But it's like that for every new tool - it multiplies your abilities, at the expense of disconnecting you a little more from reality. I navigate by GPS now and I'm not going back to compass and paper. But every now and then, just for the challenge of it, I leave my map and phone at the bottom of my pack and navigate using just the land. A few years ago I discovered that I could get from Kanangra to Katoomba without consulting a map or phone. Similarly I can get from Wog Wog to Yadboro without a map, or from Bell to Dumbano Creek. Technology-free navigation is very satisfying (I consider a printed map to be technology too), but I wouldn't want to have to do it that way every time.
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Re: Principle Form of Navigation.

Postby wildwanderer » Mon 25 Jan, 2021 9:45 am

ribuck wrote:
wildwanderer wrote:... if you're only using the GPS you lose a valuable bread crumb mind map of your journey, which I think is a huge part of navigation. Using map to ground skills (checked with bearings) to interpret the features on the map with what your seeing on the ground is the most important part of navigation imo. It's not just where you are but where you have been and where your going.

As some people no doubt said when printed maps first became a thing: "If you're using a map, you lose the valuable knowledge of the terrain: having to learn where the watersheds are, how the tributaries flow, where the ridges meet, how there's more moss on the south side of the tree trunks, where the rock changes to granite..."

But it's like that for every new tool - it multiplies your abilities, at the expense of disconnecting you a little more from reality. I navigate by GPS now and I'm not going back to compass and paper. But every now and then, just for the challenge of it, I leave my map and phone at the bottom of my pack and navigate using just the land. A few years ago I discovered that I could get from Kanangra to Katoomba without consulting a map or phone. Similarly I can get from Wog Wog to Yadboro without a map, or from Bell to Dumbano Creek. Technology-free navigation is very satisfying (I consider a printed map to be technology too), but I wouldn't want to have to do it that way every time.


For me the thing is. I enjoy the map to ground navigation and also I think its a valuable skill. What if your in unfamilar territory and you cant get a reliable gps signal. (relatively common when walking in ravines or under clifflines..the gps will bounce everywhere) If your trying to find the pass up and you dont have map to ground skills your going to struggle.. or a gps can place you on the wrong spur.. walk down the wrong one and you will face a nice uphill slog to get back on route.

My biggest concern with using a gps full time for navigation is battery. It chews through capacity and means i would need to carry a bigger and heavier powerbank.

Having said that I also agree, the more tech we use the less connected to the natural state we become. For well known routes I also keep the phone/map in the pack. Generally just day/overnight walks though.. my memories not good enough for big multidayers :lol:
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Re: Principle Form of Navigation.

Postby puredingo » Mon 25 Jan, 2021 1:43 pm

"A few years ago I discovered that I could get from Kanangra to Katoomba without consulting a map or phone. Similarly I can get from Wog Wog to Yadboro without a map."

The well worn track and the odd sign post definitely doesn't hurt either!
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Re: Principle Form of Navigation.

Postby crollsurf » Mon 25 Jan, 2021 2:39 pm

Haven't carried maps in years. Just a Phone and a button compass as backup. I do like bringing a guide book with me for longer walks if one is available.
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Re: Principle Form of Navigation.

Postby Mechanic-AL » Mon 25 Jan, 2021 3:11 pm

crollsurf wrote:Haven't carried maps in years.


No Map....not even as a back up?? WOW :shock: :shock: :shock:
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Re: Principle Form of Navigation.

Postby crollsurf » Mon 25 Jan, 2021 7:20 pm

Mechanic-AL wrote:
crollsurf wrote:Haven't carried maps in years.


No Map....not even as a back up?? WOW :shock: :shock: :shock:
I don't mind getting "lost". In fact I quite like it but there are limits to lostness.

I think being observant is way more important than any map. When you turn off one track onto another, look behind you and remember what it looks like... just simple stuff about being aware of your surroundings.

Little bit harder when its overcast and the only reason I travel with a compass.

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Re: Principle Form of Navigation.

Postby ribuck » Tue 26 Jan, 2021 1:22 am

puredingo wrote:"A few years ago I discovered that I could get from Kanangra to Katoomba without consulting a map or phone. Similarly I can get from Wog Wog to Yadboro without a map."

The well worn track and the odd sign post definitely doesn't hurt either!

I chose examples that others might be familiar with. However, in the other direction from Katoomba to Kanangra, I have always gone the wrong way off one of the RipRackRoarRumble knolls and needed to get my phone out to check.
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Re: Principle Form of Navigation.

Postby Heremeahappy1 » Tue 26 Jan, 2021 8:19 am

In unfamiliar territory - map to ground and compass. There is something satisfying about moving across the land sans track and electronics. If in really closed in country - map and compass and GPS to check GR. This check is to confirm and also consolidates the manual process.
I'm practicing walking through scrub with compasss and no map. Recording bearings with pen and paper and pace counting. Interesting way to explore an area and get back to camp.
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Re: Principle Form of Navigation.

Postby rcaffin » Tue 26 Jan, 2021 5:08 pm

Story from my Boy Scout days.
We had to get from Start to the dinner tent, a few km away. The tent was on a catcher road.
Night time, clear sky, moon up.
No map allowed, although we had 5 minutes with one before we left.
No torch, just moonlight. Fairly open dry sclerophyl country.
No compass either.
(And this was emphatically PRE-electronics! No wooses.)

Just terrain following with moon.
OK, no worries.

I was half way along when I realised I had not allowed for the magnetic declination! Big OOPS!
A few minutes of fast calculation, a reorientation wrt moon, and off again.

I was a few 100 m off: my distance estimation ('half way') was not quite right. But I could smell dinner, that way!

Cheers
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Re: Principle Form of Navigation.

Postby JohnnoMcJohnno » Tue 26 Jan, 2021 9:24 pm

I'm very much a map and compass man. My cousin with whom I frequently walk is a qualified surveyor and very much a GPS man. Out in the bush I take more wrong turns than he does, but I don't like relying on electricity or electronics.
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Re: Principle Form of Navigation.

Postby Neo » Tue 26 Jan, 2021 9:44 pm

My watch gives a GR and other things like time and alarms. It's great to confirm my position on a topo when needed.
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Re: Principle Form of Navigation.

Postby ribuck » Wed 27 Jan, 2021 12:46 am

People often worry about what to do if the GPS breaks or has flat batteries. I carry an InReach Mini satellite communicator (99 grams), into which I can program a few key grid references before my trip. It has no map display, but if my main device fails I can use it to give me bearings.

Of course, if walking in a group then someone else in the group will have a map or device
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Re: Principle Form of Navigation.

Postby tom_brennan » Wed 27 Jan, 2021 7:52 am

I agree with madpom. The GPS insulates you against understanding the actual features and lay of the land that you're walking.

I carry a GPS, switched on so that it gives me a track of the route at the end, and I mark waypoints of interest on it.

But it stays in the top of the pack 95% of the time, and I largely use map and compass.
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