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Leon's View

Improve your GPS and land navigation skills now

Improve your GPS and land navigation skills now

Spring means more people will be getting outside and enjoying the weather and sunshine. Here are some GPS tips to help you get back!

By Blake Miller

Now is the perfect time to practice and improve your Global Positioning System skills.  Spring hiking and camping and fishing trips offer excellent opportunities to get “dialed-in” with your receiver.

These are basic navigation tools: compass, emergency whistle, map and GPS. Learn how to use all of them!

GPS will get you back to the truck or help you return to your favorite spot.   It can also help you remember new favorite spots. Confident use of the receiver comes with practice and frequent use.

Here are some simple recommendations to try in the field.

  • Dump those old AA batteries, put in new ones, and replace them again in 4 months.  If you leave your GPS on all day in the field expect to change the batteries nightly.
  • Verify that you are receiving enough satellite signals.  Check this on the satellite status screen.  Four satellites are the minimum.
  • Keep your navigation simple.  It’s easier to work with a handful of waypoints rather than list of 300.   Delete the old waypoints, the ones you will never use again.  Log important waypoints (e.g., the elk wallow) on your PC or in a notebook.  Visit www.easygps.com or www.garmin.com for a place to store waypoints.
  • Give key waypoints names.  Enter names like “camp” and “truck.”  It’s easier and more meaningful to find “truck” in the list of waypoints than is waypoint 542; or was it 245.
  • Verify all waypoints saved by either checking on your map page or in your waypoint file (select “go to” or “find.”)
  • When its time to return to a destination chose “GO TO” or “Find” on your keypad or menu.  Select the waypoint from the list provided.  Press the “Page” button and rotate through the many displays to the “Compass” page.  With a “GO TO” selected, a large arrow should appear on the face of the compass.  As you move towards your destination the arrow will shift, causing you to adjust your course.  When you are on course the arrow points to the top center of your receiver.
  • Compliment GPS skills with a good review of map and compass fundamentals. Suunto M-3DL Compass
    Learn to back up electronic

    A map and compass (and emergency whistle) should go on every outing, regardless if you take along a GPS or not.

    position fixing with compass bearing triangulation. (Leon‘s  editor note: And always take a map and compass along, no matter how good you are with a GPS!!!) In the worst case scenerio, a broken GPS becomes a paper weight for your map while afield.

About Blake Miller:

Blake Miller

Blake Miller has made a career out of staying found and knowing where he is at all times. His formal navigation training began when he joined the U.S. Navy in 1973.  He served as an officer aboard several Navy ships over his  twenty-year career; many of those tours included the duty of Navigator.

Blake began working with satellite navigation systems at sea in 1976, culminating with the then-new Global Positioning Systems aboard the Battleship WISCONSIN in early 1990.

In 1998 Blake started Outdoor Quest, a business dedicated to backcountry navigation and wilderness survival.  Blake has taught classes to wild land firefighters, state agency staffs, Search and Rescue team members, hunters, hikers, skiers, fishermen and equestrians.   He regularly teaches classes through the Community Education programs at Central Oregon (Bend) and Chemeketa (Salem, OR) Community Colleges.

As a volunteer, Blake teaches navigation and survival classes through the Becoming an Outdoor Woman (B0W) program, to students in the local school district, and conservation groups.  He is a member of a Search and Rescue team.

Contact Information:

Phone: 541 280 0573

Email: outdrquest@aol.com

Web: www.outdoorquest.biz


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Leon's View

Leon Pantenburg is a wilderness enthusiast, and doesn't claim to be a survival expert or expertise as a survivalist. As a newspaperman and journalist for three decades, covering search and rescue, sheriff's departments, floods, forest fires and other natural disasters and outdoor emergencies, Leon learned many people died unnecessarily or escaped miraculously from outdoor emergency situations when simple, common sense might have changed the outcome. Leon now teaches common sense techniques to the average person in order to avert potential disasters. His emphasis is on tried and tested, simple techniques of wilderness survival. Every technique, piece of equipment or skill recommended on this website has been thoroughly tested and researched. After graduating from Iowa State University, Leon completed a six-month, 2,552-mile solo Mississippi River canoe trip from the headwaters at Lake Itasca, Minn., to the Gulf of Mexico. His wilderness backpacking experience includes extended solos through Yellowstone’s backcountry; hiking the John Muir Trail in California, and numerous shorter trips along the Pacific Crest Trail. Other mountain backpacking trips include hikes through the Uintas in Utah; the Beartooths in Montana; the Sawtooths in Idaho; the Pryors, the Wind River Range, Tetons and Bighorns in Wyoming; Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, the Catskills in New York and Death Valley National Monument in southern California. Some of Leon's canoe trips include sojourns through the Okefenokee Swamp and National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia, the Big Black River swamp in Mississippi and the Boundary Waters canoe area in northern Minnesota and numerous small river trips in the Midwest and Pacific Northwest. Leon is also an avid fisherman and an elk, deer, upland game and waterfowl hunter. Since 1991, Leon has been an assistant scoutmaster with Boy Scout Troop 18 in Bend, and is a scoutmaster wilderness skills trainer for the Boy Scouts’ Fremont District. Leon earned a second degree black belt in Taekwondo, and competed in his last tournament (sparring and form) at age 49. He is an enthusiastic Bluegrass mandolin picker and fiddler and two-time finalist in the International Dutch Oven Society’s World Championships.

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