It was one of those famous “three little word” hunts – “I am just” going to leave camp for a short hunt. You know – grab the rifle, license and tags, ammo, GPS and head out for a short hunt. The hunter’s pack stayed behind. Because he was just going down that game trail a bit the hunter didn’t need all his survival gear…
by Blake Miller
The story ending is predictable: the hunter lost track of time and distance as he followed the fresh mule deer tracks, and, besides he had his GPS. At twilight he recognized it was time to go back, and the GPS showed him the way…until the batteries died. Fresh batteries were in his pack back at camp.
In 13 years of teaching GPS classes I have had very, very few reports of a GPS breaking or failing electronically but I do hear about battery power draining at the worst time.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Batteries will generally last for a reported 20 hours of continuous use; more on that shortly. If you just turn it on, mark a waypoint and turn the receiver off the batteries will last you most of the hunting season. I like the Duracell and COSTCO alkaline batteries.
- If your GPS can use Lithium batteries that is great. They are more expensive but they last longer and work better in cold temperatures; check your owner’s manual.
- I keep my GPS powered up all day when in the backcountry. I like to download my track and waypoint data at the end of a hunt to my Terrain Navigator software. (This gives me the best historical record of my outing.) I dump the batteries back at camp each evening. Usually my batteries become drained after a full day and it just simpler to change them out as I get my gear ready for the next day’s hunt. I don’t want to worry about dead batteries during the next day’s hunt.
- Keep a spare set of AA batteries in your pack. I recommend storing the batteries in the paper box that the Duracell’s come in or in the plastic wrapper that the COSTCO batteries come in.
- I keep fresh batteries in my GPS all the time. I am reading more frequently that this is no longer needed. That said, because of my SAR responsibilities and the frequency of my trips, fresh batteries are always loaded. It’s my personal preference that “works for me.”
- If you have an older Garmin such as the Garmin 12, keep batteries in it always. The four AA batteries keep the internal lithium battery charged. The internal lithium provides power to retain you saved waypoints and tracks.
- I don’t have a baseline for rechargeable batteries. My suggestion would be to keep extra’s on hand and really “wring them out” over a full day to see how well they work. Do this before your trip afield. Remember, it has to work for you.
- Features such as the backlight, audible tones and electronic compasses drain a set of batteries. On many models the electronic compass can be turned off by pressing and holding down the page button. Manage your power needs.
A fully charged GPS is a wonderful tool that complements your backcountry experience. Remember, even though you have the latest and best receiver, you always take that map and compass on every trip.
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 20-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 satellite 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 to students in the local school districts, and conservation groups. He is a member of a Search and Rescue team.
If you have any questions about land navigation or wilderness survival, you can contact Blake through SurvivalCommonSense.email@example.com, or you can go to his website.
Please click here to check out and subscribe to the SurvivalCommonSense.com YouTube channel – thanks!