Why You Should Explore the Wilderness with a GPS

While out exploring and photographing the wilderness, you will find that navigation is a very important skill to have. Basic map reading and compass navigation is a necessary base skill, but having and using a GPS can be a great benefit as well.

As a member of Search & Rescue, I have learned that most people do not get lost on the way to their destination.

They get lost by spontaneously exploring side trails, and looking for photography spots and/or points of interest off the main trail, and are unable to find their way back. It is very easy to get distracted while exploring, and this is the point we lose awareness of our location and get into trouble.

Remember: the opposite of “lost” is “aware”……keep a firm grip on your awareness of your location, and you can significantly decrease your chances of getting lost.

A GPS is an efficient and effective way to plot points, so if you do intentionally (or unintentionally) head off the main trail, you can find your way back.

As I explain the features of a GPS, I will refer to my model pictured above, the Garmin 64s. Your GPS and functions should be similar, whichever model of GPS you use.

Also, I have a PNW map installed, which will show the terrain detail and points of interest, such as lakes and mountain peaks. Some GPS models have these installed, or you can purchase these through your GPS manufacturer’s website.

Here the important features you should know how to use on your GPS;

  1. Marking locations – This feature is enabled when you press the MARK button. This is a great tool for marking the trailhead, or a specific spot when you leave a trail, so that it can insure a safe return. But this feature can also be used to return to a great camping spot you found, or a great photography composition that you want to visit again. Mark and name locations as you go on your hikes.
  2. Saving tracks – Saving your tracks will allow you to store your hikes on your GPS, and will also summarize with the elevation and distance for each one. This is enabled on a Garmin GPS by using the TRACK MANAGER menu item. As you may have read in my Hike Planning blog, at my computer, I use this exported data into Google Earth to view my route on a 3D map of the earth.
  3. “Go To” feature – This feature allows you to have a guided return to your trailhead at the end of your hike, or the point where you left the trail, when you have explored and ready to get back on track. On a Garmin GPS, you would select the spot you had marked on the Map screen, then select GO TO, and you will be guided back to it.

In addition to a map and compass, a GPS can be a tool to have on your adventures. While helping to navigate and explore the area, it is a great way to store your hike and points you had saved, to help

Consider adding one of these to your hiking gear!

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