QUICK GUIDE TO NAVIGATION GEAR
When heading off the grid for a much-needed getaway from civilisation, I always bring my navigation tools. I used to think google maps on my iPhone was all I could possibly need, but as I did more and more bushwalking and my walks became longer and further, I outgrew my iPhone’s navigational capabilities.
I usually carry a few essential navigational tools. No one piece of equipment is flawless and the best setup for me has always included a mixture of several tools all complimenting each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
The first item in the backpack. A map is always in my daypack and is the absolute ground zero for hikers. If it’s possible to get your hands on a couple of maps from different sources I would recommend it. A few years ago, a couple of mates and I were hiking in the Blue Mountains. We only had one map specifically for hikers. As a result, it only displayed hiking trails, not rural roads or rerouted trails. We were lost for several hours because a small rural road bisected our hiking path which completely threw us. Since then I have always tried to carry multiple maps and one of which is not specifically for hiking purposes.
A map is great, but when there is dense fog and decreased visibility, map navigation becomes impossible. It doesn’t rely on modern technology or fancy batteries. I like to use some good old-fashioned science to show me the way.
A watch is actually a valuable navigation tool. Knowing what time you set off and how long you’ve walked is useful for estimating how far you’ve travelled. For example, I know I hike at around 3 miles an hour once you factor in water breaks. This can be helpful for working out your position on a map.
Many watches are capable of calculating altitude, or you can use apps like Altimeter+ on your iOS smartphone. Altimeters are also great for calculating your position on a map. If your map features contours to show elevation, having an exact altitude can give you a good indication of your location.
Check your altitude on your altimeter against any known altitudes on signs. You will need to recalibrate barometric altimeters throughout the day as changing air pressure and weather can cause the reading to fluctuate.
Companies like Garmin offer affordable and durable GPS receivers. I usually take this instead of my smartphone because they are more resistant to the elements and don’t rely on network coverage. After losing a smartphone to an impromptu downpour, I tend to err on the side of caution and leave it at home. The GPS maps are often more inclusive than paper maps because they are often more up to date and you can store multiple maps in the palm of your hands. The limitation with this is battery life. While useful, a GPS receiver is not a substitute for paper maps.
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