Jump to content
  • Announcements

    • olyclimber

      WELCOME TO THE CASCADECLIMBERS.COM FORUMS   02/03/18

      We have upgraded to new forum software as of late last year, and it makes everything here so much better!  It is now much easier to do pretty much anything, including write Trip Reports, sell gear, schedule climbing related events, and more. There is a new reputation system that allows for positive contributors to be recognized,  it is possible to tag content with identifiers, drag and drop in images, and it is much easier to embed multimedia content from Youtube, Vimeo, and more.  In all, the site is much more user friendly, bug free, and feature rich!   Whether you're a new user or a grizzled cascadeclimbers.com veteran, we think you'll love the new forums. Enjoy!
Sign in to follow this  
JERRY_SANCHEZ

Navigation

Recommended Posts

Hello everyone

Not sure if this topic came to light here but I was wondering which is better for navigation, using a GPS or a map and/or compass with an altimeter watch? I was thinking of getting the Garmin eTrex Vista - http://www.garmin.com/products/etrexVista/, this unit provides bearing information while you’re standing still and it displays a map of your location. Couple months ago we got lost in a storm but my friend used his GPS to find the location of the trail that was displayed in his GPS and helped us located it pretty quickly.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Even if you have a GPS, you still need to have a map and compass (and more importantly, the skills to use them.) A GPS is just another aid, not an exclusive tool. That said, GPS's are great for navigating in a whiteout, finding camp in the dark, keeping track of where you've been, etc.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Map, compass, knowledge, and good sense are far superior to a GPS. A partner with a good memory or one that knows the area can also be helpful.

 

I have both the Vista and a Suunto altimeter watch. The former seldom makes it into may pack for trips but the latter always comes with me (with my map and compass.) For example-I'd take the GPS on a volcano but not into anything off Cascade River Road.

 

The GPS mapping function (topo detail) is basically worthless when you're in the mountains, but it can be a very valuable tool for route marking/way finding if you get stuck in poor weather or darkness.

 

I find the altimeter watch to be a far more accurate reading of altitude. (The watch reads barometric pressure while the GPS unit bases altitude from sattelite triangulation - this can produce errors in the backcountry.)

 

If choosing between one or the other pick up the altimeter watch and make some wands.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There is no substitute for a map and compass, but those who say you can navigate just as fast with map/compass as GPS in shit weather can't use their GPS properly or are just ignorant.

 

In areas where you get GPS signal reliably (high alpine, etc.) you can navigate very quickly in complete whiteouts if you know what you are doing. I spent a day on the ptarmigan traverse in zero visibility and rain/snow traveling full speed simply by point myself towards the next col and walking while following the GPS.

 

I certianly had my map/compass as well for double checking and emergencies, but as long as the GPS was working well, it was the far faster method to find my way.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Also, for what it's worth the magellan competitor to the garmin is a better GPS in my opinion. The topo software on it has 40 foot topo lines just like the USGS maps. Unless garmin updated theirs, it only shows 200 foot lines.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've been known to never take out my compass.

If I have the map and an altimeter, I can usually figure out were I am at.

A whiteout on a glacier is a different story though.

I do own the Garmin Vista and have learned how to use it but I bought it only for search and rescue operations. Other than that, it would just be one more item added to my pack when climbing, and I surely don't need that.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I never use any of that stuff and I never have any trouble finding Pub club.

Topo maps and a compass are usually sufficient fro me. Add a Suunto that my wife gave me for xmas and it takes all the adventure out of it. Then she bought me a Garmin GPS. What's next, porters? Being lost in the mountains adds a little excitement. Right Greg? But in emergency situations, the aid helps a lot.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You pretty much nailed it Jerry. If there is some sort of terrain feature you can usually tell where you are with a map and compass.

 

I can think of 4 instances of coming down from the summit of Rainier or from Muir in complete whiteout and a map, compass, and altimeter were able to keep me on track. I think a keen sense of surroundings is helpful also.

 

With a map, compass and altimeter, if you come down from Muir or the summit of Rainier in a whiteout, you still have two major features to help guide you down the mountain, elevation and slope direction. If you know the general vicinity of where you are (i.e. you know you are below/south of Muir), you can take a compass reading and see what direction the slope is facing, and take an altimeter reading and see where on that slope you are. Granted in the worst of conditions a GPS would be quicker, but unless you are anticipating the worst conditions and/or you are not skilled at map/compass/altimeter orienteering a GPS is unneccesary weight in the pack.

 

In my opinion the order of importance of tools for backcountry orienteering:

Map

Altimeter

Compass

GPS

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

Sign in to follow this  

×