Is it stil worth carrying a compass?

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Paul_B

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Jul 14, 2008
4,960
865
Lancashire
Every time I got lost I blamed either my navigation tool or my skill level? Which one of those options you honestly do is likely to indicate whether the tool is a GPS or compass. From what I read in these discussions is that getting lost with map and compass it's operator error. Getting lost with GPS it's the navigation tool that's at fault.

Let's be honest here, most people have you read up or get taught how to use a map and compass. How many have actually been taught to use a GPS properly? I bet it's more likely that someone opens a GPS box up, has a play then expects to be able to use it. Rarely have I met anyone with that view about map and compass.

This then could explain why people take against GPS units. Even to think the unit has a compass when it's just calculating from GPS location changes and need you to move noticeably to work. Sorry but that is a little like having a new compass and not realising the housing on the base plate turns. Lack of learning about the tool to hand. I bet if you never learnt to use a compass you'd think they were useless too.

With every tool you decide to try out, you really need to learn how to use them. It's basic 101 tool use stuff.
 

BrewkitAndBasha

Full Member
Feb 4, 2021
54
54
Far East
Every time I got lost I blamed either my navigation tool or my skill level? Which one of those options you honestly do is likely to indicate whether the tool is a GPS or compass. From what I read in these discussions is that getting lost with map and compass it's operator error. Getting lost with GPS it's the navigation tool that's at fault.

Let's be honest here, most people have you read up or get taught how to use a map and compass. How many have actually been taught to use a GPS properly? I bet it's more likely that someone opens a GPS box up, has a play then expects to be able to use it. Rarely have I met anyone with that view about map and compass.

This then could explain why people take against GPS units. Even to think the unit has a compass when it's just calculating from GPS location changes and need you to move noticeably to work. Sorry but that is a little like having a new compass and not realising the housing on the base plate turns. Lack of learning about the tool to hand. I bet if you never learnt to use a compass you'd think they were useless too.

With every tool you decide to try out, you really need to learn how to use them. It's basic 101 tool use stuff.
All valid points. Technology has never been a strong point for me, hence my evident knowledge gap, and why a GPS is never my primary tool for what I do.
 

Paul_B

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Jul 14, 2008
4,960
865
Lancashire
Compass is technology too. It's just one that you feel comfortable using. Nothing wrong with that at all.

It's when people claim something doesn't work because it doesn't suit them that I think is a little wrong. It's patently evident GPS does work because it's so widely used without difficulty. I believe even supertankers are navigated through what for them are tricky channels using GPS. It's basically the same technology being used in handheld devices!!!

When I hear GPS or map and compass doesn't work, I've got to ask if the person saying it has actually learnt to use them. It's often ignorance that causes such strong views one way or the other. I suspect those who know how to get the best out of both kit aren't so loud either way
 

Robson Valley

Full Member
Nov 24, 2014
8,881
1,792
McBride, BC
I've had nothing but discouraging experience with GPS. Lot of money in the toilet.
They quit and are unrepairable.
Yes, I have been coached by surveyors who use "Total Stations" (got one of those?)
I reject the accusation that it's always the user's fault.
Get away from the valley floor here and GPS simply cannot see enough satellites to coordinate the position. You all out in the open, have a good time.

Maybe it's long experience but a really good compass is fun to play with and more than adequate in a blizzard for my directional needs.
 

TLM

Native
Nov 16, 2019
1,609
706
Vantaa, Finland
GPS, Glonass; Beidou, Galileo, there are four set of satellites not just GPS, it takes some clever walking to hide from all of them, though that is possible. What receiving shade might also do is to reduce accuracy in across the valley direction.

Of course one can hit a magnetic anomaly and be lost with a compass too.

No perfect system, that is why navigation is partly art.
 
As well as the satellite systems you mention TLM, there are at least 2 position augmentation systems that I am aware of, WAAS and EGNOS. My GPS units utilise these too for improved accuracy.

Even so, steep-sided valleys, and tall city buildings, do screw with the position fix, as has been mentioned earlier.
 

TLM

Native
Nov 16, 2019
1,609
706
Vantaa, Finland
Additionally there are all ground based systems that send their correction signal to a fairly small area. The two mentioned above are wide area systems and based on satellites. At least in Finland most ports have their local "differential GPS" systems for precision navigation. Lots of possibilities. I think at the moment satnav systems are generally quite good for standard walker, not perfect but good.

With a backup compass very little can go wrong, wrong, wrong ...
 
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Robson Valley

Full Member
Nov 24, 2014
8,881
1,792
McBride, BC
Less than 3% of British Columbia is flat. Never a problem for a compass.

Do your outdoor shopping with the "Best of the Best" gear rankings from Field and Stream Magazine. The staff beat the hell out of everything. It was all donated, the winners get bragging rights. That's why I have a Brunton Eclipse compass. Cheap insurance at any price. Even the rubber armor is an eraser for penciled notes on a map (if you carry the original.) No batteries required.

I'm just really discouraged with the failures of all 3 of the GPS that I have owned.
Like baseball, three strikes and you're out. No more theoretical bragging. I have to see it on the ground for more than 12 months. Not my fault. Not ever.

I bought a couple of Silva on base plates for my grandsons 6th birthdays. I hear they had some fun romping around in a local city park, doing stuff like trying to pace off a square.
 

BrewkitAndBasha

Full Member
Feb 4, 2021
54
54
Far East
Compass is technology too. It's just one that you feel comfortable using. Nothing wrong with that at all.

It's when people claim something doesn't work because it doesn't suit them that I think is a little wrong. It's patently evident GPS does work because it's so widely used without difficulty. I believe even supertankers are navigated through what for them are tricky channels using GPS. It's basically the same technology being used in handheld devices!!!

When I hear GPS or map and compass doesn't work, I've got to ask if the person saying it has actually learnt to use them. It's often ignorance that causes such strong views one way or the other. I suspect those who know how to get the best out of both kit aren't so loud either way
When I say technology, I mean a device that had electronic circuits, uses battery power and, in the case of GPS, relies upon satellites. Same reasons I don't carry Ipods, electronic books into the wild places, subscribe to online music providers etc. and probably explains why my laptop and scanner are now 11 years old.

Whilst I agree with you about the user training, regrettably there is no setting on my GPS that will enhance its power to a) punch through primary jungle canopy (although it does a pretty good job sometimes), b) work well in dense tropical storm clouds and c) raise the signal over the top of the deep ravine. Knowing that, I still often carry one - and simply remain aware that all technology has its limitations in certain environments.

On a 16-day jungle trek several years ago, we used a local guide in the forest - he had no map, compass or GPS. If he said we were in the right place that was good to hear, and then we (leaders and medic) compared our bearings, pacing and ground-to-map awareness (carried out on every step of our journey for 16 days) and concurred. Lastly we switched on the GPS and, lo and behold, it confirmed our position.

I see nobody becoming 'loud' on this thread - just like-minded folks who either still carry a compass or perhaps do not and quietly stating their case.
 

Paul_B

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Jul 14, 2008
4,960
865
Lancashire
I think people see where something fails and writes it off but the truth is all kit has limitations. Even a compass has issues in certain geological areas or when stored incorrectly or when misused or when it fails due to say a bubble developing or demagnetisation.

Back when I researched into getting my first GPS unit there was a lot of comments such as no good in trees or you'd get no signal near steep valleys, etc. So I got the one with the best technology for an aerial, quad helix in the GPS60 model. I think in the years of use I maybe had a handful of cases where I got no signal. But then I'm not in jungle like possibly most users. I don't see why you'd use an outdoors GPS unit in cities anyway. However I've yet to have the car's GPS fail in the city.

However, the idea you'd use a GPS when it's unable to lock onto a signal is a bit daft. If you're in an area GPS units are known to fail you use something else. Just like certain uk hills with compass. Operator error to do otherwise.

Look, it's a tool that works. If it doesn't work for you it's either you do not know how to use it or you're in an area with the conditions that hinder its connection to satellite network. There's a third option I suppose where you don't want it to work. I personally do not see RV as the latter or the former option. I have no idea what the terrain is where he goes out is but it sounds like it's got the conditions which GPS struggles in. Solution is don't use one there.

In full disclosure here I stopped using one decades ago because where I go out I simply don't need one. I also don't use a compass and my map often stays at home. Most of my trips I either know the area well enough to navigate out of or I use a phone GPS and view ranger as a double check on my sense of direction. (sic). Unfortunately family duties have stopped me going out into the real clag where navigation devices like map, compass and GPS are needed.

I think what I do in new areas is called stravaigning
 

BrewkitAndBasha

Full Member
Feb 4, 2021
54
54
Far East
Fa
I think people see where something fails and writes it off but the truth is all kit has limitations. Even a compass has issues in certain geological areas or when stored incorrectly or when misused or when it fails due to say a bubble developing or demagnetisation.

Back when I researched into getting my first GPS unit there was a lot of comments such as no good in trees or you'd get no signal near steep valleys, etc. So I got the one with the best technology for an aerial, quad helix in the GPS60 model. I think in the years of use I maybe had a handful of cases where I got no signal. But then I'm not in jungle like possibly most users. I don't see why you'd use an outdoors GPS unit in cities anyway. However I've yet to have the car's GPS fail in the city.

However, the idea you'd use a GPS when it's unable to lock onto a signal is a bit daft. If you're in an area GPS units are known to fail you use something else. Just like certain uk hills with compass. Operator error to do otherwise.

Look, it's a tool that works. If it doesn't work for you it's either you do not know how to use it or you're in an area with the conditions that hinder its connection to satellite network. There's a third option I suppose where you don't want it to work. I personally do not see RV as the latter or the former option. I have no idea what the terrain is where he goes out is but it sounds like it's got the conditions which GPS struggles in. Solution is don't use one there.

In full disclosure here I stopped using one decades ago because where I go out I simply don't need one. I also don't use a compass and my map often stays at home. Most of my trips I either know the area well enough to navigate out of or I use a phone GPS and view ranger as a double check on my sense of direction. (sic). Unfortunately family duties have stopped me going out into the real clag where navigation devices like map, compass and GPS are needed.

I think what I do in new areas is called stravaigning
Fair enough.
When my GPS does work under the canopy here, it's more like a bonus for me. Rather like discovering that I do still have a bit of money left in my account after all, when I check it at the ATM.
Anyway, it's been good to exchange thoughts on this thread. Each to their own.
Happy trails to you all in the meantime.
 

TLM

Native
Nov 16, 2019
1,609
706
Vantaa, Finland
When my GPS does work under the canopy here
I am not a communications engineer and only know the basics about antennas but it might be useful to ask someone in the know if an external antenna would help. As the water that interferes is fairly high in the jungle even an external antenna might not help that much but if signal_to_noise it is really close it might. The very high accuracy geodesy receivers seem all to have external antennas so maybe there is something to it.
 

Robson Valley

Full Member
Nov 24, 2014
8,881
1,792
McBride, BC
It was very straightforward. It was a trip of exploration and discovery. I discovered that GPS failed in our narrow mountain valleys. You've assumed incorrectly that I knew everything about the performance capabilities of a hand held GPS unit under all possible conditions. Of course I concluded that the GPS was not the tool to use under those circumstances.

The facts that I have owned 3 units, all of which have failed and died is another matter, I believe.

I continue to put my faith in the published results from the Field&Stream Magazine: "Best Of The Best" gear testing. That's how I found the Brunton Eclipse compass.
See here? Out across the valley, everything works fine. But you get so shielded up the side draws that common sense ( water flows downhill) works most of the time!
 

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Re external antennae...I did a course with the RGS some years ago and I recall one of the tutors saying he used an external antenna occasionally, a magnetic one fixed to whatever to gain a bit more height, including wearing it on his hat!

Having an external antenna on some sort of telescopic pole(s) and stopping for a fix every hour or so may work.
 

Billy-o

Native
Apr 19, 2018
1,655
730
Canada
They quit and are unrepairable.
Yes, and if you are just following your nose on the GPS when your batteries die and you find your replacements are dead too, you are a bit screwed .. like the regular amount. At that point you won't necessarily know where you are and might have a bit of figuring out to do ... assuming that you are on the other side of the hill from the highway.

GPS's on starships and ocean liners come with bigger batteries.

I like my Oregon GPS. It is fun, handy and convenient but it is also heavy and bulky. I don't always take it, but I always take the map/compass, no matter what.
 
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Robson Valley

Full Member
Nov 24, 2014
8,881
1,792
McBride, BC
In all the decades that I hunted alone, I had to drag my compass out twice.
My utter confusion was matched by my maturity to believe that the compass would show true directions (declinations compensated as well).
Once, I walked in a circle in the forest, must have been a mile across and cut a set of tracks in the snow, believing I was alone out there. The second time was a really scary blizzard that killed visibility to 50 yards.

This tells me that I will never need GPS #4. Nice toys but superfluous.

It's March. The worst month here for avalanches. You need a Pieps beacon much more than anything but an Avalung airbag. The weak layer is down maybe 150cm now so the slides will be deep and full of rocks and trees.
 

Billy-o

Native
Apr 19, 2018
1,655
730
Canada
Was Orienteering ever a youthful pastime for you RV? Just getting about and finding spots for the hell of it.
 

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