[pct-l] It's map AND compass

Ned Tibbits ned at mountaineducation.org
Tue Sep 9 01:51:10 CDT 2014

Hey, Luce! You pegged it. That's me! (Yet another reason why my pack is so 

I have three different kinds of paper maps, a compass, a GPS unit with 
Halfmile's data, a two-way Sheriff's radio, a HAM radio, a Satellite phone, 
and a huge volume of medical supplies with me all the time. Yup, the compass 
doesn't get used much! But if I get soaked and the electronics go down, the 
paper will dry out and the compass will work (as long as I'm not on some 
lava flow in Oregon!)....

Ned Tibbits, Director
Mountain Education, Inc.
ned at mountaineducation.org

"To minimize wilderness accidents, injury, and illness in order to maximize 
wilderness enjoyment, safety, and personal growth, all through experiential 
education and risk awareness training."
-----Original Message----- 
From: Luce Cruz
Sent: Monday, September 08, 2014 10:40 PM
To: pct-l at backcountry.net
Subject: Re: [pct-l] It's map AND compass

On Sep 8, 2014 5:34 PM, "Ned Tibbits" <ned at mountaineducation.org> wrote:
> On topo maps, green represents trees.

Slow down now. Not all topo maps are the same. Users of some electronic map
applications might not see green for trees, and may not see any color
representation of vegetation at all. I'm speaking most directly about the
USFS 2013 topo maps that I know are available on BackCountry Navigator, and
possibly other places (caltopo, etc).

Ned said:
> No compass, just good environmental awareness skills.

Then Ned said (I really like saying "Ned said" in my head, it just has a
certain rhythm to it):
> A compass has its time and place. Before you head out on your next trip,
> learn how to use one...and read a map! I don't leave home without either
> (even though I have never used my compass except during drills).

Now I don't believe that Ned is trying to be contradictory at all, but I
think it might be worth mentioning that map and compass skills are more
important than _only_ map skills, and that is likely not just my opinion. I
just wanted to try to make that clear in case someone that has neither
skill thought "that guy said just have a good map and recognize how to
locate yourself by features on it".

If someone involved in SAR or much time spent in outdoor pursuits is very
familiar, highly experienced,  and well trained with using just a map, I
can gauran-damn-it-tee you that person has a compass with them. And
possibly a radio, gps, some spare batteries, damn near or all of the ten
essentials, and/or maybe even a backup compass in case something happens to
the first one. In other words, for someone that really puts themselves
mentally into the 3D world the topo map represents with 2D contours and
symbols, the compass might rarely get used, but I'll bet a crisp American
dollar it's readily available.

For everyone else, my personal recommendation is to pay a little money and
take a saturday to get professional map and compass training, and practice
it somewhere you are already familiar so you can mentally explore that 2D
map in your 3D mind to gain that skill. Maybe for no other reason than to
put your friends and family at ease that you took a map and compass class
and know you can locate yourself on a map and find your way if you need to.
It's pretty cheap insurance, and there ain't a lot of that around these
days, is there?

I have a fair amount of respect for Ned and his mission, and only write
this massive drivel not to criticize him, but to expand on certain points
he made. Nothing more. Thanks for trying to make more folks safer out on
the trail, Ned.

Luce Cruz
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