[pct-l] Compass Navigation vs gps

jcil000-hiker at yahoo.com jcil000-hiker at yahoo.com
Tue Apr 12 13:53:05 CDT 2016

There was a fascinating documentation a number of years ago about a manwho went hunting, in mid winter, in upstate New York / Adirondack mountains.The snow was deep. Temperatures were below freezing and nearing zero at nightas I recall. The tale was described in a book entitled, "At the Mercy of the Mountains."
He went solo into those conditions but felt that his carrying a gps and two compasseswould suffice to get him back to his truck where he parked on a dirt forest road.
A storm came in and he attempted to retreat. He was unable to find his truck and waseventually found deceased due to exposure.
Rangers and police of the area retrieved his gps and determined that it was actually functional.It WAS working. But its screen had failed. He could not see data nor direction. The rangers couldsee the data through tech evaluation. They could see his tracks and how he went out and theattempted to retreat. He came right back past his truck, passed it, and then reversed course again.He fell into a small creek while making his flee for life. He went back and forth several times.
The final determination showed that he had used his compass(s) as his tool to escape. They HADsuccessfully taken him back within 100 yards of his truck but he couldn't see it as it had beendusted with snow / covered with snow.
Bottom line: a compass works. A gps can fail. The GPS is more precise, certainly. But most expertsstill say the compass is the primary tool and the gps is secondary. The gps can be used to confirmyour compass readings. A quality GPS is also something that has a learning curve. I'm not surewhich would be more difficult to learn but both a compass and gps require learning. But neitheris hard and just takes practice at the local state park.
If I remember correctly, the death of John Donovan was partially determined to be that hismap was of poor quality and "not useful for navigation." Perhaps poor resolution and largerthan 1:24,000. Perhaps only of the tourist variety for the region.
Personally, I carry both map/compass AND gps. 

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