OAUSA Net - July 9, 2020 - Wilderness Navigation

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OAUSA Net - July 9, 2020 - Wilderness Navigation


Post by DaveK » Thu Jul 02, 2020 10:07 am


This net remains one of our most popular, and for many good reasons. In it's simplest terms, wilderness navigation is really only about getting you to your destination and back home - safely! As simple as it seems, it is way more complicated, and before you set off into the remote outback, you should be well prepared, not only with the proper equipment, but more importantly, with the proper skills. AND, as a corollary to this advice, NEVER travel alone. If you, or your equipment, are out of commission, having travel companions who are also well prepared, will be your ticket back to civilization, or the hospital, if you need it!!!

When it comes to equipment, wise travelers will make full use of the concept of redundancy (explained later.) Technology has created some amazing tools to help the remote location traveler, and we will cover many of what we consider to be the most important. As good as these new fangled gizmos are, they all have one thing in common - eventually they will, not can, break or fail. And, by the way, these failures are not just confined to old or used units, and this is why the wise traveler relies on redundancy. In addition, when it comes to mechanical or electronic devices, wisdom also demands you to have a non electronic back-up (more later and on the net.)

Here is our list of "expected" topics for the net, not necessarily in this order:
  • Mapping software
  • Types of maps
  • Paper maps
  • Equipment, computers, APRS hardware and devices
  • Mounting solutions
  • Methods and sources to supplement maps
  • Trip planning
  • Redundancy and back-up plans
  • Sharing navigation with the group
  • Learning how to use your equipment
In the past, it was impossible to cover all of these areas during the time allotted for one net. So, we will hold out the possibility of a second net, if necessary.

So, here we are, in the pictures below, 125 miles from the nearest city, guided there and back by effective wilderness navigation.

Kelly Point-2.JPG
Kelly Point-2.JPG (154.8 KiB) Viewed 494 times
Kelly Point-3.jpg
Kelly Point-3.jpg (97.17 KiB) Viewed 494 times

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Re: OAUSA Net - July 9, 2020 - Wilderness Navigation


Post by DaveK » Thu Jul 02, 2020 10:08 am


The continually evolving field of electronic navigation is nothing short of amazing. While navigating in the wilderness has changed significantly, there is one thing that has not changed - the need for paper maps. Although paper maps are not as prevalent as in the past, they are an indispensable back-up to your electronic tools, and they can serve as a valuable supplement to the new digital age methods of navigation. In the wilderness, there are some absolutes that the wise and prepared traveler needs to acknowledge. Among these absolutes, especially when it comes to the new-fangled electronic tools we use for navigation, is the recognition that ALL mechanical and electronic devices will break, sooner or later. The other absolute is that you will never know when. This is why paper maps should always accompany you in the outback, especially when you are new to the area. You can file this under the heading of redundancy or back-up.

Fortunately, there is no shortage of paper maps. Selecting the right one is really where your effort should be focused. A decent understanding of what maps are available and what they offer should at least, be a consideration. So, it's probably best to get the following out now: For almost all purposes, there is no equal to the original USGS Topo maps. And, before anyone bristles at this statement, consider the following:
  • The United States Geologic Survey was undertaken at the expense of the United States Government. No corporation on earth has, or had, the resources of the government. The need to map the country was not a whim or a project that was limited in time. The intent was to do what was necessary to provide us with the most accurate maps possible. The project lasted for nearly 5 decades.
  • These maps not only included an accurate representation of the land, but were, perhaps just as importantly, a report of the many artifacts found on the land. To some extent, you might say that the maps reflect a slice of history of the land as it existed at the time of the survey. These artifacts include mines, springs, airstrips, corrals, wells, water tanks, windmills, certain structures, and many more. The only way to identify these artifacts was to do what the USGS now calls, "field verification, the translation of which means that people had to actually visit the land to "verify" the existence of the artifact. These days, NO ONE, not the government, not Google, not National Geographic, and not your favorite mapping company, will under take the task to field verify their maps like the USGS originally did. No one!!!!!
  • All USGS Topo maps are available, free of charge.
  • Probably the most significant acknowledgement of the current value and continuing accuracy of USGS Topo maps, is the fact that just about every map maker today relies on the work of the USGS, and they incorporate this work into their maps. Nuff said!
There are some caveats of which wilderness travelers should be aware. It seems that some map companies have taken it upon themselves to "cleanse" their maps, perhaps for political reasons, by removing what they deem to be unnecessary trails or artifacts. And, this does not even take into account other map makers, that for different reasons, just don't put every known road or artifact on their maps that are contained on USGS Topo maps. So then, a word to the wise. Don't be afraid to carry more than one style of map for the areas you intend to travel. When you can get these USGS maps for free, why not have them as your back-up, or even your primary maps.

TRAVELER TIP: Take your favorite map and highlight your planned trip, and give this to family or friends.

Here are some examples of maps that can supplement your USGS Topos:

BLM Map=2.jpg
BLM Map=2.jpg (36.54 KiB) Viewed 474 times
Must Have Maps  004.jpg
Must Have Maps 004.jpg (674.06 KiB) Viewed 474 times
Must Have Maps  005.jpg
Must Have Maps 005.jpg (403.02 KiB) Viewed 474 times

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Re: OAUSA Net - July 9, 2020 - Wilderness Navigation


Post by DaveK » Thu Jul 02, 2020 10:09 am


Electronic mapping has been available for some time. In it's simplest form, electronic mapping is a computer program that will allow your real time position to be displayed on a map. As you travel, your position is continually updated to show your progress. Depending on your mapping program, there are a huge number of features that will greatly assist you in navigating the wilderness.

Here is the list of basic equipment needed for this to work:
  • Computer
  • maps loaded onto the computer
  • GPS
While the selection of these components will boil down to personal preferences, there are some things that should serve as guidelines for your equipment choices.


Computer screen size, regardless of the application, is always an important consideration when deciding which type of device you want to use. Since we are focused on vehicle navigation, in the wilderness, screen size becomes even more important. Off road travel means that you WILL encounter all kinds of rough roads. Obviously, concentration on driving is paramount, but when you are involved in making sure that you are following the right trail, the small screen of a phone or small tablet makes your job that much more difficult.

Screen size selection is important for another reason. As difficult as it is to accept, time takes it toll on the human eye. As one's eyes age, the specter of Presbyopia begins to appear. Presbyopia is when your eyes gradually lose the ability to see things clearly up close. It is a normal part of aging. In fact, the term “presbyopia” comes from a Greek word which means “old eye.” We refuse to call it old eye, and instead we cling to the definition of, "mature eye."

What all this means is that a larger screen is quite often a huge benefit for the "mature" members of our group of wilderness travelers. And, quite frankly, a larger screen will probably be appreciated by just about everyone. How do I know? Answer this question: if you had a choice to view your favorite movie, would you do so on a large screen TV or on your cell phone?

When vehicle space permits and finances allow, there is no substitute for the larger screen of a laptop. When you combine the computing power of a laptop with the larger screen, it can offer an unbeatable navigation system.


While some computers come equipped with built in GPS units, there are some advantages to using an external GPS (connected to the computer). The first and most obvious benefit is that you have a second device to rely upon if the computer goes down. This, of course, means that you will need to load your GPS with the tracks and waypoints of your planned trip, so that you can rely on it for navigation. The second is that it can serve as a hand held GPS for hiking.

Below are examples of a computer navigation program using USGS Topo Maps and a GPS using Garmin proprietary mapping. Note the similarity between the maps. An additional benefit of two separate units (a computer and a GPS) is that each can be programmed with your destinations.

Computer Screen of Navigation.JPG
Computer Screen of Navigation.JPG (79.71 KiB) Viewed 440 times
GPS Screen.JPG
GPS Screen.JPG (84.7 KiB) Viewed 440 times


Having done this net a few times, and having written about our many trips using a particular type of mapping program, it is probably no secret that I have a strong preference for Nat Geo Topo! Nat Geo did not create this program, but purchased it from the company that did, Wildflower Productions. The idea behind Topo! was to stitch all of the USGS maps together, by State, into an electronic program that could be used for a variety of purposes, including wilderness navigation. When used by State, or with several states, it offers a seamless computer navigation system using the excellent USGS maps as the source. Its virtues are many, and even today, it stands out as one of the best navigation programs, especially for the wilderness traveler..

It is unfortunate that Topo! is no longer offered by Nat Geo, but for the motivated traveler, it can still be found. Here a couple of other programs that have withstood the test of time:
Here is a sample of the mapping offered by Topo!:

North Rim of Grand Canyon on Topo!.JPG
North Rim of Grand Canyon on Topo!.JPG (772.44 KiB) Viewed 440 times

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Re: OAUSA Net - July 9, 2020 - Wilderness Navigation


Post by DaveK » Thu Jul 02, 2020 10:09 am


One of the most annoying (and sometimes dangerous) things that WILL, not can, happen when you are on the trail, is the movement of the contents of your vehicle. Unless your heavy objects (like refrigerators, ice chests, etc) are securely mounted they will, at best, rattle and collide with each other (rattle and collide = damage). At worst, they can become lethal projectiles in the event of an accident.

The need to securely mount things includes your navigation equipment. Aside from the risks and dangers of wobbling or loose equipment, it is difficult or impossible to read your computer or GPS screen when it is moving all over the place. While I will admit to a small case of overkill when I build something, this was one area where I reasonably committed to finding a mounting system that kept all of my electronics securely mounted. I soon discovered that there were a lot of companies that made vehicle mounts, including laptop mounts, but almost all of them were intended for paved roads, and it became apparent, very early on, that these computer and GPS mounts, and especially ones which relied on a flexible arm, were just not adequate.

So, a few years ago, in my quest for a high quality, rugged mount, I finally found a company that appeared to make one which seemed to be just what I was looking for - Jotto Desk. Their laptop mount was advertised as "heavy duty, and their claims looked great (http://jottopublicsafety.gojotto.com/ne ... o-Desk.htm) :
Jotto Desk® is excited to introduce the NEW Heavy Duty (HD) line of computer laptop mounts. These HD Mounts offer the next level in ruggedness and durability…making this the premium solution for securing a laptop in a law enforcement or fleet vehicle. They feature a heavy duty vehicle specific mounting base, rugged pole/stand for height adjustment, swing arm for horizontal adjustment, a tilt/swivel plate and are capped off with our new A-MOD Desktop.
They definitely had my attention, and in their defense, I will say that many of the basics of a "wobble-free" mount were present in this this new product. But, NOTHING tests the advertising claims of a product like the trails we ride. In the case of the new Jotto "heavy duty" mount, I'm sorry to say the claims were not quite true, at least not for me. The wobble was awful!

The story that followed is way too long to recite, but suffice it to say that with some clever engineering and fabrication, the problem with wobble is solved. The roughest trails and the nastiest washboard roads will not induce wobble.

The sole point here is that you can secure your electronics so that viewing is not affected by trail induced wobble.

DTK Laptop Mount Complete-2.jpg
DTK Laptop Mount Complete-2.jpg (730.46 KiB) Viewed 486 times

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Re: OAUSA Net - July 9, 2020 - Wilderness Navigation


Post by DaveK » Thu Jul 02, 2020 10:12 am


1. How to update or supplement your mapping

As mentioned previously, USGS Topo maps represent the pinnacle of USA maps, and nearly ALL of the topography represented by these maps remains unchanged from the date of they were created. And truth be told, nearly all of the maps that are sold today rely on the work that the USGS has already done.

For those who rely on satellite imagery, I am not suggesting that they are inaccurate. What I need to highlight however is that the ongoing nature of the weather (rain, storms, snow, etc) often causes road changes or closures that are not represented by either the USGS Topo maps or satellite imagery. This is where current map updates become so important.

So, how does one get map updates that reflect changes not shown on existing maps? And, how do you find out if this information will affect your visit? Easy!!! Check with the people who are most familiar with the land that you want to visit. All public lands in this great country are managed by some governmental agency. With this management responsibility comes the need for these agencies to have a certain familiarity with the land, and, In many cases, these "rangers" (or what ever they are called) have much more current knowledge of the area under their control than is contained in any website or literature, or map. This often includes damaged or washed out roads, road closures, dangerous conditions, or alternate recommendations.

A vital part of your trip planning is having discussions with the rangers who KNOW the land. And, sometimes, having this discussion with more than one ranger will be to your benefit. Maps take many years to complete. Natural conditions that affect the land can happen overnight, and only the people who have constant contact with the land will know what has changed. Rangers are there to help, and are anxious to assist those who want to visit the land where they work. Don't overlook this most important tool!!!

2. Trip planning. Also known as the 7 Ps.

Planning starts with identifying where you want to go and the things you want to see. Once you settle on the locations, it's time to start working on how to get there and back. Since we all have time limits that determine how long we can spend on our wilderness adventures, the next step is to figure out how much you can squeeze into your time.

With your locations identified, the next step is route selection, and this is where a good (topo) map becomes invaluable. In fact, having more than one map is usually an asset when it comes to finding your way to each different location on your list.

With the right map planning devices, you can:
  • Calculate total trip miles. This is important for fuel planning purposes. Each vehicle will have slightly different miles-per-gallon numbers, and unless you plan on returning to civilization during your trip, EVERYONE, needs to carry enough fuel for the entire trip. With limited time, taking a trip to town to gas-up can waste the better part of a day. And, maybe more importantly, knowing total miles will let you know if you have enough time to do your entire trip, in the time you have available.
  • Calculate destination-to-destination miles. Ideally, you want to arrive at each location in time for camp set-up, cleaning up, meal prep/clean up, relaxing, as well as some quality time at the campfire. Spending too much time on the trail sacrifices one of more of these needs. You may want to squeeze in a lot, but not at the expense of enjoying the trip.
  • Provide each member of the trip with information on where you are going, where you are camping, and what days you plan on being there. This list, or better yet, this map, should be given to family members, as it can be vital in the event of an emergency.
  • Provide each member of your group with your travel plans, complete with tracks and GPX files. Where possible, each member of the trip should load this information onto their computer and/or GPS, so that if one navigation system fails, others have the exact same plans.

For my money, the TOPO! program offers one of the best set of tools for trip planning. It allows for all of the above, plus the ability to hand draw travel routes, add text labels, keep a trail track of every place visited, make copies of maps, make custom maps for APRS, view elevations, view coordinates for any point on a map, and view 5 different zoom levels, all on USGS maps. There's a lot more, but that's a good start.

This is an example of a map used for trip planning that was later used for navigation. Note the blue lines - they represent our tracks. If you look closely, you will notice that there are yellow lines underneath the blue ones. The yellow lines were hand drawn trails which were created as part of our trip planning. The remaining yellow lines represent possible side trips that were not taken. Also note the detail of this USGS Topo map. In the top left hand corner and in the center, you can see notes that I placed on the map.

Topo Map w trails and Info.JPG
Topo Map w trails and Info.JPG (280 KiB) Viewed 415 times

5. Redundancy Webster defines “redundancy” as profusion or abundance. For those who use electronic navigation for travel into remote and primitive locations, redundancy means the ability to survive, the wisdom to realize that things break, the importance of having spares, and the foresight to plan ahead, knowing that sometimes, things will break.

Your redundancy plans should include the advice offered in this net preview and on the net. Having other members of your group similarly equipped, as you are, is just another form of redundancy.

6. Learning how to use your equipment This one is really almost unnecessary, so I saved it for last, just as a reminder.
  • Learn how to transfer map coordinates from a paper map to your GPS
  • Become competent in how to use your GPS
  • Become competent in reading maps
  • Become competent in using a compass

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Re: OAUSA Net - July 9, 2020 - Wilderness Navigation


Post by toms » Tue Jul 07, 2020 10:54 am


There are many grid systems used to locate a spot on the earth. You are probably family with lat/ Lon. This works OK with a GPS receiver that does the work for you but is not so easy to use on most paper maps. The reason is the grid lines are far apart and the calculations are hard requiring a lot of interpolation. A 71/2 minute map has maybe 6 grid points in Lat/Lon.

Learn To Use UTM
If you are not familiar with UTM, spend some time beyond this brief introduction to become comfortable with it. Most GPS receivers allow you to switch to UTM for position read out. Then the GPS receiver and the map can work together.

A UTM grid is 1000 meters by 1000 meter. Many maps will have the UTM tick marks on the edges. Take the time before a trip to draw lines across the map to connect the tick marks. Do it in both directions. Now each square represents 1,000,000 sq meters. If you put a template on top of each square that has a 10 by 10 grid you can break the 1,000,000 sq meters into squares that are 1,000 meters by 1,000 ( just over 6/10th of a mile on each side). The temple needs to be designed for the scale of the map you are using.

The point is you can break down a location and make an estimate quite accurately of where you are or where you wish to go.

You locate a position by finding the number of meters its is from the left edge of the UTM scheme and how many meters it is from the equator.
Think of it, as if you and your buddy each had the same map and you radio him and said your were 6 1/2 inches from the left side of the map and 9 1/4 inches from the bottom. He could pick out the spot and rescue you from your foolish attempt to bird watch in the winter.
The more you divisions on your ruler, the more precise you can be.

Using meters makes the calculations simple.

Want the big Picture?

Don't get overwhelmed by the big scheme of things. All you really need to know is how to work your one 6 x 8 degree segment.
UTM.png (13.19 KiB) Viewed 448 times

• There are 60 longitudinal projection zones numbered 1 to 60.
• Each is 6 degrees wide with an exception around Norway and Svalbard

• There are 20 Latitudinal zones denoted by letters C to X omitting letters I and O.
• Each is 8 degrees north-south. Except zone X which is 12 degrees north-south.

• Each area is referenced giving the longitudinal zone number followed by the Latitudinal zone number. For example, California is 11S. The San Rafael Swell is 12s.

• In each zone coordinates are measured in meter from east and north. The easting values are measured from the east edge of the zone and the northing values are measured continuously form the equator.

• Use this to get the coordinates in the correct sequence: READ RIGHT UP!

• Max easting value is 999,999 meters
• Max northing value is 9,300,000 meters

Possible Area of Confusion

024db3e.png (45.48 KiB) Viewed 448 times
Picture from https://www.maptools.com/tutorials/utm/quick_guide

UTM grid coordinates are expressed as a distance in meters to the east, referred to as the "easting".

They mean east of artificial meridian that is 500,000+ meters off to west of our little square. So you measure from the left side of the map to the east. It does not mean you start on the east side of the map.

The northing is easy since we have a good concept of the the relationship to the equator .
See you on the Trail!

Badlands Off-Road

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Re: OAUSA Net - July 9, 2020 - Wilderness Navigation -onX Offroad


Post by KK6DYO » Thu Jul 09, 2020 10:08 am

Unfortunately, the company that made my previous favorite outdoor navigation software decided to go all wokety woke and started giving my subscription money--that in my opinion should be invested in salaries and product development--to "social justice" organizations that I don't support.

onX Offroad https://www.onxmaps.com/offroad-app

Runs on iOS and Android. Uses an online web app for planning.

Map Types
  • Topographic
    Topo.png (714.33 KiB) Viewed 361 times
    Topo2.png (488.36 KiB) Viewed 361 times
  • Satellite
    Sat.png (969.35 KiB) Viewed 361 times
    Sat2.png (1.15 MiB) Viewed 361 times
  • Hybrid
    Hybrid.png (1004.24 KiB) Viewed 361 times
  • Offline maps: 5-mile square high resolution, 10-mile square medium resolution, 150-mile square low resolution
  • Shows location on moving map
  • Records track
  • Tools
    • Mark location
    • Add waypoint
    • Add photo
    • Draw area
    • Measure straight line distance
The only current way to import tracks into the device (phone/tablet) app is through the online web-based app. Once imported there, they will sync and appear on your device. There is no way to import tracks if you are offline.

Able to share data with onX Hunt (separate subscription) via online export / import.

$30/year subscription, occasionally (Memorial Day, July 4th, ???) runs promotions for 25 to 30% off.

Avenza Maps https://www.avenzamaps.com/

Runs on iOS and Android.

Allows purchase and loading of Geospatial PDF files, such as National Geographic Trails Illustrated, Tom Harrison, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Geological Survey, Motor Vehicle Use Map, etc. Many free maps.

Supported by Forest Service: https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DO ... 91326.html

Beware: Some maps are not true PDF, but scans of printed maps and look terrible when zoomed in.

OruxMaps https://www.oruxmaps.com/cs/en/

Runs on Android.

I have only looked at this briefly, but a tremendous number of features.

APRSDroid https://aprsdroid.org/

Runs on Android. Allows reporting your position to the APRS (Automatic Packet Reporting System) network, displaying of nearby amateur radio stations on maps and the exchange of APRS messages.

Note: http://www.mobilinkd.com/ is an easy to use product for connecting your radio to your Android tablet via Bluetooth so APRSdroid can process received APRS data and send APRS messages.

OpenAndroMaps https://www.openandromaps.org/en/downloads/usa_en

Free map data for OruxMaps and APRSdroid. High quality topographic maps and street maps of all U.S. states and many countries.

GPSBabel https://www.gpsbabel.org/

Runs on Windows and Mac OS/X.

Converts waypoints, tracks, and routes between popular GPS receivers such as Garmin or Magellan and mapping programs like Google Earth or BaseCamp.

Garmin MapSource

Runs on Windows. Old unsupported (last version 2010) Windows application is still Tom's and my "go to" application due to being easy and quick.

Garmin BaseCamp

Runs on Windows. Garmin's regularly updated attempt to replace MapSource. Works fine, just not as quick and easy as MapSource.

Bad Elf GPS Pro https://bad-elf.com/collections/bluetoo ... e-gps-2200

Provides GPS location via Bluetooth to iOS and Android devices. Can log tracks up to 32 hours (16 hours if connected via Bluetooth).

Couldn't find information on data point limit, but I've never run out, logging once per second, and downloading to device each evening.
BadElfPro.png (13.87 KiB) Viewed 356 times

Free high quality maps for your Garmin device https://www.gpsfiledepot.com/

One of my favorites is the Big Desert Southwest Map https://www.gpsfiledepot.com/maps/view/701/

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Re: OAUSA Net - July 9, 2020 - Wilderness Navigation


Post by Jeff-OAUSA » Thu Jul 09, 2020 3:28 pm

Please check me in to the Net.

Jeff, Highland, California

"If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them something more than the miracles of technology. We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it."

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President of the United States

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Re: OAUSA Net - July 9, 2020 - Wilderness Navigation


Post by KA9WDX » Thu Jul 09, 2020 4:00 pm

Check in please - Thanks - Bernie

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Re: OAUSA Net - July 9, 2020 - Wilderness Navigation


Post by cesandvik » Thu Jul 09, 2020 4:06 pm

Please check me into the net - K5LFE

While I'm a gadget guy, you need paper backups. I plan using Trailsoffroad.com to study, research and download gpx files for trails new to me. I upload those to Gaia gps which syncs to my tablet with a Ram mount on my roll bar. I like to screen shot my maps/routes and carry along and/or transfer them to paper maps, if I have them.

Another topic on Navigation. While not going alone is the most important guidance, I always have someone else able to get a hold of me via my InReach device and have copies of my path/map. I post arrival at camp and departure from camp daily to family and/or friends via my InReach text. They know how to ping my location and provide info to someone, if needed. This relies on technology

Just a few random thoughts on the topic. I look forward to this net. Carl
Carl Sandvik

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