electronics in the outdoors
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never rely completely on electronics for navigation... they arent fullproof for the reasons i mentioned above, when they stop working you need to understand how to use a map and compass. a lot of people dont think beyond relying on their electronics, its also an issue with beacons, people have beacons and dont bother with alteratives such as making sure someone is briefed on your trip intentions incase the beacon doesnt work. there are a lot of people who expect to be able to make cell phone calls in the mountains as well because of their reliance on electronics and expectations of it always working for them. when the vast majority of the conservation estate in NZ has no cell phone coverage and a lot of the areas that do have marginal coverage, that can be stopped by heavy rain..
Phones with the appropriate water resistant ratings are pretty durable, mine has been fully submerged on multiple occasions and still works fine. When the appropriate steps are taken to conserve battery use, and with the assistance of a backup battery pack phones are a pretty safe option. Relying on just a phone for navigation is 100x safer and more prepared than relying on just the track and orange triangles which is what many people do. Taking in the small chance of failure, a phone is a much more useful tool than a map and compass. A phone can pin-point the exact location on a wide selection of maps, a phone can keep a record of where you have been, and indicate which direction it is currently facing. A phone, when reception allows can be used for near instantaneous communication with the outside world, and provide up to date weather forecasts. A phone can also be used in the dark or limited light without the need of an additional source of light. It is a very versatile tool. In contrast a map and compass can provide direction, and with skill the location on a map can be figured out. Much less versatile. The longer, and more remote a journey. The more forms of backup would be required. If I was going for a run along the Able Tasman Coastal track then the track is all that I really need for navigation. If I was doing the Travers-Sabine, the track is still good enough but would likely also have my phone, maps (if only to plan additional routes in the hut) and might even pack my PLB. If I was going off track, over unmarked passes and have no tracks to follow that is when I would make sure to have multiple forms of navigation, which would include my phone, map and compass along with my plb.
electronic devices are less reliable for navigation because they can break, and be lost, or just stop working. or fail to charge...
Using a map and compass is not reliable for navigation because either can be lost, damaged, or even left behind in a hut or back at home in the wrong pack. While a phone is like an extension to many peoples body so less likely to go astray. Learn to embrace alternatives and do not limit yourself to just one form of navigation.
Interesting point. To be honest I use my Garmin watch 5X that does have a compass,altidute and barometer and always carry a usb bank charge with me. I suppose that more you go in remote areas or place that you are not confident with and more you probably should get a old style compass.
I like using a map and compass, and I like to think that it's in most people's best interests to learn how to use them effectively if they're going to be serious outdoor users, but really they're just one possible part of having an effective overall safety strategy where navigation is concerned. A big thing is to be aware of the swiss cheese model. What happens if *anything* you're holding gets swept down the river and you never see it again? (Map, compass, phone, GPS, PLB, your entire pack.) Is there a backup? Do you have other methods? Have you constrained your trip to a location you know well enough to not require it? Are you with other people whom you can leech off? Is that so unlikely to happen, for some reason, that it'd be reasonable to trigger an emergency help request if it ever did, and you'd be considered by peers to have implemented best practice? One factor with map and compass that I personally enjoy is that for it to be most effective, you end up being really involved, being aware of your surroundings and exactly where you are in them, often to the point that you mightn't feel completely lost if you suddenly lose one of the tools you're using. I'll often have a compass out when I'm on a wide, obvious track, just because I like watching it and practising predicting what I expect it to do according to the surroundings at different times. But that's me. That doesn't necessarily make them mandatory in all situations. Also it's one thing to know how to get a compass bearing, but it's a lot more to get familiar and comfortable with many of the tricks and habits you can use with maps and compasses to learn about what's around you. There are a lot of situations where persistent use of a compass might help, but understanding little more than how to derive a bearing off North probably won't. Arguably there's quite a high overhead in building all of the skills with a compass for it to be as useful as some other tool that can be quicker to learn.
Read this recently in a trip report - it's not just map & compass that have a high overhead in building skills ! "The GPS was not calibrated to the new map so we relied on compass & map" (for those not familiar with GPS, map datum & grid (the 'calibration') can easily be changed to suit virtually any map)
All good points izogi. I always carry a tablet, and often use that to get bearings or prepare for the day, as you have a bigger screen and get a fair amount of the benefits of a big paper map + the ability to zoom to read the small print. Compass + map takes practice. Having them on you doesn't mean you know how to use it.
i'm not saying dont use electronic devices, yes they are valuable tools, but have a backup to them and know how to use them as well and you'll be a lot safer and better prepared for any eventuality...
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