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A compass, a thread, and a map... do you bother?

Discussion in 'Trails' started by Esperahol, Aug 14, 2014.

  1. Esperahol

    Esperahol Newbie

    Technology thankfully marches onward, and so there are wonderful things like smartphones and GPS. That said there is something to be said about using more... um... limited(?) means to plot one's course. I actually had my uncle teach me how to get around with a compass, a thread, and a map when I was little. I won't lie and say I'm the best at it, but it has proven helpful in the past. That said have any of you bothered learning to use these thing? Have you ever had a reason to even consider such? I personally go off-trail alot so I need every trick I can get.
  2. Jessi

    Jessi Novice Camper

    Smartphones and GPSes are great, but good luck getting reception if you get lost out in the wild....or if your phone dies!

    So yes, I know how to map and compass. I don't actually know how to use a thread in combination with those, but I think I'd be okay if I got minorly lost.
  3. campforums

    campforums Founder Staff Member

    Out of curiosity @Esperahol, where does the thread come into play when you are out navigating? I have a little experience with a map and compass. The hardest part is finding a relevant landmark to orient yourself around. After that things are not so bad.

    Well as long as your GPS doesn't require a mobile data connection to download maps, your GPS should work fine just about anywhere (that's the point of them, yay satellites!)
  4. Profit5500

    Profit5500 Explorer

    That is the only bummer about those devices if they lose reception then you are toast. I would rather then stay in the city limits lol. I mean you can have plenty of data in store for those things but end up having technical difficulties in the end.
  5. 2sweed

    2sweed Natural Camper Staff Member

    Personally, even if I had a GPS unit, I would always have a compass and map of the region on hand. I have a relative that relies just on her GPS for long distance car trips. Once I ask her when traveling, where are we?? And she said, I don't know or care, the GPS will direct me. How dumb is that? If the car has electrical problems or the battery goes dead, then how can you call for help if you have no clue where you are. Now yes, the chances may be slim but think of all the dead areas for cell phones. In traveling or camping with hiking involved it is better to be overly prepared, then not prepared at all. :)
  6. Profit5500

    Profit5500 Explorer

    Definitely having the compass is a primary back up when out in the woods. I would still love to have a GPS so I can find places without trouble. Its just that I never had used a device that can guide you in going somewhere.
  7. happyflowerlady

    happyflowerlady Survivalist

    I have used a compass, but not for a long, long time, and I was never real proficient with it even then. I think we used the location of the sun to determine direction more than the compass, although the compass would have been more accurate. Another thing that we did was use our hands and the sun to tell the amount of daylight that was left before dark. The gist of the idea is to hold your hand sideways below the sun, and then count each finger as 15 minutes, or an hour for each hand between the sun and the horizon. Even so, this is not an accurate way to measure time, so be sure to plan to be out of the woods before the amount if time it says you have before dark.

  8. campforums

    campforums Founder Staff Member

    Well, knowing the direction you're pointing in only tells you so much. You have to know the direction you came from and keep an eye on your compass throughout your whole journey so you know how far in each direction you have gone. Otherwise you could end up going one way then when it comes time to return you might go back and pass your camp and keep going without realizing.
  9. campforums

    campforums Founder Staff Member

    That's an interesting tip but I do not know how accurate it would be especially considering how much variance there is between peoples finger size and the length of daylight hours. Even assuming my fingers are just the right size, here where I live it gets dark around 5:00 PM in the winter but it stays light until around 10:00 PM in the summer which would clearly be a problem...
  10. happyflowerlady

    happyflowerlady Survivalist

    This is very, very true! While I am not much for hiking back into the woods, I have gotten lost in the woods while horseback riding. My friend and I had gone back on some trails where we rode all of the time. It was years ago, my first son was about 4, and he was riding behind me on the horse, and both my friend and I were expecting babies in a few months.

    We didn't plan on going for a long ride, but took a wrong turn somewhere, and got lost on the myriad of Weyerhauser trails. Eventually, it got dark, which was even worse. Then the coyotes began their mournful howling, and we were sure that they were following us. Finally, we said, just let the horses have their head and see if they can find their way home. The horses were much better at knowing where we were, and which way to go to get home. Within the hour, we were back home. My son had been sleeping behind me on the saddle for an hour or more, and it was close to 11 at night, so we were two very tired mothers-to-be!

    Having a compass would have been a tremendous help, and even with my rudimentary knowledge of using one, we would probably have been home before dark.
  11. happyflowerlady

    happyflowerlady Survivalist

    This is not meant to be an exact science; just a guideline. Even if the days are shorter, or longer, it should still work. The little tutorial doesn't say that it can only be used in the summer, and since most hunters would be out in the fall and winter; it would not be of any use to them if it only worked in the summer.

    I think we have always looked at the sun to make a guess how long before it would set; but using the finger guide does help, even though fingers would be very different between large and small people. A vey small hand would use up more fingers than a large one, so you would have to factor in that difference when using this method to "guesstimate" how long until sunset.

    But at least you would be in the ballpark of when it happened, and not think you had 4 hours left and then discover you only had two, and were now hiking back to camp in the dark. Plus, it automatically allows for trees and mountains, since that would be the horizon you saw.
  12. sea_goin_dude

    sea_goin_dude Novice Camper

    One good tip to insure your safety just in case is to file a plan of the probably area of your foray into the wild. Like pilots file a flight plan. It does not have to be super accurate but basically show the area you are headed and where you expect to be most of the time. With that said, if you should get lost or injured and stranded, someone will be expecting you to return or show up at a certain place and time, the person or persons that have your written plan of your travels will be able to alert someone if you do not show up when and where you are expected, It does not need to be an exact plan but a basic area of your expected travels and some approximate times of when you plan to be at A, B, or C. Cell phones, CB radios or ham radio is always good to have "just in case".
  13. Alexandoy

    Alexandoy Survivalist

    I don't remember using a map for directions when on a camping trip. We usually have a guide to assist us in going to our destination. In times that there is no guide, what we have is the sketch. There was a time that we had lost the trail due to an error in the sketch. What we did was to backtrack and used the sun for the direction. We were able to proceed safely.
    happyflowerlady likes this.
  14. happyflowerlady

    happyflowerlady Survivalist

    I think that it would depend on where you were going camping and whether you can get a good map of the area , that is accurate. When I worked for our census bureau, we had to cover every road that was in the section we had to canvas, but the maps they gave us were not very new or very accurate. I had what showed up as a road, and it was actually now only a trail through a cow pasture where the road was overgrown and no longer went anywhere, and then we had new roads that had been put in after the map was made; so they didn't show on my map at all.
    Sometimes, I had to go on down the road until I came to another crossroads that was properly marked, and then I know that the road that I was looking for would be somewhere in between those two roads, assuming that it still existed.
    What might work for camping when you are going out into the woods and off-road , is a topographical map. It would show any roads that were there, but it also shows terrain, and things like rivers and creeks, mountains and canyons, so it can help you to determine where you actually are at in relation to where you are going.
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