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Trouble With GPS Signal

My GPS works great in the Walmart parking lot, but in a steep valley, next to a mountain, or in the woods it can't get an adequate signal. How can I solve this problem?

Question:

My GPS works great in the Walmart parking lot, but in a steep valley, next to a mountain, or in the woods it can’t get an adequate signal. How can I solve this problem?

Submitted by - Ray - Hinesburg, VT

Answer:

You can’t, really. GPS systems rely on satellites floating around in orbit, way up in space. If you’re in a tight valley or dense woods, and your GPS can’t get a clear shot at the sky, it just can’t do its thing. Keeping your firmware up to date can help, but your only sure-fire solution is to break free from the obstruction so the GPS can find the satellites.

Of course, sometimes that’s not an option, like when you’re at the bottom of a sheer-walled canyon. That’s why when you’re navigating through remote, tricky terrain, it’s important to also have a map and compass on board as backup. (Even with clear access to the sky, things can go wrong with a GPS, as with any electronic device: dead batteries, an unexpected dunk in a river, freezing cold temps). When the stakes are high, and accurate navigation is critical, pack both.

1 Comment

  1. Cal 20 Sailor

    My two cents: A GPS is great for getting your position–when you’re LOST. And if you’ve been using a map and compass correctly, you shouldn’t be lost. Like all electronic devices, GPS units have an irresistable toy-like appeal that distracts from the task of developing basic down-to-earth skills. They eat up batteries if left on constantly, are subject to failure, and distract attention from one’s environment. I love them, but I just keep a small light unit turned off andburied in my pack as a backup in case I screw and lose track of where I am on the map, or to verify if I’m uncertain.

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