SUBSCRIBE | NEWSLETTERS | MAPS | VIDEOS | BLOGS | MARKETPLACE | CONTESTS
TRY BACKPACKER FREE!
SUBSCRIBE NOW and get
2 Free Issues and 3 Free Gifts!
Full Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
City:
State:
Zip Code:
Email: (required)
If I like it and decide to continue, I'll pay just $12.00, and receive a full one-year subscription (9 issues in all), a 73% savings off the newsstand price! If for any reason I decide not to continue, I'll write "cancel" on the invoice and owe nothing.
Your subscription includes 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Or click here to pay now and get 2 extra issues
Offer valid in US only.

Also on Backpacker.com


Enter Zip Code

Backpacker Magazine – May 2012

Navigate in Low Visibility

Leapfrogging, following benchmarks, and more.

by: Kristy Holland

Illustration by: Supercorn
Illustration by: Supercorn

In darkness, fog, or dense vegetation, traditional line-of-sight routefinding won’t work. “Low visibility is the worst-case navigation scenario,” says Stephen Hinch, author of Outdoor Navigation with GPS. “Even with a GPS, you won’t find your way safely if you’re glued to the screen–and not paying attention to your surroundings.” His suggestion: Always bring a map, and use these three effective strategies.

Navigate with preloaded maps, tracks, and waypoints.
“Your GPS is only as good as what you’ve programmed into it,” says Hinch. Just having start and finish waypoints, which might suffice in good conditions, may not be enough in low visibility. At night or in a whiteout, you’ll want more location information.
>> How Before a trip, program intermediate waypoints to guide you through safe zones, mark hazards like cliffs or steeps, and show locations of bailouts or shelters that might be helpful in an emergency. With a map in hand–even if you forgot to preload your GPS with relevant data–you can input UTM coordinates if on-trail conditions deteriorate (click here to learn how).

Follow short sight lines along your bearing.
When visibility is good, you’d use a compass (or your GPS unit’s compass screen) to identify landmarks near your destination, which may be many miles away (A). In low visibility you can do the same thing, but with shorter distances. “This technique helps you stay attuned to your surroundings, and makes you less likely to follow your GPS screen blindly into a dangerous situation,” says Hinch.
>> How Take short “sight lines” to align close-in, visible features with your desired bearing (B). Hike between the features and when you reach the more distant target, use your compass to identify another landmark along the bearing. Continue leapfrogging benchmarks toward your destination.

Travel along a steady elevation.
You can still use landscape contours to guide travel when peaks, valleys, or navigation handrails–easy-to-follow landscape features like ridges or treeline–aren’t visible.
>> How Identify a safe travel zone based on an elevation range and use your GPS or altimeter to stay within that range as you hike. Be aware that uncalibrated altimeters may have a 100-foot margin of error. Improve your unit’s accuracy by 50 percent or more by calibrating it every time you turn it on (click here to calibrate).


Subscribe to Backpacker magazine
Sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter
Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
City:
State:
Zip:
Email (req):
Reader Rating: Star Star Star Star Star

READERS COMMENTS

AZ Hiker
May 21, 2012

And don't forget to read Felix! the Sugar Glider Be Safe Hike Smart (Amazon). Learn essential hiking skills and how to navigate your way with and without a map or compass. A fast, easy read that could maybe save your life but definitely will make your hike more enjoyable and safe!

ADD A COMMENT

Your rating:
Your Name:

Comment:

My Profile Join Now

Most recent threads

The Political Arena
Even conservative Christians are beginning to
Posted On: Aug 26, 2014
Submitted By: High_Sierra_Fan
The Political Arena
The audacity of coal mining companies. They want
Posted On: Aug 26, 2014
Submitted By: High_Sierra_Fan

Go
View all Gear
Find a retailer

Special sections - Expert handbooks for key trails, techniques and gear

Check out Montana in Warren Miller's Ticket to Ride
Warren Miller athletes charge hard and reflect on Big Sky country, their love for this space and the immense energy allotted to the people who reside in Montana.

Boost Your Apps
Add powerful tools and exclusive maps to your BACKPACKER apps through our partnership with Trimble Outdoors.

Carry the Best Maps
With BACKPACKER PRO Maps, get life-list destinations and local trips on adventure-ready waterproof myTopo paper.

FREE Rocky Mountain Trip Planner
Sign up for a free Rocky Mountain National Park trip planning kit from our sister site MyRockyMountainPark.com.

>
Get 2 FREE Trial Issues and 3 FREE GIFTS
Survival Skills 101 • Eat Better
The Best Trails in America
YES! Please send me my FREE trial issues of Backpacker
and my 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Full Name:
City:
Address 1:
Zip Code:
State:
Address 2:
Email (required):
Free trial offer valid for US subscribers only. Canadian subscriptions | International subscriptions