GPS 201: Using Advanced Navigational Tools

Don't be daunted by a thick owner's manual. Unlocking your unit's advanced navigational tools is easier than you think.

Stay located

For best satellite reception, attach the GPS to a pack strap away from metal objects. Keep it turned on even if it occasionally loses reception in heavy tree cover or canyons; getting a fix on satellites after a power-up takes more time and battery power than intermittent tracking.

Set metrics
Customize your trip computer's data fields (the screen of constantly updated information) for your activity.

Odometer, average moving speed, moving time, distance to next waypoint, total time, heading, elevation, and time of day

Bearing (the angle in degrees to your destination), heading (the direction in degrees you are moving), odometer, elevation, total time, next waypoint, distance to next waypoint, ETA next waypoint

Trail runs Current speed, odometer, average moving speed, trip time, moving time, stopped time, vertical speed (rate of climb), elevation

Odometer, vertical speed (rate of climb), time of day, sunset time, total time, moving time, time to destination, elevation

Track progress
Evaluate your pace by comparing "average overall speed" (which includes stops) with "average moving speed" (which records only motion). Review this data to predict how long it will take to reach a summit or campsite on your next trip. You can also select the data field "ETA Destination" to compute the time (constantly adjusted based on your pace) at which your hike will end.

Organize waypoints
Label spots using a consistent formula. BACKPACKER map editors name points numerically (001, 002, 003) and record other details, like mileage and terrain features, in the comments box to reduce clutter.

Travel cross-country
Head to an off-trail lake or summit by transcribing the exact coordinates from a paper map into a GPS waypoint or by pinpointing the spot on the map screen. Activate the "Go To" function to find the bearing and distance to the new waypoint, and follow the directional arrow (while navigating around terrain obstacles) that continually points to the destination.

Anticipate storms
If the built-in altimeter shows your elevation increasing during a stay at a fixed campsite, local barometric pressure is dropping and bad weather is likely moving in.