GPS Navigation: Tips & Tricks before Heading Out

Handheld GPS are not only fun to use, but they can get you out of a bind. Make sure you know how to use it. Here are a few things to make sure your GPS is good to go whenever you need it:

  1. Update, update, update! – About once every few months, fire it up and update your maps if your make and model allow for it. This way you will always be able to use the most accurate map data.
  2. Power – Get a few extra sets of batteries for your GPS and put them into a waterproof carrier. If you are trying to keep that bag light, put them in a zip lock freezer bag.
  3. Test Run – Fire the GPS up and go and find a nearby Geocache. This will ensure you and your device are both ready to go. Nothing is worse than when you are in a position you actually need your GPS to get you out of a bad situation and can’t figure out how to use it!
  4. Teach – Once you have got the basic functionality down, instruct other members of your party (family members, friends or anyone else you are heading out with) how to use the GPS. If something happens to you, the rest of the party will be able to take over navigating.
  5. Heads Up! – I have seen many folks out in the woods trying to navigate with their device, heads down, and ignoring the terrain around them, to end up tripping over a downed branch or that gigantic bolder that just appeared out of nowhere! Heads up, and look at the map display with your device up in front of your face, not down by your hips!
  6. Back Up – Electronics fail, so get paper maps of your location(s), a compass, pencils, sharpener, and learn how to use them. Many counties in the USA offer Map Reading/Land Nav classes. Find one, take one, and be ready. Also check out our article on navigating with the sun.

So be familiar with your GPS device, teach others how to use it, use it safely and have a backup!

Need a new GPS? I recommend the Garmin 62S, get the version with the digital compass and altimeter built-in. Garmin, Magellan, and Bushnell are all recommended brands.

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