The first thing we here from most new people is, “I won’t ever be able to do map and compass, it’s too complicated.” It takes a really long time to convince them the only think a compass does is point north.
With the exception of Tree, who has 3 directions; from home to a known location, from a known location to home and lost. We’ve been able to turn out some people with good orienteering skills.
Map and Compass or GPS?
One of the most common questions people ask is if they can use their GPS instead of a compass. Short answer, “No”. A GPS will have trouble acquiring satellites in heavy tree cover. Depending on the GPS it will either tell you satellite signal lost or continue to give you the last location it had signal. Some GPS units give very strange readings when the battery is low, generally similar to old data. I tried using my GPS in New York State. The batteries were low. It told me I was 800 miles away in Illinois.
Additionally, you must set the map grid system in the datum or you could get erroneous readings. One team member tried to fake that they were using a map and compass when they were using a GPS. They didn’t know about setting the datum’s. When they read off their location it was in the middle of a lake instead of the field where they were actually standing.
We actually expect our team members to be comfortable with both a compass and a GPS. Just try navigating through an iron rich location and you’ll get to watch your compass needle spin.
Search and Rescue Means Learning to use a Map and Compass and a GPS
If you want to be part of the solution, finding the lost person, and not part of the problem, needing to be found yourself, you need to be competent with both the map and compass and the GPS. Stop back for the next segment of this article on Map and Compass.