G.P.S.

A G.P.S. (Global Positioning System) is an excellent piece of equipment and has taken a lot of skill away from the navigator. Basically these systems receive radio signals from satellites and can locate your current position, anywhere in the world, and are relatively easy to use. It is also useful to note that they are reported to have 95 per cent accuracy rate. However, in order to work, the satellite transmission must not have any obstructions in its way, such as a tree branch or movement, so to receive a clear signal you need to be standing still and out in the open. However, if we depend solely on technology our basic skills will suffer and we will become unstuck if it becomes unserviceable or is lost. G.P.S. is not effective unless you can identify where you are, so stick to the basics. Map read and navigate normally and use the G.P.S to confirm your navigation or correct it.

When looking to buy a G.P.S there are several considerations to think about: what you’ll be using it for – if walking you will want the unit to be as light as possible and compact; where you’ll be using it; and if you need it to be waterproof (this is usually a feature of the heavier models with extra gadgets). Battery life should also be taken into account. Some G.P.S are more complicated than others so choose the model that you’re happy with. Most have the facility of being able to put in way points (at sea this means the eastern and northern coordinates and on land these can be campsites, rock formations etc) and there are many convenient hand-held versions and some are even featured on watches.

There is always a danger with any battery-operated equipment that it lets you down when you need it most. Batteries always discharge faster in the cold and with age. Recharging facilities are difficult in the wilderness, and bad connections caused by constant abuse while on the move are a real menace.

Carry the G.P.S around the neck tucked under the jacket. This will minimize the risk of damage and protect it from the weather. Don’t place it in your pack or leave it lying around.

When planning your route from the map, choose prominent points that can be used as emergency rendezvous. Have these at regular intervals, preferably every hour of walking. Enter these into the G.P.S and they will keep you on track. Once entered they will offer information as to where you are in relation to these points and tell you what direction to take to reach them.