Can my GPS replace my map?

Ever thought that with the purchase of your upmarket colour screen GPS that you don’t need to take a map with you any longer? Wrong, wrong, wrong …..

Many years experience with using GPS on bushwalks has convinced me otherwise.

Ever had your batteries go flat at a critical time? Ever had your GPS freeze and then reset itself to factory settings wiping all your waypoints and routes when you have rebooted it? Ever dropped your “waterproof” GPS onto rocks and had it bounce into a nearby waterhole and then slowly sink as it fills with water? Ever struggled with the buttons on your GPS  in the dark while wearing gloves?

Well I have and that’s why I always take a map as my primary navigation tool.

I use my GPS to check my location at each stop, to find a difficult campsite or waterhole, or the precise turn off from a ridge line down a spur. I haven’t yet, but I might one day use TRACKBACK to return to a previous known point when I am geographically embarrassed. I sometimes use it to estimate walking speed so I can estimate how long it will take to reach a campsite. With some GPS you can determine sunset, sunrise and tides, which can be very useful information on some bushwalks. I have used it to find altitude and therefore help me determine my location on a known track or to work out how much further it is up to a saddle. Of course some of these can be done with a map alone, but often it involves calculations and looking for labelled contour lines.

Normally I don’t have my GPS turned on continuously during a walk but there are times when its fun to get back home and be able to trace a difficult or off-track route on a map or Google Earth or to determine your walk profile using elevations. If you take lots of photos, there is software that will link you photos with the GPS location using your time log, assuming you have the clock on your camera set correctly to the same time -zone.

I use my map to give me the big picture, orientate myself, show local topography and allow me to follow my route continuously by reading “map-to-ground” and by “thumbing” the map. It takes lots of practice but is very rewarding. I actually enjoy map reading, anticipating what I will see around the bend and looking at my surroundings as I walk. As my map reading skills improve, I find myself using a GPS less and less.

The danger with a GPS is that you are so engrossed looking at the screen that you don’t actually see your surroundings. If you become “lost” then you have no mental image of the route you have taken to get you back to a known point.

Murphy’s Law can be guaranteed to ensure that at the point when you need it most that your GPS will fail!

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Tackling an Ageing and Falling Club Membership Part 3

Using Some Web 2.0 Technologies to Improve and Retain Club Members (Part 3)

Blogs (online diaries like this)

Do you want your Association/Club’s web page to be easily found in a Google search by potential new members?

 One of the best ways is to have new content appearing on your website regularly and what could be easier for your webmaster than having a member’s blog. Even better, good content will encourage others to link to your blog, positioning your website even higher in web searches. The more “followers” your blog has the better so offer the opportunity for people to choose to get automatic updates when you add to your blog.

Do you want greater ownership and participation from your members?

A blog encourages interaction between members and it is this interaction that is more important than the content itself in retaining members. Younger members are familiar with and welcome this high level of interaction that is missing from most conventional club websites. Your club leaders should take the opportunity to browse you club blog and to interact with new members

It is possible have contributions and comments automatically ranked and use this as a guide to what is popular and to respond and provide more of the same.

Why have a boring website that no one reads?

Sharing Photos and Videos.

Improve Club spirit by encouraging members to add photos and videos to your gallery. Organise an annual club photo and/or video competition using free web 2.0 photo sharing sites such as Flickr,  Picassa and YouTube. Don’t just upload members photos to your gallery, but ask them to comment and rate the photos posted. Offer prizes for the best in a variety of categories, using online voting.

Improve Participation by Improving Communication

Do you struggle to get “new blood” on your Committee? Have you thought about running Committee meetings online for those who can’t make it due to other commitments? How can members be reminded of Club events in a way that can’t easily be ignored?

 There are many programs around which allow you to chat with others and  to share good quality video and audio free of charge.

SMS is universal – nearly everyone has a mobile phone; it’s instant – messages are normally delivered in 10 seconds or less; and it’s reacted to by most people, more so than letters, emails or phone calls.

Why not try some of the ideas above? 

Don’t expect  to see a rapid uptake as it takes time for inhibitions to be overcome and for web 2.0 technologies to be accepted by those who are only familiar with the old paper copy or fax. Many people are happy to read a blog but feel embarrassed about commenting.

“Seed” your blog  by asking Committee members to regularly contribute until momentum takes hold.

Other posts in this series can be found by clicking on the membership tag on the right of this page
Post Options
Tackling an Ageing and Falling Club Membership Part 2
Tackling an Ageing and Falling Club Membership Part 1
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Tackling an Ageing and Falling Club Membership Part 2

Why should Clubs use web 2.0 technologies?
The key advantage of using web 2.0 technologies (social networking sites, blogs, wikis) is that they are interactive, with members communicating directly with each other, often in real-time. 
Does your Club funnel communications via your club office bearers or web master, who can sometimes inadvertently act as filter or even worse as a censor? Filters can often slow down communications and act as a disincentive to be involved in Club business.
Members using web 2.0 feel ownership of their communications. They feel empowered. Web 2.0 content is member generated and ideas are shared before being informally reviewed by others via the comments below each post. No longer is the Committee the sole custodian of the “club wisdom”.
Younger club members are likely to feel more at home in an organisation where a hierarchical structure does not inhibit their communication with each other. Before joining, they can immerse themselves in the club culture via the club’s website and decide whether they will feel at home and welcome.

Other articles in this series:

Useful Web 2.0 technologies
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Tackling an Ageing and Falling Club Membership Part 1

The problem

Most Clubs and Associations have in common an aging and falling membership. It is often difficult to fill leadership positions. Surveys of members will often show that they consider this to be the most important issue that their club leadership should tackle.

How do we tackle this problem? Can we use  web 2.0 technologies to help us? What could work?

An common goal of all clubs and associations is to recruit more, and preferably younger, members and then to retain them. Try to share the load better so that a few dedicated members don’t do all the work and burn out.

Older members might be tempted to send out an email or even a letter to existing members and ask them to approach prospective members. These can be expensive and ineffective with poor response rates.

Web 2.0 technologies involve interaction and are very familiar to  young people, with well known examples being FaceBook, YouTube, Flickr, Twitter. They offer the opportunity to interact with potential members who have never thought of joining a walking club and by the nature of the marketing technique, represent the target audience we need most.

All clubs need to spend some time marketing themselves using web 2.0 technologies.

Other articles in the series:

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First Aid Updates

Just been checking through some of my first aid articles which I prepared as an aide-memoire to carry with me in the bush in the late 80’s and early 90’s when I was leading groups of students in the Grampians and Flinders Ranges.

Do I delete the articles? Are they so far out-of-date to be a danger to unsuspecting readers? Should I add a disclaimer to each article explaining how they could be out-of-date? How do I know if they are out-of-date? Should I update them? How long will they remain up to date? What is their value to bushwalkers? Could I link to more recent articles that I know will be regularly updated? What are the copyright implications?

These were prepared by condensing the information in the first aid manuals provided at Senior First Aid courses I attended. Initially I printed the text on small sheets of paper the size of a business card and stored them in a plastic business card holder with clear pockets. I still carry it in my first aid kit, sealed in a waterproof bag.

Then in the nineties I went digital and imported them into my PDA, initially a Sharp ZQ-650 which had, what was then an enormous memory of 1 Mb. I have just found it in the cupboard and replaced the batteries. It works… sort of!  I remember purchasing this ….it cost as much as a small laptop today! I used to use it to keep my bushwalk diary, emergency contact details for each of the students in my group and phone numbers when on an expedition

Why did I discard it? Was it the white line across the middle of the screen which obliterated some of the words?

Today I have saved the text file as a pdf and imported it into my mobile smartphone (Nokia N95), which I always carry with me in the bush.

Which is likely to be more dependable and easy to use in an emergency? Hard copy or digital?

I think you can guess what I think. Why else would I still carry the hard copy in my first aid kit?
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How much fuel do I need?

Going on a long walk soon?

Want to save some weight?

Which stove are you going to choose?

Over the years I have changed from predominantly using a campfire, to gas canisters, to a Trangia and then to a MSR Whisperlite. I  did this initially in response to Park regulations which changed to ban wood fires in the 90’s.

I found that for overnight walks or even extended walks up to a few days that gas stoves were great, but then I started walking in Tasmania and realised that gas stoves sometimes don’t work well in very cold conditions. Over 10 days, the  volume of the gas canisters became a significant factor and my conservation principles made the throw-away canisters unacceptable.

Trangia’s are great, low cost, low noise, environmentally friendly but they are a little bulky and the fuel being less efficient than Shellite (white spirits) requires much more to be carried for the same heat output.They are relatively slow to heat large volumes of water as required when melting snow. They have the advantage that they simmer well, so if you like preparing complex meals they are great. I don’t.

So I changed to an MSR Whisperlite, which has the advantage of being compact, fuel efficient and very quick to boil water. You can share one with a tent mate and if you adapt your menu so that boiling water is their main task they are ideal. Of course you will get a ribbing from your friends as they sound like a jet taking off and the pre-ignition flames are always sure to bring a gasp. At times they block due to soot or contaminated fuel but it only takes a few minutes to unblock them and if you remember to shake regularly, the built in “pricker” should keep the fuel flowing freely. Another advantage for overseas travel is that they are multi-fueled and will run on kero, diesel etc providing you use the correct jet (supplied).

Here are some factors you need to consider:

  • cost
  • weight and size of stove
  • efficiency of the fuel
  • effectiveness in cold windy conditions
  • time to get started and difficulty of priming
  • time to boil water
  • availability of fuel
Seems complicated, well it is. Check out this FAQ link
Want to save both time and fuel?
  • Boil enough additional water to fill an insulated (thermos) flask the night before and keep it in your sleeping bag overnight. In the morning it will still be hot enough to make a cup of tea and you will save the additional fuel needed to prime your stove.
  • Always use a wind shield, which can be bought cheaply at the local hardware shop, where it masquerades as aluminium flashing for rooves.

Want to know more?

Check out this video.


Fuel Efficiency
Zen Backpacking Stoves

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      Why am I lost when I have a GPS?

      Ever wondered how you could possibly get lost while carrying a GPS, and when you do get geographically embarrassed, whether you can trust your GPS?  

      I’ve sometimes been acutely embarrassed when my high-tech equipment has been worse than useless on a difficult walk where spot-on navigation was essential. More than once,  I’ve found myself on the opposite side of a creek or on the wrong ridge-line. Sometimes I’ve returned from a walk to find that my route lay parallel to that shown on the map, but about 200m away. How could my GPS get it so wrong?

      Well of course my GPS hasn’t got it wrong, it has been simply calculating position based on the incorrect settings I gave it. The indication that you’ve incorrectly set your GPS is when every feature is in the wrong place by a consistent amount.

      If the error is about 200m then you have probably set your GPS to the wrong map datum eg you may have chosen Aus Geod ’84 or Aus Geod ’66 when your map shows the correct datum to be GDA94 . Your GPS must be set to the same map datum as  the map you are using.

      For my Garmin Geko 201, the following datums are relevant when using Australian maps.
          Aus Geod  ’84 = AGD84
          Aus Geod ’66 = AGD66
          GDA  =GDA94
      For Australian maps, the common map datums you will find are
          AGD66 (oldest)
          GDA94 (most recent)

      Fortunately, all you have to do is to make sure that the map datum to which you set your GPS matches the one shown in the legend on your map. To do this for a Garmin Geko, select SETUP from the menu, then UNITS from the sub-menu, then MAP DATUM, and scroll down the list to select the correct one which matches your map.


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