Backcountry Navigation

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kayaker77
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Backcountry Navigation

Post by kayaker77 » Mon Feb 25, 2019 8:35 pm

Hi Everyone,

I'm going backpacking east of the Saline Valley in a month, and am hoping to make it to the racetrack starting from Grapevine Canyon. I don't know a lot about GPS devices, but would like a device that can track my distance, show a map of where I am, and can direct me back to my route if I get lost in the wilderness. What would be better, a watch like the Garmin Fenix 5X, InReach or is there something better? I'll have a satellite phone with me in case of any emergencies. I just want some good mapping/bread crumbing features.

Thank you!

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bbb
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Re: Backcountry Navigation

Post by bbb » Mon Feb 25, 2019 10:01 pm

If using a smartphone is an option, I really like the Gaia GPS app. I download topo maps and satellite imagery to my phone before each trip. You can also use their web site to plan routes and sync to your phone. Once on the trail, put the phone in airplane mode and the pre-downloaded maps will show you where you are in real time. Just make sure the Gaia app has permission to use your phone's location.

I also have the Backcountry Navigator app as a backup in case Gaia fails. And I always bring two phones in case one of the phones doesn't work.

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kayaker77
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Re: Backcountry Navigation

Post by kayaker77 » Mon Feb 25, 2019 10:07 pm

Thank you, that is great info! But I only have an old flip phone and won't be able to get a smartphone. The flip phone surprisingly has good reception in parts of Death Valley and other remote places I've been to.

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wbdeford
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Re: Backcountry Navigation

Post by wbdeford » Tue Feb 26, 2019 1:31 am

kayaker77 wrote:
Mon Feb 25, 2019 10:07 pm
Thank you, that is great info! But I only have an old flip phone and won't be able to get a smartphone. The flip phone surprisingly has good reception in parts of Death Valley and other remote places I've been to.
You can get an older smart phone pretty cheaply on ebay and connect it to wifi to download mapping software and maps (i.e., no need to pay for cell service--phone GPS works separately from that). I did that and later sold the phone on ebay for almost as much as I paid for it. I kept the phone powered off except when I needed to figure out where I was in order to save battery.

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kayaker77
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Re: Backcountry Navigation

Post by kayaker77 » Tue Feb 26, 2019 4:22 am

I didn't know that about smartphones and wifi and not having to pay for cell service - thank you, that's a great idea!

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Death Valley Dazed
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I didn't know about that

Post by Death Valley Dazed » Tue Feb 26, 2019 10:43 am

kayaker77 wrote:
Tue Feb 26, 2019 4:22 am
I didn't know that ...
This has become my mantra since 2015 joining up here at death-valley-net because of no matter what topic, macro or micro at least one, if not more subscribers will gladly offer up heaps of experience, wisdom, tips, links and creative problem-solving solutions.

I remain humble and impressed by the public and private messages that have expanded my Death Valley horizons and look forward to more of the same in the future.
Life begins in Death Valley

D.A. Wright
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Re: Backcountry Navigation

Post by D.A. Wright » Tue Feb 26, 2019 12:51 pm

Back to your original question. Any map based, hand held GPS will do what you asked for. Tell you where you are, where you’ve been, help you backtrack, how far you have gone and plenty of other useful data. Just do some comparison shopping to find one that fits your budget. Also comparison shopping will also show you that there is some difference in map resolution. From car style navigation to true topographic. Check out old threads here for some advice pre-Wayze (smartphone) days. There are plenty. In my experience, I prefer Garmin products over Magellan.
D.A. Wright
~When You Live in Nevada, "just down the road" is anywhere in the line of sight within the curvature of the earth.

TrailHound
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Re: Backcountry Navigation

Post by TrailHound » Tue Feb 26, 2019 2:26 pm

I have been using a Garmin Montana 610T with good success. It's not cheap and the 7.5' topo maps can be downloaded, but for an extra fee. I carry an Android smartphone with the GPS Essentials app as a backup. It can do everything that the Garmin does except the USGS topos. You can mark waypoints and determine the distance and bearing to a waypoint. You must practice with all of these devices before depending on them in the field. There is a learning curve. I do not depend on the electronic compass. I carry a Silva Ranger. Be sure to set the compass to the correct magnetic declination (difference between true and magnetic north). In Death Valley, the difference is 12 degrees which will put you way off course if you do not set declination correctly.

pluton
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Re: Backcountry Navigation

Post by pluton » Wed Feb 27, 2019 1:51 am

I second the positive experience with the Garmin Montana units. It's biggish, heavyish, and somewhat expensive. They can occasionally be found on sale. Oh, and you don't have to use pay-maps on the Garmin. Free topo and other downloads are available at gpsfiledepot.com .
I also can vouch for Gaia GPS on an iPhone. Gaia is now subscription, at $20 or $40/year.

Sparky of SoCal
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Re: Backcountry Navigation

Post by Sparky of SoCal » Wed Feb 27, 2019 8:15 am

pluton wrote:
Wed Feb 27, 2019 1:51 am
I second the positive experience with the Garmin Montana units. It's biggish, heavyish, and somewhat expensive. They can occasionally be found on sale. Oh, and you don't have to use pay-maps on the Garmin. Free topo and other downloads are available at gpsfiledepot.com .
I also can vouch for Gaia GPS on an iPhone. Gaia is now subscription, at $20 or $40/year.
I second this post also. Another + for Gaia is great number of different maps.

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MojaveGeek
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Re: Backcountry Navigation

Post by MojaveGeek » Thu Feb 28, 2019 6:17 pm

I use an earlier Garmin model, with the free maps from gpsdepot, and also an Android GPS app called USA Topo. I sprang for an extra 5 or 10 bucks to get the right to cache maps in the app, which is essential for back country off-net use. I have Gaia GPS on the phone also for backup.

There are advantages to each. The Garmin will run for days on a set of rechargeable batteries, and is great for saving and viewing routes from others and tracks of my own. The maps are not identical to the standard USGS 7.5 topos, which I ordinarily use for trip planning (via caltopo.com) so that's a bit of a disconnect. The screen is small, and the unit fits in a pocket easily. The phone provides a nicer user interface and I can preload and cache the 7.5 topos, which I like. That app is less good for track management, but I rely on the Garmin for that. I like to be able to more easily zoom out if I want to identify a distant range or peak, and the display is better. It sucks power though, and I carry a small spare recharging battery. I probably would not take the phone except I would like to have it for emergency use.

Just to make sure everyone got it, when reference was made upthread to using wifi and not cell service to load apps and data onto the phone, this is something you have to do at home or some place where there is a wifi network. Then you will be fine using the device offline. But of course, don't expect to find wifi in the Saline Valley :)

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MojaveGeek
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Re: Backcountry Navigation

Post by MojaveGeek » Thu Feb 28, 2019 6:18 pm

BTW, kayaker, is that Kaleidoscope Cyn in your "avatar" pic?

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kayaker77
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Re: Backcountry Navigation

Post by kayaker77 » Thu Feb 28, 2019 8:16 pm

Wow - thank you everyone so much for the great info! I love this forum because people are not only friendly but so helpful as well. And I really appreciate learning from everyone's knowledge and experiences.

Lol. I wish I could get wifi in the Saline Valley.

MojaveGeek, yes, my pic is from Kal Canyon! I just discovered that place last year, and the colors blew my mind. Hoping to go back to it in a few weeks when I return to DV.

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