Basic Functions Of A GPS
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Basic Functions Of A GPS

GPS systems have been around since the 1980’s but it wasn’t until the 2000’s when their accuracy increased that they took off in popularity with the outdoor enthusiast. A GPS can do a number of things for you in locating and finding your way thru the backcountry. The first and most important function of a Global Positioning System device is to determine and establish your present location. With the helpful use of satellites your location is marked by longitude and latitude which can be placed accurately on a map.

Another function is called waypoint navigation. A waypoint is just a name for a location selected by you to use as a starting point or destination point. The most common use for this is in setting your first waypoint right where you are or at the trailhead and then determining the next waypoint from your next destination on your map, maybe your first campsite. By establishing a starting point and a finishing point the GPS can guide you directly from the first waypoint to the finishing waypoint while also providing you with the distance as measured in a straight line. Be careful though, most backcountry trails do not travel in straight lines. Entering waypoints is very simple. Simply press the MARK button if you want to mark the spot where you stand or enter the positional coordinates if marking locations from a map.

“Route” navigation is accomplished by creating multiple waypoints along the trails path and then allowing the GPS to guide you along the trail from point to point. As you meet each predetermined location the GPS will automatically point you to the next.

The last general function of a GPS is in laying out a trail behind you as you move forward. This is called a breadcrumb trail and makes it possible for you to turn around and follow your trail back to your exact starting point. This is a great function for any short side trips you may take while in the backcountry to get back to camp or when in the deer woods to get back to your vehicle.

Always practice with your GPS before heading to the backcountry and using as your primary navigation tool in unfamiliar territory. A GPS needs a good clear view of the sky in order to acquire satellite lock and a forest canopy is not likely going to support this need when setting up your GPS. When turning on the device it may take a few minutes to acquire the satellites especially the first time so be patient and make sure the satellite signals are good and strong. Fully charged batteries are also helpful with the accuracy of your GPS. Have fun and stay safe.


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