beginners group?

9:52 p.m. on December 9, 2009 (EST)
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Traffic is the life blood of internet groups. Since many new members are also new campers, they need a reason to join and to join in. Old farts like me and Bill are not really gonna pull in traffic until people understand that maybe we can help them. Greenhorn actually stimulated some traffic and there are things that concern new campers that seem pretty silly to us old guys. My wife reminds me that I have been doing this for so long in such an extreme manner that I don't even know what the issues are to a new generation of camper. They've had radicals like Ray selling them on 5 pound packs and others chanting about hiking in Tevas or even barefoot, what do they know? I always found that so many ideas that made perfect sense sitting in my living room were hopelessly worthless the instant I stepped on the trail. Like folding wine cups that collapse and spill your wine... I'll admit that I threw one off a very high cliff when it did that and then drank from the bottle. SO many people are frightened of bears, coyotes, mice, etc and they have the traditional ideas of Bowie knifes for protection from animals and rapists, (not to mention Injuns) and chopping wood. Its pretty hard to shake those beliefs and convince them that they're much safer camping than commuting for instance.

I also think we need links to You Tube videos to support and train people in the ten essentials. We've seen that simpley having a compass doesn't help without the knowledge and calmness to use it to their advantage. Perhaps some constructive simple ideas about GPSRs would eliminate some of the fear of technology? Its actually no more complex to use a GPSR than a compass, and you don't even need to know the local magnetic variations.


10:22 p.m. on December 9, 2009 (EST)
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I would say for newbies it is easier to use a GRSR than a compass from the perspective that most people I see using GPSR's are using the 'You are here function' then they take a deep breath, look around and say, yes this is where we are. Too many people hike with the map folded away somewhere, and check it only when in doubt.

I personally carry a topo(s), a compass, an altimeter, and a GPSR.

I realize it may seem redundant, but I think that the redundancy is the beauty of it. It also gives me the opportunity to get experience with both the compass and GPSR. Both old and new technology.

I also like to spend time studying the topo before heading out. My grandfather called it "knowing the lay of the land".

It is true that the more time you spend on the trail the more you realize a lot of so called "gear" is worthless, or marginally useful.

11:04 p.m. on December 9, 2009 (EST)
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415 forum posts

Great minds think alike: the moderators are working on this very issue.

4:10 p.m. on December 10, 2009 (EST)
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749 forum posts

Trout hunter, since I have moved to the Cascades, an area that I'm trying to learn, I study ariel views from google earth, from all directions and print photos of where I'm going with "thumb tacks" where I intend to camp and I record the coordinates of those thumb tacks on the photo and in my GPS. The maps of this area are so old that the many new trails just confuse things and I have a tiny compass on my zipper. I find that since this is pretty open territory above the tree line that I can see for quite a ays and the photos give me more information than a map would.

The olny problems I have had was when I hit the road coming back only to find that there was another road in a parralel canyon that I didn't know about. After hiking about 3 miles and no truck, my GPS is pointing 90 degrees from my path. As long as it has a display my GPS has never lied to me, so I hiked for a mile cross country up and over that ridge and sure enough - there was my truck.

Tom - I posted a first beginners thread in Bills "Socratic method" on the backcountry area. You may insert in into the new group if you wish.


9:14 p.m. on December 10, 2009 (EST)
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Hmmm, well I should have known I was not the only one using Google Earth. I use it for ariels, and for spotting 'blue holes' in streams that are fairly close (3 -5 miles) to trails but far enough away that they probably do not get fished much if ever (by humans).

We have some areas in the Southern Appalachians where you can see out, such as Balds, or outcroppings, but as you know it's pretty much 'greened in'.

I think some people are like me, I just enjoy the challenge of using a map and compass while bushwacking. When....I mean IF I screw up I check the GPSR tracking and look at the topo to see where I drifted off course. Actually drift is not the right term since I tend to drift a good bit, but it helps me see my mistakes better.

I do think GPSR's are reliable, biggest problem I see is user error, such as accidentally leaving it turned on in the tent while you sleep, or other battery draining events. I always carry extra batteries because I go out for several days at a time. Of course you can always drop your compass in a crack or a fire too. Maps blow away, etc.

It's up to the user to get it right.

10:58 p.m. on December 10, 2009 (EST)
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749 forum posts


I remember taking my GarminII+ up to the Sierras and leaving in on all night by mistake. That was before Mr Clinton had the "wandering error" turned off so it would be more accurate for civilians. In the morning there was a large Crysanthemum of ovals painted on the screen. Back then you were happy to 200 to 300 foot errors.

I'm generally above or near tree line and I like to just hike and maybe check out some landmarks and then try to find camp without any aids. Sometimes I try to get lost and come back from the other side and see how close I can get to camp without checking my GPS. I am invariably above camp when I do look at it because I don't want to get into the trees and have to climb back up.

When I lived in Illinois I had to ride my bike 5 miles to a forest preserve to find a 15 foot gully to climb.

Not many trout in the mountain streams in the Cascades as in the Sierras - gets too cold here and fereses solid.


3:23 p.m. on December 30, 2009 (EST)
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You asked and we made it so!

There is now a Beginners's Forum on Trailspace:

It's a place for anyone, especially trail novices, to ask basic outdoor questions.

December 16, 2017
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