View Full Version : GPS on the Trail

11-22-2005, 15:23
Wondering if anyone has attempted to use GPS for a thru hike in addition to paper maps? Seems impractical to me based on the limitations of battery power, but still I'm curious as to if this is possible and or attempted?

Lone Wolf
11-22-2005, 15:24
GPS is totally not needed for AT hiking.

SGT Rock
11-22-2005, 15:33
Its possible, it may have been attempted, but it ain't needed. An extra 1/4 pound of something that needs batteries that will only tell you a little more exactly to the meter that you are on the AT? You already know that.

11-22-2005, 15:34
It is definently not necessary, but all in all, the maps tend to yield themselves to be useless with the exception of the elevation profile. I would view them as a form of entertainment on the trail. It is all good.


the goat
11-22-2005, 15:36
buy a data book instead, use leftover dough for bar tabs.

11-22-2005, 15:43
Really don't think it would add anything of significance to your hike. After all ...it's a blazed trail. You're not bushwacking (hopefully) or trying to locate obscure landmarks.

To satisfy your own curiosity though you might want to go ahead and start with it but I feel confident in saying that you'll most likely send it home. Just one more thing to keep track of and feed batteries.


Tin Man
11-22-2005, 16:37
I have used a small GPS on the trail. To conserve batteries, which last a mere 8 hours, I only turned it on to check progress. However, I got frustrated with how long it took to acquire the satellites and now leave it in the car where it is most useful to find the trailheads for section hikes.

11-22-2005, 16:39
It would fall in to the fun toy category for me but I think the fun would wear off and it would go home around the first time I decided to cut weight.

After a bit of time on the trail, you'll be able to dead reckon your position on the trail pretty well with just the databook, knowledge of your pace, and maybe a quick peek at a map once in a while.

The Solemates
11-22-2005, 17:06

this guy took over 10lbs of gadgets on the PCT with him, including a laptop w/ spare battery, GPS, temp gauge, phone, phone charger, camera and tripod. he has coordinates for every night's camp, as well as detailed weather info and elevation.

Red Hat
11-22-2005, 17:42
My husband bought me a nice gps for my hike last year. I didn't have the heart to tell him I wouldn't use it... I had it mailed it to myself in Damascus, where I planned to send it home. (Thanks to Hiker Hostel in Dahlonega) But since I got picked up in Damascus, it went with me.

11-23-2005, 08:50
You may want to take one just to learn. If you are planning a future CDT hike or western desert hike or anywhere where a trail is not necessary, GPS is a good thing to master. Since you are going to be in the woods for almost a half year, why not learn while you're out there. Keep in mind though, on the AT you are in the trees most all of the time and it will be much harder to get a signal. But at night you could usually play around with it and learn how they work. Do you want to carry it? (most people carry a luxury item) Up to you!

11-23-2005, 09:38
If you have some info programed into it or appropriate maps, it can do some good things for you... it can tell you are at and show you how to get where you want to go... and depending on the situation that may be more than a good thing, it may be a great thing. Now, if you always know these things you don't need it... are you going to always know these things? That is your decision.

11-23-2005, 10:07
If you have some info programed into it or appropriate maps, it can do some good things for you....

Yup, remember the Ensign Cowell Shelter we searched for for 45 minutes Youngblood - in the rain? It always helps to have the updated waypoint when they tear down a shelter and build a new on ACROSS THE ROAD. :datz

11-23-2005, 17:54
just follow the white blaze:cool: neo

11-23-2005, 19:14
I still havent decided if I am taking my gps'r on the trail with me or not. I am not taking it for guidance but for geocaching on the trail.

If you want to get in some good "practice" using a gps'r, caching is the way to do it.

Check out www.geocaching.com . Just plug in your home zipcode in the upper right corner to see if there is any near you...

Be warned! Caching can become just as much an obsession as planning a thru hike!!:datz

11-23-2005, 23:19
We took a GPS on a 218 mile section hike this fall solely for geocaching. We did our research ahead of time and there were 36 caches along the section that were close enough to go find! We found about 28 of them. The GPS was a luxury item but the caching added a bit of fun and a change of pace for us. Most of them were within .2 mile of the trail. My husband also used it for benchmarks, though the coordinates for them are frequently for your amusement only. We did have several first to finds on the Benchmarks. We definitely only turned it on first thing in the morning to find how far we were from a cache and then walked about that far and turned it on again. Yes, it does take longer to acquire the signal in the trees but our batteries lasted the full 17 days and are still in use! We were careful to turn it on only to use for caching, and then only for the last .2 or so.

11-24-2005, 11:45
Yup, remember the Ensign Cowell Shelter we searched for for 45 minutes Youngblood - in the rain? It always helps to have the updated waypoint when they tear down a shelter and build a new on ACROSS THE ROAD. :datz
Yeah, I remember that. What a disappointment... but I did take you to the site of the old shelter where we could make out where the shelter would have been if we had been a couple of years earlier.:confused: That one had me 'mumbling' for quite a while, if my memory is correct.

11-24-2005, 12:01
On GPS and other gadgets - my whole plan is to get away from electronics. The simpler my life is, the happier I tend to be. A GPS is just something else to lose or to get broken.

Uncle Silly
11-25-2005, 21:07
I'm the same way, MorrisseyFan! The only battery-operated things I carried were a watch and a headlamp.

I did run into one kid this year who carried a GPS. Mr Pink had a Garmin GPS PDA ... last I heard (somewhere in PA), it was still telling him he was in Georgia. No idea if he ever read (or understood) the manual. The only useful things I ever saw the unit do was view photos -- he'd taken digital snapshots of other hikers' maps, and the screen on the GPS was larger than the one on his camera. It played MP3s, too, but I wouldn't consider that "useful"...