GPS “Track” Management

The GPS receiver function known as “Track” is an outstanding feature. Track information is displayed on the map page. The track is the historical record of the hiker’s path through the woods. As long as the receiver is powered on, the track provides a complete history of the journey. The track function must be activated to be used. On my Garmin 60 receiver, this is done by selecting the Main Menu, and then selecting an icon labeled “Tracks,” found in the upper left hand corner of the page.

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The “Tracks” page will be presented (see below). Note that the selection option at the top of the page labeled “Track Log” must be turned on. When activated, the receiver records position data continuously.

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Dependent upon the model of GPS receiver, the data on the map page will be displayed as either a pixel/track point or a recognizable line that develops into the hiker’s track log (see below).

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In the track above there are two distinct tracks (blue and red) that correspond to the hiker’s trips.

An important and under used feature is the ability to save a track. A saved track can be later activated to retrace the hiker’s trek or downloaded to mapping software. Like a waypoint, the saved track can be named. Simply return to the track log page and rocker down to the date of the saved track and press the enter button. On the track page, rocker up to the default name (usually the date the track was saved) and put in the name you would like. Track names help to keep navigation simple by directing the hiker quickly through the selection options.

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When an earlier track is being retraced, the hiker will navigate to the recorded track and then hike down the present track. As the hiker moves through the backcountry a small triangle appears that indicates the current direction of travel. In the example below, the triangle’s size is exaggerated to illustrate this capability.

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Notice the geometry of the blue track line (above). Tracks that are very linear (straight with modest bends) and parabolas are very useful and simple to follow. The triangle moves easily along the trail. That said, notice the squiggly line at the top left (east side) of the trail; such lines can make navigation more difficult.

Lastly, there are times when it may be safer to retrace the track than to hop from waypoint to waypoint. For example, on steep difficult terrain, the safer route back to camp might be to return down the known track rather than skip waypoints to shorten one’s trek.

 

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About the author

Blake is the owner of Outdoor Quest, a business dedicated to backcountry navigation and wilderness survival training. His formal navigation training began when he joined the U.S. Navy in 1975 and continued for twenty years. Blake has taught classes to hikers, wild land firefighters, state agency staffs, Search and Rescue teams and equestrians. He regularly teaches classes through the Community Education programs throughout Oregon. As a volunteer, Blake teaches navigation and survival classes to students in the local school districts and conservation groups. He is a member of a Search and Rescue team. Contact Blake through his website: www.outdoorquest.biz

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