Land navigation should be kept simple.  The GPS equipped backcountry traveler might very well be making it harder – unintentionally.  Here are 4 suggestions to keep navigation simple and efficient.

The hiker has many options with his receiver.  Waypoint data can be entered, edited, removed, shared with friends (wirelessly in some cases) and manipulated.

Frequent and simple waypoint management is essential to GPS use.  When it’s time to return to the trailhead, it should be obvious what waypoint to select.

First, get rid of the old waypoints before the start of a trip.  The average GPS will hold over 500 waypoints and 10 or more route files.  Only necessary data should be saved on your GPS.  The fishing hole or hot spring might be important but needs to be saved elsewhere.  If you have a lot of waypoints saved each will be removed individually; this is a time consuming process.

Second, save your historical and important waypoints elsewhere.

  • Garmin users should try “Trip and Waypoint Manager.  It can also be purchased from Garmin for about $30.00;  Down load those Waypoints to your PC.
  • Take a look at “Easy GPS.”  Download waypoints and tracks and then share them with friends.  This program is compatible with Garmin, Lowrance and Magellan receivers.   It is free and available at
  • Log the important data in a notebook.

Third, important waypoints deserve a name.  It’s easier to remember a waypoint named “CAMP” instead of 21 (or was it 25.)

Fourth, let’s make sure that the correct coordinate format and map datum are set.  For example, everyone in the hiking party should be using the same position format such as “degrees minutes seconds.”  If the map for the trek has a Map Datum of NAD 27, I recommend all receivers be reset accordingly.  Of course this can all be reset in the field, but getting setup features coordinated in advance keeps it simple.

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