using GPS units for not getting lost in the scrub

To: Vicki Powys <>, birding-aus <>
Subject: using GPS units for not getting lost in the scrub
Date: Thu, 11 Oct 2001 15:42:48 +0800
Vicky Powys wrote :
> If I did lose the GPS unit, I'm still not sure how a compass would
> help me find my car in Eulo Bore type of country?  If I'd turned in
> circles three times?  Then what?  I might know where north was, but
> not where my car was?

When you leave the car, take a bearing with your compass of the track that 
you are on.  e.g. east / west, or maybe 60 / 240 degrees, etc.  Make 
certain that you park your car on a straight stretch of road and leave it 
visible from a couple of hundred metres or more.  i.e. don't do what I did 
once and park it under a tree 30 metres off the road.

Then when you want to return to the road, take a right angle bearing to 
the road / track.  i.e. head north / south, or 150 / 330 degrees in the 
above examples.  If you can't work out which of the two you should head 
then I would give up going bush!

You then walk back and hit the road.  Hopefully you know whether you have 
to turn left or right to make it back to your car.  You usually hit the 
road within 100 or 200 metres of your car.

I found out the hard way up near Carnarvon in WA.  I came back to the 
road, but then thought the car was to my left.  I walked about 400 metres 
(I had been away from the car about 90 minutes), and didn't find the car.  
I then walked back and found my car about 50 metres or so to the right of 
where I came out parked under a tree and out of sight!  I got a GPS after 
that, and I no longer park my car way off the road.

I still try to remember to carry a compass with me.  It saves on the 
batteries in my GPS, and using it with the GPS gives me a much more 
accurate bearing to my car.  It also gives me a distance.  From my 
orienteering days, I learnt to count distance and so I know when I am 
getting close (less than 10%).  I then use the GPS for one last bearing.  
This always gets me back to within 50 metres of the car which is more than 
enough if you leave the car visible.

I always take a rough bearing from the sun by looking at my shadow.  This 
is good for most times except when there is heavy cloud cover or I have 
been away for more than 2 hours.

>From my orienteering days I learnt to look at more than major landmarks.  
I take notice of slopes, or gullies, or major trees, etc.  A good 
orienteer doesn't need to use a compass, but they have a map!  But all the 
minor features are very useful for making certain that you head back in 
the right direction.

If you have a GPS, don't forget to take a bearing before you leave the 
car!!  I have done this a few times.
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