Re: GPS recommendation please
- From: "Paul Saunders" <pvs1@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Sun, 13 Aug 2006 10:00:28 +0100
Rob G wrote:
No doubt I will get flamed for this but why do people want to
analyse where they went on their walking ?
For record keeping. For analysis. Best way to predict the future
is to study the past. Useful for studying just how fast your
walking speed is for example, on different grades of slopes and
different terrain types. Useful for marking good photo viewpoints
Because I want to.
Walking is a relaxing activity
Where did you get that idea? Climbing a mountain with a heavy rucksack is
bloody hard work. I'm not saying I don't enjoy it, but it's not relaxing.
Now going for a stroll along a beach, that's relaxing. Wild camping in the
hills, that's relaxing.
- what is the relevance of speed;
I think that should be pretty obvious, even to you. If you need it spelled
out for you (which I'm sure you don't, you're just being awkward) speed
determines how far you can travel in a given amount of time. Since there is
a finite amount of time available each day, speed is obviously relevant to
how far you can walk.
when I plan a day on the hills I make allowance for all sorts
of circumstances based on experience
So do I, so do other GPS users I presume. I stop a lot to take photos, that
makes my walking speed even more relevant, since I have less time available
I don't want to have a formula
to have to work out how long it is going to take me to get from A to
Yes you do, even if it's only a vague idea in your head. If you're
experienced, as you claim to be, then you obviously have a good idea of how
far you can walk in a given period of time over particular types of terrain.
You may not work it out precisely and mathematically, but your brain is
doing that instinctively using the knowledge and experience in your head.
Less experienced walkers may well benefit from looking at GPS tracks to
assess how quickly they walk over different terrain types, rather than
trying to work it out from someone else's formula, or by sheer guesswork. I
remember in my early days I often made huge miscalculations about how much
ground I could cover in a day, especially when carrying more weight than
It's always been difficult for me to assess how long it will take me to get
from A to B because of my many stops. Not knowing how much time I spent
walking and how much time I spent stopping, I had no idea of my actual
walking speeds until GPS made it easy to separate walking time from total
Why should I analyse what happened today for my walk on the hills
I never said you should. You asked why other people want to analyse their
walks. I told you. I never said that you should do the same.
But why should people analyse their walks? Simple, if you know what
happened today you'll be in a better position to know what you're likely to
be capable of tomorrow. That's how you gain experience in the first place.
Of course, you may "just know", but some people like more specific details.
Tomorrow is tomorrow and the sun might shine, or the wind
might blow and that will have an effect on how long the day will be,
Those are relatively minor effects. What's far more important is how fit
you are, how much weight you are carrying, what kind of terrain you're
walking over and how much ascent is involved.
but that is not important
Oh yes it is!
- what is important is a relaxed walk on the hills,
Who are you to decide what's important? People go hill walking for many
different reasons. Different things are important to different people. A
relaxed walk on the hills may be important to you, but other people may have
different priorities. What's important to me is getting the photos I want.
I don't mind getting knackered climbing to that perfect viewpoint to
photograph a sunset, but it's very important to me that I get there at the
right time. If I missed a brilliant sunset because I was in the wrong place
at the right time, I'd be mightily peeved. How relaxed my walk was would be
irrelevant to me.
not one where you are worrying about chasing some time
Who's worrying? I'm not a worrier. What happens happens. I may get peeved
if things don't turn out to plan (which they often don't) but I don't worry
Secondly, who's says I'm "chasing" anything? Having a schedule doesn't mean
that you have to chase it. With good planning there should be no chasing.
My schedules are very leisurely, after all, it's all about enjoying
ourselves, right? When I plan to be at a particular place at a particular
time, I try to ensure that I have more than enough time to get there, so
that I can stop as often as I want, not worry about it, and not have to race
But having said that, there are times when time is important. I prefer to
go out with no obligations to return at any specific time, but that's
sometimes not possible. Sometimes I have an appointment to keep. I may
need to get to a shop before it closes, or to catch the last bus home. Some
people may have to return to pick up the kids from school, and many other
reasons. We live in a society synchronised to time, sometimes this can't be
avoided. It's nice to get away from time for a while, but it's often not
possible for many people.
In the outdoors there are really only two times of day, light and dark. The
critical points are when they change from one to the other. Clock time may
be irrelevant, but light and dark aren't. Even without society's
commitments, most people like to walk during the daylight hours, and a long
walk on a short winter's day requires careful planning if you don't want to
end up finishing the walk in the dark. Personally this doesn't bother me,
but it is a factor for many people (especially if their night nav is a bit
To me though, the one aspect of time that I can't (and don't wish to) avoid
is sunrises and sunsets. There's no arguing with those. You can't be late,
or you miss the shots. The art of landscape photography is being in the
right place at the right time. That's why time is important to me. I
couldn't care less about clock time, but I do care about solar time. The
angle of the sun's rays is critical to many photographs, and sunrise and
sunset go without saying. I like to allow plenty of time to get to the
right place, but I have to be there at the right time, or I don't get the
shots I want.
Non-GPS users typically think they know exactly where they went,
even over trackless ground. Try recording such a walk with a GPS
and you may be surprised that your actual route wasn't exactly what
you thought it was.
I made a generalisation in my posting and that is one too - one that
actually is pretty irrelevant in that as long as you get to where you
are aiming for and back again within the time you allowed yourself,
But what if you don't? It's not irrelevant then, is it? Fact is, a lot of
people probably get it wrong and miss appointments and end up walking in the
dark and so on. Maybe that never happens to you, but it does happen to some
people, and anything that helps to prevent that happening is a good thing.
Not everyone is experienced in such matters.
who in reality considers it necessary to know the fine details of how
you got there.
Me for one. And probably many others too. Many of my walks are not planned
in fine detail, and when I check the track afterwards I can often see silly
errors in the route and I realise that I could have saved time and effort by
going this way rather than that. Maybe you're so fit and time so
unimportant to you that an extra couple of miles and an extra hour makes no
difference to you. But I'm not so fit and an extra couple of miles with a
heavy rucksack is something I've very keen to avoid, especially if it means
missing my date with the sunset. I'm not fit enough to waste unnecessary
effort, and although I'm never in any rush to get home, the less time I
spend walking the better, since that equates to more time for taking photos.
As for knowing the fine details of my route, this can sometimes be critical
with photography. Many years ago I took a photo with a particularly
interesting rock in the foreground and a dramatic sky behind. I know
roughly where that photo was taken, but although I've walked what I "think"
is the same route a number of times since, I've never been able to find that
rock again. If I'd had a GPS and a digital camera in those days I'd know
exactly where it was, I'd be able to compare the exact time of the photo
with the time points in the track to identify the exact location, or I could
simply have marked a waypoint there.
And another thing about fine details, slight errors in traditional nav can
lead to things like having to cross barbed wire fences, when there may have
been a stile hidden in the undergrowth a short distance away. You may think
you've followed the correct ROW through farmland when in fact you haven't,
but without a GPS track to study you'll probably never realise this. I
suspect most map and compass users think their nav is more precise than it
actually is, but you'll never know without a GPS track to prove it. It can
be quite an eye-opener, but a lot of people probably don't want their eyes
to be opened. GPS can actually be very effective in helping you to hone
your traditional skills by setting yourself a nav challenge and studying how
well you really did later.
I once used a GPS to guide me in a straight line back to
camp (in hill fog) while a friend used a compass to navigate,
ignoring me. He gradually drifted off course while I remained on
the correct line, verifiable afterwards.
Yes I can well believe it and examples like that do show that a GPS
has it's value, but in all seriousness that was just an exercise to
prove it !
Actually it wasn't. I was simply using my GPS as I always do. I wanted to
get back to camp as quickly and efficiently as possible (since I was
knackered), so I opted for the straight line approach, knowing from
experience that the terrain ahead was easy, no obstacles to navigate around.
My friend on the other hand simply chose to navigate the way he always did,
perhaps in an attempt to prove that GPS wasn't necessary. It obviously
wasn't, but he walked a bit further than me and arrived back at camp a bit
later. Only a small difference, but had we been walking independently that
could have added up to quite a bit over the course of the day.
Each to his own - to you, highly accurate details and the recording of
such are clearly very important to you and the GPS supplies that.
Yes, they are.
I would rather enjoy the day
Since when are enjoyment and GPS mutually exclusive? Are you suggesting
that I'm not enjoying myself just because I'm carrying a GPS? Or that your
enjoyment would be ruined if you carried one? Utter nonsense! I'm not
trying to persuade you to use a GPS if you don't want to, but don't try to
tell me that you're getting more pleasure when you go out walking than I am.
That's just Luddite snobbery. You enjoy what you do, I enjoy what I do.
without the encumbrance of any more
equpment than I already have
Encumbrance? I'm actually less encumbered with a GPS. What about that
bloody awkward thing called a map that you no doubt carry? I remember in
the old days I had to regularly stop, get the map out, sometimes fight with
it in the wind and rain, then study it to figure out which way to go next,
then pack it away again. Or I could have the damn thing hanging around my
neck which really would be an encumbrance. All of which took time.
Nowadays I have a small device attached to my rucksack strap, which I can
unclip and look at in a second, then reclip in another second, all without
having stop and faff about with a map. Far easier, far quicker and I feel
far less encumbered. Meanwhile my map stays in the rucksack for those rare
occasions that I actually decide to look at it for some reason, usually out
of interest rather than necessity. Fact is, it usually stays in my rucksack
all day and I never look at it, which is particularly convenient on those
foul wet windy days. It saves a lot of time and makes the walking more
efficient, leaving me more time for the photography.
Thing is, I now essentially do my nav in advance, rather than in the field.
I plan my route on the computer, set waypoints (very quick and easy) then
upload them to the GPS. I enjoy route planning, but I prefer to get it over
with before the walk, then when I'm out there I don't have to worry about
it. In effect, the nav has already been dealt with. I've done entire walks
in unfamiliar areas without once needing to look at the map. Of course,
there are the odd occasions where you need to check the map, typically
involving rights of way through farmland, but even that can be avoided with
detailed waypointing. I generally try to avoid farmland completely if
And to pre-empt your next criticism, that of having to stick rigidly to my
pre-planned route, I also add lots of additional waypoints to mark all
features of interest in the vicinity and to cover all likely deviations from
my route. I have a strong tendency to deviate from planned routes, and
these extra waypoints give me all the info I need to enable me to do that
without having to check the map. Rather than restricting me, the GPS
actually gives me more freedom to wander where I please without risk of
getting lost. A compass is only useful if you know where you are, so you
have to keep track of your position on the map. The GPS always knows where
I am, so I can wander around in mist and at night without worrying about
and, unlike a surprsiing number of
walkers judging by the comments in this NG, I really am not
inerestied in the details of where I have been and where I have
missed the best line by 10 metres.
But you haven't missed the best line by 10 metres, you've probably missed it
by far more than that. As I said, without a GPS to show you where you
really went, you probably think your nav is far more accurate than it really
is. But most of the time I agree, 10 metres or 100 metres is neither here
nor there. But on the other hand, there are times when high accuracy is
genuinely useful, and micro navigation with a GPS is dead easy.
I just got there, enjoyed the
day, enjoyed the view and got back again.
What a coincidence! So did I. But I did it in a different way and
collected a lot of data which could be very useful to me in the future.
Again, each to his own, but having seen all the comments here about
GPS devices, I really do not see how it would improve my days on the
They don't improve your days on the hills (unless you were a crap navigator
to start with). They simply change the way that you navigate (thus saving
time and effort) and supply you with potentially useful data at the end of
it. If you enjoy traditional nav, that's fine, nothing wrong with that. If
you don't need the data, that's fine too. Just carry on as you are,
nobody's forcing you to use a GPS.
and the comments do just confirm my opinion that they are they
fall into the category of the 'must have' electronic toys for so many
No, to *you* it's an electronic toy, because you don't feel you need one.
To some GPS owners it's an electronic toy because they don't use it in
anger. But to those who do serious navigation with it, it's the most
accurate, sophisticated navigation device yet invented. Toys are things you
play with that serve no useful purpose. GPS can save lives, or at least a
lot of effort and hassle. Granted it's mainly aircraft and ships that have
the greatest need for it, but during a night walk or in thick fog it really
comes into its own. The data recording is also not the function of a "toy",
if you have a genuine use for the data. Do mountain rescue teams go out at
night in bad conditions just to play with toys?
A few years ago I did a night walk in the Beacons, trying to navigate simply
by memory (I enjoy a challenge) and I was doing well until I encountered a
bog in the wrong place (well the bog was in the right place, but I obviously
wasn't). Trying not to make it too easy I got out the map and compass, but
without knowing my exact position they weren't much help. I stumbled on for
a bit but still couldn't find my bearings. Reluctantly I got out my GPS,
checked my grid ref and suddenly all became clear. Easy peasy after that.
Of course if I hadn't had a GPS I wouldn't have got into that position in
the first place, I'd have been using the map and compass before I became
disoriented, but even if the same thing had happened, I'd have found my
bearings eventually, I'd just have wasted more time and effort.
The irony of course will come in the next 6 months when something goes
wrong, I get lost, and the one thing that would have assisted me is a
That probably won't happen. I never got lost without a GPS. Temporarily
disoriented yes, but never truly lost. Sometimes I added a few unnecessary
miles to my journeys, but I always got back.
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