Monday, February 06, 2012

Orienteering skills - yea or nay?

I joined the Lazy Bunch the other day and bought an inexpensive GPS the other day. I bought a cheap one for several reasons:
1) I'm a cheap bastard,
2) I'm forever tumbling off rocks and into rivers and
3) I lose and break a lot of gear.

Okay, one of my shortcomings is that I have absolutely no sense of direction at all. Get me out of sight of the sun or moon and I am lost. If I have to go to a hospital to visit a friend, I make sure I'm packing lunch money so I won't starve before I find my way to the exit, ANY exit. For somebody that's into hunting and fishing the way I am, it can be downright embarrassing at times but I can honestly say I've never been seriously lost before - severely confused for a day or two, but never really lost.

So I if am so directionally dyslexic, why did I wait so fucking long to buy a GPS?
Because I own a compass and more importantly, I know how to use the motherfucker. I know where to get maps and I know how to use them, too.
Look, new technology is fun, it makes life a little easier, and it's fun to buy. But the simple fact of the matter is that very same new technology also dumbs you down, to the point that without it you are lost - literally in this case.

So here we have Mr. Militia who's got all the good shit and is ready to go wreak havoc on his enemies and all of a sudden his enemies black out civilian access to the GPS satellites and you can bet your sweet camouflaged ass that'll be one of the very first things that the Feds will shut down. Now Mr. Militia is fucked. He has no idea where he's at and has no idea on how to get where he needs to be. He has just been effectively removed from the field of battle by some pudgy Spec. 4 in Omaha or wherever with the flick of a switch - without firing a shot. All those years of preparations and dreams and hopes of his part in the revolution are gone.
So what does our ill-prepared fighter do? He takes out his compass, looks at it, shakes it a little, and shrugs his shoulders. Doesn't make any difference that he doesn't know how to use it, though. He doesn't have any topo maps so he couldn't triangulate his position even if he knew how to use the compass. At this point, our fearless Patriot is holding a device that only tells him where the 4 directions are. But now he's seriously fucked because he doesn't know that there are actually three Norths - Magnetic, Grid, and Geographical and his compass only tells him where Magnetic North is. Maybe it's a good thing he doesn't have any maps or his poor mind would really be twisted.

I'm not going to try to teach even the basics of orienteering because of time and space restraints, not to mention the fact that I'm not exactly the best at it myself. Sure, I can find my own position by triangulation within a hundred yards or so, but if you want me to call in close indirect fire for you, you're fucked - I'm gonna blow all of us up. I can find my way to and from a point, but I can't pop out of the brush and be exactly where I figured I should be like some folks I've known.
There are several websites and organizations that have excellent instructions and can explain things a lot clearer than I can. Please go visit them and for God's sake, don't just read them, go out and practice them until you feel confident. Shit, there's even a sport called orienteering for folks that have a competive nature to 'em. Great way to spend time with the kids in the woods, ya know?
Getting started is cheap, too. Get yourself a military style compass, some 550 cord or clothesline for a pace cord and some topo maps from your local sporting goods shop or here from the fucking feds.

Here's a couple of sites:
http://www.learn-orienteering.org/old/
http://geology.isu.edu/geostac/Field_Exercise/topomaps/index.htm
For more tutorials, just google "How to use a compass and map" and watch all that knowledge jump right out at you. Put it to use - learn how to use the shit and refresh that skill periodically.
It'll save your life someday.

Oh yeah. If I got along fine without a GPS for so many years, why did I finally break down and buy one after all these years?
Because, as I said earlier, new technology is fun, it makes life a little easier, and it's fun to buy.
But I guarentee that when I do go out with my new GPS I'll be carrying my compass and a map of the AO as backup.
Who knows, maybe using the GPS and double checking my position using a map and compass will improve my orienteering skills too.