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Do you need a compass?


patrickjohng
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Hello all. I'm having a great time caching, and have found probably about a dozen or so caches so far. But my problem is I have a lot of trouble tracking cache's down in areas with lots of trees.

I read that you really need a separate compass when you get into heavy tree cover to find caches, because you lose the signal. I'm wondering if that's true. Is it far easier to track down a cache with a normal compass when your GPS fails? Or do I simply have to be more patient and realize that in heavy tree cover I'm going to simply have to look around a lot more, because of a lost signal?

 

Is taking a compass along routine and useful when caching?

 

Please advise.

Thanks,

Patrick Garmoe,

Duluth, MN

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While a compass may well keep you pointed in the right direction, it isn't going to give you the distance to go to ground Zero without the use of a map. You can estimate I suppose.

 

I carry a compass just for orientation when standing still.

 

You may want to look into one of Garmin's new "H" series as they are advertised to hold a good sat lock in very heavy tree cover. - as low as $99.

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A compass can be a big help, especially when the cache is not too deep in the woods.

 

To use a compass, you can use one of two techniques, or even combine a bit of both.

 

Direction & Distance - You need to learn to estimate distances. Mark off 30 feet. Stand at one point and look towards the other one. Try to remember the angle down from a straight-ahead gaze to meets the other mark. This will give you a handy measuring unit to use. Also measure your average step, heel to heel. This will also help in determining distance.

 

Triangulation - Unless you have a true electronic compass built into your GPS, you'll need a hand-held compass (preferably a sighting compass) to do this correctly. Dial in the bearing given by your GPS, and sight along that line. Choose another spot and do the same. Where those two lines meet is your ground zero.

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I try not to go into strange woods without a compass. I know the general cardinal direction I went in to get into the trouble, er....I mean woods. So when the batteries go dead, I just point in the opposite direction with the compass to lead me out to the road. I still haven't figured out which way to walk on the road to get to the car though..............

Edited by Lucky McLooker
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I always use a compass. In fact, I carry a spare in my caching bag, in case I leave mine in the Jeep. I'd be lost without it. I have my GPSr set up to show bearing to the cache, distance to the cache, and the accuracy of the GPSr, all on the 'arrow' page (sometimes mislabeled the 'compass' page). When first starting out, I go by the arrow alone. As I get closer, say 100 feet or so, I line up the north end of the compass with the needle, and sight a line in the direction of the bearing that the GPSr is giving me. Many times, by looking for likely hiding spots, I can find the cache before I even get there. If not, I go closer. When I get as close as I can, I set it down, and take a look around for the hiding spot. After a few minutes, if I haven't found it, I go back to the GPSr. By then, it has had a chance to 'settle', and will give a more accurate reading.

 

If the cache is hidden where the signal is weak, I use the compass to triangulate. Go to a spot that gets good reception, and using the compass and GPSr to get an accurate bearing. Notice a few landmarks that are in line with that bearing, then go to another good signal area, and repeat, noticing where the two lines intersect. That's where Graound Zero is. This works great for finding those micros in the woods.

 

When leaving the road, take out your compass, and notice which way the road is running, and which way you go into the woods. If the road runs north /south, and you go in west, then you know that you'll have to go east to get back to the road.

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Compass won't help with the 'no coverage under trees' problem. If you're hiking in the backcountry, definitely carry a compass and a topo, in addition to the GPS. Otherwise, if something happens to the GPS, you've got real problems. But for geocaching, no.

 

The way to solve the coverage problem is to upgrade your receiver. Garmin has just upgraded its eTrex line with 'H' models that feature high-sensitivity receivers. They get great coverage under trees. And, of course, the Garmin 60 CSx is pretty much the champ at pulling in a signal in difficult environments.

Edited by imajeep
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Compass won't help with the 'no coverage under trees' problem. If you're hiking in the backcountry, definitely carry a compass and a topo, in addition to the GPS. Otherwise, if something happens to the GPS, you've got real problems. But for geocaching, no.

 

The way to solve the coverage problem is to upgrade your receiver. Garmin has just upgraded its eTrex line with 'H' models that feature high-sensitivity receivers. They get great coverage under trees. And, of course, the Garmin 60 CSx is pretty much the champ at pulling in a signal in difficult environments.

 

I never use a compass, but that's because I cache in town or in places where I could easily find my way out of the woods. However, if you're going into the back country where there aren't any people living or you could possibly get lost, then it might not be a bad idea to have a compass. Say you were a half mile out in the woods and your batteries die. They find dead people all the time that are less than a mile from a road. I think they had a couple incidents like that in the pacific NW recently.

 

Anyways, I learned some good tips when I went through Air Force survival school recently. Say you're in the woods and there's tall trees all around. It's REALLY hard to tell where the sun is or what direction you're going. A compass is REALLY handy here. Say you knew you were coming in on a heading of 70 degrees. You're a mile in the woods and your batteries die on your GPS or you smash it on a big rock. If you turn around and try to get out, you'll end up going in a circle. Add 180 to your 70 degree heading and you get 260. Pull your compass out and line it up on a 260 degree heading. Find an object that's as far away as you can see. Say a big dead pine tree is right on your heading. Go to that pine tree. If the pine tree is slightly to the right of your heading, go stand on the left side of it. Once you're there, line up the compass again on the next object on your heading. Keep doing that until you find your way out.

 

Say you came into the woods to the same cache and you drove in on a road going due south and it dead ended where you parked. Now, instead of taking that 260 degree heading to get back to where you parked, you might want to veer a big to the right to make sure you get to the road. Take a 270 degree heading instead. That way, you're a lot more likely to hit that road. If you were to keep on that 260 heading, you can still make errors that would lead you further south of where you parked and you might pass up your car and never see it. NOW you'll be on CNN. But most cachers won't ever get into a situation like this. I don't know of too many caches that are way off the beaten path. But it's good stuff to know if you're ever lost and you happen to have a compass.

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Hello all. I'm having a great time caching, and have found probably about a dozen or so caches so far. But my problem is I have a lot of trouble tracking cache's down in areas with lots of trees.

I read that you really need a separate compass when you get into heavy tree cover to find caches, because you lose the signal. I'm wondering if that's true. Is it far easier to track down a cache with a normal compass when your GPS fails? Or do I simply have to be more patient and realize that in heavy tree cover I'm going to simply have to look around a lot more, because of a lost signal?

 

Is taking a compass along routine and useful when caching?

 

Please advise.

Thanks,

Patrick Garmoe,

Duluth, MN

I don't use a regular compass, but I do have the electronic compass in my GPS and I'll never buy another GPS without it. I guess it's a personal preference thing.

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If you are doing caches around town, then probably not. If you are venturing into the woods, you should absolutely always have a compass.

 

Amen brother! You should not go into the woods without a compass. If you don't know how to use a compass you should not loose sight of the road. The woods are a great and very cool place, but if you don't know how to navigate with a regular compass you should not get too far in. As with all things safety is key.

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Welcome, patrickjohng.

 

I see from your profile that you received an eTrex as a gift. One thing that will help with that kind of GPS is to hold it parallel to the ground, screen side up, so that it is "flat" in relation to the sky. It might also help if you turn on the GPS a couple minutes early and wait until you have a good signal before you go into the woods.

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I dont see how a compass would help me find caches as i dont really know how to use one :o

 

You don't know how to use a cache????? :unsure:

 

 

BTW I have a Magellan Meridian Platinum and so far the GPSr has been spot on with almost every cache we've done. It also works very well in heavy tree cover where other cachers we know have had problems. I don't know how much the thing costs as it was given to us as a gift, but it's a few years old so I'm guessing the prices aren't too bad now.

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I dont see how a compass would help me find caches as i dont really know how to use one :o

 

You don't know how to use a cache????? :unsure:

 

 

BTW I have a Magellan Meridian Platinum and so far the GPSr has been spot on with almost every cache we've done. It also works very well in heavy tree cover where other cachers we know have had problems. I don't know how much the thing costs as it was given to us as a gift, but it's a few years old so I'm guessing the prices aren't too bad now.

Compass is the subject....

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I carry a little silva in my backpack. I've never "needed" it, but I haven't needed my jack and spare tire on my car either. I just want to have it in case I do need it. I use a 76csx and it has a compass built in, and it's been so "right on" so far I haven't had any call to use anything other than the arrow screen. I think a compass in the woods is essential. There is another long living string on here about what people take hunting with them. You should check it out as well.

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Hi everyone, another newbie to help out here! I was wondering what I should set the North setting on my Garmin GPS60 to for geocaching. Should I set it to true, magnetic or grid North, and would it depend on whether I would be using it with a compass?

Cheers. :blink:

Edge1255: For geocaching the default is True north for the GPS. However, there are a few caches that the owner has identified as using magnetic. So read the info on the cache description with care :blink:

 

Personally, with my 60cx, I haven't noticed an actually bearing in degrees/mils indicated on the arrow/compass page. Is there a setting for this?

I always bring a compass with me into the woods, just in case the batteries run dead or I decide there's a good opportunity to demonstrate basic compass skills to the kids that occasionally accompany me.

 

SigsPig

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I have come across a few multi's where a compas has come in quite handy! Let's say stage one has the instructions for you to travel 55 degrees magnetic for 100 paces. to find the second stage. Sure you can do this with a GPS but unless your GPS has a built-in compas and accurately calibrated, you may find yourself a ways off. Since my first experience with one of these (DNF) multi's I always carry a compas. Oh.. and yes, a return with a good compas turned up a find.

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I always carry a compass in the woods. I actually started carrying a gps as a "back up" to my compass ;-) it's now the other way around, but I've had a gps fail (and not from battery loss) so having the compass was definitely pleasant.

 

I've use the compass here and there in caching, more when I first started, less now, though we used the compass exclusively in an area of old growth cypress swamp where both Magellan 500 and Garmin 60C lost signal - we used the last bearing from when we had signal and the compass to deadhead across the swamp and get to the cache (lord forbid we should turn around or find an easier route).

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