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#258115 - 03/27/13 01:49 AM Re: PLB or GPS? [Re: Russ]
bacpacjac Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 05/05/07
Posts: 3593
Loc: Ontario, Canada
Originally Posted By: Russ
Thanks. Didn't know that, although I should have, Airplane mode turns off a lot of functions. Now I'll need to remember to turn them back on. wink
Outside, back in a bit.

Edit: Crow tastes great. The Tom's GPS app works and the accuracy with my iPhone is close enough to not matter. Outside it was showing an accuracy of 10 m; inside it's showing an accuracy of 200 m. Still, close enough for a back-up.

This is a great example of what I love about ETS! Shared experience to increase the knowledge of us all. thanks Russ!
Mom & Adventurer

You can find me on YouTube here:

#258118 - 03/27/13 02:17 AM Re: PLB or GPS? [Re: hikermor]
AKSAR Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 08/31/11
Posts: 1090
Loc: Alaska
Originally Posted By: hikermor
If you really want to have fun, you should use the 1930s era 15 minute quadrangles that were the only USGS maps available in the mid 50s when I first started using topo maps. They were drawn by teams traveling by pack trains, using a plane table and alidade. Sometimes they goofed on terrain contours, but the trails were absolutely spot on. By contrast, when the new generation of 7 1/2 minute quads came out a few years later, the topography was right on, but trails were erratic, sometimes quite fanciful.
Actually I have used a few of those old maps. When I was a lad growing up in the Pacific Northwest, and starting to climb in the Cascades, those were the only maps available for some of the peaks. But since I am but a mere youngster (at least when compared to geezers like you wink ) it was in the mid '60s for me.

I think the reason trails were spot on on those old maps is because the only way those old guys could map was to hike up the trails to the ridgetops, carrying the plane table and alidade on their backs. They probably stopped at every few switchbacks, and plotted them in while catching their breath. But since there would always be some portions of the terrain hidden from any vantage point, they had to sometimes use a little "artistic license" with the contours.

Edited by AKSAR (03/27/13 02:22 AM)
Edit Reason: fat finger typing ;)
"Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas any more."
-Dorothy, in The Wizard of Oz

#258121 - 03/27/13 03:14 AM Re: PLB or GPS? [Re: AKSAR]
hikermor Offline
Geezer in Chief

Registered: 08/26/06
Posts: 6369
Loc: southern Cal
Exactly. I think some of the newer generation maps must have been ground truthed in the rear booth of a convenient country tavern.
Geezer in Chief

#258151 - 03/27/13 02:48 PM Re: PLB or GPS? [Re: bacpacjac]
Russ Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 06/02/06
Posts: 4776
YW. If anyone does get in a situation where they are out of cell coverage and using an iPhone for navigation, battery power management is something to keep in mind. Turning off items using Airplane mode is a great way to get just about everything powered down. Bluetooth and Wi-Fi can be turned on regardless so make sure they are also turned off unless you need them. With mine, going to Airplane mode turns them off, then I turn them back on separately if needed.

Apparently, turning location services on does not work the same way. As Chaos said, for the internal GPS to work, Airplane mode needs to be turned off (meaning phone stuff is turned on) and then individual items like cell coverage, wi-fi and bluetooth need to be turned off individually. Since you can't change batteries in an iPhone, managing the power you have is rather critical. $.02

#258168 - 03/27/13 06:33 PM Re: PLB or GPS? [Re: LeeG]
LeeG Offline

Registered: 03/24/08
Posts: 100
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
Thank you everyone for the replies. I have decided to go ahead and get the PLB first, and then perhaps by this fall when hiking season comes around again, I'll get a GPS. For this upcoming hike, I am really more worried about an injury than getting lost. I do have a compass, paper maps, and my iPhone with some good GPS software and downloaded maps.

I'd still like to get a GPS for reasons that a few have mentioned. Mainly ease of battery replacement and not draining the batteries on my primary communications source.

#258220 - 03/28/13 03:06 PM Re: PLB or GPS? [Re: LeeG]
widget Offline

Registered: 07/06/03
Posts: 550
Lee, I am in Phoenix and have hiked, backpacked and rock climbed all over the Superstitions. My means of navigation was always a map and compass. One of the hiking maps sold by Wide World of Maps is a good trail map to help navigate with up to date trail information.

I started hiking the superstitions in the early 1960's and there were almost no houses around, roads were vague and the trails were not at all crowded, you could hike all weekend without seeing another person. Not that way today, most trails are pretty well travelled. So, assistance is more available, perhaps.

Since I am older now, I too worry about an injury, especially when hiking alone. You can find yourself pretty far from the car and with an injury that slows you down, or stops you, it can be life threatening. I have also had almost no cell coverage (Verizon) once over the first ridge inside the Supes. The phone drains the battery rapidly seeking a signal that is not available. So, I don't have much faith in a cell phone out there.

The iphone has the added disadvantage of a fixed battery, so once it is dead, there is no changing it out.

I will add that although I own 3 hiking GPS units, I have never carried one in the Superstitions. The landmarks are pretty well defined out there and it makes orientation with a map and compass very easy. The beauty of the PLB is you can signal for help, which a GPS can't do.
No, I am not Bear Grylls, but I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night and Bear was there too!

#258222 - 03/28/13 03:14 PM Re: PLB or GPS? [Re: LeeG]
chaosmagnet Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 12/03/09
Posts: 2894
Loc: USA
When I'm hiking with my iPhone somewhere that there isn't good signal, here's what I do:

  • I start by preloading terrain maps onto my iPhone -- the built-in apps for mapping don't allow that
  • I mark important locations, like the trailhead, where I parked my car, my campsite, and so on
  • Then I power down the phone and navigate with map and compass

With a good case and a small recharger in my pack, to me it's a reasonable way to not need to spend money on a dedicated GPS. If I do get lost I can fire it up and figure things out without worrying that the battery will go dead due to continuously looking for a cell tower signal.

A dedicated GPS is a better way to go for a lot of people, especially if they're in areas they don't know well or are difficult to navigate.

#258224 - 03/28/13 03:53 PM Re: PLB or GPS? [Re: chaosmagnet]
Russ Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 06/02/06
Posts: 4776
In this situation a PLB is definitely the way initially. However, basic GPS receivers are not expensive, much less expensive than a PLB. The GPS receiver can be used daily whereas the PLB is something you hope to never use; I hope to retire mine when the battery times out.

Lee has already decided to get the PLB first -- good decision. All he needs to do now is study the field of GPS receivers and look for a good deal.

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