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The Lost Art of Navigation?

Map and Compass are not dead in the great outdoors…

… according to Tarquin Cooper and British adventurers Alastair Humphreys and Tristan Gooley (also author of The Natural Navigator).

Read the article The Lost Art of Navigation to find out why map and compass should still be used in this age of GPSrs.

Lichen on all sides
Lichen on all sides

btw I rather wonder whether The Natural Navigator has the tip about finding direction by checking for lichen growing on the side of trees? This photo is of the north side of a sign in Wheatsheaf, VIC. If you didn’t notice the other sides, which were similarly lichened, then you would likely be in directional trouble.

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Thumbs Up for InReach SE Satellite Communicator


InReach SE delivers every 10 minutes

InReach SE night-O route
InReach SE night-O route

Two more bush tests of the InReach SE and it worked flawlessly in ‘tracking’.

The image at right is of the waypoints during a 3 hour night orienteering event. I was able to watch from home in real time as Anitra orienteered. The InReach was set to deliver a location for every 10 minutes.

As a user of Route Gadget, I had to keep reminding myself that the straight lines between waypoints mean absolutely nothing in terms of actual route. In fact, although the term ‘track’ is used in the manual, what it delivers on the screen is really the same as a ‘route’ in GPSr terms.

Battery life

Over the course of the 3 hours (plus probably 30 minutes prior and post event), it used just 6% of battery capacity. This is considerably better than SPOT 2. The quid pro quo is that the InReach weighs 190 gms vs SPOT 2’s 120 gms and InReach is 4cm taller including aerial.

However, in our case it will normally be used when mapping, bush walking and trail riding thus the difference in weight and size is not consequential. Critically, InReach works for us whereas SPOT 2 does not.

InReach SE carry
InReach SE carry

Surprising performance

For the night orienteering event, the InReach was in a waist-belt pocket with just half the aerial poking out as in the image at left. It didn’t miss a beat. Even when SPOT 2 was working well in the first 2 years we had it, it had to be fully exposed and preferably off the body to work well.

However, continuous tracking is important only if you want to follow on the internet the route of a person using the device. If you are interested purely in the SOS aspect, then all the device has to do is deliver a single waypoint at that time. I am confident the InReach SE will, but based on our SPOT 2 experience, I cannot be confident that SPOT 3 would work in the terrain and vegetation where we normally operate.

We are now a lot more comfortable again with the other partner being out in the bush for solo mapping, bush walking and trail riding. We recommend InReach SE as a safety device at least for we older solo bush venturers who are susceptible to more serious injury in a fall and the like. And for adventurers like Alastair Humphreys riding the world or rowing the Atlantic, who have an audience that is interested in their progress.

2019 update

Increasingly we are both out in the bush at the same time in different areas. So we are buying another InReach. This time the Mini which is lighter at 100g and smaller at 99 x 52 x 26mm. Also cheaper at $499 (plus the usual communication plan).

On our InReach SE, we use the Recreational Satellite subscription plan. However we will trial the Freedom plan on our Mini on the basis that because both of us are not always out at the same time then it will not be used as often as the SE.

I note that Spot has released model X which like InReach, is a 2 way communicator. Price is the same as InReach Mini. I still would not go back to Spot down south for reasons mentioned above. I gave my old Spot to a geologist nephew and he uses it frequently in northern Australia and Timor-Leste. It works very well up there.

Footnote: I do not receive any commercial benefit from promoting use of Garmin InReach. I do benefit from knowing that promoting satellite emergency communicators might save an orienteer’s life but much more likely, provide comfort to family back home.

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Certainly InReach in the Bush


A good start for the InReach

InReach SE satellite communicator
InReach SE satellite communicator

This is the second post in a series on using the InReach personal satellite communicator.

It arrived in town last Monday. I didn’t get it until Thursday as that particular courier company does not deliver to our bush suburb. So they leave it at the Post Office but don’t bother telling us.

A short walk in the local bush

Anitra took it clipped to a belt. You can see the result on this InReach map share page. This area of bush has been used for Cyclic Navigator, a rogaine and mountain biking orienteering. Back about 1986 a foot orienteering event was staged by Brumby I think.

SPOT 2 probably would have shown 1 waypoint if any. I set the InReach to take a waypoint every 5 minutes. If you click a waypoint on the map you get info such as time, speed and position.

Why didn’t it show the last waypoint or two? I think this is because in non-SOS mode it communicates with Iridium every 10 or 15 minutes. It would have been turned off before the last one or two waypoints could be sent.

So Far?

Very happy with that small test. And I’m also pleased with some of the messaging facilities − more on that later.

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Satellite Communicators for Bush Mappers


Safety for the mapper, comfort for the family

Just like older orienteers and rogainers, older mappers seem to be much more prevalent these days. And while we may think we are almost as fit and able as ever, the truth is most of us are not. Usually our family knows this and worries when we head off for a day mapping in the bush. Or mountain biking. Or training.

SPOT – no longer spot on

SPOT 2 satellite personal tracker
SPOT 2 satellite personal tracker

So five years ago we bought SPOT 2. For the first couple of years it worked well. Whichever of us was at home could go to the special SPOT website and track the general whereabouts and progress of the bush bound mapper. For long trail mtb rides, runs etc it was also useful. Not useful for route analysis or mapping due to 15 minute waypoint gaps.

Then after 2 years, suddenly SPOT’s performance fell off a log so to speak. Initially I thought it to be a malfunctioning GPS function. I left it in an open field overnight and the next day only 3 or 4 waypoints had been logged. A detailed report to SPOT support met with a resounding silence. A report to our supplier at least got a response but no answers.

However in researching the issue and looking at similar reports I came to the conclusion that the issue was not with the GPS function but with SPOT’s  Globalstar satellite communications.  Globalstar had well documented issues about that time. Maybe they are sorted by now but I won’t front up with another year’s subscription to find out. (If you want to take the risk, or know that SPOT 2 does work well in your area, then make an offer for the SPOT 2 sitting on my desk, Complete with armband case).

InReach SE

InReach SE satellite communicator
InReach SE satellite communicator

Over the last year or so I was on the lookout for similar devices.  Yellow Brick’s YB3  uses the pervasive Iridium satellite communications system. A back country test by Jaakko Heikka showed it performed well Interestingly he carried a SPOT 2 for comparison and the showed that even in wide open spaces, SPOT 2 gave a similar performance to that which we experienced.

Then recently, I discovered Graham Frith, a NZ orienteering acquaintance of ours, is biking around the globe with an InReach SE. The SE model did everything we want, had services to suit various uses and best of all, Graham said it had never missed a beat.

A continuing story

I have ordered an InReach SE. Twice the price of SPOT 3 but more capable and more importantly, it should work. It arrives Monday. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Your experience?

If you have used a Satellite communicator for safety during mapping or trips, then let us have your experience. Please include the general location and whether you were in bush or open country.