GPS: Its Use for Sea Kayakers, Backpacking and Kayak Fishing

GPS: Its Use for Sea Kayakers, Backpacking and Kayak Fishing


One of the basics of using a gps while backpacking, hiking, or while on the water sea kayaking or ocean kayaking, is learning how to use the MARK function. Using the MARK function correctly will help you avoid gps navigation errors that can render this navigation system almost useless.

Read also related article: The PNW Packable Backpack

One common error is telling your gps to mark a waypoint using a coordinate system meant for land when you are on the water, and, vice versa, meant for the water when you are land.

Usually located on the face of a handheld gps as a single-function key, or, more rarely, as a touch-sensitive screen, MARK is a pretty straightforward gps function. The key is to make sure it marks waypoints according to the relevant database, and to name your marks with good descriptors.

You use MARK to tell your gps to pull down the latitude and longitude coordinates, and, if relevant, altitude of where you are at the moment.

You MARK locations with the idea of returning to them later: to revisit to a water source for hiking, for example, or for returning to a particularly good fishing area and so on. In a more complex application, you mark locations so you can construct and record routes you want to examine on Google Earth, retrace or share with others later.

One important step to keep in mind is to use vivid descriptors when you MARK positions. MARKED positions get stored in your gps’s database. Fail to name your marked locations with your own word and, as is the case with digital photos, you’ll soon accumulate a long list of meaningless file names that will likely make any sense to you later.

To mark and name positions so that they are of use to you later, mark and save various landmarks not as a series of computer-generated numbers and codes (usually a combination of time, date, etc.) but, rather, as a series of vivid words you will understand later.

Your job, then, as a beginning handheld gps navigation system user, is to name your marked positions with words or phrases.

This is pretty basic and easy to accomplish. All you have to do to avoid the confusion of confronting a long list of marked locations you can’t associate with specific locations is to do yourself the favor of storing locations with vivid phrases or words that remind you of why you saved them.

Do otherwise and your gps will store lists of location that show up as little more than latitude and longitude coordinates, nothing more. The info can be meaningless at first glance — a series of vague words and codes such as

LNMK 01 N42 16′ 0″ / W70 46′ 0″

That’s a pretty confusing description should you forget (and you will) that

LNMK 01 N42 16′ 0″ / W70 46′ 0″

is your gps’s code for the perhaps much better-named

PIGHD / N42 16′ 0″ / W70 46′ 0″

a place you nicknamed pighead because as you passed shaped reminded you of a pig’s head.

PIGHD, after all, is better name than LNMK 01, if only because PIGHD is vivid and descriptive.

You second job when you MARK positions is to examine how your GPS saved your marked landmarks.

If you are hiking or backpacking, you want to make sure you save your positions according to the UTM rubric. If you’re on water, on the other hand, you want to store your marked landmarks (or recast them later) using latitude and longitude, and according to nautical, not statute miles, and with speed measurement in knots, not miles per hour.

Keywords for this story are backpacking, sea kayaking or ocean kayaking, gps, gps navigation, gps navigation system

About the writer: fishing guide Adam Bolonsky writes about fishing and the outdoors for Sea Kayaking Dot Net and NorthAmerican Kayak Fishing.

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