Compass or GPS, which is the best method to get oriented when camping?
Getting lost is a real risk during a hunting or camping expedition, especially when you are in a new, unknown area without a guide.
But even experienced excursionists might get deoriented and lost because of weather conditions, changes in the environment and a myriad other causes. That's why it's so important to count with the proper tools to get oriented and find your way back home.
Some time ago, the only way to get oriented in the forrest or mountains was to use a map and a compass but modern technology has bring us new practical tools able to render navigation easier, even for unexperienced people but, what's the best method to navigate when you are camping or hunting?
The two main options are the old fashioned couple between a compass and a map, facing the new, convenient and easy to use GPS.
At first sight it seems obvious that a GPS apparel is more convenient, easy to use and safe, requiring minimal if not zero experience or capacitation however, not all shining is gold.
Certainly a GPS is a great tool for sports, work and any other activity requiring navigation and most of time it works great, nevertheless in certain conditions a
GPS device might fail, leading to a dangerous situation: being lost without any mean to get oriented.
That's particularly truth during long excursions when batteries might exhaust or during bad weather. Dense clouds or atmospheric electric activity might interfere a GPS signal, same as being in deeps valeys or terrain covered by dense forrest.
In such cases, if you depend exclusively of a GPS, it would be possible to be in a very dificult possition with no alternative means to get out there.
On the other hand, a map/compass couple will never exhaust its batteries, is available in all kind of terrain or weather and rarelly get damaged, it seems now the old fashioned method is more reliable but, once again, nothing is 100% absolute.
Maps and compass navigation requires a deeper knowledge and training, takes more time and might lead to critical situation in case of interpretation mistakes, moreover, without a map, a compass just will tell you where the north is, nothing else; rendering navigation a sort of guessing.
At this point, it seems there's not a clear winner in this battle, in fact, each tool is superior to the other in certain conditions. Fortunatelly, when a GPS don't work, a compass/map is great while being the GPS a great alternative in those cases when the old fashioned method is not so convenient.
With the above in mind, rather than antagonists, both methods are complimentary and that's why all hunters, campers or hikers should count with both tools as well the proper training to use them properly, especially the compass/map method, well known for the deep navigation knowledge required to use it.
So, next time you pack for an excursion, don't minimize your orientation and navigation tools importance and count with at least one main device and a backup one, that decision might save your life.