There are a lot of outdoor courses out there, but few are as excellent and comprehensive as Mahikan Trails’ survival courses. Just took their 2-day survival course last week. It is actually more of a bushcraft course. At the end of it we had built shelters, made whistles, wood saws, fishing nets, traps, learnt about native foods, fire craft, you name it. And we had a great time while at it. Highly recommended.
The Man and the Mammoth. Awesome story on how skiing was born!
I spend a lot of time out on the trails in Jasper National Park with a GPS these days, so I want to know how accurate my unit is. My Garmin Vista HCx displays an accuracy number (EPE, or Estimated Position Error), typically ranging from +-3m to +-10m. One would think that this means that I am within 4-10m of my true location. However, this is not the case. An EPE of 4m actually means that there is a 50% chance that you are within 4m, but also a 50% chance that you are further off! However, there is a 95% chance that you are within 10m, and a 98.9% chance that you are within 10.2m. See the bottom of this article on GPS accuracy for more information.
Worse, one cannot easily compare the EPE among different GPSs, even units made by Garmin. This is because the EPE is a number that Garmin arrives at through a proprietary formula. Different manufacturers arrive at their EPE differently, and even among models made by the same company, the calculations may vary. So EPE is merely a qualitative measure of accuracy.
Interestingly, older Garmin units, like the 12 series, used to display DOP (Dilution of Position). This measurement is calculated according to a standard formula, so it can be used to compare accuracy of a location among different units. Yet it was dropped from more recent models, presumably because it is just a number (a DOP of 3 is better than a 4), so it doesn’t mean much to the average user.
Once you have recorded a trail, there is no way to compare its relative accuracy to other GPS recordings of the same trail because none of the accuracy information is stored with the waypoint or track data. For more details on all this, read this forum thread on GPS accuracy.
What does this mean for the average user?
1. After you turn on your GPS, allow it to record its position in one spot for a while before taking a waypoint. Accuracy tends to increase once a GPS has been on for a few minutes.
2. Keep an eye on the accuracy numbers. If they go up to for example 15m, then your track may be off by as much as 50 m. Normally this is not a big deal, but it could mean that a trail running close to a creek may appear to be on the other side of the creek. Keep a close eye on the map, and know how to read it. I always carry paper maps as backup.
3. If you use your GPS to record trails, get one of the more advanced units, like the GPSMAP 62s. They have more sensitive antennas, which work well even within buildings or under tree cover. My Vista HCx also performs well in the forest.
But most importantly, get out there, and have fun!
Check out this video of watching grizzlies in the northern Yukon. The footage was shot with a simple Flip camera – it only has a wide-angle lens, no zoom at all. You get amazingly close to the bears. This amazing experience is offered by Bear Cave Mountain Tours in Ni’iinlii Njik Territorial Park.
BC is the first province in Canada to give Google access to its aerial photography. This means that a large part of BC will soon be covered by hi-res imagery in Google Earth. Very good news for us avid outdoors people. Currently, large areas of BC are already available in hi-res.Â Â They are also working on additional BC themes.
I sometimes wonder why I lug around my large camera when hiking, but a while back the work paid off when one of my photos won a photo contest for BC Parks. Today I picked up a copy of the 2008 camping guide for BC, and was happily surprised to see the photo on its cover.
I think it fits well – encouraging young people to go out and explore our provincial parks. The photo was taken in Golden Ears Provincial Park, just outside Vancouver.
If you are looking for some inspiration for a great adventure trip, then check out Riding the Hulahula to the Arctic Ocean: A Guide to Fifty Extraordinary Adventures for the Seasoned Traveler, by Don Mankin and Shannon Stowell (National Geographic). It covers some great destinations, making you want to quit your job and start travelling (although one needs the paycheque to pay for it all).