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Re: [John Muir Trail] Conventional Wisdom Regarding GPS on JMT

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  • Kim Fishburn
    I ve yet to use a GPS, and I ve only gotten lost a couple times, and after pulling out the map I was able to quickly figure out where I was. I did meet some
    Message 1 of 22 , Nov 4, 2012
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      I've yet to use a GPS, and I've only gotten lost a couple times, and after pulling out the map I was able to quickly figure out where I was. I did meet some guys at Merced Lake in Yosemite that were hiking the JMT, so they were already 9 miles off the trail. They never pulled out their maps, and when they went through Little Yosemite Valley they were hiking off trail along the river and never saw the trail junction.  The trail is well marked and if you pay attention to your maps you shouldn't have much problem.


      From: jmt_2013 <dabrahms@...>
      To: johnmuirtrail@yahoogroups.com
      Sent: Sunday, November 4, 2012 9:41 AM
      Subject: [John Muir Trail] Conventional Wisdom Regarding GPS on JMT

       
      I feel privileged to be a member of this group as there are so many knowledgeable and experienced people here that I can learn from.
      I plan on solo thru-hiking the JMT next summer.
      I have a Garmin eTrex 20 GPS which I took with me while hiking a portion of the PCT in Washington a couple of months ago. I found that I hardly used the GPS because:
      1) I have limited skills with GPS. For example I was unable to find the distance between my current location and the next way-point without having to scroll through some screens and toggle my cursor around. When I did get a reading, I had to fiddle around to determine whether it was a line-of-sight or trail distance. It was quite a cumbersome and convoluted process.
      2) there didn't seem to be a big need as the trails were fairly well signposted and I had a map.
      My question is whether the benefits of a GPS are worth the extra weight when hiking the JMT, and if so, in practical terms what are they?
      Thanks,
      Darryl







    • Ewa Bialkowski
      This summer there was no need for GPS on JMT at all. The trail is very well marked. I used maps only to check what my next day was going to be like. Now if a
      Message 2 of 22 , Nov 4, 2012
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        This summer there was no need for GPS on JMT at all. The trail is very well marked. I used maps only to check what my next day was going to be like. Now if a person gets lost and has limited map reading skills then a GPS can be a lifesaver. 

        Last year there was a lot of snow on the trail and in many places it was difficult to figure out which way the trail went. Even 50 yards off the trail in such conditions can put a hiker in a difficult situation. For me GPS in such situations was very useful. 

        Ewa


        typos by iphone

        On Nov 4, 2012, at 8:17, Kim Fishburn <outhiking_55@...> wrote:

         

        I've yet to use a GPS, and I've only gotten lost a couple times, and after pulling out the map I was able to quickly figure out where I was. I did meet some guys at Merced Lake in Yosemite that were hiking the JMT, so they were already 9 miles off the trail. They never pulled out their maps, and when they went through Little Yosemite Valley they were hiking off trail along the river and never saw the trail junction.  The trail is well marked and if you pay attention to your maps you shouldn't have much problem.


        From: jmt_2013 <dabrahms@...>
        To: johnmuirtrail@yahoogroups.com
        Sent: Sunday, November 4, 2012 9:41 AM
        Subject: [John Muir Trail] Conventional Wisdom Regarding GPS on JMT

         
        I feel privileged to be a member of this group as there are so many knowledgeable and experienced people here that I can learn from.
        I plan on solo thru-hiking the JMT next summer.
        I have a Garmin eTrex 20 GPS which I took with me while hiking a portion of the PCT in Washington a couple of months ago. I found that I hardly used the GPS because:
        1) I have limited skills with GPS. For example I was unable to find the distance between my current location and the next way-point without having to scroll through some screens and toggle my cursor around. When I did get a reading, I had to fiddle around to determine whether it was a line-of-sight or trail distance. It was quite a cumbersome and convoluted process.
        2) there didn't seem to be a big need as the trails were fairly well signposted and I had a map.
        My question is whether the benefits of a GPS are worth the extra weight when hiking the JMT, and if so, in practical terms what are they?
        Thanks,
        Darryl







      • jaymiche@ymail.com
        I ve done the JMT and about 600 miles of the PCT. Never used GPS and never needed it. Both trails are well marked. Even if I had a GPS, electronics fail so
        Message 3 of 22 , Nov 4, 2012
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          I've done the JMT and about 600 miles of the PCT. Never used GPS and never needed it. Both trails are well marked. Even if I had a GPS, electronics fail so I would have maps/compass regardless.

          --- In johnmuirtrail@yahoogroups.com, "jmt_2013" <dabrahms@...> wrote:
          >
          > I feel privileged to be a member of this group as there are so many knowledgeable and experienced people here that I can learn from.
          > I plan on solo thru-hiking the JMT next summer.
          > I have a Garmin eTrex 20 GPS which I took with me while hiking a portion of the PCT in Washington a couple of months ago. I found that I hardly used the GPS because:
          > 1) I have limited skills with GPS. For example I was unable to find the distance between my current location and the next way-point without having to scroll through some screens and toggle my cursor around. When I did get a reading, I had to fiddle around to determine whether it was a line-of-sight or trail distance. It was quite a cumbersome and convoluted process.
          > 2) there didn't seem to be a big need as the trails were fairly well signposted and I had a map.
          > My question is whether the benefits of a GPS are worth the extra weight when hiking the JMT, and if so, in practical terms what are they?
          > Thanks,
          > Darryl
          >
        • Bill Heiser
          I agree with the points made by cjoslyn99. Though I didn t have snow on my JMT trip this summer, there were times when I just wanted to confirm that I was on
          Message 4 of 22 , Nov 4, 2012
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            I agree with the points made by cjoslyn99.  Though I didn't have snow on my JMT trip this summer, there were times when I just wanted to confirm that I was on the right trail after passing thru a junction (in one case, it wasn't marked at all, and in fact I wasn't on the right trail).  Having the GPS (iPhone 4 with Gaia GPS app) enabled me to confirm that.

            November 4, 2012 8:00 AM
             


            I brought Garmin Oregon 450 in my 2011 attempt and also this year when I
            finished the trail. It is a mapping GPS and I have the 24k topo maps,
            which show trails for most nat'l parks/forests (incl JMT).

            In 2011 it was indispensable due to snow cover, especially having never
            hiked the trail before and going solo. I would have been fumbling
            around for hours trying to find my way.

            But even this year, w/ no trace of snow, I was glad to have it hiking
            solo. Even though well signed etc., there are still a few places where
            you're wondering if you're going the right way and having the GPS really
            helps figure it out quickly and not have to spend a lot of time
            backtracking.

            I also like being able to track mileage/pace and determine elevation so
            I can figure out if my daily goal is pipe dream or if I'm on track.

            --- In johnmuirtrail@yahoogroups.com, "jmt_2013" <dabrahms@...> wrote:
            >
            > I feel privileged to be a member of this group as there are so many
            knowledgeable and experienced people here that I can learn from.
            > I plan on solo thru-hiking the JMT next summer.
            > I have a Garmin eTrex 20 GPS which I took with me while hiking a
            portion of the PCT in Washington a couple of months ago. I found that I
            hardly used the GPS because:
            > 1) I have limited skills with GPS. For example I was unable to find
            the distance between my current location and the next way-point without
            having to scroll through some screens and toggle my cursor around. When
            I did get a reading, I had to fiddle around to determine whether it was
            a line-of-sight or trail distance. It was quite a cumbersome and
            convoluted process.
            > 2) there didn't seem to be a big need as the trails were fairly well
            signposted and I had a map.
            > My question is whether the benefits of a GPS are worth the extra
            weight when hiking the JMT, and if so, in practical terms what are they?
            > Thanks,
            > Darryl
            >

            November 4, 2012 7:41 AM
             

            I feel privileged to be a member of this group as there are so many knowledgeable and experienced people here that I can learn from.
            I plan on solo thru-hiking the JMT next summer.
            I have a Garmin eTrex 20 GPS which I took with me while hiking a portion of the PCT in Washington a couple of months ago. I found that I hardly used the GPS because:
            1) I have limited skills with GPS. For example I was unable to find the distance between my current location and the next way-point without having to scroll through some screens and toggle my cursor around. When I did get a reading, I had to fiddle around to determine whether it was a line-of-sight or trail distance. It was quite a cumbersome and convoluted process.
            2) there didn't seem to be a big need as the trails were fairly well signposted and I had a map.
            My question is whether the benefits of a GPS are worth the extra weight when hiking the JMT, and if so, in practical terms what are they?
            Thanks,
            Darryl

        • charliepolecat
          One area I found particularly confusing was south bound just past the Clouds Rest turnoff after going through LYV. You cross the creek - muddy and not very
          Message 5 of 22 , Nov 4, 2012
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            One area I found particularly confusing was south bound just past the Clouds Rest turnoff after going through LYV. You cross the creek - muddy and not very appetizing looking - and then there is a scrubby mess with many false trails and no obvious way through. The best thing to do, it seemed to me, was to wait for someone to approach from the opposite direction and ask which of the various options was the JMT.

            I doubt if a GPS would have helped there.
          • John Ladd
            I probably wouldn t take a GPS on a summer JMT, but I would if there was a danger of enough fresh snow to obscure the trail (e.g., late September or early
            Message 6 of 22 , Nov 4, 2012
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              I probably wouldn't take a GPS on a summer JMT, but I would if there was a danger of enough fresh snow to obscure the trail (e.g., late September or early October) or it was so early that the route over the passes wasn't well-marked by previous hikers' postholes (that said, you can encounter situations with so many different sets of postholes that you don't know which to follow).

              My other thought is that, for most of us, our gear exceeds our abilities to use it properly.  I've found the learning curve on my GPS a bit challenging, but worth the time I invested in learning how to use the thing effectively.

              And, as others have said, I'd never rely on GPS alone - only as a supplement to a good map and at least a minimal compass.

              If I were advising a new JMT hiker on navigational gear to supplement map/compass, I'd recommend a barometric altimeter way above a GPS.  Suunto has nice ones.


              If you have a topo map, your elevation will generally allow you to know pretty closely where you are since the JMT is just a series of long climbs and descents. And if you know you have a 2000 foot climb in the morning, it's nice to have something that tells you when you are halfway there.  There is a learning curve on proper use of a barometric altimeter also (esp. when and how to reset it to adjust for barometric changes associated with atmospheric highs and lows), but it's an easier one than a GPS.

              John Curran Ladd
              1616 Castro Street
              San Francisco, CA  94114-3707
              415-648-9279


              On Sun, Nov 4, 2012 at 7:41 AM, jmt_2013 <dabrahms@...> wrote:
               

              I feel privileged to be a member of this group as there are so many knowledgeable and experienced people here that I can learn from.
              I plan on solo thru-hiking the JMT next summer.
              I have a Garmin eTrex 20 GPS which I took with me while hiking a portion of the PCT in Washington a couple of months ago. I found that I hardly used the GPS because:
              1) I have limited skills with GPS. For example I was unable to find the distance between my current location and the next way-point without having to scroll through some screens and toggle my cursor around. When I did get a reading, I had to fiddle around to determine whether it was a line-of-sight or trail distance. It was quite a cumbersome and convoluted process.
              2) there didn't seem to be a big need as the trails were fairly well signposted and I had a map.
              My question is whether the benefits of a GPS are worth the extra weight when hiking the JMT, and if so, in practical terms what are they?

            • robert shattuck
              Now if a person gets lost and has limited map reading skills then a GPS can be a lifesaver. . . . and maybe you shouldn t be out there anyway. I doubt I
              Message 7 of 22 , Nov 4, 2012
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                "Now if a person gets lost and has limited map reading skills then a GPS can be a lifesaver." 

                . . . and maybe you shouldn't be out there anyway. I doubt I would have the patience to plug in all the gizmos on a GPS. The JMT is not like being dropped into the middle of Alaska, blind-folded and spun around three times . . .  and 99 percent of it is very well marked, so much so that if you just study the maps (Harrison's, for the best example) and familiarize yourself with the various points, you barely have to pull them out. 

                If you can read a road map, you don't need much more than that for the JMT

                As for that other one percent, well . . . 

                BOB

                http://www.summitpost.org/plans/view_activity.php?post_id=6480



              • Shawn Peterson
                I teach land nav to law enforcement and military....when combining courses of gps and map reading the gps gets people in trouble every time....the gps is good
                Message 8 of 22 , Nov 4, 2012
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                  I teach land nav to law enforcement and military....when combining courses of gps and map reading the gps gets people in trouble every time....the gps is good to get a reference but there is nothing like a map to tell you right where you are.  The gps on the jmt is really only good for telling you how far as the crow flies points might be...true distance, elevation, etc.  one of the biggest mistakes people make with a garmin is when looking at the compass feature at a dead stop they follow the direction of the arrow....not realizing you need to be traveling to get a more accurate heading....learn to familiarize yourself with terrain, estimate distances, and read a map and you will find a gps to be a good tool to help but NEVER the instrument you should soley rely on.  

                  Shawn

                  Sent from my iPad

                  On Nov 4, 2012, at 7:55 AM, Ray Rippel <ray.rippel@...> wrote:

                   

                  Good day, Darryl,
                   
                  I'm sure  you will get lots of opinions, but here's mine.
                   
                  I think carrying a GPS is worth the trouble, for two reasons:
                   
                  1. The most difficult part of just about any navigation problem is not where to go or how to get there, but where you are. Often ascertaining that with accuracy, using just map, compass and terrain association, is tough. A GPS (which is working) will solve that problem quickly, easily and reliably.
                   
                  That said, there really aren't that many navigation problems on the trail. If you decide to get off the trail for a side trip, it's usefulness increases.
                   
                  2. The real reason I like to have my GPS with me is so that I can quickly (as in without even stopping) determine where I am in regards to waypoints I have already entered into the machine. I planned my hike out with some detail, so I could track my progress during each day by quickly referring to the map on the GPS. "I see I'm between waypoint 103 & 104, and I'm camping at waypoint 112. That means I have about 4 miles to go, all downhill."
                   
                  I used National Geographic TOPO to pick and enter waypoints into the Garmin. It's a great program (although a bit clunky to learn).
                   
                  I will be the first to admit that a lot comes down to whether or not you get any enjoyment out of the "gadget" aspect of all this. Clearly, a GPS isn't a requirement. But if you get a kick out of using it in the way I describe above, it's worth the extra weight.
                   

                  Good hiking, Ray

                   

                  Ray Rippel

                  Author, Planning Your Thru-Hike of the John Muir Trail

                  http://jmtbook.com/

                  Follow me at: www.twitter.com/JMTBook



                  On Sun, Nov 4, 2012 at 5:41 AM, jmt_2013 <dabrahms@...> wrote:
                   

                  I feel privileged to be a member of this group as there are so many knowledgeable and experienced people here that I can learn from.
                  I plan on solo thru-hiking the JMT next summer.
                  I have a Garmin eTrex 20 GPS which I took with me while hiking a portion of the PCT in Washington a couple of months ago. I found that I hardly used the GPS because:
                  1) I have limited skills with GPS. For example I was unable to find the distance between my current location and the next way-point without having to scroll through some screens and toggle my cursor around. When I did get a reading, I had to fiddle around to determine whether it was a line-of-sight or trail distance. It was quite a cumbersome and convoluted process.
                  2) there didn't seem to be a big need as the trails were fairly well signposted and I had a map.
                  My question is whether the benefits of a GPS are worth the extra weight when hiking the JMT, and if so, in practical terms what are they?
                  Thanks,
                  Darryl


                • Joe MacLeish
                  Darryl: Since we are voting .. Never used or needed a GPS except . Except for 2011(early July) with the big snow. There were a few places where I did not know
                  Message 9 of 22 , Nov 4, 2012
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                    Darryl:

                    Since we are voting ..  Never used or needed a GPS except …

                     

                    Except for 2011(early July) with the big snow. There were a few places where I did not know exactly where I was and where the trail went until I used the GPS and the maps together.  The problem was there was no trail to follow or see.  It was under 5-10 ft of snow or more.  And because of where the snow was I often intentionally travelled not where the trail was.  I have probably been on every part of the JMT at least three times and mostly more but when it’s covered with snow every tool you can get helps.

                     

                    I do not understand what some people have written about the GPS here though.  I have a regular Garmin mid range (nuvi 260W) and the standard maps (Western USA).  I added a simple continuous JMT trail thing (not point to point) and the GPS could always show me exactly where I was on its screen and where the trail was and how far and what direction, even if I couldn’t see the trail.  It seemed like it was good to 10-20 ft accuracy or better.  It’s a good tool if you need it.    

                     

                    In the end, however, I wouldn’t take it unless you are going to be off trail or expect snow (lots).  It’s just extra weight, but it is a neat techie toy.

                     

                    Joe

                     

                    From: johnmuirtrail@yahoogroups.com [mailto:johnmuirtrail@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of jmt_2013
                    Sent: Sunday, November 04, 2012 7:41 AM
                    To: johnmuirtrail@yahoogroups.com
                    Subject: [John Muir Trail] Conventional Wisdom Regarding GPS on JMT

                     

                     

                    I feel privileged to be a member of this group as there are so many knowledgeable and experienced people here that I can learn from.
                    I plan on solo thru-hiking the JMT next summer.
                    I have a Garmin eTrex 20 GPS which I took with me while hiking a portion of the PCT in Washington a couple of months ago. I found that I hardly used the GPS because:
                    1) I have limited skills with GPS. For example I was unable to find the distance between my current location and the next way-point without having to scroll through some screens and toggle my cursor around. When I did get a reading, I had to fiddle around to determine whether it was a line-of-sight or trail distance. It was quite a cumbersome and convoluted process.
                    2) there didn't seem to be a big need as the trails were fairly well signposted and I had a map.
                    My question is whether the benefits of a GPS are worth the extra weight when hiking the JMT, and if so, in practical terms what are they?
                    Thanks,
                    Darryl

                  • Tim Habiger
                    Even on the JMT, I don t go out there anymore without a gps.  The ability to know where you are at all times is a great confidence booster and helps you
                    Message 10 of 22 , Nov 4, 2012
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                      Even on the JMT, I don't go "out there" anymore without a gps.  The ability to know where you are at all times is a great confidence booster and helps you make informed decisions.  I own several but the one I use on backpack trips is a Garmin foretrex 401.  Very small and light, (2.5oz with batteries installed).  The foretrex is not feature rich and is not a mapping gps.  I only use it for location fixes which I then plot on a paper map using a UTM grid (www.maptools.com).  I also bring a compass (Silva 515 for several years now) as a backup.  As a side note, a compass is a poor backup unless you have some idea of how to use it.  Easy to learn though.  Still prefer paper maps because of the ability to view a larger amount of terrain than with a small LCD display.  I usually setup and print my own using a program called OziExplorer.  What is said above about the compass applies equally to paper maps.  Much more useful if you know how to read them.  Navigation can be a very interesting side hobby supporting our main passion of being "out there".
                    • John
                      If you can read a map, then a GPS is of no importance on the JMT unless you are looking for electronic entertainment. I ve skied the entire JMT and sections
                      Message 11 of 22 , Nov 4, 2012
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                        If you can read a map, then a GPS is of no importance on the JMT unless you are looking for electronic entertainment. I've skied the entire JMT and sections many times in every winter month- I don't know how to use a GPS. Now that said, I skied around in circles in a white out on the Bighorn Plateau one  January. I guess a GPS would have gotten me to Tyndall Creek a little earlier....

                        In summer, the JMT is well signed, but not always as the "JMT", so in places, you need to be aware of appropriate landmarks down the trail that a sign may be referring to. Approximately 23,132 people (I made that up) walked the JMT safely prior to the invention of GPS.

                        Not necessary, but the entertainment may be worth the weight? Personally I'd bring a good book!!

                        JD
                        Walk the Sky: Following the John Muir Trail
                      • scriv.ener
                        Darryl, My experience with GPS differs from the others. I have found the JMT so well-trod that to follow that navigation is truly a matter for - at most - a
                        Message 12 of 22 , Nov 4, 2012
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                          Darryl,

                          My experience with GPS differs from the others.

                          I have found the JMT so well-trod that to follow that navigation is truly a matter for - at most - a map and compass. I daresay that a full set of Mr. Harrison's maps and a quality compass weigh less than the Garmin, especially when considering the necessity of back-up batteries, and of course on the JMT base weight is everything.

                          Now, if there is snowfall perhaps that is another issue, but if snowfall is sufficient to obscure the trail then I'd be either "hunkering down" or taking one of those laterals on a "bail out.."

                          Now, where I did find a GPS useful was in locating the bear boxes.
                          http://www.climber.org/data/BearBoxes.html
                          If you're doing a through-hike the use of bear boxes can provide a light-weight alternative to bear cans. Too, the box locations provide way-points generally useful as stopping places. In that sense a GPS could easily justify leaving the bear can behind, a net savings.

                          In short, I don't think you need the Garmin. Since base weight is so important, I'd leave it behind.


                          --- In johnmuirtrail@yahoogroups.com, "jmt_2013" <dabrahms@...> wrote:
                          >
                          > ...
                          > I plan on solo thru-hiking the JMT next summer.
                          > I have a Garmin eTrex 20 GPS ...
                          > ...
                          > My question is whether the benefits of a GPS are worth the
                          > extra weight when hiking the JMT ...?
                          > Thanks,
                          > Darryl
                        • Herb
                          Darryl-- I join the no GPS group for a JMT trip. We had no trouble finding our way on the trail when we did our thru hike. If I were planning off-trail
                          Message 13 of 22 , Nov 5, 2012
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                            Darryl--

                            I join the "no GPS" group for a JMT trip. We had no trouble finding our way on the trail when we did our thru hike. If I were planning off-trail travel or it was early in a heavy snow year then I would more seriously consider taking a GPS.

                            If you have limited experience with the unit and don't like the idea of messing with a gadget on the trail, it will likely be a piece of gear you just dead-head for 210+ miles anyway. Take good maps and peak at them often while hiking and when you get to verified landmarks, such as trail junctions and lakes. It will keep you oriented and is far more interesting then looking at a dot on a screen. Track your time between known distances and you will have a sense of how where you should be based on your last verified map check. Chat up other hikers heading in the opposite direction for what is up ahead. Doing those things you will not get lost, or at least not for long.

                            Herb

                            --- In johnmuirtrail@yahoogroups.com, "jmt_2013" <dabrahms@...> wrote:
                            >
                            > I feel privileged to be a member of this group as there are so many knowledgeable and experienced people here that I can learn from.
                            > I plan on solo thru-hiking the JMT next summer.
                            > I have a Garmin eTrex 20 GPS which I took with me while hiking a portion of the PCT in Washington a couple of months ago. I found that I hardly used the GPS because:
                            > 1) I have limited skills with GPS. For example I was unable to find the distance between my current location and the next way-point without having to scroll through some screens and toggle my cursor around. When I did get a reading, I had to fiddle around to determine whether it was a line-of-sight or trail distance. It was quite a cumbersome and convoluted process.
                            > 2) there didn't seem to be a big need as the trails were fairly well signposted and I had a map.
                            > My question is whether the benefits of a GPS are worth the extra weight when hiking the JMT, and if so, in practical terms what are they?
                            > Thanks,
                            > Darryl
                            >
                          • Robert
                            Provided you are sticking to the JMT and not going on side trips, my vote is also for no GPS. It really is not needed from July- Oct. when 95% of people hike
                            Message 14 of 22 , Nov 5, 2012
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                              Provided you are sticking to the JMT and not going on side trips, my vote is also for no GPS. It really is not needed from July- Oct. when 95% of people hike the trail.
                              Obviously, if you are going early in a high snow pack year or late season and winter, I would bring one.

                              --- In johnmuirtrail@yahoogroups.com, "Herb" <hstroh@...> wrote:
                              >
                              > Darryl--
                              >
                              > I join the "no GPS" group for a JMT trip. We had no trouble finding our way on the trail when we did our thru hike. If I were planning off-trail travel or it was early in a heavy snow year then I would more seriously consider taking a GPS.
                              >
                              > If you have limited experience with the unit and don't like the idea of messing with a gadget on the trail, it will likely be a piece of gear you just dead-head for 210+ miles anyway. Take good maps and peak at them often while hiking and when you get to verified landmarks, such as trail junctions and lakes. It will keep you oriented and is far more interesting then looking at a dot on a screen. Track your time between known distances and you will have a sense of how where you should be based on your last verified map check. Chat up other hikers heading in the opposite direction for what is up ahead. Doing those things you will not get lost, or at least not for long.
                              >
                              > Herb
                              >
                              > --- In johnmuirtrail@yahoogroups.com, "jmt_2013" <dabrahms@> wrote:
                              > >
                              > > I feel privileged to be a member of this group as there are so many knowledgeable and experienced people here that I can learn from.
                              > > I plan on solo thru-hiking the JMT next summer.
                              > > I have a Garmin eTrex 20 GPS which I took with me while hiking a portion of the PCT in Washington a couple of months ago. I found that I hardly used the GPS because:
                              > > 1) I have limited skills with GPS. For example I was unable to find the distance between my current location and the next way-point without having to scroll through some screens and toggle my cursor around. When I did get a reading, I had to fiddle around to determine whether it was a line-of-sight or trail distance. It was quite a cumbersome and convoluted process.
                              > > 2) there didn't seem to be a big need as the trails were fairly well signposted and I had a map.
                              > > My question is whether the benefits of a GPS are worth the extra weight when hiking the JMT, and if so, in practical terms what are they?
                              > > Thanks,
                              > > Darryl
                              > >
                              >
                            • charliepolecat
                              It is also important if you do get into trouble, and need to call the emergency services for help, that you understand what the operator is asking you for.
                              Message 15 of 22 , Nov 6, 2012
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                                It is also important if you do get into trouble, and need to call the emergency services for help, that you understand what the operator is asking you for. There are often more than one interpretation depending on how good you are to listening and what your experiences are; Following is one interpretation, and in this case the wrong one.

                                By the way, it's a joke, but a useful one.

                                Two hunters are out in the woods when one of them collapses. He doesn't seem to be breathing and his eyes are glazed. The other guy whips out his phone and calls the emergency services. He gasps, "My friend is dead! What can I do?" The operator says "Calm down. I can help. First, let's make sure he's dead." There is a silence, then a shot is heard. Back on the phone, the guy says "OK, now what?"
                              • Gary
                                I rarely rely on GPS for navigation. I enjoy the data; elevation, miles per day or between points, rate of speed, elevation gain or loss, time moving vs. time
                                Message 16 of 22 , Nov 6, 2012
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                                  I rarely rely on GPS for navigation. I enjoy the data; elevation, miles per day or between points, rate of speed, elevation gain or loss, time moving vs. time stopped, etc. And I especially enjoy uploading my "tracks" and plotting on Google Earth when I get home.

                                  --- In johnmuirtrail@yahoogroups.com, "jmt_2013" <dabrahms@...> wrote:
                                  >
                                  > I feel privileged to be a member of this group as there are so many knowledgeable and experienced people here that I can learn from.
                                  > I plan on solo thru-hiking the JMT next summer.
                                  > I have a Garmin eTrex 20 GPS which I took with me while hiking a portion of the PCT in Washington a couple of months ago. I found that I hardly used the GPS because:
                                  > 1) I have limited skills with GPS. For example I was unable to find the distance between my current location and the next way-point without having to scroll through some screens and toggle my cursor around. When I did get a reading, I had to fiddle around to determine whether it was a line-of-sight or trail distance. It was quite a cumbersome and convoluted process.
                                  > 2) there didn't seem to be a big need as the trails were fairly well signposted and I had a map.
                                  > My question is whether the benefits of a GPS are worth the extra weight when hiking the JMT, and if so, in practical terms what are they?
                                  > Thanks,
                                  > Darryl
                                  >
                                • Ned Tibbits
                                  JD! I love your preface, “If you can read a map...!” THAT is probably the most valuable instructional subject taught during all of Mountain Education’s
                                  Message 17 of 22 , Nov 6, 2012
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                                    JD!
                                     
                                    I love your preface, “If you can read a map...!”
                                     
                                    THAT is probably the most valuable instructional subject taught during all of Mountain Education’s courses because it is a skill that keeps hikers aware of their surroundings and keeps them on-trail. If you can’t “read” a topo map well enough to “see” what’s ahead, then you’re not likely to know when you’ve lost the trail under snow.
                                     
                                    Like yourself, I have skied, snowshoed, and walked the PCT/JMT while under snow, also. Unless you can identify where you are and where the trail goes based on the topographic/geographic landmarks about you, then you’re likely to lose the trail daily resulting in much lost energy and time. In the above-timberline terrain of the JMT, it is relatively easy to spot the right drainage to head into, but when you’re down in the trees searching for a place to cross the creek safely, it is pretty hard to know where to go. It is here that a GPS comes in handy to know where the trail is.
                                     
                                    Sometimes, we follow tree blazes while practicing our route-finding skills, but it’s really not necessary to be right on top of the trail all the time. If you know where it goes, simply pick your own route over snow to get there. Above timberline, you can see for miles into the canyons, so all you need to know is, “Which one does my trail go into?” However, it is faster and easier when down in the trees, to pull out the GPS and lace your way along.
                                     
                                    During the summer, as you said, it is not necessary to bring a GPS for our most-loved trail-highway called the John Muir Trail. Nevertheless, carry a good topo that “shows” you what the route ahead will “look” like so you’ll know when you get there! If the summer trail is partially covered with snow (I’m thinking long “fields” of snow for miles, say in June or July), you might want to bring a GPS for route-finding in the shade or north-aspect slopes.
                                     
                                     
                                    Ned Tibbits, Director
                                    Mountain Education
                                    www.mountaineducation.org
                                     
                                    From: John
                                    Sent: Sunday, November 04, 2012 3:48 PM
                                    Subject: [John Muir Trail] Re: Conventional Wisdom Regarding GPS on JMT
                                     
                                     

                                    If you can read a map, then a GPS is of no importance on the JMT unless you are looking for electronic entertainment. I've skied the entire JMT and sections many times in every winter month- I don't know how to use a GPS. Now that said, I skied around in circles in a white out on the Bighorn Plateau one  January. I guess a GPS would have gotten me to Tyndall Creek a little earlier....

                                     
                                    In summer, the JMT is well signed, but not always as the "JMT", so in places, you need to be aware of appropriate landmarks down the trail that a sign may be referring to. Approximately 23,132 people (I made that up) walked the JMT safely prior to the invention of GPS.
                                     
                                    Not necessary, but the entertainment may be worth the weight? Personally I'd bring a good book!!
                                     
                                    JD
                                    Walk the Sky: Following the John Muir Trail
                                  • John
                                    I know, that s a BIG IF, huh? lol. I can see if one is intent on staying right on the trail in the trees, GPS would be useful. If there is snow, I usually
                                    Message 18 of 22 , Nov 6, 2012
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                                      I know, that's a BIG IF, huh? lol. I can see if one is intent on staying right on the trail in the trees, GPS would be useful. If there is snow, I usually ignore the trail alignment altogether as it rarely takes the most direct and/or efficient path.

                                      Skiing back from the White Divide a couple of springs ago I was following someones wiggly track through upper Evolution. As I skated across Wanda Lake I saw this guy skiing with his GPS- he was trying to stay on the trail!!??

                                      Whatever floats your boat I guess. At some point I'd like to learn to use one, but for now, I still haven't gone "paperless".

                                      John

                                      --- In johnmuirtrail@yahoogroups.com, "Ned Tibbits" <ned@...> wrote:
                                      >
                                      > JD!
                                      >
                                      > I love your preface, “If you can read a map...!”
                                      >
                                      > THAT is probably the most valuable instructional subject taught during all of Mountain Education’s courses because it is a skill that keeps hikers aware of their surroundings and keeps them on-trail. If you can’t “read” a topo map well enough to “see” what’s ahead, then you’re not likely to know when you’ve lost the trail under snow.
                                      >
                                      > Like yourself, I have skied, snowshoed, and walked the PCT/JMT while under snow, also. Unless you can identify where you are and where the trail goes based on the topographic/geographic landmarks about you, then you’re likely to lose the trail daily resulting in much lost energy and time. In the above-timberline terrain of the JMT, it is relatively easy to spot the right drainage to head into, but when you’re down in the trees searching for a place to cross the creek safely, it is pretty hard to know where to go. It is here that a GPS comes in handy to know where the trail is.
                                      >
                                      > Sometimes, we follow tree blazes while practicing our route-finding skills, but it’s really not necessary to be right on top of the trail all the time. If you know where it goes, simply pick your own route over snow to get there. Above timberline, you can see for miles into the canyons, so all you need to know is, “Which one does my trail go into?” However, it is faster and easier when down in the trees, to pull out the GPS and lace your way along.
                                      >
                                      > During the summer, as you said, it is not necessary to bring a GPS for our most-loved trail-highway called the John Muir Trail. Nevertheless, carry a good topo that “shows” you what the route ahead will “look” like so you’ll know when you get there! If the summer trail is partially covered with snow (I’m thinking long “fields” of snow for miles, say in June or July), you might want to bring a GPS for route-finding in the shade or north-aspect slopes.
                                      >
                                      >
                                      > Ned Tibbits, Director
                                      > Mountain Education
                                      > www.mountaineducation.org
                                      >
                                      > From: John
                                      > Sent: Sunday, November 04, 2012 3:48 PM
                                      > To: johnmuirtrail@yahoogroups.com
                                      > Subject: [John Muir Trail] Re: Conventional Wisdom Regarding GPS on JMT
                                      >
                                      >
                                      > If you can read a map, then a GPS is of no importance on the JMT unless you are looking for electronic entertainment. I've skied the entire JMT and sections many times in every winter month- I don't know how to use a GPS. Now that said, I skied around in circles in a white out on the Bighorn Plateau one January. I guess a GPS would have gotten me to Tyndall Creek a little earlier....
                                      >
                                      >
                                      > In summer, the JMT is well signed, but not always as the "JMT", so in places, you need to be aware of appropriate landmarks down the trail that a sign may be referring to. Approximately 23,132 people (I made that up) walked the JMT safely prior to the invention of GPS.
                                      >
                                      > Not necessary, but the entertainment may be worth the weight? Personally I'd bring a good book!!
                                      >
                                      > JD
                                      > Walk the Sky: Following the John Muir Trail
                                      > see the book here
                                      >
                                    • richard long
                                      I thought I might second some thoughts expressed about using a GPS. I stopped using a GPS in the Sierra because I wasn t really using it to navigate! It was
                                      Message 19 of 22 , Nov 7, 2012
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                                        I thought I might second some thoughts expressed about using a GPS. I stopped using a GPS in the Sierra because I wasn't really using it to navigate! It was more of a toy, and by going back to map and compass, I have found I pay more attention to my surroundings. By returning to using a compass,  my route finding is more accurate. I do a fair amount of cross country hiking as well as trail jaunts.
                                        Any electronic device can fail, and you save weight of the device and spare batteries by leaving it at home. Compasses are almost bulletproof, and a compass with a sighting mirror gives you an emergency signalling device, and a way to see how dirty your face has become after a few days in the High Sierra! I always carried a map and compass even when I was carrying my GPS for backup.
                                        Most people can learn the basics of reading a map, and using a compass by spending a few hours with a classic book like "Be an Expert with Map and Compass" by Bjorn Kjellstrom( ISBN0470407654).
                                        This book is available at most larger libraries, or it is only about $12 new on Amazon. Reading the book, and then practicing with the topo map provided in the book will get you up to speed quickly with the basics, especially if you are only navigating a popular  trail like the JMT.
                                         
                                        Richard Long
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