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Given the relative affordability of and easy access to reliable GPS technology today, is it still a good idea for outdoorsmen/women to own and know how to use a compass?

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  • Given the relative affordability of and easy access to reliable GPS technology today, is it still a good idea for outdoorsmen/women to own and know how to use a compass?

    Given the relative affordability of and easy access to reliable GPS technology today, is it still a good idea for outdoorsmen/women to own and know how to use a compass?

  • #2
    All technology can fail, so I would argue that if you are going somewhere with a chance of getting lost a compass and the knowledge of how to use it is a must. I think it is also important to bring a map with you whenever possible so that you can match up landmarks(ponds, fences, fields, etc.). A compass can fit inside of almost anything(including a gun sling, etc.), so why not carry one with you?

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    • #3
      If hunting in wilderness, map and compass skills are invaluable should your batteries go dead. There are no stores or charging stations in the backcountry.
      For day hunting from your parked truck just a GPS is fine. I rarely carry a compass on those hunts anymore. My GPS has numerous very important waypoints saved, onxmaps overlay showing property lines and owners, contour lines, landmarks, and Garmin Birdseye maps. Plus it tracks my dog and/or my partner's dog.

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      • #4
        Better to have one and not need it than to need it and not have one.

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        • #5
          I was hunting in Cameroon a couple years ago and my GPS would not work. Here at home it works fine. However, I rarely get lost here at home. At least, rarely.

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          • #6
            A couple thoughts on compasses. Over the years, have been involved with finding a few lost hunters. One hunter had a compass, but did not know how it worked. In another instance the hunter was so turned around, he was sure the gadget was broken. I guess the moral of the story is have have a compass and a map and know how to use them.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Happy Myles View Post
              A couple thoughts on compasses. Over the years, have been involved with finding a few lost hunters. One hunter had a compass, but did not know how it worked. In another instance the hunter was so turned around, he was sure the gadget was broken. I guess the moral of the story is have have a compass and a map and know how to use them.
              I could wrap my head around "Did not know how to navigate". But "did not know how it worked" is astounding.

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              • #8
                I chatted with a dozen or so hunters today. None of them knew how to use a compass and map so they did not even own a compass. Some carried a spare GPS, others relied on their cell phones as backup and 2 told me they also carried their tablets with satellite uplinks into backcountry.
                This got me curious so I checked with a couple hunter education instructors and checked the courses in a few states to find map and compass is not taught any more.

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                • #9
                  I travel hunting around the world quite a bit and always have a compass. Just out of curiosity and for notes I like to know the various directions we are headed during each day.

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                  • #10
                    Charlie,
                    Your observations are spot on. Believe me there are places I have visited where modern technology available to the general public does not always work, or batteries fail and there are no drug stores handy. Compasses are small and handy. Technology is fun when it works.

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                    • #11
                      I agree with the conclusions of everyone here. I posed the question mostly for the benefit of any younger hunters who might drop by. I wonder how many of the most recent generations of hunters even know how to use a compass, much less own one. I admit, I don't currently own one, because I'm not doing any backcountry hunting at this point in my life. I will buy one and practice using it before I would do that kind of hunting down the road. I do own a GPS, but I honestly don't use it that much.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by charlie elk View Post
                        I chatted with a dozen or so hunters today. None of them knew how to use a compass and map so they did not even own a compass. Some carried a spare GPS, others relied on their cell phones as backup and 2 told me they also carried their tablets with satellite uplinks into backcountry.
                        This got me curious so I checked with a couple hunter education instructors and checked the courses in a few states to find map and compass is not taught any more.
                        I'm not sure how well I could navigate with a compass and map if I was already lost, but I do know how to use one so that I don't get lost in the first place. I was taught compass and map in hunter ed, but I have to confess it didn't exactly "stick" very well.

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                        • #13
                          I had a defective compass one time - both ends of the needle were the same. That one got smashed with a sledge.

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                          • #14
                            I would have to vote that a map is more important than a compass. By using a map and terrain assosiation you can determine aproximately where you are and where you need to go. Knowing which way is north does no good at all if you don't know where you are.

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                            • #15
                              This is a great question. Being in the military, they've even relaxed a little on land navigation. They've pulled and replaced a few times the land navigation course from some of their schools. To me compass and map is more reliable than any of the modern technology gizmos out there, even with outdated maps, topography hasn't changed much from the 70's so interpretation is still the same. One other suggestion is cosmology. It is rare that I'm back in camp before dark and I often use stars and the moon or knowledge of where the sun will rise/set to navigate in the dark.

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