Ask Gearographer; Don’t Get Lost

Dear Gearographer,

I’ve learned over the last few years that if there’s one thing I’m really good at it, it’s getting lost. Even with my smartphone, I still find myself getting a little worried when I decide to go out for even something as mundane as a day hike. I try to stay on designated trails, but who knows what could happen? Poorly marked trails, outdated information and the need to leave the trail when nature calls are all things that make me start shaking in my KEENs. Is there something out there that I can buy to make me feel a little more secure when I go outside?

Stumbling Through the Backcountry


Dear Stumbling,

Without trying to sound like too much of a jerk, I would first suggest a map of the area. The more recently updated the map is, the better. While this may sound like common sense, many people just go traipsing through the wilderness with little more than a bottle of water and a smile. If you’re not very cartographically inclined (which I’m guessing is the case), you should really consider pairing up with a buddy who either is so inclined or at least knows the area a little better, before heading out. If none of the aforementioned aids are available, a handheld GPS unit is a good product to look into. While a smartphone app should be all that you would need for just hiking a well-established trail, GPS units have stronger satellite reception capabilities, work better in inclement weather conditions (much more sturdy and relatively waterproof), and typically have a much, much longer battery life than a smartphone. As with a lot of outdoor gear, you generally get what you pay for when purchasing a GPS unit, but decent ones can be purchased for a relatively inexpensive price. New, more advanced ones come out seemingly every year, so getting lost for no good reason is getting to be more and more inexcusable. If you don’t want to drop any dough on a GPS unit, you could always go with my first suggestion. Ask for, print out, or drop a couple bucks on a map or find a buddy who knows what they’re doing. I don’t think you’re going to end up “chasing butterflies into something highly illegal” like on the popular insurance commercial, but you’re going to end up hurting yourself. Get a map. Or a friend. Or a GPS. And no, I’m not going to explain what “cartographically inclined” means.

Sincerely,The Gearographer

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