Emergency Navigation Gear: Finding your way with GPS, Paper Maps, and Navigational Tools.
In today’s world of GPS devices and internet mapping websites, navigation is something that most people don’t have to think about on a daily basis. But when it comes to survival and emergency preparedness planning, the subject of navigation is definitely something that needs to be taken into consideration.
At minimum, you should always carry a compass, and of course learn the basics of navigation. But let’s take a look at some of the other navigation items that you may want to think about stocking up on, or including in your list of emergency preparations.
MAPS: Preparedness Maps to Stockpile
If the grid goes down and your fancy electronic devices stop working, you may have to rely on good old-fashioned paper maps. Roadmaps, trail maps, and topographic maps can all be extremely valuable, especially in an off-grid SHTF situation.
Road Maps – I suggest having a number of different road maps. A national driving atlas, a local road map, and maps of your surrounding areas are all good items to keep inside your vehicle.
Google Maps – A great way to be prepared is to map out your evacuation routes on Google Maps, and then print them out. The great thing about Google Maps is it gives you the ability to plan out multiple different routes, including walking routes and back country trails that may not be listed on regular maps. Take advantage of their satellite view, and print as many different route options as you see fit.
Topographical Maps – TOPO maps are great for those times that you may have to bug out on foot, and are packed full of useful information. They can be found online or at most outdoor hiking stores.
Topographical Maps can help you find things like:
- Roads and trails, railroads, buildings, campgrounds and vegetation.
- Where you can find water (streams, waterways, and even water tanks).
- How difficult the terrain will be (elevation and steepness of slopes).
Recreation Maps – Another valuable source of navigation information can come from recreation maps. Most welcome centers and ranger stations have these maps. Whenever I hike a new trail, I try to pick one up for future use.
GPS Devices & Electronic Gadgets
Although I would never rely on any of these items as my primary source of navigational information, they can provide a wealth of information that may be useful during the early stages of a disaster.
Backpacking/Hiking GPS Devices: The most helpful feature of GPS devices designed for hiking is their ability to download way-points, routes, and topographical information right to the device. You can literally download your entire route including caching points, campsites, and watering holes. Combined with a good solar panel like the GoalZero Guide 10 or a Sunjack Solar Unit, you can keep these devices going even during a grid-down situation.
- Garmin Oregon 450t Handheld GPS Navigator: This is one of the higher end GPS Units on the market, but it really gives you a good idea of the wealth of information that can be stored on these units. From 3D views that will help you easily identify terrain to the ability to wirelessly share and store route data, these types of devices definitely give you some major advantages over ordinary paper maps.
- Magellan eXplorist 350H Handheld GPS: Another good GPS device, one designed specifically for hunters, is the Magellan eXplorist 350H. Its waterproof, lasts about 18 hours and gives you the ability to mark hunting-specific land features.
Road GPS Devices: The great thing about these devices is they give you the ability to quickly recalculate, and reroute your destinations during an emergency. One word of caution; during an evacuation scenario where everyone is trying to get out-of-town, these devices may cause you to become hopelessly stuck in heavy traffic.
Keep in mind that everyone else is probably using their GPS, which in all likelihood is giving everyone the exact same route information. During this type of situation, I would probably not take the first route suggestion, but instead use the device to find alternative back-road routes.
Smart Phones: Most smart phones can now do everything listed above through the use of downloadable apps. Depending on your phone, you may be able to store PDF maps and navigational information directly to the device, which will help even if the GPS satellites go down. Combined with a small solar charger, like the Solio Bolt, this might be one of the best options to consider.