Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Some Basic Global Positioning System Considerations

Global Positioning System (GPS) technology for hunting and outdoor navigation is a wonderful tool to use as primary navigation or as a layer of redundancy along with other navigation tools such as your general orientation/awareness, topographic paper maps, compass, and Lat/Long or UTM scales.
A GPS unit can naturally be used alone to navigate back to a particular starting point or to a pre-saved location without the use of other supporting equipment.  If you need to travel to a specific location on a map by first plotting and reading the position coordinates from the map and then using the GPS to navigate, then some supporting items, such as those previously mentioned, would be useful.  By referring to a map, I mean a hardcopy as opposed to a GPS loaded topographic map.
GPS users have varying levels of experience and needs but for many, using the more basic functions are all that is often needed.  These basic functions might consist of just initializing the GPS unit, saving and naming a waypoint, and of course using the go to feature.     
I have had the opportunity to utilize many different brands of both handheld as well as consol mounted marine GPS units.  There are many excellent brands available.  What can make some units standout over others are various features such as being waterproof, having electronic compasses, barometric altimeters, color displays, built-in basemaps, data card capability, and optional map software capability. 
Other areas for comparison of GPS units might include the number of waypoints, routes, and tracks allowed within the track log.  If all this sounds confusing, remember that many of these areas for comparison purposes are not necessarily the most important areas for concern. 
One of the most important variables when comparing GPS receivers is how well they receive and lock-on to satellites and then hold that lock when moving through tree cover, brush, or canyons.  In my opinion, the GPS unit that comes with an abundance of features is not much more useful than being a weight on a throw cord to keep your food away from bears if it can’t lock and hold satellites in difficult terrain.  When comparing units, note the number of channels that the unit can track simultaneously, accuracy is an important performance consideration, and external antennas are also a valuable option for units that will be used in situations where open sky is limited.
When I hunt with friends, we frequently compare our GPS units side by side while moving through dense foliage and heavy canopy to better understand which units are performing better than others.  All GPS units are not created equal in their ability to acquire and hold satellites.  When you start researching and comparing GPS units to replace an older model, make certain that you scrutinize product evaluations and note the models of units that lock and hold those satellites the best. 
I have replaced my GPS units many times over the years and have always been happy with the upgrades in performance or additional features gained with the replacement unit.   My current GPS is the Garmin GPSMAP®60CSX.  I have been very happy with this unit’s performance in the most difficult of terrain.  Eventually something will probably come along that I will like better but for now this is just what I need.  Remember to practice with your unit on your training hikes and it might also be helpful to bring along a copy of the units field guide as you learn all the features that are important to you.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Keeping Your Leather Hiking Boots in Good Condition

As most of my hunting friends and colleagues know, I like to hike regularly on mountain trails.  I try to log at least 15 miles per week rain or shine with a weighted pack.  This gives me a chance to fiddle with old equipment or test new equipment considerations while maintaining some level of adequate fitness. 
I was recently asked by a friend what products I use to keep my GORE-TEX® lined leather boots looking so good with the regular trail use my boots encounter.  After I fired off my response, it caused me to think about all the products I have used over the years and how long it took me to find a product that fulfilled my current needs.
Like most of you, I have tried many different types of leather care products.  The journey for me has included neatsfoot oil, mink oil, Sno-Seal, Montana Pitch-Blend, Bee Seal Plus and many others.  Some have worked better than others for my intended applications.
What I am using today is the Obenauf’s line of leather care products.  I first learned of the Obenauf’s products through my fire department friends at the then California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF), now known as CAL FIRE.  Many of my buddies were telling me how well Obenauf’s worked and that I should give it a try.  I did, and I liked it.


After my hikes I typically grab the hose and rinse the mud off the soles and leather.  If mud is caked on it gets hit with a soft nylon brush as well.  Every few weeks I apply Obenauf’s Leather Oil.  This helps to preserve and protect the leather.  It is very easy to apply.   I also occasionally use the Obenauf’s Heavy Duty Leather Preservative (LP).  This is also easy to apply.

Leather Oil Application

The Obenauf’s products I use do not contain any petroleums, silicones, neatsfoot, or solvents.  They do contain natural oils which are suspended in Beeswax and Propolis according to the manufacturer.   The Propolis apparently resists mildew and bacteria.  When combined with Beeswax it repels water better and longer.

Leather Oil Prior to Being Absorbed

Oil Absorbed and 2nd Coat of LP Applied and Partially Absorbed
 To date, I have not experienced any problems associated with my GORE-TEX® lined leather boots while using these products.  If you are still looking for leather care products and have not given the Obenauf’s a try perhaps it will be just what you have been looking for all along.  Visit the Obenauf’s website and see if they have a product for your specific application.