Join Date: Aug 2003
Location: Finally stopping that crazy suffering that is ice, climbing to concentrate on great ski tours!, .
Interest: Anything that can drag me to the mountains. Backpacking is #1, followed by climbing, dayhiking and camping with family.
I use my iPhone all the time in the backcountry for navigation. I use the Topographic Maps Canada App - I can upload with the maps I need for any trip prior to heading out.
I don't use it for tracking - only for a static position, and I've found it to be quite accurate. But, I've found all GPS units wander a bit when tracking, depending on terrain, speed, etc.
For a backpack on established well maintained trails like say Berg Lake or The Skyline (Jasper) having my smart-phone along is probably more than I'd ever need. It's nearly impossible to get lost if you stay anywhere near the trails. The GPS/topo stuff is mostly for fun.
For more involved travel (say glaciers and alpine terrain, no trails, possible white out, etc) I bring my smart phone with topo map app, a paper map, a compass, and my GPS watch. The paper map rides in my pack 99% of the time, mostly there as a just-in-case. But, sometimes in the tent/hut I do like the paper maps for planning as I can see more at a time and they're easy to share with a group. Also, as my daughter is frequently now along, she needs to become adept with all forms of nav gear, including paper map and compass, so I do use it more if she's with me than I probably would otherwise.
None of it (paper map, compass, GPS, Smart-phone, and on and on) replaces paying attention. Pay attention to where you are, where you have been (look back to see what things look like, pay close attention when you change directions or pass landmarks) and where you're going. Understanding dead-reckoning is another good skill. Also, know when to not move - moving in dangerous terrain with low/no vis? Maybe you should stop.
Also, old fashioned stuff works well sometimes. We often carry wands on places like the Columbia Icefields. Sure, you can use your map and your GPS and whatever, but precision is required sometimes - wands are wicked for that. They've sure made things easier for us on a few occasions - it's hard to see crevasses from above in a white-out.
Best tools for effective navigation:
1. Your brain - get knowledgeable.
2. Anything you're good at using - map, compass, GPS, whatever.