If you have a compass do you find much value in it, or with the new technology, is that the route to go?
I always use a compass if I’m in open water. For example when I’m on Lake Superior I have two compasses. I have one mounted on the deck but I also have one around my neck. I have needed it when in pea soup fog that was so thick I couldn’t see the one on the deck. The fog can come in without warning and in the blink of an eye.
When I’m on small lakes and rivers I use a GPS. I like the ability to watch my speed. I’m much more consistent and less likely to overwork.
I’ve added something new! I now have EveryTrip.com on my Android Phone. It turns my phone into a trip data recorder that allows me to post my trips online to share with my friends. It’ll work as a second GPS too.
I heard that a lot of the GPS’s do not have a lot of the places we would paddle in PA. Just something to ask about if you go that route.
I have a GPS, a compass, and maps with other navigation stuff. There is no harm in having backup and no reason to not have it. Of course when I circumnavigate the lake I live on I usually have none of that stuff. I am assuming you are talking about circumstances where navigation is an issue.
compass most important
gps and such are great but even forgetting the reliability thing I find I still need or want the deck compass once the GPS gives me a heading. That said I also favor having a hand compass, a chart and a bit knowledge if navigation is a real issue.
Rely on yourself first !
Last time I checked my brain works without batteries.
A couple days of minimal calories, it still works.
GPS once broken, out of power, etc., etc, just holds
that paper map on a rock in a light breeze.
Compass on deck, and one in pfd pocket,
redundancy is good and necessary when kayaking.
Map on deck, with a spare in the dry bag
stuffed into a dry hatch. You get the point.
I use a GPS a massive amount, for training purposes
Big Fan of Garmin Connect http://connect.garmin.com/features
Just won't bet my life on any GPS from any manufacturer
Compass and charts first
GPS in the hatch if need backup confirmation. Very reassuring in pea soup fog even if you think you must be right about where you are.
Best to have both, but charts and compass don’t require batteries that can wear out.
Both compass and GPS
and chart of course.
Charts give you a fantastic overall picture and GPS is handy for detail.
GPS makes night paddling in an area without aids easier.
But it can break as mine did on a trip. Salt water entered a "waterproof" GPS and the card reader just quit.
All I want to know sometimes in featureless areas is "Where am I". GPS can hone in on my position. With a paper map of some of Canada..the scale is so large to find myself precisely is sometimes difficult. And there is absolutely no high point or structure to take a signting on.
I had a harder time navigating with compass alone but made it out of the mangrove maze. GPS works well when you paddle featureless areas like the Arctic or the Everglades.
That said thankfully in Maine there is enough man made stuff and nav aids so that compass practice is easy. I never use my GPS at home..except in fog.
I value the compass more
than the GPS…
But GPS is a way better navigating tool than a compass and a chart. Kinda like the difference between a PC and an abacus.
I don’t leave home without it.
The compass is in a drawer someplace with my old slide rule!
I kind of miss taking coordinates of charts though, and sometimes do it to see how close I come to the GPS.
The GPS always wins
Batteries die, electronics fail from time to time, and a good compass is forever. I have had GPS units fail twice - luckily both times when I was just using them for speed and distance, not navigation.
I carry the GPS in my dayhatch, turned on, and also a deck compass, hiker’s compasss in the dayhatch, and spare batteries for the GPS.
GPS is great for fog and/or new areas, but a chart and compass with the right skills is every bit as good to get you from point A to point B, and when the GPS dies, absolutely necessary.
“to see how close I come to the GPS”
“The GPS always wins”
Well of course it does! Because you’re making it the standard. Make your compass & chart work the standard, and THEY will win! (“Sometimes I check to see how close the GPS will come to what I’ve done with pencil and paper, and the GPS can never get the same results …”).
I appreciate the simplicity and reliability of my compass, but I do a lot of paddling in salt marshes and mangrove swamps, and its hard to leave breadcrumbs with a compass.
I’m with JackL
I don’t paddle saltwater except surf and harbors, but sail a lot. I use gps and compass simultaneously, all the time. The gps and compass are often 20-25 degrees different in bearings due to current (drift). If relying on compass, you’d better have tide info., a constant variable. If relying on compass, I need to buoy hop to maintain a course.
Useage more of an issue
The problem we ran into, and the reason that I try to rely primarily on compass and charts for paddling, is one of habit.
If you regularly use a compass and chart it becomes a fast thing to get a heading, confirm your location against landmarks, that kind of thing. Regular quick checks will give you a sense of drift from tide if you aren't already on top of that.
If you stop using the manual tools and rely instead on GPS, it is very easy to lose the ability to work with compass and chart.
Bottom line, any fool can use a GPS once you have figured out what buttons to push. It usually takes practice and regular use to be good with the manual tools. And being stuck relying on something that you can't use well, out in pea soup fog with dead batteries in your GPS, is a bad idea.
One comment on sail boats or motor boats - everyone I know who operates those boats relies primarily on their GPS. But these are also usually on board units that can't be dropped in the water, with good sized screens that can roughly be read without glasses, and they will operate as long as the electricity is operating on the boat. And the boats are usually going faster than a kayak, so it is harder to just slow down or stop to check drift etc in the same way you do from a paddle boat. It makes good sense to rely heavily on GPS in those situations, though most of the old hands I know still play with charts and compass on a regular basis to keep those skills fresh.
One place where a GPS is far faster is if you care deeply about checking your speed. For the most part I don't. I have a sense of whether I am paddling closer to 3 or closer to 4 knots, and if a day paddle off the coast is well planned that's about as much as we need to make our safety margins. But if you paddle for a certain speed as a goal, those wrist-watch style GPS's are pretty nice.
The mangrove grove (or any shallow water) situation is one where charts alone could be tricky, because a printed chart has to make assumptions about water level that may not be true at the time you are paddling there.
You also have some advantages when in more open water with big topographic features in sight - an island with a distinct dome, or a shoreline with a point of high elevation. In the midcoast region of Maine, for example, on a somewhat clear day you can see the Camden Hills, do quick work with your compass and chart and spot your locations pretty well. That is not an option when all you can see is the next overhanging tree limb.
Like many others here I use both…but I am often amazed how many people don’t know how to use a compass.
More and more I find if it’s not digital or runs on a battery don’t know how to read them.
Actually I see much the same with wrist watches…lots of people don’t know how to read them…kinda spooky.
I definitely use my compasses more often when kayaking. The GPS is mostly an emergency backup. Most kayak navigation is done in 1-2 mile increments, hopping from one island to another, or one headland to the next. You’re piloting more than navigating.
On our sailboat, we have a fixed mount GPS chart plotter, with a 4"x5" screen. It’s really valuable and easy to use, and it’s quicker and more accurate to navigate that way rather than by chart and parallel rules alone. Also, in a sailboat with 5’ draft, it matters that I know EXACTLY where I am relative to invisible underwater features. However, when I’m steering, I always steer by compass because it’s a much more accurate way to steer. If you allow a novice sailor to steer by staring at the GPS, they will invariably zig zag around the rhumb line.
When kayaking I need to know my position more generally, and usually in reference to visible objects, not underwater ledges as much. My handheld GPS has a screen that is about 2" by 2". It’s great for getting coordinates, but its use as a plotter is extremely limited at that small scale. You just can’t see the big picture that you need to keep in mind when navigating.
Stay limber with a chart and compass when kayaking, because personally I think it’s quicker when you’re good at it. When absolute accuracy is needed (as in a mayday scenario, or during a very difficult crossing in the fog) then the GPS is good to have. But I think relying on GPS all the time, even if you have a nice big handheld that is useful as a plotter, must lead to losing some of those valuable chart and compass skills.
i am old school
and use almost solely my compass and maps, but have the gps for backup/emergencies/featureless areas… lot of good posts here on it, but both is the way to go… like so many others said batteries/electronics fail miserablly at the worst poss times always, be prepared, lol be a boyscout
Compass not only makes you observe and study what you are seeing in order to navigate. A GPS is like someone telling you what you are seeing and observing.
Ive paddled 35 years and never used a GPS only in my car!