You've found a trail to ride and a good riding partner but there are a few more items to consider for a great day on the trail.
We’ve all been confused a time or three and most of the time it’s just an inconvenience that makes us late for lunch. Sometimes, however, it goes far beyond that. We can avoid both the inconvenience and the life threatening situation by being properly prepared BEFORE we head out. Proper preparation includes planning, having navigational gear, and the knowledge to use it.
Actions to take before you hit the trail.
Don’t walk out the door without taking the time to plan your adventure. Researching your destination point is easy to do from home as will make the difference between a good and a great time.
4 must do items before you leave:
2 Must Haves and 1 Very Helpful item to always take on the trail.
The most important tools you can have with you in the backcountry are below. They'll help you stay on course if you know how to use them.
A topographic map will give you huge amounts of information about the area you’ll be traveling if you take the time to understand it. Topographic (topo) maps are also called counter maps because of the elevation lines they include. These lines will tell you about any elevation changes you’ll encounter. Lines close together equal steep hills while lines far apart indicate more level terrain. Other important information on these maps includes; a distance scale to help you determine how far away your lunch spot is; Symbols indicating roads, buildings, terrain, etc. are also generally available.
Topo maps can be confusing to the uninitiated. The myriad lines and bars are a lot different from the road atlas’s we’re used to. For this reason it’s a good idea to practice reading them in a known area so you can learn to associate the markings on the map with those in front of you.
It’s old tech but a compass is well worth its weight in your pack. By pointing you to magnetic north a compass allows you orientate yourself on your topo map. (You did remember to bring one with you?) Most good outdoor stores will carry several models. Look for a compass with clear base that you can see the map through as you plot your course.
A good thing to remember about compasses is that they rely on the earth’s magnetic field to operate. Compasses have a magnet on the north arrow so keep them AWAY from power lines, steel, and other ferrous materials.
Global Positioning Systems (GPS) use a man made constellation of satellites to tell you where you’re located on the trail. They can be programmed ahead of time to literally guide you down the route you want to go as well as tell you exactly where you’re at on the way there.
Just like compasses there are many models of GPS’s on the market and each operates a little differently, make sure that you read the manual for yours. Two things to remember about GPS’s are that they can, and do, break and that if your batteries die you’re in trouble.
By following these actions and carrying these few essential items (and knowing how to use them!) your future trips can be as perfect as you want them be.
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