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"Map and Compass/ GPS are skills that need to be practiced over and over. "


How long do you think it will be before GPS becomes a "standard" scouting skill?


I am a great believer in GPS and have used it to play geocaching ( http://www.geocaching.com/ ) as well as a navigational aid. I am considering having our cub pack stash a cache just for fun.


I asked this question at Outdoor leadership Skills and was informed that GPS, while fun, had no purpose in scouting and would NEVER be a "scouting" skill. What is the feeling here?

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I don't know......where is the skill in setting up a free standing dome tent with two poles as opposed to using a canvas BSA wall tent? A monkey can set up a dome tent while the wall tent can confound a grown man. The monkey will be bug free and dry though.


Where is the skill in using a lighter to start a fire as opposed to fire by friction? A monkey can use a lighter while rubbing two sticks together gives a grown man warm hands from blisters. The monkey will have a fire to cook on and stay warm.


I'm half way joking here. The basic skills need to be learned and practiced so you can be profecient in them. The basic manual skills can be the difference between life and death in an emergency situation. I'd never replace them.


I love my GPS and don't get to do as much geocaching as I'd like. Do I think they have a place in scouting? Sure. As a replacment for map and compass? No. In addition to map and compass? You bet. Your GPS will only help you until you run out of batteries. We did a six mile hike on an established trail recently. There really was no need for a map and compass. We did have them however and the SM would ask individual boys at each rest period to get a bearing and show where we were on the map. I brought along my GPS just because I wanted to make a log of the route and compare the distance with what the maps said. Halfway down the trail I ran out of batteries and didn't have new ones. I forgot about my route mapping and enjoyed the view for the rest of the hike.


The GPS sure comes in handy when we are driving into an unknown campsite after dark. I've toyed with the idea of having a geocaching weekend at camp sometime to introduce the boys to GPS. We adults would have to go a week or two ahead of time and place the caches for the boys to find. Would I ever tell them to throw away the knots, matches, flint and steel, map or compass? Not on your life.


We often teach boys to have back ups in a survival kit. Have two or three methods to make fire. There is no harm in teaching them how to use a GPS as long as they know their map and compass.

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I think GPS will be a scout skill, as they become more familiar. They will then be a part of a hierachy of skills, starting with the most technologically advanced, and ending with the most basic forms if the tech fails:

GPS>compass>stars and sun. It's the same with starting fires: lighter>matches>flint and steel>two sticks.

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GPs has its uses, but what happens when the batteries run out, or theres some problem with it

and all your left with is a basic disc thing with a needle inside, which has the letters N, E, S, W and some numbers on the outside of the disc, and a bit of paper that has place names on it as well as some other features.


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I do not think that it will ever be a "SKILL".

However we will see more and more of the GPS and a complement to the Map and Compass.

Just as the Army does not rely totally on GPS, we still use the old map and lensatic compass to find our way.


Having said that. The GPS is a fantastic way of knowing exactly where you are and an easy navigational tool. But it does not require a whole lot of skill.

The GPS validates the work of the map and compass.


I love my GPS and use it a ton...

It depends on the GPS unit you have, mine has a built in compass and maps, but I still use the traditional method of map and compass.



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I was never suggesting that GPS should REPLACE map and compass, only compliment it.


For those who say there is no skill to using a GPS, I disagree. Depending on the brand and model you have there is a degree of skill required simply to turn one on and get it to display useful information. Interpreting that information and relating it to a map is yet another skill and actually navigating to a precise point is a totally seperate skill (see geocaching).


As the world gets to be higher tech, GPS is seeing a lot more use. Phones, radios, etc are increasingly equipped with equipment to determine thier location via GPS.


If scouts want to be able to use thier training in real-life, totally relying on map and compass will leave them at a disadvantage.


I LOVE map and compass. I was on the orienteering team when I was in the military and I plan on getting in shape to join the North Texas Orientering Association in some of thier meets. I just think that a well-rounded knowledge base is better than adhering solely to skills that are quickly becoming obsolete in the real world.




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National Youth Leadership Training has a training session on how to use a GPS, but it is not only a session on how to use a GPS.


Double H ranch has every crew use a GPS.


Philmont can give you all of the way points for your camps.


Maybe the BSA is already using GPS technology?


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I have a GPS receiver, and use it when there is a reason to do so. But it's rare that I find such a reason. A conventional map and compass serves most of the time, just as I use a map alone and only rarely need to break out a compass.


Finding my way through a channel in a fog bank in my boat has me using the GPS, so does finding my way across a fogbound glacier. Fog and using a GPS seem to go together for me!


I break out the GPS receiver traveling to and from camps, and quiz the boys to keep track of where we are on a map. The gee whiz factor of the GPS is motivating in these circumstances.


My objection to integrating the GPS into the program is 1) expense 2) delicacy and unreliability (batteries) and (3) it's really rarely needed as I describe above. By far the most important skill to learn is to accurately and easily read maps. A compass can be a useful supplement under suitable conditions, and is cheap to buy and reliable if used properly.


So I don't see a compelling reason to add GPS to the list of Scout skills at least through First Class. There is a better argument for GPS familiarity and use on high adventure type outings.


That said, I'm planning to use my GPS receiver for practice search and rescue exercises on an upcoming campout. As I envision it, a deseperate mother would come to the troop campsite to report that two of her triplets are missing, and requesting aid in finding them. One patrol would search for one missing infant with locations specified on a map, while a second patrol might have a GPS location to find and search for the missing infant, which would have a strong resemblance to a bag of potato chips!




Seattle Pioneer



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I don't know that it should be a requirement for advancement, but I think it is a scouting skill. If nothing else, boys need to understand just how unsafe it is rely on them completely. A lot of people have gotten into trouble when they count on the GPS to get them around safely. Seems like integrating GPS use into scouting activities would be a good idea.

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A long time ago, in a council far, far away ... Birdwatching was an Eagle required Merit Badge. And, for a LONG time, a working knowledge of Morse Code (or semaphore) was a First Class requirement.


But those days are long gone. We don't need those skills anymore and they are no longer even considered to be "Scout skills".


The point is that as society changes and as technology changes, so does the BSA (albeit verrrry slowly ;)).


One day, practical GPS ability will be a standard scout skill. Count on it. My guess is 10-15 years.

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There is a lot more to using a GPS than hitting a button.


First, you have to make sure the GPS is set to the correct datum. Select the wrong datum and you can find yourself way off on your map. The data should be printed on the map.


Second, all a GPS does is spit out your location in terms of a coordinate, typically a latitude/longitude set or a UTM coordinate. Neither of these is terribly obvious or "natural" to find on a map.


I should mention that most electronic maps on mapping GPS's simply do not have sufficient detail for the electronic maps to be useful in the field. For the most part a simple rugged GPS is all you need.


Most GPS users today will use UTM (universal transverse mercator) coordinates since the are very accurate in small scale (such as a USGS topo map). My guess very few Scout youth know how to read UTM coordinate, though they should.


Here is a pretty good tutorial on use of GPS coordinate systems: http://www.maptools.com/tutorials.html


This same site sells excellent little UTM grids and roamers. Some compasses have them too.


To convert find your current location on a map using a GPS, you need to obtain the UTM coordinate from the GPS, draw UTM gridlines on the map (if not already printed on - they're usually drawn in blue), and then use a UTM grid or roamer to find the specific location on the map.


At some point you'll probably want to enter the desired destination into your GPS. To do that, you'll need to use the UTM gridlines and a UTM grid or roamer to determine the UTM coordinates of the desired location. You'll need to enter those coordinates as a waypoint into the GPS (the exact method of doing that depends on the brand/model of GPS).


Once you have your destination waypoint loaded into the GPS, most GPS models will output a direction of travel bearing and distance. Dial up the bearing on your compass and you're off. BUT, you'd better be sure if the bearing given by the GPS is based upon true north or magnetic north. If it is true north, then you'll either have to ajust the declination on your compass or do the adjustment manually. If you're good at counting paces, you can even keep track of when you're close. Most users do not keep the GPS on all the time since that consumes batteries.


Now that was a bit more complicated than pressing a button ... wasn't it?


If I were teaching a young person navigation skills, the combined use of map, compass, and GPS would be included.


By the way, so far the best book I've seen on the subject is "GPS Land Navigation", by Michael Ferguson. The detailed information on GPS models is quite a bit outdated, but the coverage of the combined use of GPS, maps, and compasses is first rate.

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I'll again suggest that I don't see GPS skills as being required through First Class. But it might well be appropriate as a separate Merit Badge, or as a requirement for certain Merit Badges such as Hiking, Canoeing, Rowing, Motor Boat and such.


And thanks to kenk for his exposition on using UTM coordinates. I'll have to study up on his post and references in more detail.



Seattle Pioneer

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You forgot Orienteering. Maybe that should be kept strictly map & compass though.


If it is going to be added to an existing merit badge, some good requirements would be to explain how GPS works, find your UTM location using a GPS, locate 3 different UTM coordinates on a map, navigate from one point to another using a GPS.


Someone mentioned expense, but a cheap GPS works fine (my first was less than $100) and it could be troop equipment. I have already seen boys who spent over $100 each on backpack, sleeping bag, tent, tennis shoes, video games, etc.



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