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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
All you have in your pocket is your Garmin 530/830 and iPhone (no cell reception). You turn it on, get a satellite(s), then what.......?

Let's assume the case for a known legal trail. And a case for an unmarked, unsanctioned trail.

Bonus points for creative ideas.
 

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if I'm on a known legal trail, would I actually be lost? What am I trying to do? Get back to where I parked? Get to the nearest road? Find a particular turn to continue my planned route? Am I off of my planned route and need to return to it?

Second, the scenario is insufficiently laid out. My Garmin would have been started from the beginning of my ride, and will be showing where I've been. Easiest navigation scenario is to backtrack. You can even push a few buttons and have the Garmin do some of the work (show you the route) and beep at you if you make a wrong turn. If an unmarked, unsanctioned trail, I'm unlikely to know all details about it. The details of the scenario will determine if I follow it or not, given the uncertainty and what I DO know about it.

Also, before my ride, I will have topo maps and some trail database loaded onto my Garmin. The trails aren't routable, but I can see them and visually follow them. Also, with the topos, I can see the terrain so I can evaluate the feasibility of shortcuts if an emergency situation presents. I had to do this on a backpacking trip once to cut a trip short because I got sick.

On my cell phone, I can pull up mtbproject or trailforks. At least one of which will have that service's database for the state loaded into it (Trailforks apparently deletes your downloaded trails when it updates, so check on it occasionally). On the known, legal, mapped trails, that can help. On an unmarked, unsanctioned trail, it can at least show your position between any known/mapped ones.

I also almost always have a paper trail map for the place I'm riding that I can consult. Good maps with contours, roads, streams, etc can be great.

Lay out a more detailed scenario, though.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks Harold! I asked the question, because so many of my friends have GPS units and mainly use them for Strava. They would have no idea at all how to use them if they were actually lost in the woods. We have several legal trail systems here in NorCal that you can get VERY lost in, also much unsanctioned.
 

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Thanks Harold! I asked the question, because so many of my friends have GPS units and mainly use them for Strava. They would have no idea at all how to use them if they were actually lost in the woods. We have several legal trail systems here in NorCal that you can get VERY lost in, also much unsanctioned.
That's a problem with GPS devices and smartphones, and the moreso the more "user friendly" they become. They make people complacent about their navigation skills. I see it in this forum, too, and I try to impress upon people that their fancy computer isn't a substitute for knowing how to navigate.

Sadly, some never get the message. Some get lucky and never have trouble, but others get dead, usually when multiple troubles compound on each other in a "series of unfortunate events" which usually can be addressed with better planning and better decision-making.

Where I ride in Western NC, there's a mountain of trails. Most are reasonably well marked. There are a bunch of REALLY good map sources for the legal trails, too, so it's not hard to stay found, so to speak. But, if you're negligent, it's also really easy to get yourself impossibly lost because of the steep valleys, thick forests, and the limited number of places where you can get views expansive enough to see the landscape as a whole.

There's a scattering of illegal trails in the area, too. Most aren't too long, and they're usually VERY lightly traveled, except in a few areas. I honestly don't bother with them. There's so much great legal riding available that it's not worth risking a ticket. So typically, if I get to a trail intersection where there's no sign, I just ride on by. I get that there's a push for people not to run their GPS or strava or whatever when they ride something illegal.

Honestly, if you don't have the navigation skills to be able to handle that, you have no business in those kinds of scenarios. Backcountry 101. Even where/when it's permitted to go off-trail/off-piste in any method of travel (hiking, skiing, whatever), if you lack the skills to navigate, you've got no business doing it and you'd better stay on the legal trails/developed areas. Too many mtn bikers ignore backcountry skills and gear because "I'm staying on the trail" or "I'll only be riding for 2hrs" yet it only takes a relatively small crash to potentially cause an injury or a mechanical that changes the equation drastically, especially with how quickly weather can change.
 

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Honestly, if you don't have the navigation skills to be able to handle that, you have no business in those kinds of scenarios..
This is the rub of it.

I follow a web publication for the Adirondack Mountains in upstate NY. Every week there's the summary of rescues as completed by the local forest rangers. There was one recently where 5 young men went up a mt. (Colden) on a difficult trail, were in over their heads, opted to go down a different trail and while still on the trail, called 911 as they had no idea of their location, where the trail ended up, etc... had no flashlights, preparations for spending a night - warm clothing, and so on. Paper maps ?, compass ?, not sure millenials know what that is.

Mind that there was sufficient cell service to call for help, but they had no skills at even checking the terrain map on Google maps. Baffling. 3 were removed from the woods via quad the next day with hydration and hypothermia issues. Many comments resulted about how they should have been charged for the rescue and I suspect there will eventually be a "you were stupid" fee coming for these types of scenarios. And it's not like there's not signage at the trail heads warning of the risks in entering wilderness areas as well as what equipment to bring, a lot of people just don't read.

Not sure what the Strava Only users think their GPS units are designed to do, it's called "Global Positioning System" for a reason.
 

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"You're lost in the woods......"

I thought this was going to be a start of an text adventure game.

You wake up. The room is spinning very gently round your head. Or at least it would be if you could see it which you can't. It is pitch black.

What do you want to do?


Anyone remember that one?

Hint: H... G... t... t... G...
 

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Now, being serious:

What are we assuming the "lost" person is armed with here?

As you've stated, the person has a GPS unit, and has their phone (which presumably has GPS). Do they have Trailforks or MTB Project? Does their phone have a compass on it?

If they have any/all of those things, getting lost should be nearly impossible. And finding their location and navigating to another, safer known location should be relatively easy.
 

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This does not only apply to being 'in the woods' today...

There's a whole generation that's always had a 'device' to show them the way. My kids are in their 20's and hardly know highway route numbers and what goes North/South or East/West. What do you do when the device is gone?

Some things that help prevent being totally clueless and hopelessly lost:
-do some homework ahead of time so you know the 'lay of the land' you're riding in
-making mental notes of landmarks during your ride and durations
-having an awareness of direction and topography as you ride (use sun, shadows, ridges, streams, etc)

If you start to feel unsure, it's highly likely you can backtrack and get out.
If your 'device' craps out without doing the above you are truly lost.
 

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There's a whole generation that's always had a 'device' to show them the way. My kids are in their 20's and hardly know highway route numbers and what goes North/South or East/West. What do you do when the device is gone?
Do you mean Boomers?

I work with a lot of boomers and Gen Xers (I'm an X) who didn't believe me when I tried to explain the organization of the interstate highway system. The fact that you can tell which way you are going based on the number. And that the three digit numbers meant they were spurs of the main interstate system and may or may not reconnect based on the number.

It's not a millennial thing.
 

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First thing I'd do is throw my chamois butter and chain lube into the woods, I've seen that movie.

Can't say I've ever truly been lost. The concept is hard to wrap my head around. Had a mishap in AK that put me 3-4 days further out hike than I was prepared for but still figured that out in relative short order.
 

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Can't say I've ever truly been lost.
I think I can say I have, but the situation was only temporary until I was able to locate a landmark that'd help me pin down my location. Sure, each time I was some distance away from where I intended to be, but only a minor inconvenience. It's only ever been when I've been off trail. Never when on a trail. Worst that's ever happened with navigation when I've been on a trail is I reach an intersection with no markings, and things aren't lining up with the map(s) I had. But that's not lost.

Once I had an interesting situation because of a local magnetic anomaly due to an iron deposit that threw off my compass when I was doing some off-trail navigating. Had no idea that I wasn't where I intended to be until I intersected a gravel road a mile or two away from where I planned. But with my map, I was able to figure out what happened pretty quick and it was just a bit of extra walking to fix it.
 
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