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Desert Travels - Motorcycle Journeys in the Sahara and West Africa!

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  #1  
Old 25 Oct 2009
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Navigation in the Sahara - GPS or not..

Hi,

I realise that there is a section for navigation but as the terrain dictates what kind of navigation is required I felt this would be best posted here..

I have never found the need for GPS before whether it be touring on bikes or walking/climbing in the mountains. GPS is always described as an "aid" to traditional techniques. My feeling is if that if traditional techniques work then why whould you need an aid? If it's not broken, don't fix it and all that...

A lot of the posts and literature I have read on dessert navigation seem to treat GPS as the main navigational tool.

So my question is.. are people just getting lazy, not wanting to take the time to use traditional techniques or is GPS a must in the potentially featureless terrain of the Sahara?
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  #2  
Old 26 Oct 2009
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A subtle difference: GPS is mostly described as a navigational aid. What it definitely is, like maps, compass, stars, the sun etc.

I don't think a GPS is used out of "laziness". It's a fairly recent technique that has some advantages over the older ones, to name a few:
- very accurate position readings: try that with a map at scale 1:200000.
- loading of waypoints, routes and tracks created by yourself or others
- the possibility to track pistes and mark waypoints that can be exchanged to other travellers (and one can even create maps of those data).

The main drawbacks: as it is an electronic device it can break (but a map can fly away). Also, you don't have a good overview of the wider area on a gpsr, if any good map for your gpsr exists at all for some regions.

That's why it's a good idea to carry both with you: a gpsr and the good old maps, compass, pencil and triangle...

Hope this helps.

Raf
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Old 26 Oct 2009
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What is most fun

Apart from that it gives exact readings of whereabout/navigation help... It is amazing when you can view ur tracks later on maps, also or best on Google Maps and Google Earth, Satelite imagery, and relive ur route. Look at examples on my site. Rgds
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  #4  
Old 26 Oct 2009
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I use GPS, as I trust it more than any 'navigator' that I have ever travelled with. I do however always have a rough idea where I am on paper maps incase my GPS fails, which it never has. But there's always a first time.

It's very convenient and allows both driver 'and' navigator to take in the sights more.
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Old 26 Oct 2009
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An other tricks, with some GIS software you can link your pictures with your track ( TTQV for instance, based on time) and then you can remember and "redo" your trip easily.
not essential but......funny
For a short trip, like mine (means 2weeks), you save a lot of time avoiding to spend time schearching your way.
Eric
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Old 26 Oct 2009
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If you are in an area with obvious characteristics such as mountains, rivers, roads, then a map works fine. But when you are in the middle of a featureless rocky hamada and you can't relate to anything (if there is anything) on the map, then you need to fall back onto other navigation systems.

The most portable and easiest of these to use is GPS.
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Old 26 Oct 2009
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One of the big advantages of a gps that keeps a record of your trail (bread crumbs) is that should you become lost, you can easily go back the way you came. This is particularly useful if there are no features that allow you recognise your way back - and even of there are, the same trail could look different on the way back.

R
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Old 26 Oct 2009
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As Maximus has just said, gps allows both navigator and driver to take in the sights - travel is about experiencing the enviroment you are in and not burying your head in a map. The technology faclitates this. However, you need to be aware that the technology can fail. You need to be aware of your postion in the enviroment and on the map. In the wilderness a second gps unit provides a backup incase one unit fails. If you want to be really sure, you should record your position at intervals on a map or notebook. This will allow you to find your postion if the gps satellite sytem goes down (unlikely but possible) and to navigate back using traditional methods.

R
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Old 26 Oct 2009
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Gps?



Sometimes really bad things can happen... That's why you need to have a backup GPS!
I think using a GPS when overlanding quite different than using a "navigation system" in city traffic. If you have the proper mapsets and/or sat photography AND you have those maps in "analog" paper format too, that's the right way. And If you have a good old compass with you - that might be a real lifesaver... Sometime precise waypoints and tracks from fellow overlanders can help you to show the correct way even to locals.

Ciao: GeoPoki (Eszeleny)
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Old 28 Oct 2009
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How did this happen?

How did this happen?
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  #11  
Old 1 Nov 2009
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Taking it from a slightly different angle:

There are two aspects of navigation - establishing where you are, and figuring out where you want to get to (and how).

The GPS has changed the first one immensely - insead of having to continuously estimate and mark on a map your progress (or set up your sextant and take a couple of star sightings in the evening), you can instantly know your position, on a continuous basis. You may have no clue where you want to get to, but at least you can be certain of where you are.

As for the second, GPS changed very little. GPS will not tell you where to go, and how you can getr there. It will only do so, if you did your homework properly, looked at the maps, planned your route, checked the terrain and memorised it so you don't need to look at the map every few seconds.

I know of people who became lost bindly following the GPS, without any understanding of the country they are crossing, getting in to terrain that should have been avoided in the first place. Similarly people have been totally confounded looking at their maps while being dozens of miles where they thought they were.

The GPS is a very valuable resource, telling you always where you are, provided that informatrion has any meaning to you. That requires planning, preparation, and a thorough understanding of the route you wish to take. You are very correct in the assumption, that if you have done all this correctly, you have very little need for the GPS itself. However it is good to have it there, just in case...
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Old 2 Nov 2009
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and even of there are, the same trail could look different on the way back.

I only really appreciated this for the first time last year while looking for a route west to Amtoudi off MA10 (Maroc). Circling around looking for a way, soon your bike tracks are everywhere. Of course I could have blundered back east to MA10 but that is when accidents/damage can happen trying to cross a ditch or smth. I sure was glad of a couple of wpts I jabbed in on the way out.

AZ also sums it all up well. Desert can be like ocean where GPS is not a gadget. In the 1980s you had to play it safe and stick to the pistes, attempt DR or mess about with astral nav - all very time- and fingernail consuming. Now if you want you can really reach out into the desert void and explore with much less anxiety with the benefit that the great paper mapping in the Sahara finally comes into its own [when used with GPS].

Ch
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Old 13 Nov 2009
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GPS reliability / failure

About electronics that can fail.... as mentioned above, maps can fly away, coffee can be spilled etc. Also if you do serious deep desert you usually don't go with one vehicle so if both vehicle/moto's have GPS, you have 100% redundancy. If you do go alone, I would buy a cheap back-up unit or if you have satphone, it usually also has a basic GPS feature!

Like Ch says, it greatly reduces anxiety and thus increase your confort zone and fun!

Without GPS I would never have dared to crossed the Tenere and Grand Erg du Bilma

Cheers,
Noel
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Old 13 Nov 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by geopoki View Post


Sometimes really bad things can happen... That's why you need to have a backup GPS!
I think using a GPS when overlanding quite different than using a "navigation system" in city traffic. If you have the proper mapsets and/or sat photography AND you have those maps in "analog" paper format too, that's the right way. And If you have a good old compass with you - that might be a real lifesaver... Sometime precise waypoints and tracks from fellow overlanders can help you to show the correct way even to locals.

Ciao: GeoPoki (Eszeleny)
Thats a Garmin 2610 and it's a known problem with moisture getting in and delaminating the screen. It's happened to mine but only after 6 years of hard use.

You can fix it my gently pealing the laminate off and put on a PDA/mobile phone cover. 99p off ebay. It's never going to be as good as new but it's 80-90% as good.
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