Not much bigger than a cell phone, a GPS can be infinitely useful in finding your way around the woods, the lake or the cabin equally well. And being able to find where you are is, of course, a good thing at any time. But even an inexpensive handheld GPS unit will allow you to create waypoints and trails and guide you to your goal. It will even let you retrace your steps almost exactly – right down to finding your favorite spot on the deck. There are, I’m sure, literally hundreds of uses for a handheld GPS around the cabin, but I can vouch for at least these 25.
But first, what is a GPS?
Originally created by the U.S. Department of Defense, the Global Positioning System (GPS) is an array of 24 satellites orbiting the Earth, each constantly transmitting its exact location and the exact time (provided by an onboard atomic clock). A GPS receiver, handheld or not, receives these transmissions, and by triangulating the times and positions received from the various satellites (usually about a half-dozen satellites are in reception range), the unit’s onboard computer chip is able to pinpoint where it is on Earth. And since you’re usually holding the unit, that’s where you are, too.
See also Hiking with GPS
Looking to buy a GPS? We recommend:
inReach SE®+ Satellite Communicator (pictured above)
Our 25 uses for a GPS Unit:
1. Determine the precise longitude and latitude of your favorite deck chair.
2. Have the unit plot the shortest route from the deck chair to the refrigerator.
3. Use the “trail marking” function to trace all your movements for one day and realize that 95 percent of your trips are between the deck chair and the refrigerator.
4. Use the “waypoint” function to note the exact location of your drink among the 12 on the back deck.
5. Use the altitude reading capability of your GPS unit to create a highly detailed topographical map of your cabin, including fireplace, loft, sofa, towel cabinet, TV and refrigerator.
6. Bury a spare door key (put it in a coffee can first), then note the location so you can recover the “buried treasure” next time you visit. (Since you’re often misplacing your key anyway!)
7. Completely turn over all route guidance to the GPS, letting it determine how you get anywhere, even from the bed to the coffeemaker first thing in the morning.
8. Refuse to give your location in anything but longitude and latitude, and when the person you’re talking with seems confused, ask him or her, “What – don’t you have a GPS?”
9. Try to get lost so you can use the GPS to find your way back to the cabin; feign surprise when you arrive with no problem every time.
10. Zoom out so you can see several miles around your cabin and mark a random waypoint on the GPS’s display, then go find the waypoint.
11. Go online to a “geocache” message board or Web site to see if anyone has buried treasure in your area; if it’s there, print the instructions and go find it.
12. Bury a modest treasure yourself (maybe a Star Wars action figure) and mark the location using the GPS; post the location (but don’t identify the treasure) on any of the “geocache” message boards or Web sites so someone else can discover the treasure.
13. Blaze new trails to your neighbors’ cabins.
14. Carry the GPS with you whenever you go out, marking a waypoint and noting the time if and when you see something interesting, then record your detailed sightings and adventures in a logbook to read in 15 years.
15. Drive people crazy by giving directions based exclusively on GPS coordinates.
16. Mark a waypoint at home before heading for the cabin, then mark another at the cabin and find out exactly how far apart they are as the crow flies.
17. Obsessively download every new map that’s available for your GPS, leaving you no time to actually use the GPS.
18. Use the “mark trail” feature to draw pictures (stick figures are easiest) or write letters on the GPS display when you go hiking.
19. Buy a book on the history of the area around your cabin and retrace the routes of the early explorers.
20. Strap the GPS to your dog, turn on the “mark trail feature,” and find out just where he or she’s been all day.
21. Do the same to your adventurous offspring.
22. Save and organize your waypoints so you can re-create your favorite hikes.
23. Bring up all your waypoints and use them to create a brand-new hike.
24. Grouse constantly about the fact that your GPS unit works great at the cabin, but that iphone you bought last week gets no reception at all.
25. Plot the quickest, most direct path from your cabin to an electronics store so you can upgrade that GPS to something even cooler.
About our author:
Dave Kelley uses his GPS to navigate to and from his home on Lake Austin, Texas. Dave is a frequent contributor to Cabin Life, Boating World and Boating Life, and is a TV and radio personality.