The Pack Report

Innovations in Navigation: How Staying on Track Has Become Easier

As much as you might love the outdoors, few people relish being lost in the wilderness. Ordinary events, like stormy weather, can threaten your survival, and you lack access to the modern conveniences you typically rely on for safety. However, technology has come a long way, and certain navigational innovations can help you find your way home.

What should you consider for your next wilderness adventure? Here are some navigation innovations that can make it easier to stay on track. 

Preventing Breakdowns in the Unknown

People often become lost when their vehicle breaks down in the wild, and they must hike to reach the nearest service station. It’s best to prevent trouble before it starts, and technology can help. 

Since 1996, vehicle manufacturers have included a standard OBD-II port, which stands for onboard diagnostics. It gives you improved insight into what’s going on in your engine far beyond the original OBD-I, which was not standard and had many pitfalls. 

1. Examining Check Engine Light and OBD-II Port 

The OBD-II port system also runs your check engine light. When you have engine trouble, this light alerts you to call the mechanic. However, what if you’re a DIYer who resents paying a small fortune in labor costs? You can now hook a scanner to this port to diagnose your ride yourself, performing the necessary repairs at home if they’re within your skill set. 

Doing so can prevent you from getting off track in the wild due to vehicle breakdowns. Run a diagnostic before you go to ensure unseen problems won’t trip you up once bumpy roads jiggle a wire or two loose. 

2. Improving Navigation Through Telematics 

Telematics involves using sensors to transmit data to a computer. You may already use it without knowing it. For example, downloading dashcam information to reconstruct an accident and determine fault. 

3 Uses of Telematics in Action

You might not fully recognize the power of telematics, but this innovation in navigation helps keep you on track in several vital ways. This is vital if you’re a fan of going well off the beaten path in search of adventure: 

  • Improved wayfinding: Telematics can improve your navigation on and off the campsite. Have you ever been stuck on the I-17 northbound in Arizona after a tractor-trailer or camper overturns? You could idle for hours in triple-digit heat. Apps such as Waze can advise you of hazardous road conditions and traffic snafus that help you plot the easiest route to your favorite R&R spot. 
  • Improved rescue capabilities: This technology gives rescue workers vital information to find you if you get lost or break down. For example, regions like Banff National Park are so remote that entering them is like walking through time, and the roads around this treasure can get treacherous in bad weather. 
  • Helping you recover lost or stolen vehicles: Police can use telematics technology to track lost or stolen cars. While the courts differ in their opinions of how authorities may use this innovation without violating privacy rights, it improves your chances of recovery. Civilians have sometimes given cops valuable tips by employing this navigational advance. 

Keeping Tabs on Your Loved Ones 

What happens when you and the family go off on an extended summer camping trip, and some members of your group inevitably want to split up to pursue solo activities? You can only sometimes count on your cell phones to keep you connected like you do in civilization. Part of the appeal of your favorite spot might be the lack of Wi-Fi — but it can induce panic if someone doesn’t return at the appointed time.

However, satellite technology can reach where cellphone towers cannot. To take advantage, you need a handheld GPS device. Nearly all of them will set you back a few hundred dollars, but they’re lifesavers when lost in the woods:

  • Garmin GPSMAP 66i: Features numerous interactive maps for helping you navigate off-road and two-way messaging to send an SOS to rescuers and communicate where and how you are. 
  • Garmin InReach Mini 2: The Mini lacks the navigational capabilities of bigger devices. However, it offers two-way messaging and SOS, plus tracking, weather reports, and a digital compass. 
  • Garmin Montana 700: Although this device has numerous capabilities, it’s rather large and bulky, making it better for mounting on an off-road vehicle. However, you can carry it in your backpack. 
  • Garmin InReach Explorer+: This device isn’t wearable like the Mini 2. However, it has a boatload of functionality, including two-way messaging, real-time location tracking, altitude information, and the ability to incorporate NOAA weather maps. 

You can also find satellite-based GPS devices without messaging capabilities. Some have an SOS function, allowing you to signal rescue personnel. However, you won’t be able to communicate any information about your condition, such as possible injuries. If you’re a serious outdoor adventurer, add such a device to your holiday wish list, as it can significantly increase your comfort in the wild. 

Apps are cheaper than GPS and work if you have a phone signal. It’s still wise to download one of these family tracker apps before camping. It can serve as a backup if your GPS is lost or stolen and help you keep track of the people closest to you in urban jungles: 

  • Life360 Family Locator
  • FindMyKids
  • GPSWox
  • Glympse
  • Safe365

Keeping Tabs on Your Stuff 

How much camping gear have you lost over the years? It’s easy to misplace items you don’t use daily, and searching high and low can stress you out before your relaxing vacation. 

The solution to your headaches could be in the palm of your hand, thanks to applying innovations in navigational technology to material objects. AirTags are a fabulous tool for keeping track of your stuff and helping you find it if you misplace it. Tile is your option if you use an Android phone. 

The devices work like this: 

  • Place your tracking device — AirTag or Tile — inside the gadget you want to track. 
  • Ensure you have the corresponding app on your phone or download it. 
  • Do a test run to ensure your tracking device works with your phone. 

This device will place the lost item on a map within several feet. When you get within Bluetooth range, it plays a sound to help you pinpoint its location. 

Such devices are invaluable if you often solo camp at crowded spots. You’ll inevitably leave at least one pricey piece of gear lying around when you run to town for supplies or go for a hike. Police don’t recommend using tracking devices to confront thieves, but they can sometimes help the authorities recover stolen goods. 

Take Advantage of Innovations in Navigation

Getting lost in the woods is no one’s idea of fun, even if you love the outdoors. Today’s innovations in navigation can reduce your chances. 

Investigate these technologies for your car and yourself. They’ll help you stay on track, keeping you safe for your next adventure.

Happy navigating, friends!

Happy Adventures - Duluth Pack

Guest blog post contributed by: Jack Shaw