GPS in Greenland’s great outdoors

When you lie on your back watching the white clouds drifting across the blue summer skies and you smell Greenland’s mountain herbs, you experience just how wonderful summer in the mountains is, both physically and mentally. On recent trips, I have often brought my new friend: My GPS.
Text and photo Steffen Fog. March 2011
I check my equipment: Have I remembered everything? Sleeping bag? Sleeping mat? Camping stove? What about the camera? Map? Compass? Yup, I’ve got everything and it’s off for a great hike in the mountains.
  After 18 years with an active outdoor life and plenty of hikes, I have developed the perfect combination of equipment and I take it with me everywhere. But in recent times a new item has joined the things that help me to amplify my outdoor experiences – the GPS. Not only does it improve my safety, so that I know where I am and therefore how to find home. It also enhances my experiences.
GPS for the outdoor fans
The GPS has a lot of advantages. It is especially the battery-powered, hand-held GPS units that I find useful and fascinating for outdoor use. When you use one of the newer and more expensive models, it is possible for the computer and the GPS to communicate. This means that planning the tour, the tour itself and sorting out the memories afterwards is much more fun. It also helps you plan your next tour quickly.
There are plenty of good programmes that makes this possible, for example, BaseCamp for the Garmin GPS, that enables you to »draw« a route on the map on the computer before you leave, that can then be transferred to the hand-held GPS and taken along to the mountains. The GPS will always keep you on the right path. You could also use a set of geographical coordinates from a friend who has previously taken the tour with a GPS, or you could simply get the coordinates of particular points, e.g. places with great views.
On the way 
Once you are on your way, there are several good ways to use GPS. The function I mostly use is setting the GPS to save information about where I have been. When I take a break or pitch a tent I can look back on the route on the digital map on the GPS’s display and I can take home information about the entire route.
  The GPs allows you to mark certain places in the mountains so you can find them again, or find places that you or your friends have previously visited. Friends can send the coordinates by mail, you plot them into the GPS and voila!
  If you plot a route into the GPS before you leave, you can, depending on the model, set the GPS to let you know if you move more than 500 metres away from the planned route. It will also show you which direction to take to get back on route.
  Finally, the GPS makes it possible for you to find your way home again. If you have saved »home« as a waypoint in the GPS you can ask it to show the way home at any time.
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Home again
Something that really made me include the GPS is its ability to save the data about where I have been. Even when I don’t have the GPS in my hand, I leave it turned on at the top of my back-pack closest to the satellites. It lies there, collecting data about where I go – the details of my movements. When I am back home, I power up the computer and transfer the GPS data. I can re-live the tour by turning on the GPS programme and I can even transfer my entire route to Google Earth. Re-living a tour is great fun and you suddenly remember a lot of little details. When I want to take another hike, what could be easier than hopping over to the GPS programme, laying a route, throwing the data for the route over to the GPS, turning the computer off and leaving?
  And from now on, always with my new friend: the GPS.
Tips and technicalities
There are plenty of good GPS’s, but in order to reap the benefit of much of what this article is about, you need a GPS that can be connected to a computer. In addition, you need software, so the computer and the GPS can communicate.
  One important thing to remember if you base your safety on the GPS: It must be fully charged and you must take extra batteries!
Share good routes or places with friends
The GPS provides a great opportunity to share your good routes, hunting places and anchor sites with friends and family. Through the standard file format GPX you can transfer geodata between GPS, computer and other electronic units to cards and navigation.
Geotag your photos!
A lot of digital cameras today are equipped with built-in GPS receivers. This means that the camera places a geographical coordinate in the actual photo file, i.e. information about where the photo was taken. First, you must make sure that the clocks in the GPS and the digital camera are synchronized. After the tour, you can use a programme to link the data from the GPS to the data from the camera, so that you can see where the photo was taken.