Map and compass

It is always nice to know where one is. Whenever I have gotten good and lost, it was because I was in a new area without a map. Not quite as bad as up a creek witout a paddle, but close enough.

Topo maps are designed to show the elevation of an area as well as the distances. Good to know if there is a four thousand foot pass between the car and the campsite.

Compasses are used in conjunction with maps. Knowing where north is doesn't do much good unless the car is parked due north.

GPS units can have a combination of map and compass, but the map is very small. Also, if the batteries run out, the user is out of luck. GPS is actually best used with a map. Many are the tales of persons relying on a GPS who wound up totally lost.

SPOT type devices send out a signal if one is in trouble. These can be a life-saver, but they can also be a pain in the Search and Rescue butt. On one memorable occasion in the Grand Canyon, a party sent out three SPOT calls and a helicopter responded each time. First time they couldn't find water. Second time the water "tasted funny". Third time the Park Service shoved them into the copter and told them they were done.

Search and Rescue missions are expensive and dangerous. Personnel and equipment for searches are limited, so while SAR is tracking down someone who doesn't like the taste of the drinking water, someone may be dying elsewhere, but rescuers were unavailable because they were chasing a SPOT call.