Can A Gps Repalce a Compass?


A compass and a satellite-based Global Positioning System receiver are complementary tools. A compass does one thing a GPS unit cannot–point toward magnetic north. GPS units equipped with an electronic compass are gradually coming to market. Still, GPS receivers are battery-powered devices that potentially could run out of power. A compass, relying solely on the earth's magnetic forces, has no such limitations. Thus, even if you own a GPS unit, you will always want to carry a compass as well.

GPS receivers are splendid devices. They are designed to measure direction of movement by calculating the difference between your current position and last position. They can also tell you your position without relying on visible landmarks for bearings, which is necessary for a compass must. On days of snow or heavy fog, that's a big plus.

Another GPS advantage: When following a bearing via compass, obstructions sometime cause you to stray from your ideal line of travel. This requires you to keep careful track of any deviations you take from your bearing, to the point of counting the paces you take while sidestepping the obstacle. Once past the obstacle you might need to adjust your compass bearing, but key landmarks may no longer be in view. With a GPS unit, however, you can easily obtain a new bearing and reset your compass with a revised line of travel.

Bottom line: When you want to know which direction you are facing–an important piece of knowledge–you must have a compass.

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