Unhaggle | How to Navigate Across the Roughest Terrains in Canada

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Written and researched by Elliot Chan for Unhaggle.com | May 13, 2014 |

The advancement of global positioning system (GPS) has changed the way we travel. But as we grow more and more dependent on technology to get our Ram trucks and us, excited travelers, to where we want to go, we should also stop and take a moment to acknowledge our navigational ineptitude.

After all, what would happen to us if the Internet fails, the satellites go down and the little blue dot we were supposed to follow halts? Getting lost is a part of the journey when it comes to Great Canadian Wilderness Adventures, but being able to find your way home is quite important as well. It’s a big country. So, when technology fails follow some of these helpful tips to get you there and back with a story to tell.

Rely on offline maps

Perhaps, it is easy to curse our devices when they fail us, but if you plan ahead, there is no reason to rely on them in dire situations at all.

Whether you are heading out of the country or into the backcountry, there is a probably already a map in existence. Have a look at it before heading out, or better off, save a readable offline version, or even better, print it out like you would if you were living in 1995 and carry it with you.

If you are heading out into an area without a gas station to ask directions, consider a topographical map, as opposed to a planimetric map, which is more commonly used in the city. Topographical maps are helpful for navigating through areas without signs, because they reference the terrain, instead of roads. It takes a while to get a hang of reading the contour lines that represent the elevation, and differentiating the colours that symbolize vegetation, bodies of water, etc., but the ability to read a map like that is more than a survival skill. It’s also a way to impress your fellow travellers. So, don’t be afraid to take some time and practice.

Find man-made landmarks or attack points

There are a few names for man-made or natural features that act as landmarks for travellers and adventurers: catch features, baselines, attack points and so on. Expert navigators know that before you head out into the backcountry, you should identify a few catch features just in case you lose your orientation. Man-made objects, such as power lines, roads, or tracks are all useful. Certain natural landmarks are useful too, including rivers or lakes.

When selecting these landmarks for navigation sakes, be sure to acknowledge the distance between yourself and the landmark. A distance of two miles (3.2 km) will work fine, while a distance of 20 miles (32 km) will do you little good. You don’t want to travel a full day to find a landmark to reorient yourself, so the closer the better.

That landmark can then become your attack point and from there you should be able to identify which direction you need to go.

Take the long way by aiming off and following handrails

Handrails can double as an attack point, but they are used in a slightly different way. Like the name suggest, travellers can follow the handrails, in a linear fashion, to guide them back to their car, campsite, summer oasis, etc.

If you know the road follows the river downstream, finding the river will surely lead you to the road. If you know your campsite is by the lake, if you head in the direction of the lake, you can use it as a handrail back to the campsite.

This technique is often known as aiming off, because you are not taking the direct route towards your target. Instead you are heading towards a handrail you can consciously follow.

Aiming off towards a handrail or a catch feature is often the smarter choice because a direct route that is not as direct as you thought can leave you much more disoriented. Be wary of short cuts.

Make checkpoints as you go

Whether you are driving, walking or skipping merrily, making checkpoints along the way will not only help you when you need directions, but it is also a great technique to familiarize yourself with the route. Consider it navigational studying. Unlike breadcrumbs, checkpoints should be clear visible features along the way that you can navigate in reverse when you leave or get lost down the road.

Fences, lakes, haunted houses can all be used as landmarks, even better if they can be located on a map. Should you need to, you can turn those checkpoints into attack points depending on your distance.

The more checkpoints you have, the better your chances of finding one that may serve you later. This method works wonderfully when travelling in a foreign city you are not familiar with. Don’t be afraid to act like a tourist and snap some pictures, they can easily be used as landmarks to show locals when you are lost.

Measure your pace

Be observant when you are driving or walking. Keeping track of your pace can be an advantage when you get lost or stuck. If you know how far you’ve travelled from one checkpoint to the next, should anything happen, you can easily calculate the time it’ll take to get there.

In your car, you can measure your pace by the speedometer. Say, you are travelling at 30km/h by an off-road trail for 15 minutes, but suddenly your car breaks down. You can then assume that you are about 7.5km away from the main road.

If you are on foot and you want to measure your pace, a common technique is to see how many paces it would take to get to 100 metres. The technique is called double pacing, and it works by having walkers count their steps as they put their foot down on one side. Practice might be needed in order to determine how far 100 metres. Consider measuring it out on a consistent terrain for 600 metres. There are a few methods used by experts to mark each 100 metres. Some use count beads, some tie knots and some transfer stones from one pocket to another.

Being able to effectively count paces in the wild will help measure the distance from where you are to where your target is, if you should get lost.

Navigational skills are not something we are all born with, especially us urban-folks with our tablets and smartphones. We must go out into our wild country, get lost in a safe fashion and practice until we know what we’re doing.

Unhaggle | How to Decide Which Car Features You Want vs. Need

Posted by  | February 12, 2014 |
Ghost written by Elliot Chan.
car-safety-featuresOil slicks, ejector seats and rocket boosts may not be practical car features in the real world, but there are other unnecessary additions you’ll want to look out for as well. Manufactures and dealers will try to up sell and install luxury and impractical features that will end up increasing your budget, becoming useless in the long-term and may even hinder your vehicle’s capability and resale value. Yes, life’s greatest struggle is trying to determine what you really want and what you actually need. And same applies to car features.If you have purchased a car before, you probably have a good idea about your habits behind the wheel. You know what makes you comfortable and secure. You might have also been a passenger inside a friend’s vehicle where you saw all the cool toggles and switches on their dashboard and thought – my next car will have those things. But not so fast, let’s not succumb to peer pressure or cheap sales tactics. Take a moment to determine what you really need!

What You Need

Standard safety features

Safety is paramount, especially while driving. Most cars come with standard features such as seatbelts, airbags and antilock brakes. But you should also consider investing in a few additional features to increase your vehicle’s accountability on the road.

Electronic stability/skid-control system

Electronic stability/skid-control system (ESC system) helps you cope with those scary moments when your tires lose traction and/or control on slippery roads. ESC system operates through sensors in the car (like a wheel speed sensor, steering sensor and yaw-rate sensor). These sensors understand how fast and in which direction your car is going. If a skid should occur, ESC system recognizes it and implements the necessary braking systems to help the car and yourself recover. Less panic means a safer ride.

Blind spot detection system

Blind spot detection system (BSD system) may save your life. There are other people on the road and the BSD system reminds us of them. On highways, busy urban streets or cramp parking lots, other vehicles, bicyclists or pedestrians may cross our paths without us knowing. The BSD system alerts us with a flashing light, a beeping sound and/or vibration before we accidentally collide with anything.

Physical knobs and buttons

Physical knobs and buttons on a dashboard and steering wheel save us from distractions. In a world where everything is interactive, all we really need are a few buttons and knobs to get the job done. Adjusting temperature and radio station is just easier when you can just remember where the buttons are, instead of scanning a touch screen for an image of a button. Physical buttons and knobs also allow you to keep your eyes on the road and hands on the wheel.

What You Want

GPS navigation system and Bluetooth

GPS navigation system and Bluetooth are quickly becoming standards in cars. If it’s not included, you should definitely resist — because if your car doesn’t come with those features, your smartphone does.

Touchless or foot-operated liftgate

Touchless or foot-operated liftgate is an absolute luxury. I too had my hands full of groceries from the checkout to my car. I place the bags down and open the door, a slight inconvenience, but far from a hassle. To classify this as a necessity is to say a chauffeur and a butler are also a necessary.

Backup camera

Backup camera is new technology that is still being opposed and advocated for. But when it comes to tight driving situations, every new innovation helps. Backup camera acts as another rear view mirror for your vehicle and should be relied on in the same fashion. That being said, backup cameras may help, but what matters more is responsible and safe driving. Backing up without rear ending someone shouldn’t be a challenge – it’s basic driving.

Automatic headlights

Automatic headlights light the way for us without a reminder. But anything that nurtures your indolence can’t be a good thing, right? Sure automatic headlights might help you save battery life, but the automatic headlights are not driving your car – you are. You should figure out when to turn on or off the lights, not some sensory headlamp. You wouldn’t trust an automatic oven to turn off when you leave the house, would you?

Automatic seat temperature control and memory seats bring a bit of comfort to your drive, but comfort is always something you’ll have to put a price on. I recommend heated and memory seats, like I would recommend a cherry on top of your sundae. For example, the 2014 Ford Fiesta optional features include a comfort package at approximately $290. Something to consider.