GPS Training Course Report

GPS training course

Looking towards Ruthin from Moel Famau

A damp Sunday morning saw me walking the last few hundred metres up to Bwlch Pen Barras, the ‘top car park’ as it often known. This is a great meeting point for Moel Famau, and we often meet clients here for our navigation courses.

Today I had only one client – there had been more, but unforeseen circumstances meant they had to move to another course date in 2015. But we would rather run a course with smaller numbers than disappoint people, so here we are!
Malcolm has attended one of our events before, and wanted to learn more about using the GPS he has carried on his regular walks.
As always we began with an overview of how a GPS receiver works, how it receives signals from orbiting satellites and uses these to calculate a position on and above the Earth. We then moved on to different GPS types and their relative merits and drawbacks. These days the options go beyond dedicated ‘outdoor’ GPS receivers, with mobile apps, tablets and even watches all coming onto the market, so there is much to talk about.

We set off along the forest tracks of Coed Moel Famau, going through a series of exercises that got Malcolm into a rhythm of using the different GPS features, the difference between waypoints and routes and so on. Towards midday I handed Malcolm a UHF radio and wandered off out of sight into the heather-clad slopes – then radioed him to give him my position as a ten-figure grid reference. As well as more good practice in entering waypoints and navigating to them, it gave us the chance to discuss the differences and practicalities of six-figure, eight-figure and ten-figure grid references. GPS receivers usually display position as a ten figure grid reference (e.g. AB 12345 67890), whereas it is difficult to plot anything more accurate than an eight-figure grid reference on a 1:25,000 scale Ordnance Survey map (e.g. AB 1234 6789).

GPS training courseWe finished by following a plotted route around Moel Famau, taking in the summit tower and trig point before returning to the car park as the sun began to drop below the horizon. My student now had a list of things he wanted to practice, some changes in the settings he would make on his Garmin GPS and hopefully a smoother and more streamlined way of using his GPS!

The GPS Training Course tends to attract two types of people – those who have already bought a GPS but don’t think they are reaching the full potential of their expensive gadget, and those who haven’t purchased one yet but want to find out if they will get a benefit from it. Whichever category you fall into, or if you sit outside of these two categories, then I am sure you will come away from the end of this course satisfied and inspired!

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