A data-driven approach to remote overland travel allows you to gather information about current conditions, identify best routes, bailout plans, and successfully explore the wild.
AKP Snow Science Fundraiser
Contact: Luc Mehl
These resources are described in some detail, including video tutorials, at thingstolucat.com. I recommend creating a bookmarks folder for our day together, bookmark the pages that you want to return to.
Remote Overland Travel
I’ve split this content into four modules.
Information Gathering: Research, remote sensing, weather
Route Planning: Google Earth, CalTopo, GaiaGPS.com
Navigation with Gaia GPS
Safety: Trip plan, self-rescue, communication
- Blogs & Guidebooks
- Social media
- Public routes, e.g., “How has Mt. _____ been climbed?”
Remote Sensing, Near Real-time Imagery
- MODIS: 2x daily, 250m resolution, NASA Worldview
- Landsat: 30m resolution, Sentinel Hub
- Sentinel 2 L2A: 4-5x /week, 10m resolution, Sentinel Hub
- Sentinel 1: Radar, “smoothness,” 5-20m resolution. Can be the best option in winter, high latitudes, Sentinel Hub
- Advanced functionality with Sentinel EO Browser
CalTopo has added some of these imagery sources, but with limited options (one image per week, etc.)
High-resolution Satellite Imagery
- Google Earth: 15m to 15cm
- ESRI Worldview: 15m, 2.5m, 0.5m, via Bing Aerial or any ESRI portal (e.g., DNR), is often higher resolution than Google Earth. Available with Gaia Pro, can be manually loaded with Gaia Standard.
- Arctic DEM
Google Earth: 3D Planning
- Google Earth’s different flavors
- import topo (superoverlay.kml, Earth Point, or topoView)
- historical imagery
- elevation profile
- slope % to degrees
- create route
- share route
CalTopo: 2d Planning
- $20 annual subscription to access the superoverlay.kml (Free upgrade for SAR)
- Download the superoverlay.kml to view topo map, etc.
Gaiagps.com: 2D Planning
- 6-month Premium promo code only valid for new users
- If you already have an account, small discount code
- Website features
- base layers
- route planning
- community tracks
Manually import basemaps:
Working with Topo Maps
- CalTopo offers a very mature printing interface. Unfortunately, I find that most of the maps in Alaska need some contrast adjustment to be workable.
- USGS quads can be downloaded and printed for free from topoView. No easy way to add routes.
- DNR offers topo maps for view and print, without having to select individual quads. No easy way to add routes.
- QGIS is open source software that can be used to create maps (georeferenced or not) with various free basemaps. Routes can be added easily.
Phone as GPS
- Faster processor
- Larger screen
- More basemap options
- Everyone has one
- Easily transfer information
- Battery life
- Bright sky / wet screen
- The GPS-A chip in phones can actually be more accurate than a standalone unit, but only when near cell towers.
- The GPS chip in phones is only accurate to 100 ft, and in practice, two side-by-side phones can record locations several hundred feet apart.
- Bad Elf makes a plug-in accessory that boosts accuracy to 10 ft. This accessory is not field-tough.
- Bad Elf makes a standalone GPS unit that gets 10 foot accuracy and plays well (bluetooth) with Gaia and other apps.
- topo and satellite layers
- slope angle shading overlay
- import route
- hidden features: line of sight, distance and bearing
- manually enter point (choose 2)
- 63.065852°, -151.009386°
- 67° 4’46.94″N, 158°56’32.86″W
- 62° 6.858’N, 144° 39.006’W
- 4 V, 551721.70 m E, 6305751.73 m N
- import point/route from text or email
- battery life
Managing phone batteries
- best practices
- solar panels
- extra batteries