Field Tech Gear

What I Used to Map over 600 Miles of Trails

Hiking for the book 60 Hikes within 60 Miles Cincinnati required some specialized field gear like a GPS mapping unit. The GPS mapping system allows me to create trail maps that are crazy accurate. If you are mapping trails, you want the mapped trail to be as close as possible to the actual trail because being off 30-50 feet is a big damn deal.

After trying out one unit, in July, in a wet meadow and being eaten alive by mosquitos – I realized that I bought the wrong GPS mapping unit. The one I bought was less expensive (I was on a budget).

GPS Antenna

The problem was that it didn’t have an extended antenna. Every cloud in the sky, bird, or spec of dust would cause a loss of signal. Which meant, I stood melting in humid heat waiting for the GPS to pick up enough satellite signals that I could continue mapping the trail. Cursing my frugalness costing me hours and a pint of blood.

If this GPS unit didn’t have enough satellites, it estimated where you were on the trail based on where you had been the last time there was a signal. Which annihilates the point of using a GPS unit for accuracy. The problem too is that if you are a fast hiker, say anyone over 2.8 miles per hour and you are on a curvy or switchback trail, you most definitely are not going to have anywhere close to an accurate map.

In my experience, most trails are not straight lines through the woods. Trail managers like to meander the trails through the woods as the point is to meander not to get from point A to point B in the most expeditious manner possible.

Back to the Store

Angry, hangry, tired, soaked in sweat, and covered in red welts, I returned the GPS to the store when asked why I stated, “Does POS count?”

The clerk was young. He desperately looked for the right box to check. Shrugging he checked one and I got the return.

Buy a Garmin

I promptly put my money down on a slick Garmin GPS 60 series. It had an antenna. No matter what hollow I’ve hiked or cloudy sky I’ve hiked under the Garmin 60 series, hasn’t dropped signal.

If you want to map trails, a phone GPS isn’t going to give you an accurate map. It is going to guess where you are based on cell towers and if you aren’t near enough cell towers – well – it’s still going to guess. And, that is going to produce maps that are works of fiction.

About the Garmin

The Garmin 60 series are rugged little GPS units. I’ve found alkaline batteries work better than lithium or rechargeables. If you are hiking and mapping, take along extra batteries. Nothing screams “failure to plan” louder than having your battery die 5 miles into a 10-mile hike.

I excel at setting things down and then never seeing them again, so everything I take into the field is tethered to me. I used the handy dandy clip holder and loop on the back of the Garmin to secure it to a lanyard so I don’t accidentally leave it somewhere or have it pop out of my gear bag.

Next Garmin

My next Garmin is going to be the Garmin GPSMAP with messaging and SOS. I think it is a good addition to my gear as I don’t always hike in areas with cell signal so having the ability to call for help should I need it – is appealing. I mean it’s not like I’ve even fallen down a hill or anything. 😉

Before You Publish

Why Every Author Needs a Website

Even though, as an author you are used to being alone with your thoughts, you need an audience. While using social media is great, it does not give you absolute control over your audience.

A strong online presence is how authors build a successful writing career. Even before you begin writing your book, you should start your website and document the process.

Websites used to be clunky and hard to create and manage but now with all the easy-to-use tools available – creating a website has never been easier.

Let’s look at the crucial reasons why having a website is essential for authors to find success.

Building Your Author Brand

The first assets a publisher looks for is does the author have a platform meaning have they already established a base of fans who are not only interested in purchasing their book but also promoting simply by talking about it on their websites and socials.

If you don’t have a platform, it will be difficult to get your book published. And, if you self-publish you need that fan base even more to generate book sales.

A website serves the function of a central meeting place between you and your readers. Your publishers and the media will also use your website to access information about you such as your bio, marketing materials such as photos and videos, and your current and finished books. Plus, if you are a subject matter expert, you can also establish yourself as the go-to person for interviews related to your subject area.

For example, I’m a hiking expert and am the go-to person for interviews related to hiking, hiking with kids, hiking with seniors, local hiking, etc. I am interviewed by the media several times throughout the year and each interview results in a bump in book sales.

Your socials can direct back to your website and by keeping everything branded, you are establishing your unique authorial identity.

Connect with Readers

But you can’t just have the website and socials be a one-way street. You must engage with your audience to cultivate a dedicated fan base.

An author website is a great way to create a direct conduit to your audience through blog posts, newsletters, and interactive features.

Readers are engaged when they can join the group by leaving comments, sharing their thoughts, and participating in discussions. This back-and-forth communication fosters a sense of community and leads to loyal fans who support you.

Show Off Your Work

It’s time to crawl out of your writer’s cave. Yes, you can bring your coffee. A website is the perfect place to showcase your author portfolio. You can have your past work as well as your current work.

An author website is a terrific way to share your portfolio and can feature book covers, summaries, and excerpts, enticing potential readers and showcasing your writing.

Of course, including testimonials or reviews because third-party validation adds credibility and builds trust with new readers, publishers, and the media.

You Control Content and Presentation

You are not subject to someone else’s idea of how your work should be presented. You are not at the mercy of social media platforms or third-party publishing sites – you as the website owner control over your website. You control the content and presentation of your work.

Your website is not static, it is a dynamic portfolio and communication tool. You can experiment with different layouts, multimedia elements, images, and more to tailor the user experience.

Establish a Platform for Marketing

It is a whole lot easier to prepare for book launches, promotional campaigns, and media tours when you have a website that can function as a hub for all the information that needs to be shared.

It is simpler to send the media or your host promotional materials such as photos and images than to painstakingly send files to each request.

Plus, you can create landing pages, countdowns, and exclusive content to generate buzz before a book release.

Throughout your website, you can and should integrate social media sharing as it increases your audience reach which in turn increases your book sales.

Capture and Analyze Data

An author website can also collect valuable user data and via analytics discover who exactly is your audience.

When you know who you are talking to – it is easier to speak their language. By understanding your audiences’ demographics, preferences, and behavior you can refine your marketing strategies and tailor content to your target audience.

Increase Discoverability

It’s a big ole world out there and being found is a matter of numbers. The more people who see you the more you are discoverable BUT a search engine must find you first. That is why an author’s website is so important.

You need to have that connection and implement strategies such as posting consistently, posting relevant content, engaging with your audience, and utilizing effective SEO strategies to be discoverable by search engines.

This in turn drives organic traffic to your website and makes it easier for readers, agents, publishers, and the media to find you online.

Long Story Short – You Need an Author Website

Having a website is not a frivolous luxury, it is an essential tool for authors. An author website serves as a hub for your online presence, offering a platform to connect with your readers, display your work, and build your brand that extends beyond the pages of your books. By investing in a website early on, you are building the foundation for a successful and enduring writing career.

Get started with your website here.