Before I start the fact that this post is on a Saturday and not a Friday is not lost on me but stay with me as I figure out the work flow of this new blog!
Navigation is the key to adventure racing. If you get it right you will have way less stress, get to your destination without backtracking, and you won’t look like a fool asking everyone you see for directions. Getting it wrong can turn 100 miles into 150 miles with all the backtracking and missed turns you will end up making.
There are several different ways to navigate during an adventure race. The main three are GPS, maps, and cue cards. I am personally a huge fan of my Garmin Etrex 30 GPS. This little device has helped me out of so many jams and recorded all the necessary data I needed to track my training and routes. The Etrex has a very simple interface and it’s easy to navigate on each page. This is extremely helpful when your have bloodshot eyes and are a bit shaky after 20 straight hours of riding. Or if you want to count every foot of your 5,000 foot climb because that's the only thing that will keep you going.
Besides the easy interface and durable exterior it also offers a decent battery life. During the Tour Divide I changed batteries every three days. Considering that I used it for 12-17 hours a day it's not too bad. At one point I used lithium batteries and it lasted a whole 4 days! But damn, that was so expensive I’ve only used lithium once.
There’s only one negative about the Etrex and to be honest, it's not even that bad. The main issue I have with the Etrex is the batteries. The AA batteries are not great for the environment and at the rate you burn through them on races like the Divide you aren't doing Mother Earth any favors. But that's the price you pay for not having to worry about any outlets in the backcountry.
I plan on using my Etrex for all the races of the Triple Crown but I will also be bringing paper maps. See the thing about GPS is that they always die at weird times when you’re not ready. Maps provide me with a small sense of security and can be a lifesaver when the GPS bites the dust. The second you assume your GPS will be fine and don't bring a map is when you set yourself up to be stranded in the middle of nowhere with a useless box of wires.