Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Gear Review: ONX HUNT Maps for the GPS Bug Out

T = 0

It’s really happened.

There’s no more question. Bugout time is here.

Plan A is already a non-starter, so Plan B is put in gear with your bugout vehicle locked and loaded.

After a tense nine hours of evasive driving, you blast through the last open highway lane as you watch impromptu roadblocks take shape.

Night is falling along with the rain. Cold, scared, confused, hungry, you and your family have to get to a safe place and dig-in long enough to plan your next move. And the last thing you want is to get in a gunfight over where you’re parked.

Since your Plan B was more conceptual than detailed, you are at a substantial tactical disadvantage compared to anyone familiar with the area you now find yourself. Communication is down so you cannot call your second cousin in Montana, or your wife’s sister-in-law in Wyoming, or your neighbor’s parents in Idaho. You are going to have to solo on this one.

What you need now more than water, food or shelter is information. You need a magic solution that will tell you where you are, what public roads are nearby, and most importantly, who owns the land; every single piece of land. And it turns out that just such a magical solution is available in a tiny chip you drop into your GPS, whether on your car dashboard or handheld receiver. It’s called Hunt by onXmaps.

You Are Here.
In our bugout scenario, this is where you fire up your GPS and instantly your screen blinks to life with color-coded land ownership blocks clearly identifying down to a couple meters what is private, what is state, and what is federal land. You can clearly see where the water is located, what campgrounds are nearby (to avoid them), and possibly the most important bit of survival trivia, the exact name of the person or organization that owns the land. Don’t underestimate that final piece of intel!

Through the beating windshield wipers, you see the turnoff you’ve been praying for. Your GPS shows the road snakes through the trees to a dead end that would be a perfect camping spot in happier times. But right now your main concern is who owns the land. A mistake now could be deadly because everyone is a little loose with the trigger when scared and confused. And nothing brings on fear and confusion like S hitting TF.

Luckily, it happens that you have as much right to use this land as any other American so the race is on to see who gets there first.

You dim the lights and make the turn. Grinding up the muddy track, you see no sign of man. Your spirits lift as you take the spur deeper into the pine trees. Moments later you hit the end of the road, and you are alone. Killing the engine, the first time 10 hours, you listen to the rain dance on the roof of your rig. Instead of worrying about where you are, you can now concern yourself with fortification because Hunt by onXmaps has given you the green light to dig in.

In reality your GPS clearly shows you smack-dab in the middle of a bright yellow finger of BLM land flanked by white private land a quarter mile to the south, and green Forest Service land a mile to the north. The nearby creek is the boundary line separating your new home (yellow) from the private land (white) meaning you can safely access the water (blue), and the BLM land is fertile hunting ground all the way to the mountains to the west.

Hunt by onXmaps
A hundred bucks. Let’s get that out of the way right now. A state-specific premium map chip costs $100. That’s not chump change, but in the big picture it’s less than two tanks of gas in your BOV. Maybe less than one if your BOV is “not quite” stock.

Most states are covered by Hunt by onXmaps, and with few exceptions a simple highway map will get you to to a state worth bugging out to (with the exception of Maine which desperately needs its own onXmaps map). However, the featureset of Hunt by onXmaps is much deeper than just land ownership.

At Your Fingertips!
GPS receivers, even the newer touchscreen ones, are nowhere near as responsive let alone as large as an iPad. For the tablet and smartphone crowd, onXmaps is available for Android and iOS touchscreens through a combination of free App and purchased membership code. For the same $99, a statewide premium account will light up a mind boggling rich amount of information that reacts instantly to taps, touches, pinches and swipes.

The tablet will need a wireless connection (cell or 802.11x) to load the information from the onXmaps servers, but if you have any idea where you are going you can cache information in the onboard offline in-App library. However, caching dense layers of information can take up a rather large amount of memory so screenshots are another quick and lighter option. You can even email screenshots within the App for quick communication. Even more, you can literally trace out a route using the line markup tool and in two clicks, fire off the map with highlighted route via email to anyone anywhere.

The touchscreen version has many layers that can be added and subtracted with a tap. The user can touch between satellite imagery, road and transportation lines, property boundaries, hunting districts, walk-in areas, and a dozen other metadata overlays.

Let’s be frank:
Knowing the name of the landowner can make all the difference if you are cornered. Politely calling names into the headlights cornering you will change the dynamics of the situation. Or knowing that that your bugout neighbor is on state or federal land, not their own land as they might tell you. Or realizing that there is public access to a water supply in one direction but not the other. In fact this information is so critical that even locals use Hunt by onXmaps when chasing game, fishing, driving around the backcountry, and recreating in general. Even some police forces apply the magic of onXmaps when planning raids in residential areas.

Tough Love Montana Style
Let me tell you something. As a card-carrying landowner in rural Montana, I cannot count the number of times some SUV, pickup or ORV “stumbles” into my territory claiming to be “just driving around” when in reality their intentions are somewhere between clueless and criminal; usually leaning towards the latter. Let’s clear up some things, “No Trespassing” “No Hunting” and “Private Drive” can also be easily translated into I do have certain rights ordained by God, the US Constitution, and Montana State Law that are in my favor should I feel threatened. And SHTF, TEOTWAWKI, or whatever string of capital letter you want to use is “just cause” for feeling threatened thus clearing the landowner to act appropriately. Just because my driveway is a quarter-mile of unimproved dirt road does not mean you are welcome to explore it at your leisure. Normally we give the trespasser the benefit of the doubt, but when WROL is the law of the land, expect an apology for my actions, not permission.

Bugout Wisdom
Weighing less than half-a-gram, the Hunt by onXmaps microSD card is easily the most powerful survival accessory by weight and size. While it’s true you cannot eat it, drink it, or shoot with it, the gigabytes of information on the chip may provide you a longer life than a whole case of MREs. Don’t bugout without one!

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