BackpackGearTest
  Home Guest - Not logged in 

Reviews > Navigation and Map Gear > Accessories > Brooks Range Map Tools > Test Report by Michael Mosack

BROOKS RANGE MAP TOOLS
TEST SERIES BY MIKE MOSACK
LONG-TERM REPORT
March 05, 2012

CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE LONG-TERM REPORT

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Mike Mosack
EMAIL: mosack@earthlink.net
AGE: 48
LOCATION: San Diego, California, USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 6' 1" (1.85 m)
WEIGHT: 240 lb (109.00 kg)

I've been backpacking for over 30 years, doing solo and group trips, with and without kids. I do day trips, weekenders and week-long or longer trips throughout the year. I backpack in all climates and seasons and in various locations within the USA, to include my favorites being Yosemite and Sierra Nevadas, California. I also have worked in Afghanistan for 4 years and rely on my backpacking equipment constantly. I go lighter whenever possible. Quality and reliability of items I carry are paramount to me over price and weight.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Brooks-Range Mountaineering Equipment Co.IMAGE 1
Year of Manufacture: 2011
Manufacturer's Website: http://brooks-range.com
MSRP - see below:
All-in-One Map Tool Pro: $21.00
All-in-One UTM Reader: $11.95
All-in-One Emergency Latitude / Longitude Ruler: $4.95
Field Organizer: $19.00
Listed Weight: 0.4 oz (11.34 g) for the UTM Reader
Measured Weight: 14.5 oz (0.41 kg) is for the complete (tested system) with case.
Other details:
Made in the U.S.A.
Warrantee:
This comes with a warrantee that I believe is absolutely fair, covering the product and original purchaser. The company states that the customer is #1 to them and their first priority. The No Hassle Guarantee is 1 year and comes with the normal common sense caveats. Over all, I see nothing in the warrantee or the No Hassle Guarantee that causes me any concern whatsoever. As the company states, "If something isn't right, simply return it and we'll do our best to make it right."

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

Upon receiving this very cool set of navigational aids, I quickly began to check it out. My first impression was that these look well made and quite detailed in the information available on them. I think it'll be easier to talk about each item separately, except that the All-in-One Map Tool Pro and UTM Grid Reader are so close in appearance and construction, that I'll cover those together for this report. I will then report on the use and capabilities of each item separately in the Field Report and Long Term Report as required.

According to the manufacturer's website, all of these items may be purchased separately and direct from the manufacturer and their MSRP prices are listed above. There surely will be references using different acronyms or abbreviations of which I will endeavor to spell out any that are not already commonly known throughout the backpacking community. Latitude / Longitude (Lat / Long) and Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) are a couple that come to mind already. This report is not intended to be a how-to guide on how to navigate so if these standard abbreviations cause concern, there are many other resources available to learn how to navigate so one can become more familar with such terminology.

I think I should note here that if in reading this report or anytime one is unsure of the exact meaning or use of a particular item, they should ensure they use common sense and find the answers before getting themselves into a situation where they would need to know how to use a particular item especially those that are basic survival and/or navigational aids such as these.

The Brooks-Range All-in-One Map Tool Pro -
The manufacturer's website states, "contains all the UTM's — 10 scales and 10 slope indexes — commonly used on backcountry topographic maps in the US, Alaska, Canada, Europe, New Zealand and Japan in one durable plastic card."

IMAGE 2
All-in-One Map Tool Pro packet



The Brooks-Range All-In-One UTM Grid Reader -
The manufacturer's website states, "is an essential tool for backcountry adventurers, and contains 8 UTM's, scales, and 12 slope indexes commonly used on backcountry topographic maps in the US, Alaska, Canada, Europe, New Zealand and Japan. Thin but durable, our UTM Grid Reader is as essential for backcountry travel and orienteering as a map and compass."

IMAGE 3
All-in-One UTM Reader packet



The Map Tool and the UTM Grid Reader above, are constructed from a flat sheet of opaque or semi-clear colored, "non-glare" plastic. There is a plethora of scales and graphs and other information available on each. The print is variable in font sizes and some are in red and others in black colored type. They each have on them a printed warning stating, "WARNING: Proper use of this information requires expert training!", which needless to say is a bit intimidating, so this should be interesting. I have also noticed that the plastic sheet material of these tools seem to have a slight static cling to each other and to paper when it is laid flat against them. This cling effect has both the good in that it stays with the map, but also the bad in that it is somewhat difficult to pick up off a flat surface. Sliding it to the edge of the table was the best way for me to pick it up.

The Emergency Latitude / Longitude Ruler -
The manufacturer's website states, "Most backcountry travelers use the Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) system for planning and navigation. Helicopter and air rescue crews use the lat/long system. Designed by team of professional mountain guides and cartographers, this 4x7 paper lat/long ruler is lightweight and fits easily into the Brooks-Range Field Organizer™ or a pocket for quick reference in an emergency."

IMAGE 5
Emergency Lat/Long paper Ruler



The "Ruler" is simply a piece of printed paper that is intended to be folded at whatever point where the ruler guide matches to the scale I wish to use on a given map. On one side there is a series of scaled rulers covering 10 different scales from 1:20,000 through 1:250,000. My first impressions of this is that the concept is good and there is some weight savings although essentially minuscule, but that this is only constructed from a standard sheet of paper that easily rips concerns me that this will not last. When I first received this, I found it had been "folded and sealed" with a circle of sticky tape commonly found on boxes and containers to keep them from being opened prior to sale. I attempted to just carefully remove the tape from the paper, but the paper tore instead. I already see that I'll have to be quite careful with this item. The tear in the paper can be seen in the photo below at the left edge of the instruction side, under the semicircle of tape.

The Field Organizer -
The manufacturer's website states, "Designed to hold our Rite in the Rain® field books, this bright yellow, waterproof cover organizes all of the items you use with your field book."

IMAGE 4
Field Organizer packet



I can quickly see that I should have no trouble locating this item as it is very brightly colored. There are sewn loops (both inside and outside) for securing 6 pens, pencils, etc.; a squared pocket inside that looks like my compass might fit and 6 additional pockets to organize multiple map tools, a notebook and even maps if folded to fit. My Yosemite National Park and Vicinity topo waterproof map in 1:125,000 scale which is folded by the printer/manufacturer, fits perfectly inside. My folded map measures 7.25 X 4.25 in (18.41 cm X 10.8 cm). These are basically the same dimensions for the Organizer when closed. It opens like a book so the width then is 9 in (21.6 cm). There is a handy hook and loop strap to secure the Organizer closed when not in use.

READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

There are a lot of instructions. The Map Tool Pro has 9 pages of instructions, while the UTM Reader stretches into 10 pages. The instructions all seem pretty straightforward. There are also hints and diagrams to assist in understanding how to use these tools. Each tool's package includes a pamphlet of "Important Information" which contains a "Satisfaction Guaranteed!" and "No hassle Guarantee!" section along with company contact information and requirements for merchandise returns, repair services, proper care and storage and cleaning of the products they offer. It appears that this pamphlet is intended to provide information to cover other products that Brooks-Range Mountaineering Equipment Co. sells as well.

There is also included in each package a "No postage necessary" feedback card with an offer to send me a Brooks-Range SOS Backcountry Card if I fill this out and mail it in. This appears to be a standard offer to anyone who purchases their products and I kind of like it! Lastly, there is a window sticker included in each packet with the Brooks-Range Bunny logo on it - that was a nice touch.

TRYING IT OUT

I must admit first that I am definitely not a cartographer, so I will not be able to independently verify the true accuracy of these tools and will leave that up to the manufacturer and individuals who choose to use these tools.

I have found already that the tools are filled with a lot of information to accommodate many different tasks. They fit well into the Organizer and are semitransparent (opaque) so that I can see the map through the tools. I noticed that the type (font size) used is differently sized throughout the tools themselves and some is quite small. I have good eyes, but with the small font size and opaque coloring of the plastic material it appears that in subdued lighting, the markings might be difficult to see. I will report on my findings in the Field Report section.

Summary

Over all, I am impressed with this product and the manufacturer. On the surface, everything seems to be well made and thought out. I am interested both, in how these tools will work for me and in my ability to navigate through the instructions, charts, guides, and more as I learn the capabilities of these tools and my understanding of them. Did you like the pun? Well I have a lot of work to do ahead of me with this test so I am heading out.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

During this testing phase, I have been in Nangarhar Province, located in eastern Afghanistan for the majority of the past two months. I have since spent 9 days with 2 over night trips with 3 nights in the field with my Map Tools during this phase. I have also practiced with them while "at home" at base camp as well.

The terrain is a harsh desert environment where temperatures have ranged from highs over 80 F (27 C) to night time lows of 25 F (-4 C). Winter is coming in quickly in Afghanistan. The weather has been mostly clear skies but occasionally there has been rain and even snow at elevation. The terrain is a mix of rocky mountains to sand and very fine dusty areas and the elevations have ranged from approximately 1700 ft (518 m) to over 6000 ft (1830 m).

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

During this series I’ve used the Map Tools to plan for trips/missions as well as orient in the field here in Afghanistan. While I am unable to provide photos of the specific maps used as they belong to the military, I have been able to navigate successfully in a variety of map scales covered by these tools. I have noted that these tools have a lot of available information on them and as a result, I have not yet been able to utilize or test every feature available. I have however, been able to use them in the following scales -
1:24,000
1:50,000
1:63,360
1;125,000

IMAGE 6
All-in-One Map Tool on map


As I stated above, the Map Tools provide a lot of information on each of them. Having said this, once I have identified the correct scale of the specific map and matching scale on the Map Tool I am using, it becomes pretty straightforward. Having knowledge of standard navigation with a map and compass is required. Spending a little time with the tools and a map along with the provided instructions also helps to become familiar with their ease of use.

I am older (at 48) than virtually everyone I work with here in Afghanistan, so when identifying easier navigational routes to get to a specific location, these map tools have worked very well for me. I have also been quite appreciative of the Slope Index scales. They provide an easy way to identify how steep a slope is quickly by providing a more visual reference in degrees of incline or decline.

In using the UTM Corner Ruler option on the UTM Reader at the scales of 1:50,000, 1:63,360, 1:125,000 and additionally at 1:62,500 (although I didn't use this last scale), I found that the UTM scale only goes up to 5 rather than the standard 10 units. This is also covered within the instructions and guidance is provided to show how to still utilize these scales easily. Basically, knowing how to use a compass and UTM scale in navigation seems to be the basis for being able to use these Map Tools.

The Brooks-Range Map Tools for me, have worked well. They seem to remain flexible even in cooler climates and their opaque color is transparent enough to allow the map's contour lines and related information to remain visible through them. I did note that my All-in-One Map Reader tool was bent at the corner after removing it from my pack. This bending of the plastic tool caused some minor clouding of the opaqueness of the tool, so it looks whiter in this area of where the bend was. I'll have to try to pack the tools away from harder items within my pack to ensure this does not continue to happen. The brightly colored Field Organizer is easy to locate within my pack and shows no signs of wear to date.

IMAGE 7
Paper ruler on map


The paper All-in-One Latitude/Longitude Ruler too, has performed well so far. I have not had any further issues with it tearing, but admittedly, am being very careful with how I handle it. I did note that the scale of 1;125,000 as listed on the Ruler does not quite match the same scale as displayed on the map as can be seen by my photo above.

SUMMARY

So far, I have found these Map Tools to be very helpful, lightweight and easy to use, both at home and in the field. They have a lot of information on them that seemed a little daunting at first, but once the correct scale on the tool is matched with the proper map, they are worth their weight. I can not stress how important it is to have knowledge of navigation and familiarity with these tools prior to having to rely on them in an emergency situation. Spending a little time with them first can avoid a lot of problems later.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

During this testing phase, I have been in Nangarhar Province, located in eastern Afghanistan for the entirety of the past two months. I have since spent 17 days with 4 over night trips in the field with my Map Tools during this phase.

The terrain is a harsh desert environment where temperatures have ranged from highs over 60 F (15 C) to night time lows of 32 F (0 C). Winter in Afghanistan is pretty short. The weather has been mostly clear skies but occasionally there has been rain and even snow at elevation. The terrain is a mix of rocky mountains to sand and very fine dusty areas and the elevations have ranged from approximately 1700 ft (518 m) to over 6000 ft (1830 m).

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

During this test period, the map tools worked splendidly. I found them easy to use, convenient and was able to use them with a multitude of map scales as listed above. I have used the map tools as both a primary as well as a back up tool for other navigational aids to include standard GPS and military software. As I mentioned in the Field Report, I found a slight measurement difference on the available scales on the paper ruler to the map. I did not find this a deal breaker at all. Inaccuracies that I have found in deviations of scales from differing maps to the paper ruler, have been easy to work around and a reminder that I can never completely rely upon any one tool when in the field. It was a very minor problem to me anyway.

A couple of times, my compass fell out of the pocket inside the map case. I think it would have helped if either the pocket was deeper and/or it had a small hook-and-loop type closure to lock in the compass. It would have just prevented my having to dig a little inside my pack to find my compass. I actually prefer to keep my compass on me and separate from my pack on the chance that I get separated from my pack. The handy pocket is a nice feature, but I think I'll return to keeping my compass on me instead. I like the comfort of knowing my basic survival items are always with me and accessible when needed.

IMAGE 8
On to my next mission! Dari Noor, Afghanistan

SUMMARY

The map tools are lightweight and easy to use once I had taken the time to put in some practice. The early bend in the All-in-One UTM Reader that happened from my packing in my backpack was a lesson learned. I was more careful about making sure there was a flat spot away from hard corners of other items inside my pack. The Map Reader, although having a small clouded look to the opaque plastic, is not really affected by the obvious change in color at the bend and I have been able to work with it as-is. The printing is quite small so if I were one needing reading glasses, I would probably want to pack them or a small magnifying glass to make reading the information on the UTM Reader as well as the Map Tool. I believe that my practicing with these tools before taking them out to the field helped me identify my weak points.

The map case is still very bright in color and easy to locate even in subdued lighting or inside the backpack. There are more pockets than I need in the map case. I have a bad habit of always filling as many pockets as are available!

The paper EMERGENCY All-in-One Latitude/Longitude Ruler held its own throughout my testing phases and the initial tear in it did not get any larger. As easily as it did tear, I am surprised by this. Admittedly, I was intentionally trying to be careful with it and making sure I was not careless. This may sound redundant or even dumb, but by its very name, I believe that this paper ruler is intended as more of an emergency item, rather than a daily use item. Being as such, I am confident that it would be there for me on the chance that I needed it. I would probably treat it with a waterproof map sealant or similar to assist with its ability to withstand more abuse just in case.

This concludes my test report on the Brooks-Range Map Tools. I would like to thank Brooks-Range Mountaineering Equipment Co. and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test these items.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

Read more reviews of Brooks Range Mountaineering Equipment Co gear
Read more gear reviews by Michael Mosack

Reviews > Navigation and Map Gear > Accessories > Brooks Range Map Tools > Test Report by Michael Mosack



Product tested and reviewed in each Formal Test Report has been provided free of charge by the manufacturer to BackpackGearTest.org. Upon completion of the Test Series the writer is permitted to keep the product. Owner Reviews are based on product owned by the reviewer personally unless otherwise noted.

If you are an avid backpacker, we are always looking for enthusiastic, quality reviewers. Apply here to be a gear tester.


All material on this site is the exclusive property of BackpackGearTest.org.
BackpackGearTest software copyright David Anderson