Vernon Outdoors Club helps hikers navigate back country

Hiking session at Vernon Library June 20

As the snow recedes, many head out into the hills.

There are hundreds of backcountry hiking trails, but finding the way can be a challenge for a beginner, especially if they end up on a poorly marked path that fades away from time to time.

The Vernon Outdoors Club (VOC) is hosting a free session on hiking GPS navigation for complete beginners, co-sponsored by the Okanagan Regional Library, June 20 from 7 p.m.-8:30 p.m. at the Vernon Library.

When Ritchie Leslie, president of the VOC, first arrived in Vernon and wanted to go explore the backcountry, he discovered that true wilderness was not far from his home — a very different to experience to southern Ontario, he said.

He could not find any local courses on backcountry navigation and safety, so he went out and bought a hiking GPS. He soon discovered the limitations of a GPS, realizing that the GPS “out of the box” had a lack of accurate maps of trails, particularly in more remote areas.

“If your GPS is turned on at the trailhead and its batteries are charged it will record exactly where you go, so it is easy to find your way back out. But finding and following the trail is a whole other challenge. Many of the trails on are based on submissions by trail users and are not necessarily verified independently (on the ground)” he said. “And there are no consistent ways of signing trails across B.C.”

Leslie resorted to buying additional maps for his GPS, which are expensive. Then he discovered the VOC, where he met a number of knowledgeable hikers and has enjoyed a lot of backcountry hiking without the worry of getting lost. The bonus is that he has met a lot of great like-minded people.

“The VOC does more than coordinate and scout hikes, bike rides, rambles and snowshoeing outings for its members. It also serves the broader hiking community,” he said.

“We are hosting an information session for individuals who want to explore backcountry trails. It’s aimed at those who are considering buying a hiking GPS or have one but have no idea how to use it. That’s where I started.”

VOC activities include cycling, hiking, rambles, snowshoeing and social events. Annual membership to participate in all these activities is $25. For information and schedules, visit

Related: Club gears up for summer


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