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Ranger / Pace Counting Beads
Since September I've been a full time student attempting to remake myself.
Weekends are spent playing catch up with house chores and school assignments.
The results have been an expanding waist line and very little time outdoors.
Not the makeover I was anticipating.
It was time to get away from the books & get some outdoor time.
I decided, time wise, day hiking in the local area was doable.
Just north of town here, Duke University owns a scattering of sizable portions of forest lands with trail systems open to the public.
During good weather hikers swarm into "Duke Forest" and it's hard to find a parking spot.
Purchasing a Duke Forest map at the local outfitter I discovered a section about 5 miles from my home.
On a weekend visit there I didn't encounter another soul.
I knew I'd found a little known and seldom used section perfect for solitude.
After a few jaunts through my private section of the woods I became curious about the distances I was logging.
While hiking one day I recalled something about "Ranger Beads" and looked it up online when I got home.
There I discovered an ancient and simple system for calculating distance using a string of beads as a pace counter.
According to one source our English statute mile is based on the Roman soldier's mile.
The Latin phrases "mille passus," or "milia passuum," meant a "thousand paces" & was shortened to a "mile" in English.
A Roman pace consisted of two steps equal to about 5 "foot-lengths."
Apparently the average Roman soldier could lay'em down at 5,000 "foot-lengths" or "feet" in a mile.
"Ranger Beads" refer to a string of beads used by Army Rangers as a pace counting device.
Online I found pre-made sets for sale from $4 to $20 & DYI instruction using paracord & pony beads.
I decided on the cheapskate DIY route & made several variations using dark brown boot lace & black pony beads.
To make your own set take about 2 feet of boot lace & double it over.
(If your using paracord strip out the core and use the outer shell)
About 2 inches down from the doubled end tie an overhand knot to form a loop.
The beads are strung in two groups divided by overhand knots
The stringing of the beads depends on counting distance in Metric or English units.
In Metric the beads are strung as follow:
Five beads are strung and pushed to the top near the loop knot.
Each of the 5 beads represent one Kilometers ("clicks").
An inch space is left below the 5 beads and another overhand knot is tied.
Nine beads are strung and pushed up to the second knot.
An inch space is left below the 9 beads and another overhand knot is tied.
Each of the 9 beads represent one hundred meters.
To finish, cut the cord below the bottom knot & fuse the end using a match or lighter.
In English units 6 beads are strung in the top set & each represents 1/2 mile.
7 beads are strung in the bottom set each representing 1/16 of a mile.
Here is a little chart to get a feel for the set up:
Metric - upper - clicks/Kilometers.....English - upper - 1/2 miles
Metric - lower - 100 meters ............English - lower - 110 yds = 1/16 mile
There are two ways to use the beads: paces walked OR distance walked.
Both methods require knowing the relationship between paces walked and distance traveled.
What is the length of a pace? Think of Army cadence: left, right, left.
A pace is the distance between the first left & second left or every other step.
The next step (pardon the pun) was to determine the length of my pace.
Using a tape measure 30 feet (10 yards) was marked out in my driveway.
I walked the marked distance several times to get an average of my pace.
I took the pace count & multiplied by 11 to arrive at 66 paces for 110 yards.
There is a rough correlation between meters and yards: 100 meter = 110 yards.
Because the pace count is equivalent for meters & yards either Ranger Bead set up can be used.
Here is a chart I found on line to help estimate pace.
Pace length ........... # of paces in
(two step).............. 100 m or 110 yrd
5' 0"..............................66 (average male)
4' 8" .............................71
4' 4" .............................76
4' 0"............................. 83
3' 8"............................. 90
3' 4"............................. 99
My pace was for day hiking on a level gravel surface without gear, much like the graveled fire roads I was hiking on.
Obviously my pace would be adjusted for pack load & terrain under backpacking conditions.
Here's a little factoid that might be relevant:
A US Marine in full combat gear moves 100 meters in 65 paces.
Which proves US Marines are slightly above the average male (see chart above).
Using the beads for Metric:
Counting paces: Start with all the beads in the top & bottom sections in the "Up" position.
Slide one bead in the bottom section down on the cord for every ten paces taken.
On the tenth pace slide a bead in the lower section down.
After the 90th pace, all 9 beads are down.
On the 100th pace, all 9 beads in the lower section are returned to the top.
A bead from the upper section is slid downwards.
Distance walked: Start with all the beads in the top & bottom sections in the "Up" position.
For every 100 meters walked, one lower bead is pulled down.
When the ninth lower bead is pulled down continue to walk another 100 meters.
At 100 meters one upper bead is pulled down, and all the lower beads are pulled back up to continue the count.
Metric-based pacing beads are ideally suited for use with the UTM grid system and a GPS unit similarly configured.
Using the beads for English units:
Distance walked: Start with all the beads in the top & bottom sections in the "Up" position.
Walk the number of known paces equaling 110 yards (66 in my case) slide a bottom bead down.
When the 7th bead is pulled down walk another set of paces equaling 110 yards.
Slide a top bead down (1/2 mile walked) & pull the bottom 7 beads up to continue the count.
Today was the first time I went out hiking with my Ranger Beads looped to my belt.
About a mile out on the trail (according to my count) I came across two groups of Army ROTC cadets from Duke University practicing orienteering & compass skills.
I didn't see any Ranger Beads...how far do they expect to get??!!
I have seen those Ranger beads before and thought they would be a good application for orienteering. My approach to orienteering is usually to estimate distances to an upcoming point and then walk to the point. I am about as accurate with this method as I am with counting paces. We teach the pace counting method to the scouts but usually they are covering short distances between map locations.
The prices for pedometers are fairly reasonable. Have you considered one of those? Your old school method requires more skill but counting paces distracts me from the hike at hand.
I've done a little counting of paces on the trail but found it too distracting as well. Now, I just use a pedometer.
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I have ranger beads on my pack strap. I've never had a pedometer. I can estimate mileage from a map or if the condtions are right, by observation. Mostly I don't bother either pace counting or estimation since most of the time I don't care.
Besides, in the wildeness mileage isn't very important, time is. I want to stop for the night about an hour before local sunset and I want to strat off for the day maybe an hour after local sunup. I want to be able to travel to the next campsite within that timeframe.
Until a few years ago my unladen walking speed on reasonably level terrain was about 6 MPH, reasonably laden about half that (the army estimates 1MPH for troops on foot). Walking uphill reduces the speed, downhill increases it. I have been in situations where you were doing well to make 100 yards in a day.
In a canoe, paddling upstream takes longer to travel a specific distance than paddling downstream. (That is why, in river travel round trip I go out paddling upstream and return paddling downstream - never the opposite.
I still keep my ranger beads because sometimes I do want to know the mileage. They weigh nothing, and are not bothersome hanging there and do provide a method that works pretty well but most of the time they just hang there.
The Long & Short Of It
Us old guys LIKE old school.
(No insult to Grandpa's taking to gadgets intended here!)
In a way your correct, pace counting is not an exact measure.
It has a +/- 10% differential when estimating distance.
Distraction is an element involved in pace counting.
Online info indicated that a Ranger patrol will have a designated "Navigator" handling the orienteering & a designated "Pace Counter".
The Pace Counter is separated from the group to enable him/her to concentrate on the assigned task.
When section hiking on the AT I tend to judge progress by time more than distance.
With experience, I know I usually cover 2 to 2 1/4 miles/ hour under a 20lb load.
On my hike using the Ranger Beads I checked the time at starting and stopping my hike.
I found that I covered about 2 3/4 miles in an hours without a load.
The whole Ranger Bead thing was actually an experiment to judge time & distance.
I had a friend who was in Ranger training and he told me about the pace counting and beads and I actually pace count quite often when figuring distances for a period of time--just not on the whole hike.
I also pace count when measuring to make plot plans for securing city permits for work and can (when not hauling a pack uphill) gauge distances within a percent or two.
I will say the pedometer is a mixed bag. I've lost a few (it's good they're cheap), I've forgotten to reset them, and I've stuck them in the wrong spot and not gotten the correct step count. On familiar trails, I don't even bother.
The gadget I use the most now is my watch/altimeter. I set the starting elevation into the watch and can gauge progress by contour lines and elevation readout. I'll reset at spots of known elevation.
they're a really fun tool, i keep them on ever pack.
mine are actually re-tied for working straight in miles/yards, tho. it basically just involves shifting a bead or two.
they're useful like mad on and off the trail. on-trail they're good to guesstimate waypoints and mileage. off, well, more or less the same thing but they also allow you to repeat a course later so long as you keep notes. or backtrack. or figure out how far you had to divert so that you can return to a specific track so you don't miss something. they make a great backup to GPS and are often close enough that at the resolution most trails maps run, you really can't see a difference.
after some practice, hitting your pace marker becomes almost automatic, i might add.
Hiking In Chains
Ok, so here's another variation on the Ranger Bead thing.
It wasn't mentioned in my first essay because that would be pedantic as well as tedious.
But Grandpa's mention of walking city plots gives me the justification to be pedantic & tedious now!
Professional Foresters use a form of distance measurement known as a Forester's Chain.
The Chain system of measurement actually derives from land surveying.
Chains refer to the Gunter chain designed and introduced in 1620 by English clergyman and mathematician Edmund Gunter.
Before the advent of GPS & Electronic Range Finder Theodolites Old School surveyors established distance by dragging a 66 foot length of steel chain through the woods.
Modern day Forester or Timber Cruiser still evaluate a stand of timber on a survey plot by pacing distance in chains.
Here's the breakdown on the Chain system of measurement:
1 link = 7.92"
25 links = 1 rod = 16.5 feet = 5.5 yards
4 rods (100 links) = 1 chain = 66 feet = 22 yd
40 rods = 10 chains = 1 furlong = 660 feet = 220 yd
320 rods = 8 furlong = 80 chains = 1 statute mile = 5,280 ft = 1,760 yd
So where does the simple come into this mess of numbers?
One chain = 66 feet which seems like an awkward number to use.
But 66 divides evenly with 5,280 the number of feet in a mile.
Therefore, there are exactly 80 chains in a mile.
Also, an area of 10 square chains equals exactly one acre.
These numbers are easy to remember.
Here's a little wrinkle linking (pardon the pun) chains to yards & the Ranger Beads.
5 chains = 110 yards
Here's the math:
66 ft (1 chain) X 5 = 330 feet
1/16 of a mile = 330 feet [1 mile = 5,280 ft / 16 = 330 ft)
330 feet / 3 feet = 110 yards.
Remember 1 bottom bead on the Ranger Beads = 100 meters = 110 yards = 1/16 of a mile.
Here's the math to figure the # of paces in 1 chain:
Go back to the Chart in my first post that shows the # of paces in 110 yards.
For the average male 1 pace = 5 feet.
Dividing 66 feet (1 chain) by 5 feet we get 13 paces plus one foot.
To pace out an acre in chains using the Ranger Beads:
Pace out two beads which equals 10 chains then take a 90 degree angle and take 13 paces & add one foot.
You could also pace out one bead [5 chains] take a 90 degree angle and take 23 paces & add 2 feet.
You know what...
All this math makes me want to get out and walk a little.
Ok, I just got some sleep.
Now that I'm rested it's time to get back to expounding more trivial pursuits.
I've always had an interest in the origin of words & phrases.
Here's some info regarding the word "Acre" and it's connection to yards & chains.
"Acre" is an Old English word meaning a field or open land.
The acre was originally defined as the area that could be plowed in a day by a one man using one ox.
More accurately, what could be done by midday, since "refueling" took all afternoon when the ox was put out to pasture.
Similar units of land area are found wherever animals are used for plowing.
The reason an acre was generally long & narrow was the difficulty of turning a wooden plow yoked to an ox.
The word acre was in use in England at least as early as the eighth century.
By the end of the ninth century it was generally understood to be the area of a field one furlong, a contraction of "furrow long", (40 rods or 10 chains) long by 4 rods (or 1 chain) wide.
In medieval strip architecture each tenant peasant was allocated a strip of land one chain wide and one furrow-long. The lord of the manor provided the chain.
The perch or rod, as it was also known, was a traditional Saxon land measure in twelfth century England.
It had originally been defined as the total length of the left feet of the first sixteen men to leave church on Sunday morning.
So, in actual use in the Middle Ages the size of the acre varied greatly depending on church attendance.
Two factors come into play that called for standardization of measurement.
The first being not every man & ox work at the same rate (I suppose an argument can also be made for shoe size).
Second, tax assessment on land.
Because of the second factor King Edward I of England realized that constancy and permanence were the key to any standard.
In 1305, he ordered a permanent measuring stick made of iron to serve as a master standard yardstick for the entire kingdom.
This master yardstick was called the "iron ulna", after the bone of the forearm.
He also decreed that the foot measure should be one-third the length of the yard, and the inch one thirty-sixth.
Edward also standardize the measurement of an acre.
The king said that, an area of land measuring up to 40 rods long and 3 rods wide can be termed as an acre, 1 rod being 5 ½ yards in length.
So we see the link of the yard to the measurement of an acre.
Here are a few factoids to help visualize the size of an acre.
The area of an American football field without the end zones is roughly an acre.
Take note of these things the next time you visit your local mall:
200 parked cars fit into an acre.
An acre (43,560 sq ft) is slightly smaller than the standard Wal-Mart store (51,000 sq ft).
Here's a way to estimate the number of Acres in a plot using Ranger Beads to pace out chains.
Using Ranger Beads to estimate acreage in chains:
Note: This method only works on an area that is a rectangle.
The number of square chains in a rectangular area divid by 10 = the acres in the rectangular area.
The following proofs can solve the problem
One acre = 10 square chain (66 ft X 66 ft x 10 = 43, 650 sq ft)
1 chain = 13 paces + one foot (for the average male)
5 chains = 100 meters = 110 yards = one lower bead on the Ranger Beads.
Since a triangle forms one half of a rectangle, figure for a rectangle, divide by two then divide by ten.
Some areas can be broken down into combinations of rectangles & triangles.
Add the smaller sections together to get the total area.
Pace out the length of one side & width of one side of the rectangular area.
For accuracy make sure to keep the lines straight & perpendicular.
[Note: A compass is a useful tool for this exercise]
Keep track of paces along each side of the rectangle using the beads.
For a large area tally the number of beads & multiply by five to get the length in chains.
For a smaller area with shorter length sides one bead can equal 13 paces (one chain).
For more precision in this case, every 6 beads will roughly equal half a chain to be added to the calculation.
Multiply the length times the width, then divide by ten the result is the acres in the area.
To use Paul Harvey' s tag tag line..."Now you know the rest of the story".
Last edited by tonto : 04-07-2012 at 10:57 AM. Reason: Automerged Doublepost
If you are using paracord to make pace beads, one tip is to use a single strand of the core to help you get the beads onto the sheath. Simply loop the strand through the "eye" of the folded over sheath, insert the much thinner strand loose ends through the bead and run the bead over the loops and onto the sheath. Remove the strand when all beads are in place.
Trying to assimilate all the above math...not too successfully!
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