Thursday, June 13, 2013

Ranger Beads

One common aspect of hunting or hiking is knowing how far you traveled on your trip.  This can be pretty difficult if you don't have a GPS or a set trail you are following.  What I want to talk about is an inexpensive way to track how far you travel without spending a lot of money on a GPS 

One of the guys I coach with was asking me how I kept track of how far I hiked or backpacking trips, hunting, or just on random hikes.  I told him that I honestly didn't know how far I was walking/hiking but I usually used Google Maps to guesstimate how far I hiked after I finished a trip.  He told me that when he was in the military, they used what they called Ranger Beads to keep track of how far they walked when venturing off base.  He had one on his backpack and showed me what it looked like.

Ranger Beads
Ranger Beads
I thought it looked cool but I will admit I had heard of Ranger Beads but I had no idea how to use them or anything.  I will attempt to explain how to use them from his explanation and my one adventure I have tried it out on.

A typical Ranger Bead set consists of 9 beads on the bottom half and five beads on the upper half with a knot separating the two sets of beads.  The confusing part for this concept is that you will be keeping track of the distance you travel in meters rather than feet and miles.  You can however convert the meters or kilometers into miles after you return from you trip if you desire. One thing you will have to do prior to using Ranger Beads is measure how many paces it takes you to walk 100 meters.  What I would suggest is to go to your local high school track and walk exactly 100 meters counting how many steps you take with your right (or left) foot.  By counting the number of steps for just one foot you are able to keep track easier and count less.  The typical "step" for a human is around 2 1/2 feet or .762 meters.  This would equal out to roughly 131 total steps in a 100 meter stretch (around 66 steps per foot).  Knowing how many steps you take in 100 meters is the key to keeping accurate record of the distance you travel using the Ranger Beads.

So as I mentioned, you have 9 beads on the bottom and 5 on  the top. When you begin your hike/trip/adventure be sure that all the beads on the top are pushed all the way to the top of their section and all the beads on the bottom are pushed to the bottom of their section.  At the beginning of your hike the Ranger Beads should look like this.

Ranger Beads
Starting my hike
 As soon as you start hiking be sure to count the number of steps you are taking with your right foot.  For every 66 steps you take with that foot you will move one of the beads on the lower section to the top of it's section on the Ranger Bead signifying that you have walked 100 meters.  So if you walk 500 meters you should have 5 beads slid to the top of the lower section and 4 beads still at the bottom as shown below.
Ranger Beads
Ranger Beads showing 500 meters
After you have walked 900 meters all of the lower beads should be raised as high as they can signifying that you have walked 900 meters.  After walking another 100 meters you will then lower one of the top beads to the bottom of the upper section signifying that you have walked 1000 meter.  At this point you can either lower all of the bottom beads again to repeat the process or some people just reverse the process and just lower one bead at a time as they walk additional 100 meter lengths.  In the picture below, my Ranger Beads are showing that I walked 1300 meters which is the equivalent to .807 miles.  I know that isn't very far but this was a quick hike to try out my Ranger Beads.
Ranger Beads
My Ranger Beads showing I have walked 1300 meters
 I thought this was a simple, yet useful piece of equipment that is extremely light and easy to use. Even if you have a GPS or some other device you use to keep track of the distance you travel on a hike or hunting trip, having a set of Ranger Beads would be a good idea to place in your pack in case your GPS does not get service or runs out of battery life.  The Ranger Bead set that I received from my friend is made out of paracord but you could make them multiple different ways.  There are also a few places you can buy them online that I have found.  I will post a video I found on YouTube which shows how to make the Ranger Beads out of paracord if anyone is interested.
Ranger Beads will be with me on my hunting and hiking trips from this point on.  I don't think I will use them every time but I will use them when I want to know how far I hiked.  Some of the situations I can see myself using them in would be when I go on a hike to get in shape for hunting season or after I spend all day chasing elk or deer and I want to see how far I walked/hiked when I head back to my vehicle.


  1. I've never heard of Ranger Beads but it's a great idea!

    1. There are super simple and useful if you use them. I had heard of them but had no idea what they were or how to use them.