09 September 2013

Ranger Beads, or teeth in this case...

Not not human teeth!

Moose teeth.

A new take on a very old system for keeping track of distance traveled.

It really is a pretty simple system. A cord, four 'mile or kilometer' beads and 9 '1/10th of a mile or 100 meter' beads.

You need to know how many paces it takes you to make 1/10th of a mile, or paces in 100 meters. As you hit that number of paces you pull down one of the nine beads. The tenth time you do it you pull one of the four beads down, representing you've walked either a mile or a kilometer.

Pace Beads:
4 Upper beads = 1 mile (1/10 mile) or 1 kilometer (1000 meters)
9 Lower Beads = 1/10 mile or 1/10 kilometer (100 meters)

Determining Pace:
Zero your car odometer by a landmark and drive until your odometer hits .1 mile. Walk this distance a number of times counting how many times the same foot hits the street. Average the results. This is your base pace count. You could also use a hand held GPS unit and determine your paces for the desired distances. Do it several times across multiple terrain types and make note of the numbers for each, I keep this data in my field notebook even though I have it memorized at this point.

Example: You’re walking to your next point and have a normal pace of 100 for 1/10th of a mile. You need to climb a section of hill for the next 1/10th of a mile, so for that section, your pace for the next section will be 120 paces per 1/10th of a mile instead of 100. If you were doing the same thing in the dark it would be 140 paces because you are applying the 20% for two different factors. Assume at least a 10 percent error rate on flat open terrain.

The easiest way I've found to do this without assumptions is to use the GPS unit I mentioned and walk the terrain types and keep track. This will give you the exact pace count on each terrain type without assumptions. You'll also want to do this with whatever you typically carry from a pack perspective. If you've got a heavy pack your paces will not be the same as when you're walking with no pack.

There's a ton of instruction available on the web for how to use them.

Here's the set I put together from moose teeth, I used four of the front teeth for my 'miles/kilometers' and nine of the molars for my '1/10th or 100 meters). I hang it via the grim-loc on my left pack strap from a d-ring there. As long as you're disciplined and maintain your count focus they work quite well.


  1. Nice northern take on pace beads. I like em!

  2. I've been meaning to start using ranger beads lately. I'll have to make myself up a set as well. Thanks for showing!