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GPS Recommendations

Postby Swithich » Tue Mar 06, 2012 3:07 am

I looked though the board over the last month and didn't see any obvious GPS topics. So I was just wondering if I could get a rundown of what to look for in GPSs since I'm going to breakdown and buy one.

Any lesson learned, or helpful thoughts about specific features and hidden pitfalls of GPSs would be helpful.

Thanks.

-Swithich
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Re: GPS Recommendations

Postby Kai » Tue Mar 06, 2012 4:14 am

A Casio "Commando" Android phone with the Backcountry Navigator app is the best gps I've used.

Nice screen, great maps, waterproof, and can integrate with the Delorme inReach for satellite text messaging when you're outside of cell phone range.

I used to have a dedicated Garmin GPS. I lost it, and don't feel the need to replace it, as the Android is just as good, and I pretty much always have my cell phone with me anyway.

Only downside of the Android is that battery life is significantly less than a dedicated GPS. However, I don't keep mine constantly on, but rather I use it for occasional location checks, so that's not an issue for me.
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Re: GPS Recommendations

Postby Norris » Tue Mar 06, 2012 4:32 am

Garmin 62s is my recommendation.
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Re: GPS Recommendations

Postby Mark M » Wed Mar 07, 2012 1:25 am

Kai wrote:Android phone with the Backcountry Navigator app


I agree, its great for spot checks but the battery limits you if you need it constantly. For a standalone GPS I have the etrex10. Its small ,lite, easy to use, the battery life is amazing and its cheap.It doesn't do maps, I prefer a paper map over the not so great, over priced garmin maps on the small gps screens.
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Re: GPS Recommendations

Postby logsden » Wed Mar 07, 2012 4:41 am

I have yet to see a phone/GPS combo that comes anywhere close to the battery life or reliability I'd want in the back-country. Worst case scenario - i.e. using a GPS for non-stop glacier navigation in a whiteout above tree line for a few hours straight...I really do not want to be wondering if my charge is going to last...

My list of criteria that most (or all) phone-GPS units do NOT currently meet.
- long battery life
- replaceable batteries
- actual buttons, no touch screen. Whether or not the screen CAN work with gloves, I prefer real buttons when I'm wearing gloves. Easier to use, imho
- bulletproof construction - capable of handling a drop or two into the talus from waist height w/o crapping out. It will happen. I've shattered a phone's screen from a height I'd sure as heck hope wouldn't kill my GPS.
- completely reliable, non-buggy interface/programming. So far the phone GPS's I've seen can give great, high quality maps...usually. But one or two hiccups from any background programs and I'll chuck the thing in the trailhead trash (think Angry Birds or sleep mode interrupting your plotting of a course in the middle of said white-out with a hypothermic partner and failing daylight...whatever. I have yet to see anything that truly sheds all the extraneous programming when you are actually using it AS a GPS)
- Pressure altimeter - a useful added tool on any GPS
- magnetic compass - even more useful tool with any GPS
- small and compact - small enough to fit in any pocket.

Even several GPS units don't fully meet my criteria.

My current recommendation - Garmin eTrex 30. Simple, small, reliable, easy to use, all the features I want, not much that I don't.
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Re: GPS Recommendations

Postby Kai » Wed Mar 07, 2012 4:59 am

My phone will go for about three to four hours of constant gps use with a full battery charge. Replacement batteries for it are about 8 dollars. So, with one replacement battery, it's good for about 6-8 hours. If you can't find your way to wherever it is you're going in 6-8 hours, I can't imagine that you'd do any better with a standalone GPS. Other than a 6 hour white-out, I can't really think of any situations where I'd be using it constantly. I generally navigate with a map and compass, and use the GPS as a back-up and for confirming my location when I'm unsure of where I am. If you're really worried about battery life, you could carry 3 replacement batteries and still be carrying less weight and bulk than a typical standalone gps unit.

No buttons. I prefer the touch screen, but I guess that's a personal choice.

My phone has bulletproof construction. It's waterproof, drop-resistant, crush resistant, etc. You could drop if on talus from head height with no worries. You can drive over it with your car and it will not break (although the screen may scratch) I've dropped it and dunked it and abused it plenty, with no ill effects.

I use my phone as a gps all the time. Never had any "bugs." It's reliable, and doesn't crash. The navigation programs I use are stable.

No pressure altimeter, but I generally have a Suunto watch with an altimeter on it, so I don't care about this point.

My phone has a magnetic compass. It also has a nice inclinometer app for measuring slope angles when skiing.

It's smaller and more compact than any standalone GPS I've used, and easily fits in a pocket.



logsden wrote:I have yet to see a phone/GPS combo that comes anywhere close to the battery life or reliability I'd want in the back-country. Worst case scenario - i.e. using a GPS for non-stop glacier navigation in a whiteout above tree line for a few hours straight...I really do not want to be wondering if my charge is going to last...

My list of criteria that most (or all) phone-GPS units do NOT currently meet.
- long battery life
- replaceable batteries
- actual buttons, no touch screen. Whether or not the screen CAN work with gloves, I prefer real buttons when I'm wearing gloves. Easier to use, imho
- bulletproof construction - capable of handling a drop or two into the talus from waist height w/o crapping out. It will happen. I've shattered a phone's screen from a height I'd sure as heck hope wouldn't kill my GPS.
- completely reliable, non-buggy interface/programming. So far the phone GPS's I've seen can give great, high quality maps...usually. But one or two hiccups from any background programs and I'll chuck the thing in the trailhead trash (think Angry Birds or sleep mode interrupting your plotting of a course in the middle of said white-out with a hypothermic partner and failing daylight...whatever. I have yet to see anything that truly sheds all the extraneous programming when you are actually using it AS a GPS)
- Pressure altimeter - a useful added tool on any GPS
- magnetic compass - even more useful tool with any GPS
- small and compact - small enough to fit in any pocket.

Even several GPS units don't fully meet my criteria.

My current recommendation - Garmin eTrex 30. Simple, small, reliable, easy to use, all the features I want, not much that I don't.
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Re: GPS Recommendations

Postby Diego Sahagún » Wed Mar 07, 2012 8:51 am

Get a good Garmin, I have the Vista HCX and rocks but now there're better Garmins by the same money that I paid
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Re: GPS Recommendations

Postby Sunny Buns » Wed Mar 07, 2012 9:29 am

Get which ever one you want. Just be sure you know how to use map and compass - it isn't hard to learn. Can you take a bearing in the real world and plot it on a map? Can you take a bearing on a map and follow it in the real world? IF not, stay on the trail, a GPS will just get you killed. If you can do those things, a GPS is a great toy to have in the pocket - it builds muscles carrying it around. I like to check my car speedometer with mine.

Murphy's law (I've tested it) says that the GPS will fail whenever you actually have a need for it. ;)
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Re: GPS Recommendations

Postby radson » Wed Mar 07, 2012 9:06 pm

I too prefer buttons over a touchscreen and I need the longer lasting battery power of a dedicated gps system.

I am considering the Etrex 30 and Magellan 310. I like the look of the large buttons on the Magellan but have yet had an opportunity to play around with one. Does anyone have any experience of the Magellan brand.

http://www.magellangps.com/Products/eXploristseries/eXplorist-310-North-America
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Re: GPS Recommendations

Postby logsden » Wed Mar 07, 2012 11:30 pm

I don't have any major specific issues with Magellan units...but I can't stand using them...

it may simply be my relative acquaintance with Garmin products but I ALWAYS feel like navigating around the menus and settings on Magellans is way less intuitive and efficient than Garmins. I have yet to find any reason the look elsewhere from the etrex series...despite playing with most models available. the etrex 30 pretty much nails everything I need with no extra crap and in a small package.
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Re: GPS Recommendations

Postby Swithich » Thu Mar 08, 2012 1:00 am

Okay the primary use of this GPS is to find high spots. When you are on a mesa in NM you sometimes cannot tell where it is. I don't have trouble finding my way in the wilderness (usually I don't even take a map, just take a good look at it before I go).

Also for treed locations and finding high spots I may need to use it since some ridges are pretty much up and down with not defined high spot.

BTW thanks for the links and the posts. Much appreciated.

-Swithich
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Re: GPS Recommendations

Postby CSUMarmot » Thu Mar 08, 2012 1:18 am

Swithich wrote:Okay the primary use of this GPS is to find high spots. When you are on a mesa in NM you sometimes cannot tell where it is. I don't have trouble finding my way in the wilderness (usually I don't even take a map, just take a good look at it before I go).

Also for treed locations and finding high spots I may need to use it since some ridges are pretty much up and down with not defined high spot.
-Swithich


Depending on how long you've had the GPS in contact with satellites and how many you are in contact with, the elevation on your GPS will vary, anywhere from 100 feet to 10 feet. If youre trying to determine true highpoints, the elevation reading can be next to worthless. The change in reading between potential summits can be useful, but you will rarely have enough satelite contact for the elevation on your GPS to match the elevation on the topo map.

This is why many climbers visiting obscure and unpopular summits carry a hand level and visit all potential summits just in case.
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Re: GPS Recommendations

Postby CSUMarmot » Thu Mar 08, 2012 1:19 am

And just to add to that notion, I usually dont even turn on my GPS until I'm on the summit(to mark a waypoint). The elevation reading just isnt useful to me.
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Re: GPS Recommendations

Postby peninsula » Tue Mar 13, 2012 4:26 pm

I'll copy the following from a thread that might be helpful on the subject of GPS recommendations:
Been using National Geographic "TOPO!" for past 10 years starting when I got my first Garmin handheld GPS. Had to manually enter waypoints due to lack of Mac support with the geko 201. FINALLY upgraded this year, got a Garmin 60Cx, and due to Garmin's propensity to be PC only (ridiculous, in-package software Mac incompatible), I was forced to spend another bunch of bills on Garmin's PC/Mac "BaseCamp". The good news is the extra bills are worth it as I finally resigned myself to learning this later technology, and I'm impressed enough to share it in a post for us suffering Mac users (please, someone explain the stupidity) who may be stuck with outdated topographical software. The basic user interfaces are much the same in both handheld models, but similarities are few otherwise. Uploading waypoints via a USB cable, now my agonies with manual waypoint entries are behind me (miserably archaic it was). BaseCamp's 3D projection on the computer screen is crazy cool, it is truly like seeing the terrain from a birds-eye view. Picking waypoints is vastly more user friendly.


For more: topo-software-t58906.html
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