Best GPS for Mountaineering?

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islesrule7

 
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Best GPS for Mountaineering?

by islesrule7 » Tue Nov 10, 2009 9:30 pm

Any suggestions on a good handheld GPS for use Mountaineering? Obviously looking for something lightweight and reliable....

Thanks all!

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Day Hiker

 
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by Day Hiker » Tue Nov 10, 2009 10:06 pm

I like this one, and I have bought more than one:

GPSMAP 60CSx

It's rugged and good for hiking. It has: map capabilities (in addition to built-in basemap), color display, and high-sensitivity receiver (very important!). In addition to calculating the GPS-based elevation, it has a barometric altimeter, which will work even when there is no GPS signal.

It has a micro-SD card slot, and I use a 2GB card in mine, which will hold most of a continent worth of street-data maps. The unit can be set to store track data on the data card, in GPX files. So on long trips, there is no need to worry about running out of track log, if you're like me and like to keep a record of trips.

Beware of Garmin's Colorado (and Oregon) models because, unless Garmin has recently fixed this, they don't accurately keep waypoint lat/lon information. I bought a Colorado a while back, noticed the problem, and contacted Garmin. But they didn't give a shit and said they would address it if it became a problem -- as if keeping the location of your waypoints is not one of the most basic and important functions of a GPS.

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Mountainjeff

 
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by Mountainjeff » Wed Nov 11, 2009 12:07 am

I have had both the best and the cheapest on the market. They both performed poorly in the mountains. Don't bother with a GPS. get a good altimeter and now how to use it and a compass and map. Make sure you get a high quality mountaineering compass like the Suunto MC-2 http://www.suunto.com/suunto/main/product_long.jsp?CONTENT%3C%3Ecnt_id=10134198673939929&FOLDER%3C%3Efolder_id=9852723697223380&PRODUCT%3C%3Eprd_id=845524442490152&bmUID=ijhlV_Z anything without a sight and mirror are not any good for precise navigation

If you do use a gps, get one that is freeze proof or keep it warm. It can permanently damage the screen if it freezes.

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Brad Marshall

 
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by Brad Marshall » Wed Nov 11, 2009 12:17 am

Several years ago I purchased a Geko 201 because it was very small and lightweight. It has basic functions that are all I've needed like marking waypoints and giving me the GPS coordinates I'm at if I have to look at the map. For cold weather I use lithium AAA bats, keep it inside my jacket and only turn it on when it's needed.

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MtnHermit

 
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by MtnHermit » Wed Nov 11, 2009 12:23 am

Day Hiker wrote:Beware of Garmin's Colorado (and Oregon) models because, unless Garmin has recently fixed this, they don't accurately keep waypoint lat/lon information. I bought a Colorado a while back, noticed the problem, and contacted Garmin. But they didn't give a shit and said they would address it if it became a problem -- as if keeping the location of your waypoints is not one of the most basic and important functions of a GPS.
Could you expand on just what you mean by your comment?

I got a Garmin Colorado last Dec. and I found it to be very accurate, so much so I abandoned paper maps on my half-dozen backpacks this year. I use the 24K Topos from Above the Timber. The screen of the Colorado has 3X the pixels of your 60CSx plus some text sizing features not available on older models.

Here's a photo showing the map screen from a June backpack:

Image

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Day Hiker

 
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by Day Hiker » Wed Nov 11, 2009 2:15 am

MtnHermit wrote:
Day Hiker wrote:Beware of Garmin's Colorado (and Oregon) models because, unless Garmin has recently fixed this, they don't accurately keep waypoint lat/lon information. I bought a Colorado a while back, noticed the problem, and contacted Garmin. But they didn't give a shit and said they would address it if it became a problem -- as if keeping the location of your waypoints is not one of the most basic and important functions of a GPS.
Could you expand on just what you mean by your comment?


Yes. It is still accurate, like your photo shows. The problem is something different.

Upload a set of waypoints from computer to GPS and then download them back to the computer. Compare the coordinates to the original, and they will be off by a small amount. It IS only a small amount, but it is for EVERY waypont, EVERY time. So, if you're like me, and you manage your waypoints on the computer and upload to the GPS for the region you're going, that small offset is going to give you a significant drift over time, and it's going to be for every waypoint.

Personally, I don't see why any change in lat/lon should be considered acceptable. My two other Garmin units, the GPS-V and 60CSx, keep the coordinates intact, at least down to the 5th decimal place in degrees, which is the precision of the display, and there is no drift over time or with each download. With these units, I have uploaded and downloaded waypoints hundreds of times, and the coordinates remain the same.

To store waypoint lat/lon information is such a basic function for a GPS, and the fact that the Colorado screws this up is an indication of crappy work by Garmin on this unit. Keep in mind that I have no agenda against Garmin as a company, as I am endorsing another one of their products, the 60CSx. Although, it was annoying that their customer service had no interest in checking out an issue that would have been so easily reproduced by them. Just upload, download, and compare.

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Day Hiker

 
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by Day Hiker » Wed Nov 11, 2009 4:37 am

twoshuzz wrote:I'll second the 60CSx. Spendy, but I love mine.


They are about $350 on Amazon.com, which isn't TOO bad. I think they used to list at $450 when they first came out a few years ago.

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MarthaP

 
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by MarthaP » Wed Nov 11, 2009 4:39 am

Most reliable system I've found?

Image

PLUS

Image

PLUS

Image

I have yet to go anywhere with anyone relying on a GPS who actually got us to our proper destination. :roll:

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Day Hiker

 
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by Day Hiker » Wed Nov 11, 2009 4:41 am

squishy wrote:I want one for driving and hiking, which would that be? I get more lost while driving...


The two I have can both be used for driving, and I do use them for driving, but they are less than ideal for that. The screens are not really a good size for trying to read on the dashboard. I get by with them, but only because I have 20/20 vision.

But I bought all my GPSs primarily for hiking, and they're good for that. Obviously, you're not going to want to carry around a GPS with a 6x8" screen while you're hiking.

As mentioned by MtnHermit, the Colorado has a larger screen than my 60CSx, but I also mentioned one problem I had with it. Another thing I didn't like, in comparison to my other GPSs, is that the Colorado has a wheel that gets bumped around while hiking, if you keep it in the top of your pack like I do. I suppose it would get bumped and moved if you're carrying it outside your pack as well. Maybe there is a way to deactivate that wheel, but I only owned mine long enough to get pissed off and return it to REI, so I don't know.

I bought another 60CSx instead.

To answer your question, even though you are using it for driving, I would still go with something of hand-held size, because you said you need it for hiking as well. So, even though the hand-held GPSs will have smaller displays, it will be a lot better than lugging around a vehicle-intended GPS while hiking. I do use my GPS-V (from 2001) and 60CSx in the car, and each of them works fine for me. But like I said, 20/20 helps.

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Day Hiker

 
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by Day Hiker » Wed Nov 11, 2009 5:05 am

MarthaP wrote:I have yet to go anywhere with anyone relying on a GPS who actually got us to our proper destination. :roll:


You need to hike with me then. I've been using GPS extensively since 1997, and I have become very familiar with how to use them. More importantly, I know how much or little to trust them and when to completely ignore them!

They work very well for canyoneering approaches (among other things). If I want, from USGS data (or even Google Earth), I can mark several branched watercourses ahead of time, as well as the target drainage and drop-in point. Up on the surface, with good view of the sky, they work great, and the point marked from the topo data will usually be within 100 feet of our target, easily within view of it. Once we're in a slot canyon, they lose signal until the canyon widens again.

For me, navigation has actually become the GPS' secondary use. I like to use mine to keep a log of all the things I do, just like people keep a written journal or take photos. So I can look back years later and help remember what I did. Or I can look at the data a week later and analyze it for mileage and elevation gain, or I can plot it on one of my topo maps that I make with my program. Here is an example:

Image

Posted here:
http://www.summitpost.org/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=49228&start=15

This is a very short, simple route, so the track doesn't look like much. I just posted it for another member, with the primary purpose of showing the trailhead location in relation to the tunnel. But I have other tracks and other maps that are much more complex. I just don't have them hosted online and handy now for showing off.

Just like many other inventions, they can be very useful. It's just very important to know their limitations. Never trust your survival to the the proper functioning of one of them. But they are certainly far from useless (in the hands of an intelligent person).

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MarthaP

 
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by MarthaP » Wed Nov 11, 2009 5:19 am

Day Hiker wrote:
MarthaP wrote:I have yet to go anywhere with anyone relying on a GPS who actually got us to our proper destination. :roll:


You need to hike with me then. I've been using GPS extensively since 1997, and I have become very familiar with how to use them. More importantly, I know how much or little to trust them and when to completely ignore them!


Okay!

But I'm still bringing my topo and compass. :lol:

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dan2see

 
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by dan2see » Wed Nov 11, 2009 5:46 am

I use a Garmin eTrex Summit. I think it's the best GPS you can carry. It doesn't have built-in map, but that's not very useful anyway. I mean, when was the last time you need help to discover you were on the summit?

Mind you I always use my map and compass as primary route-finders. I need the compass, because half of our mountains are covered with forest.

But this year I used my GPS less and less, and usually I leave it in the car. I feel that the GPS tells you where you were, whereas the compass tells you where you're going.

I have been on intricate routes, where I had to way-point a key rock or bush, to help me find my way back down.

But mostly I don't want it -- mostly I need to be very aware of the terrain, and the GPS doesn't help.

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MoapaPk

 
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by MoapaPk » Wed Nov 11, 2009 9:14 am

dan2see wrote:I use a Garmin eTrex Summit. I think it's the best GPS you can carry. It doesn't have built-in map, but that's not very useful anyway. I mean, when was the last time you need help to discover you were on the summit?


Do you pre-plan routes and upload tracks to the unit? Without a computer link and mapping software, a GPS is of limited value.

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MtnHermit

 
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by MtnHermit » Wed Nov 11, 2009 2:13 pm

Day Hiker wrote:
MtnHermit wrote:
Day Hiker wrote:Beware of Garmin's Colorado (and Oregon) models because, unless Garmin has recently fixed this, they don't accurately keep waypoint lat/lon information. I bought a Colorado a while back, noticed the problem, and contacted Garmin. But they didn't give a shit and said they would address it if it became a problem -- as if keeping the location of your waypoints is not one of the most basic and important functions of a GPS.
Could you expand on just what you mean by your comment?


Yes. It is still accurate, like your photo shows. The problem is something different.

Upload a set of waypoints from computer to GPS and then download them back to the computer. Compare the coordinates to the original, and they will be off by a small amount. It IS only a small amount, but it is for EVERY waypont, EVERY time. So, if you're like me, and you manage your waypoints on the computer and upload to the GPS for the region you're going, that small offset is going to give you a significant drift over time, and it's going to be for every waypoint.

Personally, I don't see why any change in lat/lon should be considered acceptable. My two other Garmin units, the GPS-V and 60CSx, keep the coordinates intact, at least down to the 5th decimal place in degrees, which is the precision of the display, and there is no drift over time or with each download. With these units, I have uploaded and downloaded waypoints hundreds of times, and the coordinates remain the same.

To store waypoint lat/lon information is such a basic function for a GPS, and the fact that the Colorado screws this up is an indication of crappy work by Garmin on this unit. Keep in mind that I have no agenda against Garmin as a company, as I am endorsing another one of their products, the 60CSx. Although, it was annoying that their customer service had no interest in checking out an issue that would have been so easily reproduced by them. Just upload, download, and compare.

That helps.

You and I use our GPS' slightly differently. While I use the maps in Mapsource to "plan" a trip, my plan is rough and I create no routes or waypoints, only mental notes. The only waypoint I have is for the trailhead and I usually manually enter it into my Nuvi so I can use its road routing if it's an area I've never been to before. Also, I never pay attention to the Lat & Long, rather I only care where I'm at in the context of the map. The benchmark photo had the coordinate field displayed only for that photo. I did so because I thought it told a wonderful story.

My guess is Garmin stores the marked waypoint with a different number set and some rounding error occurs causing the offset you are seeing. Law of unintended consequences.

I got my first GPS in 2007 only because of the maps. Seeing my position in the context of a 24K Topo in real time, w/o 15th Century triangulation and the fact I can have an entire state's 24K maps loaded at all times makes a modern mapping GPS so compelling. I can't read a paper map w/o a magnifier whereas I can customize all the text in a GPS such that no magnifier is needed. Yes, I also use some of the GPS' toy features.

I'm bemused by the forum members who are firmly rooted in 15th Century technology all the while carrying iPods and cell phones, I use neither in the wilderness. I wonder how many of them still use film cameras? Perhaps charcoal and paper. Technology moves on and I embrace that which improves my life.

Here's my Trip Report related to Conejos Peak, the included map and photos will likely explain my style.

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bdynkin

 
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Re: Best GPS for Mountaineering?

by bdynkin » Wed Nov 11, 2009 3:36 pm

islesrule7 wrote:Any suggestions on a good handheld GPS for use Mountaineering? Obviously looking for something lightweight and reliable....


I have the same unit as Brad Marshall (Geko 201, ~$100) suggested. Geko 201 is very small (3oz) compared to ~8oz for more sophisticated units with on-screen color maps. Small size and weight is an clear plus for mountaineering (but not for driving), especially when it gets a bit vertical. In winter, a small unit is easier to keep warm in a small internal pocket.

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