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Thread: iPad vs. Garmin for GPS function

  1. #1

    Default iPad vs. Garmin for GPS function

    Folks,

    My brother and I are going on a long Alaska rafting trip. I am intent on taking a Garmin hand-held with either Alaska topo or the new Alaska Hunting software. My bother is intent on taking his iPad Mini that has built in GPS reception. He has also purchased a waterproof case for it.

    Has anyone used an iPad for GPS function in the wilderness (raft trip or otherwise) that can give me some pros/cons of using the iPad vs. Garmin for GPS functions? The Garmin will either be the floating 78 model, but I may go with the 600 series for the much crisper and larger screen.

    Many thanks.

  2. #2

    Default Battery Life?

    Although the Ipad has GPS function, do you have a way to charge it while out on your long rafting trip? GPS function really uses up batter life pretty quickly. With a Garmin, you can just replace the batteries, not an option for the I-pad. You also need to make sure to pre-load the maps you want to use on the I-pad since you will not be able to download the maps (no signal, so no data connection to download maps) when you are out in the field.

  3. #3
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    You can do the same thing with a smart phone. But, as anchskier notes, you will probably need a way to charge it. If all you're going to do is turn it on a couple times a day to check you position you might be able to make it last through the trip but not if you plan on checking it through the day or measuring distance, average speed, etc. In any case, a smart phone is easier to charge than a tablet. I have a small 10,000 mW/Hr battery pack that will charge a smart phone 3-4 times but the average tablet only 1.5 times.

    Other issues are waterproofing and durability. Once you put a tablet in a waterproof case it becomes clumsy to use. And you need to use a hard case to make it semi-durable, which makes it even more clumsy. And still the screen is subject to breakage. Smaller hard cases are another reason a smart phone is a better back country GPS rig than a tablet.

    There are several downloadable topo map apps that will work. I use Trimble's My Topo Map Pro on an Android tablet, so I don't think that is much of an obstacle but you sure can't use cell data coverage for live downloading of maps on most AK rivers.

    Personally, I use a hand held Garmin GPS on raft trips. It's just easier and more practical.

  4. #4
    Member Roger45's Avatar
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    I think I am looking at this a little different then others. When I go out with my Garmin 60CSx I pick up at least 6 satellites no matter where I am in the State. My phone on the other hand only picks up one and then only in some areas...most areas not available in the state. The iPad would be a cool way to see a topo map, but the Garmin will tell you where you are and/or where you need to head...two separate issues.
    "...and then Jack chopped down the beanstock, adding murder and ecological vandalism to the theft, enticement and vandalism charges already mentioned, but he got away with it and lived happily ever after without so much as a guilty twinge about what he had done. Which proves that you can be excused just about anything if you're a hero, because no one asks the inconvenient questions." Terry Pratchett's The Hogfather

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yukon77 View Post
    Folks,

    My brother and I are going on a long Alaska rafting trip....
    Leave the iPad, it's not make for this kind of thing. Take your gps and either a Sat Phone, SPOT, EPIRB, etc.

    my .02
    A gun is like a parachute. If you need one, and donít have one, youíll probably never need one again

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    Yukon, if you guys do bring the Ipad along, please post up how it works. I'm a little skeptical about its use in the field, but I have not tried to use a gps-like item.

    On the subject of a smartphone/gps unit, android users might want to check out a free app called "GPS Status". I was frankly amazed at all the gps functions within my android, and that app gives you all the raw data from each function (e.g. accelerometer, acceleration, pitch/roll, magnetic compass readout, etc..., in addition to the more mundane lat/lon).

  7. #7
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    This past summer I took my new Android Phone (a good one, Nexus 4) on a 10 day float down Birch Creek out of Fairbanks. It was only for when sitting around camp and just to see how well it would do. I also took the old Garmin eTrex Vista for it's better (and replaceable) battery life, waterproofing and increased durability. Both the phone and GPS always got a lock on multiple satellites and they always agreed on position, altitude, etc.

    The maps on the phone were much nicer to use and had more detailed topo maps. (Only 1:100,000 on my Garmin.) The phone's screen was larger (4.7"), much higher resolution and faster to move around and check things out in nearby mountains and valleys. Since I only used it briefly in camp my battery pack charger was easily up to the job of keeping it charged.

    But the Garmin stayed on while traveling, keeping an accurate account of mileage and average speed, etc. It was also easy to consult for upcoming terrain where camps might be likely and keep track of where we were and how long we needed to travel to keep on schedule. Plus it did everything the phone did too, but just took longer to move the screen around on. And I don't mind it getting banged up. I've sanded down scratches and polished its screen before and can do it again if needed.

    The bad part was I tossed the phone carelessly into a dry bag minutes before launching on day one and when I took it out that afternoon, my gorgeous new phone screen was all scratched up from pressing against the battery pack charger that was in the same bag. Seems someone was using the bag for a chair that day. I doubt I'll bother with a phone or tablet again. The little Garmin was in it's element.

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