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Thread: GPS Basics

  1. #1
    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    Question GPS Basics

    In continuing with their tradition, a number of family members got me REI gift cards for a recent birthday. As my boots, tent, and other such gear is in good shape, it is time to start looking for something new. I've never bothered with a GPS, but there have been times where I would have really liked to have one - especially after crossing my own tracks twice while trying to find my way back to camp. That being said, I know nothing about GPS units. I use one while flying and while commercial fishing, but have never used one that is not airplane or marine specific.

    I am well aware that you get what you pay for, therefore I typically buy high-end gear. With the GPS, though, I'm not sure that I need a lot of the functions that are offered. My question is this: What features are absolute must-haves when looking at a new GPS unit? What features are nice, but not necessary, and which features are completely unneccessary? Also, any specific recommendations would be nice. Thanks!

    -Brian

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    Moderator kingfisherktn's Avatar
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    Brian:

    Bushnell has a new one out, it's called the Onix GPS. It is a gps with screen layering. I supports satellite amd aeerial photography. It doesn't appear to have Alaska in it. this might be an up and coming feature through the industry.

    You can check it out at bushnellgps.com

    kingfisherktn

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    I have only limited exposure to them, so take that into consideration. I owned a Garmin Legend for a couple years. I liked it, but when I added topo maps to it I quickly saw the need for a color screen to keep all the different lines straight. So I bought a Garmin Vista Cx and find that the color screen is nice, but I also found that it aquires its signal faster, and in more difficult places. So they obviously improved something there as well.

    I also like the replaceable memory card feature. I can download different regions or types of maps into separate cards and use them as needed. Or I can get one 2GB card and load every thing I want on it. These micro SD cards are dirt cheap on eBay these days.

    What I wish I had is a larger screen. It's usable the way it is, but larger would be better for what I do with it. The Garmin eTrex line (Legend, Vista, etc.) is better suited for hikers I think.

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    Default Garmin

    I have used them for over 10 years now as part of work but I swore I'd never buy one but I eventually did for work-related tasks.I prefer map and compass but GPS's do have their advantages. I do not use it much but it can be very handy for locating exactly where the tent is on the flats or where the moose carcass is on the ground (theoretically). I own a Garmin Etrex Legend and am completely happy with it. It is simple to operate, durable, water-resistant, and has highways and waterways on it. You have probably seen all the bells and whistles available but having a topo map in your pack eliminates the need for almost all of it. Mine is WAAS-enabled but from I have read, that gives no advantage up here in AK. For my needs, all the extras are completely unnecessary.
    Good luck.

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    Member jakec5253's Avatar
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    Default garmin

    I have the Garmin Vista C, and it is more than enough. My wife bought it for me for Christmas 2 years ago, but for the first year I only used it mark the truck, then camp, then my 4wheeler when i parked it.

    My wife and i got into Geocaching last fall, and that is when the color screen really came in handy. Now the GPS is about 10% for hunting, and 90% following the arrow to the next cache. Whatever unit you go with, geocaching is a good way to not only learn how to operate the basic functions that everyone uses, but also to see what else those little machines can do.

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    I started with Garmin and have stayed with them since the operation of their units has become intuitive for me. I like the eTrex series. Color is fun but not necessary. Don't waste a penny on the barometric altimeter function. Even the compass is a pain since it needs to be calibrated every time you turn the unit on. I don't know where north is until I start walking and the unit tells me. With that, what's the point of the compass?

    I like the Rino radio/GPS units a lot. If you have kids or hunting buddies, get a Rino and enjoy the gps locator that shows you where on the map the other guy is. It's a really cool feature.

  7. #7
    Member chrisWillh's Avatar
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    Must haves for me would be:
    1. The ability to upload new maps (made this mistake with my first one, the default map has almost nothing for Alaska)
    2. An actual compass and not a software driven one(software compass only works if you are moving)
    3. WAAS/EGNOS and MSAS support.

    I would go with a Garmin or Magellan. I've used Garmins and own a Magellan. They are comparable units in they have the same feature sets and are of about the same quality.
    Chris Willhoite

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    Member byrd_hntr's Avatar
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    Default Legend

    I have a Garmin Legend, and it does everything I need it to do. The batteries last much longer than the higher end Garmins, and if I use it in conjunction with my map it is a valuable tool. I geocache with a bit and that is fun, but my sister (who is not an outdoors person at all), geocaches almost every weekend with here family and they love it. They have been to over 200 caches and devote whole vacations to it. I mostly use mine for work, but it has worked great so far.

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    Something else to avoid in my book is rechargeable batteries. When I'm going away from the power grid I don't want rechargeable, I want replaceable. Spare batteries are easy to carry. The newest color Rino units broadcast with 5 watts for an advertised 14 mile range, but they use rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. Bummer.

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    I don't know how much some of you have used the newer rechargeable batteries but they are light years better than the old nickle cadmium batteries. I have been using NIMH batteries in my digital camera and there is no way that Duracell's can compare. I spent the last week on a fishing trip down and around the peninsula and forgot to recharge the batteries. After the trip I wished I had taken stock in Duracell's after using so stinking many of them. The NIMH batteries will last a minimum of 4X's longer than any alkaline battery and with 2 extra sets of batteries that's a lot of life. I haven't used them in cold weather and I have heard that the don't last quite as good in the cold but during the warmer temps you can't beat them. Yes you do have to remember to recharge them before departing but if you don't you can always fall back on the alkaline batteries. Just my experience for what its worth.

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    I agree, my camera is the same way. My sat phone is what got my attention this year. It has unbelievable battery life in average to warm temps. It won't last two minutes if it's cold. I'm reluctant to trust devices I need with batteries I can't change. I suppose a guy could find one of those wind-up chargers if he looked hard enough.

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    Brian, there is only really one thing I expect my GPS to do. Get me back to my marked point.
    I'm sure there are other great features, but I don't want maps & such.
    When I leave the truck, boat, camp or whatever I enter that position so I can be assured of getting home. If I kill something or find a place I want to return to I enter that point also. Maybe that will change someday, but that's it for me.
    I just did something about 2 weeks ago that I usually don't, & that's buy something with out a lot of research. I was getting ready to go on a canoe trip & was interested in total milage & grabbed my current GPS. It is having screen troubles so I was bummed. I was in Fred Myer & they had a sale on Lawrence iFinder Go GPS. They were on sale for $80 & only had one model left, the demo. Asked them if thet'd discount it & got it for $70.
    Ended up not even using it on the trip, but read good things about it. very basic but different from my old one. This one does have a map, but if I can figure a way around it I will never use it.
    Vance in AK.

    Matthew 6:33
    "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you."

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    Moderator Paul H's Avatar
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    I got my wife a Garmin e-trex and it's been a solid basic unit. If you're the type who likes to go out hiking and keep it as basic as possible, a simple unit is the way to go. Make sure you play with it in areas you're familiar with to get to know how to use it.

    I rarely use a GPS in the woods, as I prefer to keep electronic gadgets to a minimum. I'll use it to mark my starting point, and unless I've found a spot on a topo I want to get to, I just turn it off and put it back in the pack. I'd much rather use my eyes to note landmarks then be busy looking down at an LCD trying to figure out where I am.

    To me a base model does evertying I want, all I care about is solid construction, light weight and low power consumption, ie a pair of AA's will last a whole trip for the occasional use I put the unit to.

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    Member AKBighorn's Avatar
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    Everyone has an opinion when it comes to electronics and they are entitled to such. I personally like having a track to show where I have been. If you in fact do need to use the GPS to return because you became dissoriented, the track at least shows you where you were rather than just pointing and following it back to your waypoint. I don't like to admit being lost but I was lost in the woods once with no landmark. Because I had been in the area before I was able to make my way to a trail I had traveled in previous years. It was dark out and with no tracks to look at I wouldn't have necessarilly known or remembered that that trail was there and it may have been more difficult to get out in the pitch black. Just an experience where I was glad I had my GPS and was familiar with using it. If you don't learn it or use it regularly and all of a sudden you need it, it may not be of much use. The maps can be very handy to have when the lights are out as well. This all may not be necessary but it sure doesn't hurt and I enjoy gadgets.

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    Supporting Member bullbuster's Avatar
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    Default Down load those waypoints!

    Garmin GPS lll
    I have used mine for over 10 years. It has been invaluable to me. Using it along w/ a compass and a topo you can nail your location. I have marked a lot of good hunting spots and then go home and enter them into the gazette.

    One warning that hasn't come up. My internal memory failed and I lost 12 years of fishing holes and sweet hollers. Get the cord that allows you to download the waypoints on your puter. Or get in the habit of marking your gazzete and charts.

    (Garmin thinks it's my fault just because there is a big crack across the screen. Didn't have anything to do w/ it, really.)
    Those internal batteries do eventually fail.
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