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    Default gps recomendations

    Hello all,

    I am currently looking for a gps unit to replace a old (15 years old) gps i had that finally died. When i started looking for units i came to the conclusion that i can't rely only on reviews on this item since the money involved in this item warrants every bit of input i can find, and most of the comments seemed to be from people that had little back-woods experience in navigation and most were just from people geo-caching in parks and to follow already-established trails, so here i am. I will be using it for hiking and for atv/bike/snowmachine mounting.

    What i'm looking for:
    1) A hand-held type of non-car unit with way points and trip tracking. Something that is compatible with computer downloads and uploads would be a big plus but not required.
    2) Downloadable maps that don't cost more than the gps unit itself. a 3d topo feature would be nice, but not required.
    3) Something that doesn't eat more batteries than a bear eats berries in the fall (my old unit would eat a set of batteries in just under 4 hours and would get expensive to use fast).
    4) A reliable unit that won't turn into a very expensive paper weight in just a few months or even days.
    5) Something that isn't going to cost a pile of money to get up and running. i'm fine with having to buy a memory card, case, ect. but i don't want to have to spend $200-500 for a us map and have to spend hundreds on "accessories" just to make it useful.
    6) Price range of everything involved around $200-$400 after all maps, rechargeable batteries, cases, mounts, ect.

    what i don't need or even want:
    1) A incorporated camera... i have cameras... i don't need another
    2) Something that has software that needs updated every 2-3 months like some units i have read about that won't work unless you basically check for updates every few days before use.
    3) Altitude sensors... i'm not climbing mountains with it where i need to worry about oxygen use. This just seems like just another feature to drain batteries and run the price up.

    I know many of you spend a fair amount of time away from pavement the wealth of knowledge is invaluable here. Thanks, in advance for any input you can offer and i wish you all the best.

  2. #2
    Member JOAT's Avatar
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    Garmin. Don't bother with any other brand.

    There are a few models that fit your requirements, but I recommend one of these: GPSmap 62st (old, but still available), GPSmap 64st, and eTrex 30

    All Garmin models will link to your computer. They always have since the original GPS 40 that was released back around 1992 or so. The Garmin software that goes on your computer (older MapSource or the new BaseCamp) is free and downloaded from the Garmin website. You can manipulate waypoints and view/upload/save tracks and maps with this software. It automatically checks for GPS firmware updates any time you connect your GPS to the computer. GPS firmware updates are fairly rare with Garmin products. You'll want to run a check for updates when you first buy the unit and put it in service as there may be changes since it was manufactured. After that, if you check only once a year, you'll be fine.

    Maps can be confusing. When you buy a Garmin, most model classes have a version with a "T" in the name. That means it has the entire USA in 100K topographic maps built into the device. You'll probably be fine with just using that map and never need to buy another map. The "T" models usually cost up to $100 more than the non-map model, but buying the topographic maps separately will cost you a little more than that. Exception is the eTrex 30, which includes the topographic maps on an SD card instead of built into internal memory. If you want to add BlueChart (marine navigation charts) or other types of maps, you have to change SD cards to change maps on the eTrex. With a model like the 62st or 64st you will have that topo map built in, but you can add another map via the SD card if you want to. So, if you decide to get the Alaska Enhanced 24K mapset (comes on its own SD card), you can plug that in and have the best maps available for Alaska. If you go boating, you can get the BlueChart SD card and swap it into the device when you're on the water, then switch back to the topo maps SD card when you're on the trail.

    I would stay away from using the downloaded maps. You still have to install them on an SD card. And maps that require purchasing keys to unlock certain areas are just a waste of money in my opinion. If you do all your adventuring in Alaska, you can't go wrong with just buying the Alaska Enhanced 24K maps on SD card and using that one mapset for the rest of your days. If you occasionally travel down to 'Merica, then the built-in 100K topo may be valuable to have. If you never leave our great state, then skip the 100K topo built in and just buy the AK Enhanced set. (EDIT - After posting, I see you're from PA, so ignore the AK Enhanced map and just buy the 100K topo version)

    Do not use alkaline batteries in a GPS. Get a good quality set of 4 rechargeable NiMH batteries from Energizer along with their wall charger. I've tried just about every rechargeable battery on the market. Duracell is one of the worst for rechargeable batteries. Energizer is one of the best. Do not charge your batteries and toss them in a bag and expect them to be ready to use a month from now. NiMH batteries naturally discharge over a fairly short time (just 3-4 weeks of sitting may drain half the charge). But they will hold a very high power capacity when freshly charged. I run my GPSmap 62stc on a pair of Energizer NiMH batteries for up to about 20 hours continuous before getting a low battery warning. Coupled with a GoalZero solar charger, a set of 4-6 NiMH batteries (with 2 in the unit and 2-4 on the charger) can keep your GPS running in the backcountry indefinitely.

    I have accumulated a stash of GPS units since 1992 and still have a GPS 40, GPS 12XL, eTrex Vista, GPSmap 76CSx, and GPSmap 62stc. Every one of them still works, though the usefulness of the old 40 and 12XL non-mapping units from the 1990's just isn't there. I've used them in GPS classes as demo units and keep them in a drawer because they still work just fine. The old eTrex Vista is a B&W screen, but it is smaller than a pack of smokes, so it makes for a decent small & light backup unit. The 76 is the floating marine grade handheld, which is no longer in production after being replaced by the 78 model in the lineup. The 62 is now out of production and has been replaced by the 64 series. It is a great unit and you can still find them (brand new) via several online retailers. When buying a GPS, I highly recommend you check Amazon. They always seem to have the best prices on Garmin products. I just took a quick peek and the 62st is currently going for $310 and the newer 64st is at $358.

    Any of these Garmin GPS will fire up and run right out of the box. If you get the "t" model, you'll already have maps on board. Just put in the batteries and go.

    Now, you mentioned ATV & Snowmachine use, so I'm going to give you some upfront advice based on many years of trying this, that, and the other for GPS mounting. Get a RAM mount. Forget about Garmin mounts or any other knock off accessories you may see out there. Buy yourself the RAM mount that fits the model of Garmin you buy. The GPS snaps into the mount solidly, with no chance of a bounce out. Buy a surface mounted RAM ball for each vehicle and bolt that down to your ATV and Snowmachine. Swapping the arm and GPS bracket from one machine to another is a matter of seconds when you have the ball mount bases in place. It's a truly awesome mounting system.

    I agree that you don't need to bother with the camera models, which are designated by the "c" in the model name.

    I disagree with your assessment of the altimeter, in a way. The Garmin units with the "s" in the name have the sensors package. That means they have a 3-axis electronic compass and the barometric sensor. If you don't want to use the barometric sensor, just turn it off in the setup menu. Whether or not it is turned on doesn't seem to affect battery life, in my experience. The electronic compass is a must have. A GPS does not know which way north is. It can guess which way north is while you are moving, based on your direction of travel. So, it can give you an approximate bearing only while you are moving. If you stop to look at the map to figure out which way to go next, it no longer knows which way north is. And reading a little map on a screen that is not aligned with the world around you is difficult. The electronic compass means that the GPS really knows which way is north and at all times. It makes navigation considerably easier when the map is aligned with the real terrain as you are charting your next move or which trail to take.

    Anyway, I tend to ramble on about GPS because I use them so much. Yes, I'm a geocacher and I do a lot of that as well. But I was using GPS recreationally and professionally for about 15 years prior to taking up that hobby. Hopefully, my insight will help you with your decision.
    Winter is Coming...

    Go GeocacheAlaska!

  3. #3
    Member Music Man's Avatar
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    I have to agree with JOAT 99%. One thing I do differently is use Lithium battery's in my 62stc because it will still work in below -4f weather that is encountered when it is mounted on the snowmachine. They are rated for -40f to 140f.
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    My buddy and I both use the Garmin 62 and they are great! As music man states- use the lithium batteries. They are on sale at Cabelas right now for darn cheap!

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    Also agree with above, have 3 model 76's, all are great and still in use with up to 10 years of service on ocean, sleds, jetboat, and airboat use.

    BK

  6. #6
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    Lithiums are great and run a long time, but they do get spendy if you use your GPS constantly. I always carry a set of lithiums as a backup to the rechargeables. One thing I failed to mention about mounting to a vehicle, especially a snowmachine... get a 12v power cord for the GPS that plugs into the cigar power plug. If your snowmachine doesn't have a power outlet, install one. If it doesn't have a true 12vDC circuit with a battery, then install a rectifier and power filter to give you true 12vDC at the power outlet for your power cord. Most snowmachining is done in low to no light, so you want to use the screen backlight on your GPS. If you set the backlight to always on with batteries, you'll run them down in just a few hours. If you plug your GPS into the vehicle power supply, you will never have to concern yourself with batteries. You can put a set of lithiums in there as cold backup and run the GPS off vehicle power for the majority of your trip and still be able to see the screen at all times. Set the map display to track up and adjust the zoom level to give you appropriate detail ahead, and you have a live "chart plotter" type of display showing you where you're going and what's ahead on the map. All while moving.

    I've not run into cold problems with NiMH, which are better than alkalines and NiCd for use in the cold. But, another option is to keep your GPS warm by installing a stick-on thumb warmer pad to the back of the GPS mounting bracket. Set it on low power and it will keep the GPS warm enough to avoid cold fade of the display or shortened battery life.
    Winter is Coming...

    Go GeocacheAlaska!

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    I have much less experience than JOAT, but I agree with all of it. I really like my rhino with the 5watt radio, sounds like the 500 series is a bit out of your budget the 1watt transmit rhino's might be OK. I am generally in the field with either my wife or other Rhino equipped buddies, being able to send my location from my unit to theirs is a nice feeling, though I haven't broken a leg yet.

    I like my rhino's enough that I got a nuvi 2797 for my truck and have never looked back.

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    Thanks to all for the information. A new GPS is at the top of my list.

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    ??? So if the Wife buys me a 94st and I get the AK map upgrade, is there some way to upload to this computer so I can "see" the maps larger than the small screen on the 94st...and be able to print them? I have an older National Geographic AK map set on CD-ROM, so it wouldn't be a deal breaker.

    I grew up with paper maps. We could go to the FS office at the US Post Office and they would give us topo maps of the US forests for free. I can't stare at a screen as long as I can a paper map.

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    Have you looked into the gps functionality available for download to a smartphone or tablet?....

    I own a couple of the units mentioned and a $15 app blows them away in usability and available mapping...

    My 'gps' has topos and google earth images, much better/bigger screen, and extraordinarily better user interface...all concerns with size, weight, weather proofing, and battery life, are either as good or better than my Garmin units (except my Garmin CSx floats )

    My Garmins haven't left my garage in years...
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    Member JOAT's Avatar
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    When you plug your GPS into the computer with BaseCamp running, it will display whatever maps are in the GPS on the computer. That said, they do have a built-in limitation on printing some of the USGS maps. You'll get a little status pop-up at the top of the map window that will tell you. One thing about viewing the maps in your GPS at the computer is that it will take awhile for them to be opened. You are basically transferring about 1.5GB of map data from the GPS to the computer through the USB cable. There's a little progress bar on the left navigation menu that will tell you how far along it is. If you want to view your maps on computer, plug the GPS in and go do something else for the next 10 minutes.

    I have an app on my iPhone called "Topo Maps" that allows you to download actual scanned copies of USGS quad and quarter-quad topos. It's a real memory hog with each map taking between 3-7MB of storage space. IIRC, the app was about $7-8 and the maps are free from USGS. It can use the built-in GPS function of the smartypants fone to show you a blip on the screen of where it thinks you're at. It's far from perfect and the GPS functionality is minimalistic. It's very cool to pull up the USGS maps and look at them, but the iPhone sucks as a GPS unless you're trying to find some obscure business in the big city and using something like Google Maps for directional navigation. Also, once you're away from data connection, you can't pull up any new maps, though you can look at maps that you pre-loaded while you were at home.

    I've seen nothing about GPS functions on a phone that come close to a real Garmin GPS. I've leave my phone in the truck and take the GPS every time. And toting a fragile and non-water-resistant iPhone around in the woods rather than a durable, waterproof GPS with great signal reception and gnat's arse accuracy just seems foolish. Not to mention that an iPhone's battery life is on the order of 4-6 hours when you're using it. IMHO; YMMV.
    Winter is Coming...

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    Default gps recomendations

    I'm sorry Joat, but your comments about a smartphone/app combination show that you really don't know what you're talking about when it comes to them.... You may have a solid understanding of the Garmins etc. but you arent doing anyone any favors with your laughably ignorant comments regarding other solutions...
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    Member JOAT's Avatar
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    Don't poke a stick in my eye, dude. Try posting some actual info on these mystery apps you are talking about.
    Winter is Coming...

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    Lol, you're funny...not poking sticks I'm just stating fact, dude...every negative comment you made concerning the smart phone/app is incorrect

    There is nothing mysterious about a gps app, they are quite mainstream...go search my post history if you want a little info on some options...it was recently discussed
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    Member JOAT's Avatar
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    No. You don't get to come on here and proclaim to the world that JOAT is "laughably ignorant" and then walk away telling folks to go find some smartphone app that makes their phone better than a real GPS. If you have some actual information about specific phone apps (like, name one) or some specific facts about what I said about the app I posted a review for (Topo Maps, in the iTunes store for $7.99, online at topomapsapp.com) that are incorrect, then post your counter arguments. It's totally uncool to come into a forum thread, slam down an ad hominem attack on a guy, and then run off without posting something helpful or useful.

    I've entered my opinion against using a phone as a GPS, but I'll summarize: They are not waterproof. They are not durable or shock-resistant. They are not as accurate. The signal reception (antenna) is not as good. They use a touch screen, which is much harder to use out in the wilderness compared to buttons (that work under gloves). They don't mount to my snowmachine dash to run live navigation at -20F while running off the system electricity.

    So, do you have some useful info about gps apps to share? Or you just gonna sit there and tell me I'm wrong without making a case?
    Winter is Coming...

    Go GeocacheAlaska!

  16. #16
    Member tjm's Avatar
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    Sorry Joat, a little short on time at the moment to hold your hand, I'll get back to you at the end of the day....I can't give you a thorough and thoughtful answer in only a couple minutes...

    I did suggest that you search my recent post history as it been discussed

    Again, every negative claim you stated is simply not true...

    Here's a couple screen shots to get you going, hope it helps...

    One of my favorites...



    Screen shot of the Google Earth overlays, and of course it works without reception, and is every bit as accurate as my Garmins...






    Google earth is so neat, you can drill down to the trail you're on if you want...




    And of course it does topo's too if that's your preferred flavor...




    More later if you have questions...better get back to work
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  17. #17
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    Ouch! Let me try to get this back on track.

    tjm let me touch his new Wooldridge and let me ride in it several years ago. I rate him as a very nice guy. I'm sure he knows more about smart phones than I ever will. If he says his phone will do XYZ, I'm sure it will...for him. I'm also sure he can do more and go more places in his boat than I could. (Edit: this is a "software" limit on my part no matter what "hardware" I have.)

    I am not a techie person. When we upgraded our cell phones several years ago the Wife got texting & data on her phone. She asked the sales gal if we should do that with my phone. The gal looked up my usage for ALL cell phone use...20 min. a month. I carry a phone like a spare tire, if the highway turns into a parking lot I need to call work or home and let them know I may be late. If I know the Wife is going to call me I'll turn it on.

    For my GPS unit I just need something simple and rugged. I parked the truck here and found a great ____ spot here. How do I find my way to each point again. A map feature is a great step up from my old GPS, but I'll carry paper maps and a compass anyway. I pulled my old GPS out of the safe and the batteries had taken a dump. Good thing the waterproof case held all the juices. That's why I'm looking to get a new unit. I've never had a compass fail. I've had the one GPS fail (my fault for not changing/removing the batteries), a couple of cell phones, and watched the Wife have several cell phones die.

    Thanks for all the information and thoughts. I will run them all through my "filters" and hopefully come up with what will work for me.

  18. #18
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    I am skeptical about an i-phones suitability in very cold weather, battery life and inability to swap out AA batteries. But, I can imagine that I'm wrong in certain ways about all of that.

    However, there is no way that the i-phone 5 is as accurate as a modern GPS unit, because it's GPS satellite receiver is not WAAS capable. Without that feature you can only reliably get a 30-meter fix, although practically a 5 meter fix is common. With WAAS you can practically get a 1 meter fix.

    Granted, for most applications a 5 or 30 meter fix is plenty accurate. But, it's not as accurate as a GPS unit.

  19. #19
    Supporting Member bullbuster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tjm View Post
    ...go search my post history if you want a little info on some options..
    Just what we all want to do, switch threads and go dig thru someone's past musings. If you have pertinent information, post it up. Try not to be rude.

    It does seem to me that if you want to leave the highway, a gps is the way to go. Do you have a cell phone that can track you without reception?

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    I just counted the number of topo maps on my iPhone. Twenty-three. Pretty much the entire kenai peninsula and pretty much all of the 100 mile area around Glennallen. The Avenza PDF map app was FREE. The downloaded maps FREE. My iPhone is in a WATERPROOF "Ballistic" case that I've used in the construction trade for 2 yrs now. I've dropped it in the creek a week after owning it.
    Im not sure how many more maps I could download (space wise) but I know I can always delete a couple to more a couple more on if I want. But 23 maps already. Who carries more than a few at a time in the field?
    Battery power? I've used mine for hrs at a time. (Never ran it long enough to run it down.) I carry 12 volt cord on snogo to keep it charged when needed. Almost all atv's have plug ins now. If not they are easy to install.
    Another good app I've witnessed was Trimble. Although it cost a couple bucks. Looked great.
    And, no need to be in cell range to make these work.
    Your sarcasm is way, waaaayyyyyyyy more sarcastic than mine!

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