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Thread: GPS/Depthfinder Combos - Internal Waterways and Rivers

  1. #1

    Default GPS/Depthfinder Combos - Internal Waterways and Rivers

    I'm looking for a good marine GPS unit for a SportJon and specifically Alaska's internal waterways, rivers, etc. I don't have a specific need for a fishfinder/sonar, but would not mind the function for later resale. My last boat had an older Garmin unit (4" screen) that had standard 2-d resolution and included a memory card with Alaska specific information. I sold the unit with my boat as a package deal after erasing the memory card preventing the new owner from learning where spent my time.

    My personal GPS unit for hunting is the Garmin Oregon 400t. The 3-D, high zoom, color resolution is what I'm looking for when it comes to my boat's gps unit. With new technology, electronics become dated rather quick. I used the search function as a start and found the following thread: http://tinyurl.com/ydsaugl. It was a good start, but didn't include what I was looking for.

    Ideally I'd like a 5" screen and color 3D mapping. The folks over at Sportsmans and Sports Authority were less than educated on their units. Luckily Best Buy helped, but to a limited degree as their marine units are online until they bring more stock into Alaska. Bestbuy lead me to the Lowrance HDS-5M chartplotter GPS online so I looked at one (at Sportsman's) but didn't care for their customer service or the lack of high resolution in the 'demo' mode. They also refused to take it outside so I could verify the true resolution and color of the unit so they lost a possible sale.

    While it can be argued that this unit is to much for a river boat I like the extra features and ability to see more around me than other units allow. Anyone use the Lowrance units? Do they fit the bill or would I be better off with a Garmin? I'd like to hear your opinions and experiences based on what you own and have used on Alaska's rivers. Thanks.
    "He should have been packing a more powerful gun...you have to be a very good shot or very lucky to stop a brown bear with a .357 Magnum." - Rick Sinnott, Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist after a double attack by a grizzly.

  2. #2
    Member Ellamar's Avatar
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    The new Garmins don't have chips that cover interior Alaska, at least not very far in from the coast. I did some extensive research on this for my new boat along with many conversations with Garmin techs and the solution was an older Garmin unit that runs the Mapsource software.

    I ended up with a 398 Plotter/Sounder for my Wooldridge. I had a 182 prior and loved it for our hunting trips down the Yukon. Basically the 398 is it's bigger brother but with a sounder.

    The basemaps preloaded into the new units cover interior Alaska, but their detail is very poor. Mapsource shows pretty good detail. I can send you a screenshot if you like, let me know.

    I originally ordered a 545s...sent it back. Then was told the new 640 touchscreen would work...it would but in car mode(?) so waypoints, etc wouldn't show...so sent it back. Ended up wit hthe 398.

    The 172/182/298 type units would suit your needs well...and they're discontinued so the prices are good. Garmin still supports them as well for tech suppost and software/hardware updates.

    Hope this helps and keeps you from going down the road I went before finding a solution...

  3. #3

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    Thanks Ellamar. Your post provided a number of answers to questions I had and your post was quite helpful. I'll send you a PM and would appreciate a screen shot. You may have saved me a ton of research.
    "He should have been packing a more powerful gun...you have to be a very good shot or very lucky to stop a brown bear with a .357 Magnum." - Rick Sinnott, Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist after a double attack by a grizzly.

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    Member Music Man's Avatar
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    I use a 188c with map source maps and National Geographic Topo maps. It is the only way to get decent coverage for all of Inland Alaska. Mount the sounder inside the hull and shoot through it or you will be constantly replacing it. Search my old posts for more info on through the hull.
    When seconds count, the cops are just minutes away.
    '08 24' HCM Granite HD "River Dog"

  5. #5

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    Can you mount the sounder inside the hull if you have an UHMW upgraded bottom? I thought hull transducers only worked through 1/8 or less aluminum bottoms.
    "He should have been packing a more powerful gun...you have to be a very good shot or very lucky to stop a brown bear with a .357 Magnum." - Rick Sinnott, Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist after a double attack by a grizzly.

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    Member Music Man's Avatar
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    Mine is going through .250 Au. I don't think it would go through the UHMW very good but?. Is all the bottom covered or just the center? I would try the ABS plastic circle and water test to see if it would work through the UHMW before I would say it can't be done. If there is any air between the UHMW and the Au it would for sure not work.
    When seconds count, the cops are just minutes away.
    '08 24' HCM Granite HD "River Dog"

  7. #7

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    The full length of the boat is covered with a thicker material down the keel and 1/2" the remainder of the boat. I doubt there is any air between the alum bottom and the UHMW as Alaska Airboats puts everything under vacuum during installation. I guess its possible, but I don't believe that's the case.
    "He should have been packing a more powerful gun...you have to be a very good shot or very lucky to stop a brown bear with a .357 Magnum." - Rick Sinnott, Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist after a double attack by a grizzly.

  8. #8

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    Following Ellamar’s lead and information in his post above, I called Garmin. They stated at this time no marine GPS has the clarity of a handheld unit in Alaska’s interior. This brought us to the discussion of upgradability and the use of programmed data cards. Ellamar was correct that the new Garmin units won’t accept data cards with additional TOPO maps – the only way to use this tool is to purchase a discontinued or older model.

    If you want premium TOPO resolution in a marine GPS unit on Alaska’s rivers similar to an upscale handheld GPS unit, your best bet is the Garmin 398 Sounder and a data card that contains both TOPO maps and Inland Lakes maps (see below). According to Garmin, the 398 is the only (most current?) unit that will run TOPO and Inland Lakes at the same time as an overlay to the preloaded maps. Other units, such as the Garmin 545 and 640 won’t work in Alaska’s internal waterways due to being preloaded with costal maps and not having the inland map packages. Garmin 531 and 535 also won’t work as they come preloaded with inland lakes but are not compatible with upgraded maps. The only downfall to the 398 is your limited to a 256MB card as the unit won’t take a 512MB card. For myself this isn’t an issue, but I’m sure some may not like the idea of possibly using regional cards. Garmin said the extra data/maps should all fit on one 256MB card. Perhaps Ellamar can help with information on this?

    For those interested in securing the best possible resolution for Alaska’s internal rivers and waterways here is the parts list you need so you won’t have to do the leg work. This information came directly from Garmin and the items can be found at their website. Thanks to Ellamar for his information above as it saved me a significant amount of time – hope it helps.

    Items needed:

    Garmin GPSMAP 398 Sounder
    Part Number: 010-00509-00

    USB Data Card Programmer
    Part # 010-10776-00

    256MB Data Card
    Part # 010-10226-14
    (upload maps to this card – waypoints, etc will be saved to your unit)

    64MB Data Card
    Part # 010-10226-12
    (used to save and backup your waypoints, etc.)

    TOPO U.S. 100K
    Part # 010-11001-01

    U.S. Inland Lakes
    Part # 010-10774-00

    One last note. Garmin stated they update their internal maps every 1-1.5 years for the marine units so when you purchase one it may not be ‘the most current’. If this is a concern, they recommend using the Mapsource software whenever possible and recommend checking updates every few months.

    There are no known plans for a new marine unit that will replace the addition cost and effort listed above for Alaska’s internal waterways.
    "He should have been packing a more powerful gun...you have to be a very good shot or very lucky to stop a brown bear with a .357 Magnum." - Rick Sinnott, Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist after a double attack by a grizzly.

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    Member Ellamar's Avatar
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    Great Post!

    I use a 64mb card. All of the maps I have loaded on it which include the Fairbanks area to Delta, Yukon River from Bridge to and up the Nowitna River, and Susitna/Yetna Rivers from Deshka Landing to Lake Creek all fit on the card...and take up a whopping...6mb...

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    Default Someone's ears were burning

    How funny - I've been agonizing over this exact problem for a month now. Big fan of Garmin units, concerned about Lowrance support (but would like it for guaranteed integration with my E-Tec gauges), wish Garmin sonar was a bit better. So far stuck between Lowrance HDS-5 and Garmin GPSMAP 421s - neither of which seems to have decent interior coverage. Older Lowrance Freedom Map EX card (discontinued) has decent coverage (so I'm told), but get conflicting reports on if it's compatible with new HDS series. What to do.

    Ellamar, if you're up for it would like to check out your new system...

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    Default Inland map card listed....

    .... Doesn't cover Alaska....

  12. #12

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    Ellamar - Thanks for the information on the data file size.

    Alaskan XL - if your commenting on the U.S. Inland Lakes Part # 010-10774-00 above, your right - I didn't realize this. After reading your post I looked at my notes from earlier today and found Garmin did state the primary benefit would be the overlay of the TOPO U.S. 100K and the Inland Lakes may offer additional benefit. Thanks for identifying my error and clearing that up - I'm sure it saved someone some money (even if it was only me ).

    Regarding the Lowrance HDS-5; after doing some research and comparing it to the Garmin 398 the Lowrance doesn't compare if your looking for an interior waterway unit. Sure Lowrance has nice bells and whistles but it lacks the basic tools needed to do the job. (I had the same issues tracking down information on their datacard upgrades). Everyone I've talked to in town, including West Marine, recommends a Garmin if your spending time on the rivers. Even with basic maps Garmin offers more for interior Alaska. Frankly, I was leaning heavy towards the HDS-5 after finding a unit $300 off retail price - instead, I'll be placing my order for a 398 by the end of the week.

    Glad the information helped someone. Thanks again to Ellamar for his assistance.
    "He should have been packing a more powerful gun...you have to be a very good shot or very lucky to stop a brown bear with a .357 Magnum." - Rick Sinnott, Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist after a double attack by a grizzly.

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    Default Source for buying 398...

    Let us know where you found a decent price on the 398 - that sure sounds like the ticket to me. I use the 100k topo on my 60csx and was hoping to at least duplicate that level of detail. Now if they would only make bathymetry maps for Alaskan lakes it'd be perfect

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    Member Akgramps's Avatar
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    I have been using a handheld Garmin (Rino) w/mapscource maps for the last several years. Its handy, but the screen is small and I have to use a seperate sounder if I want depth info.

    I can load the maps on the Rino for the area that I am planning to be in.
    It works well but I occasionally find myself "off" the river, so to speak.
    The maps and info are usefull, but if your looking for concise and up to date info such as the path through squaw crossing, just not sure how accurate its going to be?
    “Nothing worth doing is easy”
    TR

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    Member Ellamar's Avatar
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    Squaw crossing changes a ton every year, so its not going to help too much there...not sure there's ever going to be an easy way to get through Squaw unless you get some local advice beforehand.

    The Garmin 298. 398 and 498 are pretty much the same unit except for the pre-loaded maps. Can't remember if the transducers are different...they may be depending on inland or off shore use.

    Before my 398, I sure liked my 172 and 182. I went to those after using a handheld for years in the boat and it was a great improvement. I hoped to keep the 182, but wanted to incorporate a sounder in the new boat hence the upgrade.

    Occasionally I too find myself off the river, so it's not a good idea to rely on it while running in the dark back to camp (don't ask me why I know that.)

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    Member Akgramps's Avatar
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    Running in the dark...........! My gawd man, yer a braver soul than me...

    I planted my boat in about 2" of water coming back from the Wood in october a few years ago, it was late enough that visibilty was poor to say the least...................

    If I had stopped sooner, at least I coulda picked the campin spot.....
    “Nothing worth doing is easy”
    TR

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    Default Hmm.... parking spot is now HERE!

    Quote Originally Posted by Akgramps View Post
    Running in the dark...........! My gawd man, yer a braver soul than me...

    I planted my boat in about 2" of water coming back from the Wood in october a few years ago, it was late enough that visibilty was poor to say the least...................

    If I had stopped sooner, at least I coulda picked the campin spot.....
    Got caught a bit to far upriver last fall while floating back down to the cabin hoping to drift up on a moose. Powered up on step and started moving, had the handheld 8 zillion candle power light which mostly worked; problem is it's a smaller river that was low... Managed to somehow get parked BETWEEN the "beach" and the fuel drum the guy with cabin upriver from us had put out on the sandbar.... don't ask.

    Soft, sandy bottom - you could just see the tops of the hard chines above waterline on the XL, pretty high and dry... Thought I'd be digging for a while, with "encouragement" from the bride and kids of course However, as soon as I hopped out the boat popped up like a cork (couldn't believe it!) and less than 5 minutes later had it lugged into deep enough water to get up and go.

    Let's just say we had a nice, gentle, SLOW drift the remaining couple of miles down to the cabin....

  18. #18

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    Here's an update for those interested..

    I've researched and contacted about 16 places online that had the 398 listed but none had it in stock due to it being discontinued. No-one in Alaska, Washington, or Michigan carries any and Garmin has no idea where you can find one suggesting eBay, Craigslist, etc.

    So far none have been found so...

    Today at the Sportsman's show I talked to the Garmin reps. They said the 398 was discontinued about two years ago and had no idea where to find one. We discussed other units, but the reps kept referring me to coastal units that didn't include pre loaded maps for interior Alaska. Already knowing better, I tried to keep them on point which was harder than expected. I think they were surprised at the information I already had obtained on the subject (not to mention my knowledge of lack of upgrade features on other models). After lengthy discussion on larger screens for handhelds, the rep tried to get me to buy a Nuvi 500 unit; something I knew nothing about - either that, or he was trying to get rid of me.

    The Nuvi 500 isn't a marine unit, but it is waterproof - albeit small. It contains a 'walking' mode and was preloaded with TOPO maps unlike other units. One initial problem, or concern rather, is, that the preloaded maps don't include Alaska according to the specs. Another concern is the maps were not that good in the demo mode (or online). Disgusted, I went home and got online. Surely I can figure out something to suit my needs - this is 2010 isn't it?

    Thanks to Google I've since learned you can mod the Nuvi into marine mode (saving $300) and upgrade the maps inside with non-Garmin maps! Not bad since it contains similar TOPO maps as my Oregon 400t (even if it's not a marine unit). Here is a link that outlines how to do it if anyone is interested. If you read the link you will find some good information about alternate map resources, and a few links that outline how you can modify non-Garmin maps and save them as genuine Garmin marine maps to your unit. This particular upgrade is about marine maps but I would think (or hope) the same could be done with TOPO maps. This gives me a few idea's and renewed optimism that will keep me busy for a while. Needless to say I'll be looking for older Garmin units to expierment with.

    If you look at the link, the title calls it a 'boat mode hack'. The process isn't a hack, but it may void your factory warranty.

    So that's the update. Hopefully it will assist someone - if so, let us know. Until then, i'm off to continue my search for a 398 (I have a lead on one in England).
    "He should have been packing a more powerful gun...you have to be a very good shot or very lucky to stop a brown bear with a .357 Magnum." - Rick Sinnott, Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist after a double attack by a grizzly.

  19. #19
    Member rhd's Avatar
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    Outdoorsman,

    Good luck in your search, that looks like a nice unit if you can find one. You'd think with the technology these days they would have something more advanced than the 398. I guess it all has to do with the maps though, the maps are the key.

    I was dinking around with a search and found these places - you have probably been to all of them already... good luck and let us know how it turns out.

    rhd



    http://www.zalmar.com/detail-CarElec...98_SOUNDER.htm

    http://www.maptrac.com/index.cfm/pro...al-antenna.cfm

    http://www.amazon.com/Garmin-Sounder.../dp/B000FAMR4W

    http://gpselectronicsandmore.com/pro922836.html

  20. #20

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    Thanks for your post - sadly each no longer has the 398. (Those came up on one of my first searches).
    "He should have been packing a more powerful gun...you have to be a very good shot or very lucky to stop a brown bear with a .357 Magnum." - Rick Sinnott, Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist after a double attack by a grizzly.

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