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j.johnson
2006-04-28, 02:17
I am soon to return to the States from my one year tour in South Korea with the Air Force and my wife sent me $100.00 gift certificate to Academy Sports for my birthday. I am looking at getting a GPS and was wondering of all the available units on the market, what is the best for the buck. I am planning short 1-2 day hikes and 4-5 day hikes in the near future and would really like to get one. I would like to keep it at about $300.00 or less. Any input would be great. Thanks

KLeth
2006-04-28, 02:39
I'm very satisfied with my Garmin eTrex Venture, but the mapfunction is not very good. I got it with PC-cable so I can upload routes ect. to Google Earth :biggrin:
http://www.garmin.com/products/etrexVenture/
Mainly we navigate using map, backed up by GPS to be able to track-back or show the way to shelters and cabins in case of an emergency.
If I were to buy a GPS now, I would look into getting one with a short startup time and one that could navigate on a weak signal (e.g. when walking the woods in heavy rain).

j.johnson
2006-04-28, 10:54
doe's anyone know if the GPS' that have rechargable batteries, will they work with alkaline batteries also?
Thanks

Take-a-knee
2006-04-28, 12:02
I have the basic E-Trex model from Garmin. I use it mainly while hunting to find a point location in the dark,like a deerstand. For trail hiking, it would be one of those "nice-to-have" items that you don't really need. For off-trail hiking, it might save your arse, or at least a lot of needless walking. A GPS WILL NOT READ OR INTERPRET A MAP FOR YOU! You must have these skill sets to make a GPS useful. All GPS units have a learniing curve, you must practice and learn to manipulate the controls and access its information BEFORE you head into the woods. For hiking, I would look at the wrist-mounted units from Garmin. They come with a rechargable internal battery or replaceable batteries. You will, of course, need the latter. I reccomend the use of lithium batteries. Don't spend the money for a digital compass GPS, just have an ordinary compass, it won't run out of batteries.

Mutinousdoug
2006-04-28, 13:41
I have the Magellan "Sprotrak TOPO" that I'm pretty happy with. Documentation sucks though, so the learning curve, as Take-a-Knee mentions, can be a little frustrating.
It has software that allows you to download topo maps in pretty good detail. I've downloaded all the topo info from Denver to Grand Junction including about 50 miles either side of the I-70 corridor and only used 10-15% of the storage capacity. Takes awhile to download from the computer though. Manmade features like roads can be a little dated and they want $90 for the new software with the most updated and accurate highway info, but the natural features come right off USGS topo maps and don't need the update, so I can't justify the expense. A new unit would have the newest software, so consider that if you buy a unit off ebay or some discount house. If you wanted to use the GPS to navigate the USA by car, it might be worthwhile. It's amusing to me that the GPS location is often more accurate than map info. You can get a good idea of the map features off the Magellan website if you go to their "MapSend" page.
It's larger than the Garmin Legend which I also considered, but the reason it's larger is because it's got a larger antenna for better/faster satellite acquision, and a slightly larger screen (maybe 1/8"). I got the non-color unit three years ago for less than $280. It's not just black and white, but has maybe 4 halftones that make it pretty easy to read. They're probably less now (unless they've been superseded, as I suspect). anyway I use NiMH rechargable batteries that actually have more juice than alkalines. The two AA batteries last about 9-12 hours. If you have moved since last turning it on, it takes a few minutes to aquire satellites and figure out where it is. I turn it on when I'm hiking and off when I stop for any length of time. I don't travel w/o map and compass but lately I've been downloading Google Earth pictures of my routes to have along too.

Icemanat95
2006-04-28, 21:22
I'm still using a Magellan 2000XL unit. Pretty straightforward. No mapping function at all. I'm experimenting with a Garmin GPS 10 Deluxe teamed through Bluetooth with an HP iPAQ hx2790 handheld computer with ArcPAD software and hopefully LizardTech GeoExpress with MrSIDs. That combination however would blow your budget straight to hell. The GeoExpress software runs over 2K, ArcPAD is part of ArcGIS, which runs around 1250.00 or so. The handheld is another 400.00 and the GPS receiver itself is about 250.00 give or take. We'll see how accurate it all is. (This is for a commerical project by the way, not for my S&Gs, and I didn't pay for all this - making it that much more fun).

About the best accuracy you are going to get from recreational models is about 10 meter accuracy. You might get a bit tighter on a good day, but 10 meters is all the company will claim. You can get units that are good to about 1 meter down to maybe 1 foot, but the price-tag on those is in the 3-5K range depending upon the particulars. They are primarily built for military, municipal and utility work where very tight positioning are required. I'm hoping to get my hands on one of those before too long.

Trimble Outdoors offers a software package that converts certain Nextel phones into full featured GPS units, but alas, that is Trimble's only consumer grade product, the rest of their GPS systems are commercial and military grade.

Of the consumer grade makers Garmin has the greatest breadth in their offerings, but beyond that there isn't all that much to choose between Magellan and Garmin, both are good.

Take-a-knee
2006-04-28, 23:29
I don't think anyone needs a GPS with a digital map capability to hike or hunt. To start with, if the unit is small enough to be handy to have on a hike, then it is way too small to have a screen large enough to make the map useful. The company I worked for last year in Iraq had tried the hand-held Garmins and found them lacking (for use in a vehicle), they then bought Garmin GPS V's (not much bigger) and had the same problem with them. There are some good affordable units coming out for use in a vehicle, I've read, but the screens are 4-5 in. square.

A hand-held person on foot only needs a GPS as a substitute for intersection/resection, that is, to locate your position on your paper map. Other navigation tasks are best handled the old-fashioned way.

Mutinousdoug
2006-04-29, 18:32
I don't think anyone needs a GPS with a digital map capability to hike or hunt. To start with, if the unit is small enough to be handy to have on a hike, then it is way too small to have a screen large enough to make the map useful. The company I worked for last year in Iraq had tried the hand-held Garmins and found them lacking (for use in a vehicle), they then bought Garmin GPS V's (not much bigger) and had the same problem with them. There are some good affordable units coming out for use in a vehicle, I've read, but the screens are 4-5 in. square.

A hand-held person on foot only needs a GPS as a substitute for intersection/resection, that is, to locate your position on your paper map. Other navigation tasks are best handled the old-fashioned way.

While I agree with Take-a-knee's first statement, I'd take exception to his second; while the screen on a handheld is way too small to substitute for a paper map, useful information can be gleened from it such as river bend direction, ponds or islands and trail or road intersections. I find using these map features easier than pulling out a straight edge and finding intersecting lat/longs on a topo map. Were I navigating in say, Kansas or in the middle of an ocean where there were no features, I'd have no choice.

jimtanker
2006-04-29, 20:00
I've had a E-trex Vista for quite a while now and just got the Mapsource program to put the topo maps in it. The contour lines for the topographic part of the maps arent that great. Its not like looking at a paper map. I prefer to print out maps from the Topo USA program that I have. I can set the detail for the topographic lines as I want them. I can read that alot better than I can the map on my GPS.

As for it having too small of a window, I dont find that the case at all. Since I can change the size of the map at will, I can choose the detail I want. Its just the contour interval that I dont like.

Take-a-knee
2006-04-29, 22:42
When I hunt or hike in my state I usually print my maps using Delorme's software. I print the maps with UTM grids and set my GPS on the same, it is similar to using military maps with MGRS. My compass has a protractor on the baseplate for placing the last two digits. It works for me.

j.johnson
2006-04-30, 03:02
thanks for all the great info, I am looking forward to shopping for my GPS next month in the Great USA. thanks again

Scout
2006-04-30, 06:05
I have a Garmin Foretex 101 - which is a bit smaller than a wrist watch and just like a watch, mounts on your wrist. I use it for running and hiking to track my time and distance as well as drop breadcrumbs along the way so (like many other said) I can upload the routes and see where I went via Google Earth.

It has no mapping features but I personally don't think I need them for that particular use.

I have also used the Garmin Etrex - it was in our survival vests while I was in Iraq. The model we had did not have a map function either and it worked well - just as well as the smaller Foretrex 101.

If you want something even smaller, Garmin has an actual wrist watch size unit now. I have no experience with it.

I think it is important to remember what your purpose is of having the GPS. When buying you will see all the bells and whistles and you will feel like you have to have those functions when in reality you won't use many of them.

So, think hard about what you will use it for and heavily rely on the considerations posted here and you will do great.

Good luck and welcome home. Being gone for a year sucks! Thanks for your service.

SowthEfrikan
2006-04-30, 10:59
It's a a bluetooth telephone and GPS in one product. I think it's about $300 but I'm not sure as I got it through Backpacker Magazine as part of their mapping project, and I use Trimble Outdoors with it. There were some snags with the Trimble software initially but they seem to have improved it vastly and now you can voice-record waypoints etc. The i605 is virtually indestructible, I've dropped it on rock and have been amazed to find it just lightly scratched. The battery only has about 8 hours use, so I carry a spare. Drop in to Nextel and check it out. I'm going to stick with this product.