Beta on GPS units?

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phylp

Trad climber
Millbrae, CA
Topic Author's Original Post - Aug 14, 2011 - 07:26pm PT
I'm considering getting one. Of the people who own one, a few questions:

Would you buy one again?
What is good or bad about them?
Any brand and model that you think is better than the rest?

This is not meant to replace a good map and a compass. But especially this year, with all the snow and so many trails still under snow, I would have used one a few times already if I had one.

The last post I could find on this is 2 years old. Technology changes so quickly I thought it would be worth asking again.

Thanks, Phyl
jfs

Trad climber
Upper Leftish
Aug 14, 2011 - 08:19pm PT
I'd take a different approach than Rokjox's. GPS units certainly can be useful but I avoid anything with the newer and/or fancier features. Basic GPS technology has advanced to the point that the "improvements" now seem to be limited to gee-whiz stuff. The top end models (with things like touch screens, satellite comm., satellite imagery - a la Google Earth, 3-axis compasses, geocaching and games preloaded, radios, etc.) all add nothing appreciable to the real functionality of the unit. I will admit that the Rino units add some utility for a few user groups (like SAR and hunters/fishermen) but otherwise just add complication, bulk and weight to the unit.

After using GPS units by DeLorme, Magellan and Garmin I still think Garmin has it figured out the best. Either one of two Garmin models meet my criteria. Garmin eTrex Vista HCx or the Foretrex 401. I find onscreen maps occasionally useful so I lean toward the Vista. The Foretrex offers full capability in the most compact unit possible.

My basic list of "needs":
 light weight and compact size
 solid reception
 good (replaceable) battery life
 pressure altimeter
 magnetic compass
 easily readable screen
 robust construction
 mapping capability a useful "nice-to-have"
 computer based pre-planning and waypoint entry/editing capability

The above two units meet those criteria.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Aug 14, 2011 - 08:48pm PT
I've been carrying a GPS Dongle around in a series of experiments making tracks... it takes a reading every 5 seconds, up to 250,000 of them (347 hours capacity, don't know how long the battery would last).

I get home and read out the unit, I can plot tracks and all that.

Even when I take it on my ride to work where I am on a known path with relatively little tree canopy, the track can be very different than the actual ground covered.

I can filter a lot of this for my purpose, but if I were depending on it to know where I was there are many times when I'd think I was somewhere I wasn't.

This is much more of a problem in the mountains where the sky can be obscured by topographical features.

If you use one of these for the purpose of knowing where you are, it should be one of many redundant tools you use to determine your location.
Reilly

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Aug 14, 2011 - 09:01pm PT
I was forced to buy the Garmin 62ST- their top-of-the-line. The wife wouldn't
do the cross-country trek with me across Tierra del Fuego without one. OK,
didn't have to buy the best but I did. What a POS! There's virtually no
instructions worth a damn, nothing about it is intuitive, the N American topos
it comes loaded with doesn't know a road from a trail, and there's a crapload
of superfluous features I'll never use. That said it does the job probably
better than any other hand held and it floats and is relatively waterproof.
I would buy it again but, boy, would I love to spend about 30 minutes with
their engineers.

One cool thing is I was able to download sat photos and plan my routes with
them as there are no topos worth a damn for down there. The sat photos aren't
great either but they are ok and a year's subscription is only $25.
HighTraverse

Trad climber
Bay Area
Aug 14, 2011 - 09:03pm PT
If you use one of these for the purpose of knowing where you are, it should be one of many redundant tools you use to determine your location.
Bingo!!!
Don't trade in your common sense for the tenuous security of trick technology.
And you'd be well advised to have a POPTM in your pocket (Plain Old Paper Topo Map)
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Aug 14, 2011 - 09:08pm PT
We have a couple of Garmin eTrex H units which were given to our kids and are apparently fairly good.
You can borrow one to try out if you'd like.
It might be easier to find an app which uses the GPS on a modern cell phone.

For returning from a climb after dark, we usually just build cairns in the daytime.
Larry Hamilton's example of using one to navigate the desert floor at Red Rocks sounded like a useful application, though.
They might be good for recording locations of remote / obscure climbs, but a map may be better.
I've never needed to carry one to locate a climb.
If I was more of a hiker I might be interested.
WBraun

climber
Aug 14, 2011 - 09:51pm PT
One time I was deep in the bowels of Tenaya Canyon and the helicopter asked for our GPS position for the victim extraction.

LOL I had 1 satellite, so no position coordinates.

So we fired a orange smoke canister. Duh!

Another time in Sequoia Nat. Forest on a search we got lost in the snow every 15 minutes.

I looked at the GPS and found the way back to the trail in a minute.

This went on all day long that day in the snow.

So the Garmins have a huge selection. The etrex with maps on the display are awesome.

Best of luck with your search for a GPS ......
jfs

Trad climber
Upper Leftish
Aug 14, 2011 - 09:59pm PT
A couple comments:
Do ANY of them ACTUALLY have a MAGNETIC compass?
Yup they do. Many of them. Using them in the same way you do for precise REAL compass navigation is not necessarily advised (i.e. sighting and plotting) but they make the process of navigating to a pre-entered waypoint easier and faster. Where a GPS alone is unable to tell which way you are facing, one with a compass can.

I seen GPS built into a wristw#tch. It looked totally useless except for showing the body recovery team
Those are fitness and workout GPS's. They are NOT intended to be used for navigation. They are for tracking your run/bike ride/whatever and typically come with heart rate monitors, cadence sensors and other peripherals. Not a nav tool but great if you use them as intended.

What a POS! There's virtually no
instructions worth a damn, nothing about it is intuitive, the N American topos
it comes loaded with doesn't know a road from a trail, and there's a crapload
of superfluous features I'll never use.
There are a lot of clubs that offer basic GPS classes that are pretty useful to people just starting out. I'll agree that some of the newest GPS's are getting cluttered up with extra features that make them confusing but the basic nav functions are still pretty easy to figure out. All those goofy geocachers and photo-taggers are screwing things up for the rest of us...

No cell phone GPS will be worth a damn.
I agree. Never rely on one into the backcountry.

BUT I had to eat my words a little when a friend's smartphone nearly matched my GPS's capability on Rainier in a whiteout sh#t-storm this year. I would NEVER rely on one OR trust its maps OR battery life OR operating system OR durability OR anything else about them...BUT I was at least impressed with it's accuracy, signal retention, and functionality on that occasion.
HighTraverse

Trad climber
Bay Area
Aug 14, 2011 - 10:04pm PT
It might be easier to find an app which uses the GPS on a modern cell phone.
Cell phone GPS apps drain the phone battery too fast to be useful for more than a few hours.

Most cell phone GPS's use combination of cell tower triangulation for a quick fix while the GPS receiver in the phone takes its time to get the satellite fix. My iPhone is as accurate with the GPS fix as a real GPS. But the cell phone receivers don't have as much gain so they don't get fixes as quickly and have bigger dead areas in steep terrain.

GPS is a great way to retrace your path, especially in bad weather. But another caution: what if you want to return by a different/quicker/safer path? Speaking of Rainier, you'd be foolish to be watching your GPS to retrace your path across a glacier rather than working out the new best path on your return.

It's a great way to share a path or the location of a route with others. I'll bet within a few years, most climbing guide books will have GPS coordinates for the stars and finishes of climbs, especially tricky ones in big mountains. The 3d Pillar of Mt Dana comes immediately to mind.
jfs

Trad climber
Upper Leftish
Aug 14, 2011 - 10:06pm PT
I'll bet within a few years, most climbing guide books will have GPS coordinates for the stars and finishes of climbs
ugh...i hope not. I LIKE getting lost.

Sometimes.

Or at least I like having BEEN lost.

Sometimes...
HighTraverse

Trad climber
Bay Area
Aug 14, 2011 - 10:08pm PT
agreed on both points. So leave your GPS in your pack or better yet at home. ;-)
rhyang

climber
SJC
Aug 14, 2011 - 10:19pm PT
I have a garmin foretrex 301. No compass, no barometric altimeter, but it's light, has a good chipset and relatively fast satellite lock. Talks to your PC via USB.

I usually leave the thing off unless I am taking waypoints. If I want to navigate to a waypoint then I turn it on, transfer the bearing to my orienteering compass, then turn it off again. That saves juice.

The wrist strap thing is kind of silly though. I used to have a garmin geko 201 but it used a serial port (not many PC's have those anymore) and an older chipset (slower to lock). Same idea though.

The other issue is spare batteries .. my headlamps all use AAA's and so does the 301. It would be annoying to have to carry two different sizes of spare batteries on a trip.
HighTraverse

Trad climber
Bay Area
Aug 14, 2011 - 10:21pm PT
and you can buy a very good compass for $15, battery not included.
JLP

Social climber
The internet
Aug 14, 2011 - 10:30pm PT
Claiming you use a compass to navigate around just tells me you don't get out much. You need an altimeter, too. Nobody uses that sh#t anymore. It's really slow, error prone and incredibly innaccurate. A GPS with mapping is the way to go. It's been pretty popular for the last decade - another sign you must not get out much if you are still talking about compasses and paper maps. I'm a Garmin fan, myself. Really, though, in the summer, when following trails, it's rarely needed. In winter or on snow, I think it's mandatory. When visiting new areas, it's extremely helpful.
HighTraverse

Trad climber
Bay Area
Aug 14, 2011 - 11:10pm PT
JLP
don't be so condescending. I get out plenty in all weather and all kinds of terrain. I've also navigated from the foggy coast of Northern California through the Pacific Ocean in all weather in a small sailboat. I'm well versed at map and compass and sextant navigation. I'm also a software engineer, not a luddite.
When the sh**t is hitting the fan and your knickers are in a twist you'd better have your brain engaged and not be totally reliant on technology.
I didn't say a GPS was worthless or even silly. I said you'd better be aware of the limitations.
Don't get me started on the GPS equipped sailors who lost their boat on an island in the Tuamotus on a clear night, while I was about 8 hours behind. Or how my iPhone battery died when I was using the GPS about 3 hours out on a ski tour. Or last week on the Grand Teton when my two partners' altimeters disagreed on the altitude by 200 feet.
By the way, the best hand held GPS altitude accuracy (NOT sensitivity) is about +/- 100 feet.
Other posts here have also described the limitations.
rhyang

climber
SJC
Aug 14, 2011 - 11:18pm PT

>:)
JLP

Social climber
The internet
Aug 14, 2011 - 11:28pm PT
don't be so condescending.
Excellent advice for the knob with 5 posts to this thread talking down to the OP like he's some lost boy scout.
mongrel

Trad climber
Truckee, CA
Aug 15, 2011 - 12:25am PT
I have used two kinds of Garmin (eTrex Vista and GPSMap 60CSx) and two kinds of Trimble (Juno and GeoXH). Trimble is by far the best for actual work in the field (mapping, recording info about patches or lines, etc.). Probably not what you are interested in.

I've used both Garmins in widely varying terrain and vegetation in the western U.S., Florida, Indonesia, and West Africa, almost entirely off trail. The eTrex works poorly (in my estimation) in dense forest cover, often losing fix entirely, and is not very intuitive, quick, or convenient to use. But the 60 CSx absolutely rocks, even in very dense multi-story tropical rain forest. It is also much easier to use and more intuitive, but a little bit larger object. Still, I would highly recommend that model for recreational navigation use. You can upload maps to it too, and it has a nice auto-lighting feature that determines whether the screen can be seen in the ambient light, if not it automatically switches to the (backlit) night screen so you can still navigate even if your headlamp is toast. I don't run the "track" function all the time (an approach that was rightly criticized above) but instead store a few judiciously chosen waypoints en route, some are spots I figure I might want to find for the return journey, others might be high points that are likely to be visible from many places and therefore are useful for orientation. You'll quickly get the hang of best use and battery power conservation.

If you have the money for it, Trimble Juno is excellent too, also works well in trees, and is a size and weight that's plausible to carry recreationally. Downside: it uses only a Trimble battery (expensive to have a spare), but if you are savvy about settings the battery will last a week or more without recharging (much less if recording a lot of data). Expensive, plus you have to buy even more expensive software to run it. But this would be the gold standard for small size and weight GPS.

Garmin has a newer GPSMap model with color screen, I would definitely not get that myself, because it seems that it would just run the batteries down faster, and a colleague who has one reports that this is indeed the case. Personally, I am not jazzed about the radio idea, I regard a GPS as a tool you use to get yourself back home on your own, not a means of soliciting rescue or re-uniting a split-up party (never do that anyway). For rescue backup or reassurance to family, I would buy and use a personal locator beacon - another expensive clunky object to carry.

And anywhere I might possibly need to navigate, I ALWAYS carry extra lithium batteries (ordinary alkaline burn out in no time in a GPS), a good compass, and map. Also altimeter once in a while.

Reilly

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Aug 15, 2011 - 12:27am PT
yes, my GPSMap 62ST eats batteries voraciously.
jfs

Trad climber
Upper Leftish
Aug 15, 2011 - 12:34am PT
Mongrel is your eTrex Vista a basic "Vista" or a "Vista HCx"? Big difference in the antenna sensitivity. I've never had a problem with reception on mine...granted, I don't frequent multi-tiered jungle canopy locales. But plenty of PacNW rainforest canopies. =)
mongrel

Trad climber
Truckee, CA
Aug 15, 2011 - 01:08am PT
Jfs, probably just a regular Vista, so you may well be right that the newer version has a much better antenna. Store sales staff might not know all that much about the inner workings, but Garmin is pretty good about responding to questions, so anyone contemplating a purchase would be well advised to contact them directly. I certainly agree PacNW forest can be pretty damn dense, although there is just one viciously thorny plant instead of many, and practically no stinging insects. And your unit better be moderately waterproof, just like in the tropics! My Garmins have done really well in heavy downpours.

The best new GPS antennas are dual channel, I don't know if any recreational-grade units have those, but they work dramatically better in dense cover. I was never very impressed with WAAS or whatever it's now called. Didn't seem to make a damn bit of difference whether it was turned on or off. Maybe it's a big difference in perfect reception but I hardly ever go anywhere that's the case.

Also, I do not mean to dis Magellan or any other brand, I just have no experience with them.
bergbryce

Mountain climber
South Lake Tahoe, CA
Aug 15, 2011 - 02:51am PT
I'm in the market as well...
I'd like a recreational unit that is WAAS compatible or can get me sub 5 meter accuracy.

The GPSMap 60CSx sounds promising.
Any other suggestions?

I've used an eTrex in the past for taking waypoints and stuff and it's been fine for that but it takes forever to get a signal.

For the record I can use map and compass. A GPS is usually too much of a PITA to mess with but sometimes it's invaluable and can take and store data that cannot otherwise be stored.



Captain...or Skully

climber
or some such
Aug 15, 2011 - 02:59am PT
Maps are cheap, they last, require very little power, though you MAY have to employ some real land navigation.
I'm biased. Yes. Not sorry, though.
Good luck.
deuce4

climber
Hobart, Australia
Aug 15, 2011 - 05:13am PT
If you have access to GIS software, you can load your own maps on the DeLorme units. I have one, and it works great, though the screen is a bit too small.
reddirt

climber
PNW
Aug 15, 2011 - 05:24am PT
...my two partners' altimeters disagreed on the altitude by 200 feet.
By the way, the best hand held GPS altitude accuracy (NOT sensitivity) is about +/- 100 feet.

I wonder if the altimeters were both calibrated at the same time/place.

The precision/accuracy of barometric vs satellite-based altimeters may warrant a separate discussion. I was always under the impression that barometric was more reliable.
reddirt

climber
PNW
Aug 15, 2011 - 05:30am PT
So, the newer(est?) cell phones may have real GPS in them? I got to go look that up.

I almost never turn mine on as it's a battery drain.
TKingsbury

Trad climber
MT
Aug 15, 2011 - 11:18am PT
By the way, the best hand held GPS altitude accuracy (NOT sensitivity) is about +/- 100 feet.

Actually, the accuracy has gotten much better. I've seen Trimbles that boast <45 cm vertical accuracy...

here's a spec sheet:
http://trl.trimble.com/docushare/dsweb/Get/Document-414891/GeoExplorer_2008_Series_GeoXH_CustomerFAQs_1209.pdf
jfs

Trad climber
Upper Leftish
Aug 15, 2011 - 11:31am PT
I'm in the market as well...
I'd like a recreational unit that is WAAS compatible or can get me sub 5 meter accuracy.

The GPSMap 60CSx sounds promising.
Any other suggestions?

For recreational and hiking based uses you can ignore WAAS and any claimed boost in accuracy. It was originally created for use in aviation where you might actually expect to be able to receive the correcting signals from ground based stations. That's a pipe dream for most of us on a hike into the middle of the Sierra or North Cascades or wherever. I actually turn WAAS off as soon as I start using a new GPS since there has even been some indication that it can lead to signal degradation when used at surface level. It's a marketing thing...nothing else.

The 60CSx was a good unit. It is still available but in diminishing supply. It's been replaced by the 62s and 62st. I do not use it simply because it is bulky and heavier than the eTrex series.

I've used an eTrex in the past for taking waypoints and stuff and it's been fine for that but it takes forever to get a signal.

Most likely this is also an issue of the older antenna. Any of the modern eTrex's that I use now get a fix within about 30 seconds. Look for an "H" in the model name to determine if it has this new antenna/programming.

And I promise I'm not a shill for Garmin. =) I am admittedly more comfortable with there units than other brands but have used the competition and always end up coming back to Garmin despite some of the silly, extra crap they keep adding into their units.
Reilly

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Aug 15, 2011 - 11:40am PT
I wouldn't thing so but does anyone know whether leaving the WAAS on saps the
batteries faster than without?
jfs

Trad climber
Upper Leftish
Aug 15, 2011 - 11:41am PT
TK, those are generally GIS or utility type GPS's that depend on local network/internet/wireless connectivity and (I think) additional antenna stations in order to correct the actual GPS signal on your unit. This is getting outside my area of knowledge but they are not units that would be much use in the field by a hiker or climber.

That ... and they cost something like $6,000. =)

Reilly - not that I know of. But like I said, there is rarely any benefit to using WAAS while at ground level in the hills. Maybe sporadically but not enough to warrant leaving it on imo.
JLP

Social climber
The internet
Aug 15, 2011 - 11:41am PT
Actually, the accuracy has gotten much better. I've seen Trimbles that boast <45 cm vertical accuracy...
Everyone loves to quote the 200' GPS accuracy thing in defense of their antique watches, but practice is usually around 50' or better. It really depends on your signal quality and your particular GPS unit.

+1 for getting one of the latest GPS units. Ignore the extra features - it's just software. I have had several over the years. My latest is a Forerunner 310XT with the Sirf Insta Fix (or whatever). It picks up position in my basement. The tracks over switchbacks are more detailed and repeatable by far over any device prior. Switchbacks usually make a mess of tracks, especially below treeline, but not with this device. It has a 20 hr battery life. The technology moves fast. I have a 76CS, similar to the 60CS mentioned above a few times. It's really old and outdated at this point in comparison.

I have made maps off the web for other countries Garmin didn't cover. It's a tedious PITA. The thing here is to have a paper map, then use the GPS to set lots of waypoints (as "wands"). Power up, set waypoint, power off. Tracks use too much battery, for when you are on a longer trip in the mountains. When you plot these waypoints, you will have a lot of information.
phylp

Trad climber
Millbrae, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Aug 15, 2011 - 11:42am PT
All of this information is really very useful. Thanks so much everyone!

And I have to admit it to you, Rokjox, LOL, it IS my husband who will read thru all of this and understand it. The wife = me is pretty technology minus. I'll learn how to use the thing if we get one. I do at least know how to use an instruction manual!

Honestly I'm not sure the thing would get used more than a few times a year. And it probably wouldn't even be turned on most of the time unless something seemed like it was starting to get really confusing. The situation that Werner described, with loosing the trail because of snow, is the most likely scenario. It happened twice during a recent hiking trip up around lake Tahoe. Not being out in a snow storm, in my case, but just losing the trail because of the huge snowpack remaining, and not being able to figure out where to go. We were in no danger at all of being lost, as it was easy to retrace our steps. But the snowfields were easy to cross so it was just a bit frustrating not to be able to get to the lake we wanted to get to in unfamiliar terrain without prominent landmarks and with the trail invisible under snow.

The reason this came up yesterday was that yesterday we took a little 6 mile hike in the east bay. The trail we were on started on as a very narrow track through a large area populated by cows. Every darn cow path looked exactly the same as the "real" trail. And even though we had a little topo map provided by the park, the landmarks were not exactly crystal clear. We tried to use the GPS on the cell phone just to confirm our intuition that it was time to start heading east, and the GPS function worked fine, but because there was no cell signal, the map for the area could not download, so it was useless. Again, we were never lost...

So thanks to Clint I will be picking one up this AM to borrow for our hiking trip for next week. I'll report back how we liked it and if it came in handy!
TKingsbury

Trad climber
MT
Aug 15, 2011 - 11:48am PT
I know jfs...just pointing it out...

Most folks will find those style of GPS a bit too much...but they are my preferred device...but I am in the GIS field....

The Garmin Oregon has been well received here at the office...my boss prefers it over the trimble for his needs...
JLP

Social climber
The internet
Aug 15, 2011 - 12:06pm PT
Actually, the accuracy has gotten much better. I've seen Trimbles that boast <45 cm vertical accuracy...
That sounded like BS, so I read the spec. That accuracy is basically after some server matches your position to a map. No cell coverage for connection to a server, no 45cm accuracy. How do you even confirm 45cm?? Have such surveys ever been done?

That said, I have a shitload of experience running trails and taking tracks with several Forerunners - 50' is a good rule of thumb, it's usually better. Do you really need better? Is that map from the 1960's made with protractors, levels and barometers any better?

TKingsbury

Trad climber
MT
Aug 15, 2011 - 12:13pm PT
Never said it was needed or easy, just pointing out that vertical accuracy has improved.

Whether you can confirm(or need)that accuracy is another matter.
stevep

Boulder climber
Salt Lake, UT
Aug 15, 2011 - 12:14pm PT
Newer smartphones (my Droid X for example) have an actual GPS in them, they don't just use cell triangulation. And there are some pretty good apps. But battery life is terrible when using GPS. 2-3 hours max in my experience.

So for my mountain biking, I have a Garmin Edge 701. It works very well, and has a barometric altimeter in it in addition to the GPS. So I have a reasonable degree of confidence in the altitude tracking.
Seamstress

Trad climber
Yacolt, WA
Aug 15, 2011 - 01:37pm PT
I have the Garmin Oregon series. Most of the guys on our rescue team also have that unit, and many of them are hunters. We also spend the extra money to get the detailed maps for the area. These units lock in quickly and display most of the trails/forest roads in the area, even some that have been decommissioned or abandoned. In broad daylight, we generally don't need them to navigate, but they are useful for our incident command plotting where we are. In the winter or at night, they do keep us on track. Some of the programming is intuitive. Other features take some time to figure out. Working with a buddy that has the same unit, actually looking at the instructional DVD, or attending an orientation would help you get up the learning curve more quickly.

The color maps eat more juice than the black and white. For me, it is worth it. I wouldn't add the radio to that unit, too. Those consume power even faster, especially if you talk on that radio. As always, never be totally dependent on a battery powered device. You still need to carry a map.

I wear an altimeter watch in addition to getting elevation off the GPS. I find that most altimeter watches are more accurate than the altimeter on the GPS. With a map and an altimeter watch, I can leave my GPS powered off many times. Then when I am close to my significant landmark (in terms of elevation), I can fire up my GPS and zero in on the critical "turn" or landmakr as needed.
Max Neale

climber
California
Aug 15, 2011 - 04:37pm PT
All, I work for SuperTopo and Outdoor Gear Lab and am in the middle of a handheld GPS review. I have 10 units from Magellan, DeLorme, and Garmin. My full time job involves 40+hrs/week of environmental science field work so I've been using these in addition to $5k Trimble units nearly everyday to map rare plants, define project areas, etc. All the data I've been collecting gets corrected (differential correction)and analyzed in ArcGIS, so I've been able to compare the accuracy of the scientific units (external backpack antenna) to the recreational models.

As for beta: If you're looking to buy and can hold off until the review is done in a couple of months, do so. Of the various makes I've been most impressed with Garmin because their interface is easier to use. Despite any biases from growing up near the DeLorme HQ in Maine, I've found their units to be most disappointing. The OGL review will discuss the many techy aspects of the units, their applications, as well as buying advice; topics that are beyond the scope of my post here.
HighTraverse

Trad climber
Bay Area
Aug 15, 2011 - 05:19pm PT
I find that most altimeter watches are more accurate than the altimeter on the GPS
That's a very interesting observation.

Someone asked if my two partners' altimeters had been corrected before they disagreed by 200 feet. No. One of my partners tried to correct his wristw#tch altimeter at a known location but couldn't figure out how to do it without the instruction manual.
Applying technology for non-technical users requires a reliable, well designed, user friendly product. Trouble is the marketing hype will nearly always claim the very best possible lab based statistics, not what's going to occur in real usage by a non-technical user.
Can't wait for Max Neale's review.
Seamstress

Trad climber
Yacolt, WA
Aug 15, 2011 - 05:33pm PT
Agreed. I found the calibrate and adjust buttons for the watch. I recalibrate at known landmarks. The GPS isn't as easy. If you ever noticed hiking up switchbacks, your GPS waypoints can stack up on each other, and the units don't always update the elevation constantly. All that button pushing eats up battery life. SO I rely on the watch for elevation and the GPS for coordinates, map, and bearings.
tolman_paul

Trad climber
Anchorage, AK
Aug 15, 2011 - 05:52pm PT
If you do get a gps unit, don't just stuff it in a pack and pull it when you get lost. You are almost guranteed to find that it is useless for that application. You have to play with it for a bit to figure out how to use it, and you need to mark your starting point and some waypoints so you can back track.

I love gps on my boat, I seldom use one on land. They are very useful tools, but you have to practice with them to be useful.
JLP

Social climber
The internet
Aug 15, 2011 - 05:57pm PT
If you ever noticed hiking up switchbacks, your GPS waypoints can stack up on each other, and the units don't always update the elevation constantly.
You likely have and old or POS GPS. My 310XT tracks are highly detailed and very repeatable. Elevation profiles are much better than with older units as well. I would expect an Oregon, with its larger antenna, would be at least as accurate.

Barometric watches - all that calibrating and screwing around - no thanks. What is the point of a tool that can't tell you the elevation unless you tell it the elevation first? Those things are so 80's.
Gene

climber
Aug 15, 2011 - 06:06pm PT
Those sat-nav thingies are just another tool. Much more convenient to carry in the back country than LORAN. Hard to beat map, compass and altimeter in most - but not all - situations.

I made it from near Manilla to Borneo and onto Singapore with map, compass and a log slung over the stern. No altimeter needed. RDF was the cheapest transistor radio I could find with a dipole antenna.

g
Seamstress

Trad climber
Yacolt, WA
Aug 15, 2011 - 08:14pm PT
Could be that I simply haven't adjusted the settings to gice me a constant read on elevation. It seems to really lag. Ihave no patience for reading the manual or watching the DVD. My needs are simple - navigate if I can't see, navigate if I am perhaps off-route, go to a set of coordinates for a SAR event, provide my location, change map datum,....

Haven't done a ton of switchbacks in awhile, so may be my GPS will surprise me with useful data later.

He's right. You need to practice some before you can stash it. If you aren't parked at a defined trailhead, you can mark it as a waypoint. Generally I only mark critial turns for a route - usually where we left the trail to begin the bushwhacking session.
HighTraverse

Trad climber
Bay Area
Aug 15, 2011 - 08:23pm PT
The GPS system is inherently less accurate for elevation. It's the way the system works and spherical triginometry. Successive GPS fixes improve over the first few fixes at a given location. The elevation even takes longer.
krahmes

Social climber
Stumptown
Aug 15, 2011 - 08:41pm PT
I use the Garmin GPSmap 62s. I’ve used it in the upper montane forest of Java, California, and Oregon. Going off trail through wooded country - it’s been great. In Indonesia it was stellar, so much so when I went up to Diamond Peak a couple weeks ago I thought I might do a deep woods traverse I threw it in the pack along with the map and the compass and jotted down a few waypoints to get my camp. Come Friday and looking at a quick 5 mile hike in I hit 4’ of snow after ½ mile, in the trees, now I could have taken bearings and made it to the lake I wanted to camp at with not much problem, but having that GPS was awesome and I’m sure it saved me a hour of worry and pondering with a heavy pack on my back. No excuse for not having spatial awareness and being able to use a map and compass, but a GPS with a good antenna can make things go a lot easier.
phylp

Trad climber
Millbrae, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Aug 15, 2011 - 09:28pm PT
Thanks, Max Neale. Good to know. I will keep a look out for your review.
Reilly

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Aug 16, 2011 - 01:19am PT
Of the various makes I've been most impressed with Garmin because their interface is easier to use.

That's a scary thought. I'm glad I didn't buy one of those others.
jfs

Trad climber
Upper Leftish
Aug 16, 2011 - 01:56am PT
Reilly, what specifically gave you problems?
Janet Wilts

Trad climber
Moose
Aug 16, 2011 - 02:46pm PT
Many good posts about GPS's...

but those of us who search for people really need good ones...

the garmin map78gps floats...and is very good....and you can put topo's on them....the garmin map62 is more rugged but doesn't float....and I've dropped my gps in water 3 times.....I saved a lot of money having it float....

and the gps's above are very easy to use....

Janet Wilts
trad_guy

Mountain climber
Bend, Oregon, USA
Aug 16, 2011 - 02:54pm PT
The eTrex H ($99.00) and the eTrex Venture HC ($169.00) both have the same Garmin High Sensitivity antenna and they are a big step foreword from the original iconic Garmin eTrex models.

However, note that the eTrex H does not come with a computer connection cable (extra cost +- $35.00). Yes, you can use the same Garmin "serial port" cable as you have used for your "old" Garmin eTrex GPS. However, if you have a newer laptop computer, or a newer desktop, you will need a "USB" cable (costing about $50.00). The "serial port" is out-dated and not included on newer computers.

I suggest you buy the eTrex Venture HC that comes with a USB cable and can hold Garmin's proprietary Topo maps. It costs about $157.00 and includes the USB cable!

The eTrex Venture HC has a true "Map" Page with a simple topo map of the US (or many other countries) and an important down-loadable topo map capability. The Venture HC has 24 MB of memory, enough to be loaded with all of the 1:100,000 scale topo maps of the areas that I like to explore and climb in Central Oregon. Also, it just takes five minutes at my computer to change the more detailed 1:100.000 maps to different areas, say the Washington Cascades, using the proprietary Garmin $99.00 Map Source program.

"The eTrex Venture HC’s basemap contains lakes, rivers, cities, interstates, national and state highways and coastlines. Venture HC also includes 24 MB of internal memory, so you can load waypoints and routes from the included MapSource® Trip & Waypoint Manager software and add map detail from Garmin's entire line of optional MapSource® mapping products. Its 256-color, sunlight-readable display makes it easy to distinguish map details — even in bright sunlight."

Note that most Garmin GPS handheld receivers use maps at a 1:100,000 scale, not detailed enough for many backcountry adventures. You need 1:24,000 scale paper maps.

Recently, Garmin has offered 1:24,000 Map Source topo maps (say of Oregon and Washington), on CDs, downloadable to your computer, for about $130.00. These maps are advertised by Garmin as "comparable to" the USGS Quad topo maps but they seem to have less detail and appear to be the 1:100,000 scale maps with extra terrain lines added. Zooming in for the summit of say South Sister near Bend, results in the small GPS screen being overwhelmed with brown contour lines that do not seem to scale thinner.

Yes, the new 1: 24,000 maps will fit in the 24 MB memory of my Garmin eTrex Venture HC! The extra contour lines take very little more space than the standard 1:100,000 scale maps.

I have decided to use the new 1:24,000 Garmin Map Source topo maps, but continue to carry my USGS Quad maps or a page or two of 8.5 x 11 inch 1:24,000 paper maps that I can create and print at home. I can study my trip in detail on my computer, place and name Waypoints and even create a track, then print the maps and upload the waypoints (and track) to my Garmin GPS.

I learned about this forum from the latest email from Chris. There are many misinformed opinions presented as fact in prior posts. Here are some:

Using a FRS radio in a Rhino GPS to call for help in a canyon will not work - FRS radio is short range - line of sight. 2 meter amature radio service is also line of site to a repeater. Save $100.00 and a lot of weight by not buying the out of date Rhino. The only sure service is satellite, best through the SPOT-2 at $149.00 plus unlimited annual satellite service cost.

You can not depend on true elevation readings from an aneroid barometer in any GPS. The book tell you to adjust elevation at known points or use the elevation reported free on all GPS units. Save $100.00 and be safer.

The magnetic compass used in all GPS units is only good to about 5 degrees. You can not site a line, use it as a protractor on a topo map to find a bearing. Save another $100.00 by not buying the more expensive models.

Accuracy today is about 4.1 meters. Ask any of the millions of Geocachers, some of whom have found thousands of GPS points.

There are many more misconceptions expressed in this thread but my wife says I am being a little grumpy and I have to go for now.
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Aug 16, 2011 - 03:07pm PT
> However, note that the eTrex H does not come with a computer connection cable (extra cost +- $35.00). Yes, you can use the same Garmin "serial port" cable as you have used for your "old" Garmin eTrex GPS. However, if you have a newer laptop computer, or a newer desktop, you will need a "USB" cable (costing about $50.00). The "serial port" is out-dated and not included on newer computers.

True. Entering numeric Lat/Lon is slow without a keyboard, so a PC connection would make this a lot easier.

You can get what looks like a good clone USB cable on ebay for $19 including shipping. I just ordered one.
http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=300482172154
http://www.pfranc.com/cables/index.shtml
You can get their connector for $7.50 if you want to build your own cable.
They have shareware software, too.
Hopefully good for cheapskates like me that don't want to shell out $100 for the Garmin cables, $100+ for map downloading software, etc.
"Razors and blades" as economists say - you buy the cheap razor, then spend $$ on blades to use it!

The map capability would be pretty nice for navigating. The eTrex H is pretty - numeric coordinates and simple path you have traveled.
rgold

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Aug 16, 2011 - 03:55pm PT
I have the Garmin 60csx. It works fine in dense Eastern deciduous tree cover in my experience and I've had no problem with track inaccuracy. I've done various local hikes multiple times and recorded the tracks each time because I was curious about accuracy; the tracks come out within a foot or two of each other.

I have GPS app on my iPhone; as others have said it is worthless as a back-country tool because of the battery drain. It works ok for recording trail runs.

I always carry a compass and paper map as well as spare batteries. In all honesty it would be stupid not to if navigation is a real issue. And I'd say that 90% of the time, a paper map (without any additional navigation aid) is all you need (probably all you need even more than 90% of the time in the open country one mostly finds in the West.)

On the other hand, GPS units make certain things much easier and other things possible that you can't do at all with a compass and map.

Compass and map navigation requires landmarks; if you are deep in the woods or if it is dark or if you are in whiteout conditions, your compass will be worthless if you don't already know your map location. If you do know your map location and want to follow a bearing, and if their are obstacles to direct line travel, which there almost always are in land travel, then with very limited visibility the process becomes complicated, with step-counting and various additional bearing computations. The GPS is orders of magnitude easier and more accurate for such undertakings.

And speaking of accuracy, I'd guess most of us cannot achieve 50 foot accuracy with a compass even if we are just trying to walk in a straight line and there are no obstacles forcing detours. This is why it is absolutely standard compass navigating practice to purposely over- or undershoot your camp or car in a known direction.

I've found the back-track feature of GPS units extremely valuable on intrinsically or accidentally long day climbs. With an approach in the 1-3 hour range, it is totally feasible to just let the GPS record the entire track. Of course you turn it off during the climb, and then there will be enough juice to turn it back on and leave it on for the entire return trip.

If you need to stash a pack somewhere, marking its location with a waypoint makes it infinitely easier to find later on in the dark (fuggettaboutthat with a compass). (This method does not work well if you---ahem---stash the pack with the GPS unit in it.) And having a pointer that always points to the start of the route can be a big help when that no-brainer descent everyone tells you about turns out to require more brains than you apparently have.

Getting back in the dark when there is either no trail or an indistinct one is so much easier when using GPS back-tracking that this single feature, all by itself, makes the units worth it, in my opinion. True, I've never been in a situation when I couldn't have made it back without the GPS, but the number of hours not spent wandering and backtracking is very substantial, and given that many of us have lives outside of climbing and have places we are supposed to be and times we are supposed to be there, those saved hours can be pretty significant.

If you are one of those people who don't read manuals and instruction books, then don't bother buying a GPS unit; you won't be able to use it when you need it. I don't use mine frequently, and so have a little pilot's checklist of settings to make at the beginning and end of a trip. I also carry a little notebook with waterproof paper and one of those "astronaut" pens that supposedly write under water to make notes if I am recording way points. This is much quicker than laboriously tapping out, one letter at a time, descriptive waypoint names. (If the waypoints are something you will reuse a lot, then it does make sense, later on when you aren't in the field and neither time nor battery drain is a issue, to change the waypoint names to something suggestive of their purpose.

Seamstress

Trad climber
Yacolt, WA
Aug 16, 2011 - 03:56pm PT
The 1:24;000 maps are available on chips that can be inserted into Garmin Oregon 450 T. I am technophobic and avoid download/uploads to my computer. The chip is easy.

A lot of sites allow you to compare the features of various GPS.

I was a huge magellan fan. Ten years ago, their units acquired satellits much faster than the garmin units did. When that GPS was stolen, I replaced it with a garmin. I wasn't completely happy with that until I moved up to the 450 T. I love this one. My only complaint is that the touch screen can cause issues. WHen bushwahcking, the map datum has changed on me. Fortunately I do know how to quickly get back to the correct datum when the chief tells me that there is no way those coordinates should match my current position.
corniss chopper

climber
breaking the speed of gravity
Aug 16, 2011 - 04:03pm PT
Knowing where you are is not all its cracked up to be.
golsen

Social climber
kennewick, wa
Aug 16, 2011 - 04:18pm PT
Hi,
I have those Garmin Rhino's like Rokjox mentioned earlier in the thread. I like them a lot. The radio function is very useful (I have a set).

I did have a question (I dont have the units in my lap so I could get this wrong). If you need to send out an SOS on the FRS function is there a specific channel for that?

I did not have a life threatening SOS but did have a potentially bad issue earlier this year up in Canada and was looking to see if there was "anybody out there?"

Plus I dont think that the range of the 1/2 Watt units is all that great. Anybody know about this?

Thanks,
G
JLP

Social climber
The internet
Aug 16, 2011 - 04:28pm PT
These maps are advertised by Garmin as "comparable to" the USGS Quad topo maps but they seem to have less detail and appear to be the 1:100,000 scale maps with extra terrain lines added.
Not all areas have 24k surveys, therefore there is no map. For example, for most of the Tetons, you won't find 24k detail. The paper USGS map doesn't have it, therefore neither does the software. Not sure about your specific example.
trad_guy

Mountain climber
Bend, Oregon, USA
Aug 16, 2011 - 04:44pm PT
rgold has listed a number of the unique advantages of the GPS over use on map and compass alone. Right on! Especially indispensable in the winter!

All of the recent (last 2 or 3 years) Garmin GPS models have the same chip and fast antenna. An earlier poster mentioned waiting to get an accurate location. No so with recent models - accuracy is measured to 4.1 meters. Locking on to many satellites can be monitored on the Satellite Page.

It is not necessary to leave the GPS on and to "track back". You will not want to follow all your meanders - just create a new bearing back by way of the road, hidden to you, but clear on the map page. It is worth while to create a "track" that you can download to your map program - My TOPO's Terrain Navigator ($100.) You need the Garmin Map Source program to load the 1:24,000 topo maps into your GPS.

"Mr. Hewett was about eight miles from his camp when found:
He had no food, and a GPS unit that was dying."

Note that it is not necessary to leave a GPS on all the time! Most GPS receivers have at least 14 hours of life on two new batteries. Extra AA batteries can be carried in a warm pants pocket to change out batteries weakened by cold. Lithium batteries withstand the cold much better than "regular" AA batteries.

Using a $7.00 USGS topo map and a $30.00 base plate declination-adjusted compass, it is simple to draw a line back to camp (where you have surely input a waypoint). Leaving your GPS "on" so you can "track back" is not recommended and very inefficient. Learn to use your topo map, adjusted base plate compass and adjusted GPS together!

Communication: "Cell phones have increasing tower coverage. Check your favorite areas."

Climbers and others who adventure into the backcountry, should carry a $149.00 SPOT-2 GPS Satellite Messenger. This new device will send a message home, "I'm OK and having fun exactly here on this map"; or message friends "I could use a little help, exactly here"; or send a message to 911 "I need help exactly here, right now - see the map attached," (taking the Search out of Search and Rescue)!

Google "Best compass for backcountry and mountaineering."
Google "Best GPS for backcountry and mountaineering."
Google "How do I use my map, compass and GPS, together?"
Google "Best topo maps for backcountry and mountaineering?"
Google "map, compass, GPS"

Note: I do not sell anything.
golsen

Social climber
kennewick, wa
Aug 16, 2011 - 05:13pm PT
No so with recent models - accuracy is measured to 4.1 meters.

4.1 meters is a pretty darn exacting number. You sure it isnt 4.0 or 4.3? Not trying to be an ass but my 4 year old units are no way near that accurate. My guess is 10 meters plus or minus.

Rokjox, thanks for the radio info. That sounds about right to me.
JLP

Social climber
The internet
Aug 16, 2011 - 05:54pm PT
rgold has listed a number of the unique advantages of the GPS over use on map and compass alone.

Actually, he was just scratching the surface of how insanely clueless it is to claim that navigating with a "map and compass" instead of GPS is any more reasonable than trying to claim you use a "sun dial" instead of a watch - for all the same reasons.

The reality - you basically just told us that you really have NO idea what you are talking about.

There's El Cap over there, there it is on my map. Let me take a bearing. Yeah, now I'm navigating with a map and compass. No, you're not.
trad_guy

Mountain climber
Bend, Oregon, USA
Aug 16, 2011 - 07:50pm PT
golsen has mocked the 4.1 GPS accuracy claimed by the USGS.

"The images compare the accuracy of GPS with and without selective availability (SA). Each plot shows the positional scatter of 6.5 hours of data (0730 to 1400 UTC) taken at one of the Continuously Operating Reference Stations (CORS) operated by the U.S. Coast Guard at Hartsville, Tennessee. On May 2, 2000, SA was no longer present. The plots show that SA causes 95% of the points to fall within a radius of 44.2m. Without SA, 95% of the points fall within a radius of 4.1m."

Perhaps the GPS units used for this test were not handheld units?

None the less, tracks made by my handhelds over th past several years have plotted exactly on my USGS Quads in Oregon. Junction waypoints have plotted exactly on the center of these road/trail crossings on my topos.

Millions of Geocachers can't be wrong finding the caches hidden in odd places.
golsen

Social climber
kennewick, wa
Aug 16, 2011 - 08:52pm PT
trad_guy,

it just sounded pretty exacting. I did find a couple caches with mine (just for the hell of it), but most recently, mine has not been all that accurate.
trad_guy

Mountain climber
Bend, Oregon, USA
Aug 16, 2011 - 10:03pm PT
golsen-
Thanks!

There was a great jump in connection speed and location accuracy about two years ago, with the advent of new chip and antenna technology from Garmin.

Treat yourself to a new Garmin eTrex Venture hc (very low price at Best Buy)as described above, and it will be more fun to use in the backcountry. You will have computer connectivity (to My Topo's Terrain Navigator and Garmin's Map Source 1:24,000 Topo CD for your part of the USA).

Google map, compass, GPS for 11 free PDF pages on how to use them together.
deuce4

climber
Hobart, Australia
Aug 17, 2011 - 02:37am PT
http://www.elecdata.com/Elecdata%20Mesa%20Special.pdf
trad_guy

Mountain climber
Bend, Oregon, USA
Aug 17, 2011 - 11:56am PT
Hello RokJox-
Sorry to say, you are wrong in your understanding of the US Department of Defense Global Positioning System.

This DOD system of ground administered satellites is used to control the geographic positioning of all of our military might, with pin point accuracy. The GPS system is made available for civilian use, accurate to a fraction of an inch.

All current Garmin hand-held GPS receiver Models are equally accurate in the field (to a few meters) and are little affected by terrain and foliage cover.

Garmin and other manufacturers have good tutorials. You can Google DOD GPS basics.
Reilly

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Aug 17, 2011 - 12:08pm PT
Garmin and other manufacturers have good tutorials

Boy, I didn't find any for Garmin. They've promo videos touting how great
their stuff is but step by step tutorials must have escaped my search.
trad_guy

Mountain climber
Bend, Oregon, USA
Aug 17, 2011 - 12:28pm PT
Reilly-
Sorry, I have not looked recently. I know you can download/read their model manuals.

You can try this: Google the three words- map compass gps -for six PDF pages on how to use them together.

Also try the USGS site.
trad_guy

Mountain climber
Bend, Oregon, USA
Aug 17, 2011 - 12:35pm PT
Here is why-

Google- Yuppie 911 devices can take the 'search' out of search and rescue
bergbryce

Mountain climber
South Lake Tahoe, CA
Aug 26, 2011 - 06:17pm PT
FYI... I scored a Garmin Oregon 450 today at rei for $250.
I was planning on getting an eTrex but the Oregon was on sale for like $20 more than the cost of the eTrex. I think it was a pretty good deal.
rockermike

Trad climber
Berkeley
Aug 27, 2011 - 12:04am PT
and if you are going to carry a GPS, take the time to learn how the thing works. I have friends who carry one in their pocket, but besides marking the location of their high camp they don't have a clue how to use the thing.

set the GPS up to show UTM coordinates, and print out your maps with a kilometer grid overlay. Then you can pinpoint your location at any time in a minute or two, no matter what the time of day/ night or weather. Its kind of like cheating.
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Jan 11, 2012 - 12:36pm PT
Max Neale just came out with a handheld GPS review over at OutdoorGearLab. Editor's choice was the Garmin GPSMAP 62sc. But for climbing, I would just go with something lighter like the Garmin ETrex 20 or Garmin Dakota 20... if you need a GPS at all.

Max also wrote a GPS buying advice article which starts by asking if you really even need a gps device. I find I almost never use a GPS device in the backcounty and prefer to stick to old fashioned maps. But, then again, I have not tried the new touchscreen models which look much more intuitive and helpful. So maybe this summer in the high sierra I will check one out.
Reilly

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Jan 11, 2012 - 01:07pm PT
I have the Garmin 62 ST and it does have all the bells and whistles, most of
which are nonsense. But it is highly accurate, virtually waterproof, and
almost readable in the sun. It does eat batteries rapidly and the user
interface sucks big time. Yes, I would recommend this to a friend who wants
to take the time to learn to use it fully. Then they could teach me how.
But the good news is I haven't gotten lost since I bought it!
Dos XX

Trad climber
Los Angeles, CA
Jan 11, 2012 - 01:42pm PT
I use a Garmin 62st in my work, mainly to save money on surveying costs. The "waypoint averaging" feature allows me to measure locations at sub-meter accuracy (most of the time), which is A-OK for rough earth-moving projects. But for recreation use there have to be a lot of perfectly good GPS alternatives that cost WAY less than a Garmin 62. Some folks may be attracted by the built-in topo map feature of the 62st, but I find the built-in topo map to be pretty lame.
Reilly

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Jan 11, 2012 - 02:21pm PT
I find the built-in topo map to be pretty lame.

Man, you got that right! It seems like half the trails I go on the thing
says I'm on a road!
Sierra Ledge Rat

Social climber
Retired to Appalachia
Jan 11, 2012 - 04:12pm PT
Claiming you use a compass to navigate around just tells me you don't get out much. You need an altimeter, too.

I don't know if JLP is an ass, an idiot, or both. What is perfectly clear is that his navigation skills are piss.

I've never used an altimeter or a GPS for navigation in the past 45 years. I get around just fine. In fact, I have even spent days navigating by just using a watch and sun angles.




Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Jan 11, 2012 - 04:26pm PT
I just leave a trail of brass casings.

Pretty easy to follow back.
Banquo

climber
Morgan Hill, CA (Mo' Hill)
Jan 19, 2012 - 10:14am PT
I have had 3 or four GPS units over the years/ The first one, a Garmin GPS 38, would take sometimes an hour to hook up and burned through four AA batteries in about that time. I've had a Garmin Forerunner 201 since they first came out and it was great for running and storing a track but not much use for navigation. The 201 is fairly slow, loses signal easily and has a dinosaur serial interface.

For mountain trips, I like to use a map and compass but there are times when GPS would be nice. All I really want is coordinates and altitude. In the mountains, altitude is most useful. Most of all, it should be small, cheap and not cluttered up with bells and whistles.

I recently bought a "Mini GPS" PG03. It is certainly small at 2" by 2.5" and cheap at $40 from Amazon. So far, I think it is what I want. It gives coordinates (sadly only in DMS) and elevation (ft or m). There is no computer interface although it charges with a USB cable. It can store a whopping 16 positions which can be input manually or marked as waypoints. It has a rudimentary compass function which will point you in the general direction and provide the distance to any one of the saved positions. I don't know about battery life yet since I generally only turn it on to check position then turn it off and the rechargeable battery hasn't run out yet. I opened it up and most of the guts are packed in silicon goo but I doubt it is waterproof.

Pluses:
Small
Cheap!
Position
compass

Negs:
3 button interface
No UTM or decimal degrees
compass is slow and doesn't work well when close to the car.

Banquo

climber
Morgan Hill, CA (Mo' Hill)
Jan 19, 2012 - 06:24pm PT
This is the only other GPS unit I use. An Amod AGL3080 GPS Data Logger. It is just a logger and has no display at all. It is intended for GPS tagging photos and comes with software to do that so you can upload photos to google earth. It will record your position at preselected time intervals (1, 5 or 10 seconds)for as long as the 3 AAA batteries last - about 15 hours. At 1 second intervals, it can store up to 72-288 hours of data depending on what data format you choose and up to 2880 hours for 10 second samples but you will have to turn it off and replace the batteries as they run down. Data can be transferred to your computer via USB and displayed in map software, google maps, or loaded into Excel spreadsheet. Good for photo tagging and recording hike routes, bike rides, etc. Seems to be very fast and accurate. About 3.5" x 1.74" x 1". I found it online for $65. The two button interface is a bit tedious for changing the setup. Operation is easy, just turn it on, carry and carry it around and turn it off. there is a waypoint button and an on/off button. Mine is the AAA battery model, the rechargeable one costs more.

Pluses:
Small
Cheap
Simple to operate

Negs:
No data display
If batteries die while recording, the open data file is lost.


Some-E

climber
Dec 10, 2014 - 02:21am PT
Mini GPS PG03
I just bought one on discount and it is somewhat clumsy to use ("Chinese UI"), somewhat messy manual explaining too much on general GPS usage instead of just saying how to set the POI) but despite of that all it feels quite neat. Today I wouldn't pay $40 for this (I paid a whopping $11 USD on today's EUR/USD rate from a local shop, in Finland!). I'd spend double (hmmm that's not enough) on Garmin sports tracker with barometric altitude instead.

I guess the logic can be learned in one day / hour. For example, the POI icon/number may NOT be highlighted in order to be able to set/edit the POI. And yes, the stored POI coordinates can be edited/entered manually. They are stored with date/time info.

No UTM or decimal degrees

I does have three different coordinate modes:
DD*MM'SS.ss
DD*MM.mmmm
DD.dddddd

I wonder if there have been different firmware revisions throughout the years?

For navigating, the "compass needle" is GPS based, but it does have a real digital compass also. That's one thing I'm missing on my phone.

I'm tracking all my sports with phone, so I really don't need a new toy, but this would be for other possible uses. Time will tell. For this price tag I had to grab it.
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