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GPS -- Advice and Recommendations?

 
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Hikin_Jim
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Location: Orange County, CA

PostPosted: Sun Nov 17, 2013 6:54 pm    Post subject: GPS -- Advice and Recommendations?  Reply with quote

So, I'm considering joining the modern era.  Smile  I'm thinking about finally breaking down and buying a GPS.  I've never needed one to get from point A to point B; I do just fine with a map and compass, but it'd be nice to:
- be able to communicate pretty precisely where I've been
and
- have a reasonably accurate estimate of mileage

So, to that end:
Is there a particular GPS brand that it's easier or cheaper to load topo maps to?  I think I don't need a big fancy display (which drains batteries); I will always have a paper map on hand.

I was out with a Sierra Club group in July in Yosemite doing some peak bagging. One guy had a GPS that displayed a topo map with a little arrow marking one's position and direction. THAT would be worthwhile.

I see REI has a Garmin GPSMAP 62s marked down from $350 to $200.  Looks maybe fancier than I need.  Any opinions on that one?

If anyone knows of a website with a good basic primer on GPS units, I'd be very appreciative.  No, I haven't looked at REI's information; usually REI's write ups seem a little simplistic to me.

HJ
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Location: Antelope Valley

PostPosted: Sun Nov 17, 2013 9:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Whatever you get, I would recommend installing the Platt Map SD micro card from www.HuntingGPSmaps.com . It's hard to believe that property ownership details for every square inch of Ca. can be on a chip the size of your little fingernail. Shocked
It has sure helped me to know exactly where property lines are, (and aren't). If I want to, the chip can be plugged into my vehicle navigator too.
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mattmaxon
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Location: Out on the trail.....

PostPosted: Mon Nov 18, 2013 5:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Most GPS units use VECTOR maps. No USGS or other map images.

A new Garmin GPSmap62S for $200 is a good deal on a solid time tested unit.

If you have a smartphone you probably already have a GPS. I use Backcountry Navigator PRO in my android
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Hikin_Jim
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Location: Orange County, CA

PostPosted: Mon Nov 18, 2013 10:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

mattmaxon wrote:
Most GPS units use VECTOR maps.
Noted.  I'll look up what the difference is.

mattmaxon wrote:
A new Garmin GPSmap62S for $200 is a good deal on a solid time tested unit.
A pretty attractive price.  Do not like the weight.  Over 1/2 a pound.  Shocked  The eTrex 30 is 5 oz which is still a little heavy but more in range.  Seems like comparable units but the 30 is $70 more.  The 30 actually has a higher (slightly) rating in the reviews on REI.com.

mattmaxon wrote:
If you have a smartphone you probably already have a GPS. I use Backcountry Navigator PRO in my android
No smart phone.  I've held off partly because of battery life issues.  I think (even if I get a smart phone) that I may continue to keep two separate units just so I can preserve the battery charge on the phone "just in case."  Paranoia, I know.   Rolling Eyes   Probably is really paranoia since I carry a PLB too.  

tracker wrote:
Whatever you get, I would recommend installing the Platt Map SD micro card from www.HuntingGPSmaps.com . It's hard to believe that property ownership details for every square inch of Ca. can be on a chip the size of your little fingernail. Shocked
It has sure helped me to know exactly where property lines are, (and aren't). If I want to, the chip can be plugged into my vehicle navigator too.
Good to know.  Very good.  Thank you.

HJ
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Location: Out on the trail.....

PostPosted: Mon Nov 18, 2013 12:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

vector is a line and point type graphic (Think autocad, OSM). Using an image is raster(bitmap). Caltopo, Acme etc use Raster images of USGS maps that have been Geo referenced so they can be used to display the location etc on the website or on your local computer

If you want USGS maps right now the cheapest way to go is a smart phone.

The etrex units IMO have a tiny screen making them of limited usefulness to blind old fogies like me

I have been using my phone on my shorter trips and power it up when I want to see where I am exactly on the USGS map on longer trips
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Hikin_Jim
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Location: Orange County, CA

PostPosted: Mon Nov 18, 2013 12:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

mattmaxon wrote:
vector is a line and point type graphic (Think autocad, OSM). Using an image is raster(bitmap). Caltopo, Acme etc use Raster images of USGS maps that have been Geo referenced so they can be used to display the location etc on the website or on your local computer
Interesting.  Sounds like what I need.

Quote:
The etrex units IMO have a tiny screen making them of limited usefulness to blind old fogies like me
Definitely a concern.  I may have to see one in a store or otherwise in person.  My eyesight ain't what it used to be (I had 20/10 in college; now barely 20/40 and both near and far are going).  I intend to always have a paper map with me.  All I really need is for the GPS to put the little marker on the topo snip shown on the screen.  I can then look at the paper map to get the big picture.  I think.  At least that's how I envision it.  I suppose that the little topo snip might not have any distinctive lines from which to ascertain a point easily plotted on the paper map.  In such cases, I'd have to manually plot the UTM based on the numbers alone.  It's a lot faster if I can just see a topo snippet with a marker, get concrete idea of my location, and plot it to my paper map.

Quote:
I have been using my phone on my shorter trips and power it up when I want to see where I am exactly on the USGS map on longer trips
Two of the things I want out of a GPS are mileages and full traces of my route.  For that, I want the unit on the whole time.  Taking a "snapshot" of the location of a point of interest and knowing my exact position in real time would be served by an on and off use, but getting mileages and a full trace would not.

Thanks, Matt.  Much appreciated by this GPS noob.

HJ
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Location: Orange County, CA

PostPosted: Wed Nov 20, 2013 1:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Re my GPS search so far:  There is no consensus.  Some say go with a higher end stand alone GPS with more features.  Some say go with a lower end stand alone GPS with better battery life.  Some say use a smart phone with an app and just bring multiple batteries (cheap spare batteries can be had on eBay).

I will say that if I were considering something like the PCT or other "long trail", a smart phone would be extremely attractive.  You'd have four devices in one (camera, phone, internet access, and GPS) saving weight and pack space.

HJ
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Location: Pasadena, CA

PostPosted: Wed Nov 20, 2013 1:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Want my Geko 201? It's yellow!!!
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Hikin_Jim
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Location: Orange County, CA

PostPosted: Wed Nov 20, 2013 3:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oooh.  Yellow.  

If you're serious, I might.  Might be good to have one to play with before I buy one.    Looks a bit primitive.

Only problem is that I'm moving to Orange County in a week and a half...

HJ
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 20, 2013 3:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hikin_Jim wrote:
Looks a bit primitive.

Yes it is. I wanted it so that if I needed to know where I was I could look at the unit real quick and get elevation and coordinates. Then use my map to figure stuff out. Didn't want it to do anything more complicated than that, although...

it also keeps a track so that you can tell the general direction you are heading in, has a gps track to download to computer after the hike, and you can use to retrace your steps (I actually got off in the weeds once on a return hike, stopped and looked at my track and saw immediately where I had strayed off course - wasn't a dire situation but saved some wear and tear on my shins).

Small, lightweight, and not too harsh on batteries unless it can't find a fricking satellite.

And it's yellow!
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Location: Stuntin in the trap son

PostPosted: Wed Nov 20, 2013 8:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yellow is sounding pretty good right now.
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Hikin_Jim
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Location: Orange County, CA

PostPosted: Thu Nov 21, 2013 10:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hikin_Jim wrote:
Re my GPS search so far:  There is no consensus.  Some say go with a higher end stand alone GPS with more features.  Some say go with a lower end stand alone GPS with better battery life.  Some say use a smart phone with an app and just bring multiple batteries (cheap spare batteries can be had on eBay).
 Well, at this point at least, I think I'm leaning away from a smart phone+GPS app+spare batteries mainly because I don't want a touch screen. Still thinking about the whole issue. Not something I want to rush into since I'll not replace the unit for at least 5 (or more) years.

I saw a (potentially) Helpful GPS Thread for those who may be interested in such things.  The eTrex 30 had a pretty strong recommendation.

HJ
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Location: Redmond, WA

PostPosted: Thu Nov 28, 2013 8:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

While I have had a Magellan GPS for many years, I recently decided to get a Garmin GPS so I could be certain that the GPX files generated by my software (Gmap4) work well on a current model GPS.  While doing my research, I found the following sites with useful info.

Review of Etrex 20 (buttons)
http://gpstracklog.com/2011/10/garmin-etrex-20-review.html

Review of Oregon 650 (touch)
http://gpstracklog.com/2013/05/garmin-oregon-650-review.html

Garmin handheld forum:
http://forums.gpsreview.net/viewforum.php?f=21

I decided to buy an Oregon 600 from LL Bean.  List price is $400 but it might still be available for $350:
http://garminoregon6xx.wikispaces.com/share/view/65178602

The OP mentioned wanting to see topo maps on the GPS screen.  Both the Etrex and Oregon models can display topo maps on the screen.  There are 3 ways to get topo maps.

1.  Buy a Birdseye subscription from Garmin and download maps.
Each subscription gets registered to a specific GPS unit and cannot be used on other units.
These topos are low-res scans that the USGS made of the USGS 1:24,000 topos.  Those scans were made years ago and never updated.  The Gmap4 enhanced Google map viewer (I am the developer) can display these low res scans for the USA.  Here is an example centered at the Grand Canyon visitor center.  Compare the “t3 Topo USGS” (low res) to the “t4 Topo High” (hi res).
http://www.mappingsupport.com/p/g...185,-112.109254&z=15&t=t3

Apparently Garmin applied heavy compression to these low-res scans thus making the Birdseye quality displayed on the GPS screen even worse.  But with all that said, these maps should meet the OP’s goal of seeing the location on a topo on the GPS screen and then finding that location on a paper 1:24,000 topo.

2.  Buy a DVD from Garmin (and maybe other vendors).  The data from Garmin’s DVD can be used on any GPS.  That data is not locked to specific GPS unit.  Note!  These are *not* scans of the paper USGS 1:24,000 topos.  Garmin claims they are equivalent.  But since the image on the screen will look different than the paper map, it will take more thought to transfer the location as shown on the GPS screen to a spot on the paper topo.

3.  Use a “custom” map that is a georeferenced scan of a high resolution 1:24,000 topo.  Each custom map is contain in a KMZ file that can be loaded into either the GPS internal memory or onto a micro sd card.  Here is a website with a lot of free custom maps anyone can download.  They also have tutorials for making custom maps and a forum:
http://www.gpsfiledepot.com/index.php

Also, it is fairly easy to make your own custom topo map using the exact same topos that you see with Gmap4 when you display the “t4 Topo High” maps.  Those topo tiles were produced by the developer of the CalTopo site from hi-res scans made by the USGS.  These maps are usually more recent than the topos you get with a Garmin Birdseye subscription.  You will have to experiment a bit to learn the CalTopo KMZ-making interface:
http://caltopo.com/kmz.html

Here is a related thread.  The OP is the CalTopo developer:
http://forums.gpsfiledepot.com/index.php?topic=3188.0

Here is the #1 reason that I decided to get a Garmin Oregon 600 instead of an Etrex model.  On an Etrex, if you have more than one custom map stored in the GPS (internal memory and/or micro sd card) then those custom maps are either *all* on or *all* off.  There is no reasonable way in the field to switch, say, from a custom topo to a custom aerial unless you want to open the GPS and swap micro sd cards.  By contrast, the Oregon 6xx models are the first Garmins that let you easily switch between different custom maps that are stored on the GPS.  And of course I like the bigger screen on the Oregon models.  Oh, and if touch screens are bad, why are smartphones so popular?

And when you get your spiffy new GPS and return from a trip, remember you can use Gmap4 to display your track on the hi-res topos like so:
http://www.mappingsupport.com/p/g...iles/p/helpfile/Johnson_Ridge.gpx

All you need to do is (1) put your GPX file online and (2) edit the q parameter in the above link so it points at your file instead of pointing at my file.  Google Sites provides free file hosting and you can find step-by-step instructions by searching the Gmap4 help file on “google sites”.  You will find the help file on the homepage:
http://www.mappingsupport.com/p/gmap4.html

Hope you enjoy your new GPS whatever model you decide to get.

Joseph, the Gmap4 guy
http://www.mappingsupport.com
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 10, 2013 5:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This may be after the fact but I've started carrying and recommend the etrex 20. I use if for recording my trips to share and as a backup in low visibility since it seems get great signal regardless.

The unit itself has great battery life, clear color display and seems to pickup signal quickly. It takes an micro sd card for plenty of storage.

I use an old version of the software "mapsource" and have topo US 2008 and National Parks 24K maps. The old software lets you upload maps as needed very easily. Load\Download "tracks" in .gpx and other formats.

Bonus for me was connect.garmin.com recognizes your device and allows you to keep a sort of journal of your trips. Links can be shared easily so friend\fam.\etc. can open without software or a user.

In my mind there's no reason to get anything more or take a phone that is more expensive to replace, easily damaged, and will have shorter battery life.

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