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Author Topic: Hand held GPS units  (Read 127 times)

Tim G

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Hand held GPS units
« on: December 19, 2017, 07:01:04 PM »

I’m curious to know if folks have opinions on/experience with handheld GPS units that they would be willing to share?
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ericj

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Re: Hand held GPS units
« Reply #1 on: December 21, 2017, 11:24:09 AM »

This group have opinions :D

I used an old Garmin GPSMAP 76 for a few years. It was a great marine focused handheld 15 years ago. H and I also used a Garmin eTrex for a while which was more focused on land-based navigation.

The big advantage to both units over any newer unit was the easily replaceable batteries.

As long as you are in cell phone range, even a cheap smart phone with Google Maps will be a match for just about any handheld GPS unit.

I currently have a Garmin fenix 5x watch that has built in GPS and mapping capabilities. The display is small, but it does a good job  with turn-by-turn walking and biking directions. It holds up to kayaking conditions without an issue and can also be used to do basic marine navigation.

It does allow for user loadable maps, but I have never tried that.

Its battery life is pretty good. It can do a full day of kayaking, with GPS running at normal settings, and only eat up about 30% of the battery. There is also an ultra track mode that extends the battery life by a lot, but sacrifices track accuracy by limiting the GPS polling frequency.
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Tim G

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Re: Hand held GPS units
« Reply #2 on: December 23, 2017, 07:51:56 AM »

Thanks, Eric
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JBernard

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Re: Hand held GPS units
« Reply #3 on: January 12, 2018, 08:41:25 PM »

I bought a Garmin Montana 680 at REI last September. I tried for 2 months to figure out how to use it (along with the necessary computer software needed to manage routes/tracks/maps, purchase maps and get it all loaded onto the actual gps. Full Disclosure, I am a tech MORON. I am as stupid and as useless as they come with technology. There are thousands and thousands of folks out there who are adept with tech and will have no problems figuring this stuff out but I couldn't. In the process of researching how to use the damn thing I found that it turns out I am not alone. There are in fact many people like me who simply can't figure out how to use a gps. You folks who can, I call you people wizards, god bless ya.

Anyway, in the course of researching the gps learning curve I discovered that I already owned a fantastic gps that was in almost all categories as good if not better than any dedicated gps unit- my Apple iPhone. Modern smartphones ARE gps's. The gps technology in the phone is as good as the stand alone gps units.  You DO NOT need cell service to use the phone as a gps. You DO NOT even need to have a plan with a carrier. The gps works off the satelite gps system, just like a "real" gps. Here is one way the phone is better than a regular gps, if you DO have a data plan and cell tower signal, the location accuracy of your phone will usually be better than a stand alone gps unit that can only use the satellites. Your phone will use the additional information from the cell towers to give you a better location than the satellite data alone. If you use a phone without a data plan or away from a cell tower signal you do need maps saved to the phone's memory, just like a regular gps unit.

Like any other function on a smart phone you will need an app to run this. This, to me, is where the smart phone really outshines a dedicated gps. I personally (YMMV) find virtually all iPhone apps I've tried to be very easy and intuitive to use as compared to doing things with a computer program. There are many gps apps for smartphones. And they are CHEAP. Most have free versions as well as "pro" versions for a few bucks. I decided to go with the app Gaia for iPhone. I paid $10.00 for a one year subscription. After watching one 19 minute youtube tutorial I had the thing figured out in a couple hours. Very very easy to operate. Very easy to download maps for offline use. Very easy to download other people's routes and tracks from the web. Very easy to operate in the field. There is apparently an even more popular and powerful app for Androids called Locust.

What's the downside? There are a few things about using a smartphone that need to be managed compared to using a dedicated gps. Battery life is probably number 1. Using the phone as a gps, especially when keeping the screen lit up, absolutely kills the battery charge. Wired in a car or on a motorcycle that is not an issue but in a boat or hiking you would probably want to bring a supplemental power source. 2. Weather resistance. Many gps units are water "proof", dust, and shock proof. Most phones are not. Some are, but for most you will need to take care to protect the phone. I am totally sold. I can't see any reason to spend $500 on a device that does ONE thing that the phone in your pocket ALREADY DOES! In fact, I am predicting that stand alone gps units will soon go the way of the buggy whip. Phone apps and tech will always get better. The gps is a dinosaur. It's a one trick pony that is a PITA to use. Think of all of the things that your smart phone already does that a gps cannot do. If I owned stock in Garmin I'd lose it. My 2 cents
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