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Hand held GPS for hiking, camping, bicycling, etc, USA.

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  • Hand held GPS for hiking, camping, bicycling, etc, USA.

    I want to buy a hiking GPS with the hiking trail maps but I know absolutely nothing about them. I don' t know enough about them to know what questions to ask. I have been shopping at several stores but the sales people that work in the stores know less than me. I notice prices range from about $68 to over $200 but I have no idea what price means in relation to what I get for my money. I am probably not interested in all the bells and whistles but there again I have no idea what that is, but maybe I don't want the cheapest one either. A lot of the trail heads are not marked and hard to find I am hoping the GPS will make trails easier to find. I am tired of spending half a day stopping at a dozen places along the way to ask questions where to find the trail. Also sometimes trail markers are missing or confusing trail goes in several directions and I don't know which way to go. I need the GPS to keep me on the correct trail and let me know where I am on the trail. I am planning on doing some hiking in Colorado this summer and Arizona in the fall the GPS will be helpful to find the trails in an area I am not familiar with. This will probably be used in the USA only.

    What else is the GPS good for?

    What do I need to look for?

    Do these become out dated and obsolute in a few years like computers and other electronic things?

    What about batteries and a charger?

    Is a hiking GPS different than the GPS for car road map directions?

    It needs to be user friendly I don't want to take a class at the University to learn how to use it.

    Does anyone have a recomendation for a good one to buy I am not in a hurry I can wait for things to be on sale after the holidays?

    I would be ok with a used GPS as long as it is not old and obsolute.

  • #2
    Magellan triton 1500's are available in like-new condition refurb'd all over right now for a scad over 100 bucks. They had a software glitch so they recalled them to factory install the updated firmware and in turn now have a bunch of "factory refurb'd" inventory on the market.

    Something really killer about this model (maybe available with others) is that it runs windows CE with a GUI overlay for the functions. If you store an OS on the SD card in the device at boot up, it'll boot from the card = instant palm computer!

    Want your normal GPS back? Simple, take the card out and reboot it.

    I've yet to experiment with this, but it makes sense. I just got it yesterday.


    • #3
      I have a Garmin 255W and it is good for the road with a car/truck or bicycle or walking feature. It has road maps in it now but I think trail maps can be downloaded also.

      A GPS will tell you the exact coordinates your standing at within about 25 feet they say.

      You need to look at the features of each brand on their web site and decide which will work for you.

      Outdated? No, but you do need to buy the life time update for the maps if you intend to keep it and use it for several years. Every year they come out with a new Whiz Bang GPS but yours is still good until it dies.

      Batteries are built in and the charger is a car plug in or a wall charger and you need a cable to link it with your computer to update it.

      A GPS is a GPS, the maps are different and how it looks is different. If I were you I would look for one that can be used on the road and on the trails.

      User friendly is hard to pin point. What is friendly to me may be a head ache for you or vice versa. The only way to learn how to use it is to read the manual and experiment with it. Then the next time you use it you will have forgotten how to make it do what you want if your like me.

      I won't suggest one to buy, you need to look at all of them and their features to see if it does what you want.
      It's only ink and paper


      • #4
        Definately get a mapping unit. you will regret it if you just get a basic one that shows waypoints and an arrow to the next one.

        I also prefer to use AA batteries. if my batteries die on a camping trip, i just swap them out for fresh ones. No need to find a plug and sit for an hour to recharge a lithium one.


        • #5
          Depends on what you need. I bought one about 5 years ago, a Garmin GPS60, a pretty basic unit. I mostly wanted the ability to mark my home point (generally where my truck is parked) and have the ability to get back there after a day of wandering around in the woods. and of course being able to mark interesting spots that I may want to return to. Mapping was not so important to me, and at the time it added significant cost and really shortened the battery life. There are units with better capabilities now, but I have not felt the need to upgrade yet.

          I understand that some of the newer units have significantly more sensitive receivers these days as well.

          For a hiking GPS unit, I prefer something that has long battery life and uses standard AA batteries, rather than built-in rechargables. That way I can carry spare batteries (that also work in my flashlights or whatever) and can change them when the GPS batteries wear down. There is not a real easy way to recharge built in batteries out in the woods. A dead GPS is not any better than no GPS and may be more annoying!


          • #6

            Here is a forum that you might find helpful...


            To answer some of your questions...

            "Is a hiking GPS different than the GPS for car road map directions?"

            The hiking GPS usually has a much smaller screen than the vehicle GPS, and of course, different maps. Because of the smaller screen, the hiking GPS isn't practical for road driving.

            "It needs to be user friendly I don't want to take a class at the University to learn how to use it."

            They are fairly "user friendly" and if you read the manual, you'll be okay!

            "Do these become out dated and obsolete in a few years like computers and other electronic things?"

            Yes, mainly because of the maps. Updated maps can be quite expensive and sometimes it's better just to buy a new unit. The other problem is that unless you regularly hike or travel the U.S. or the World the updates may not help you at all.

            "I would be OK with a used GPS as long as it is not old and obsolete."

            Actually, this is not a bad idea. Because the maps get out of date, many users opt to buy a new unit because of the new map expense - they want the latest and greatest even if it doesn't help them. This leaves a lot of units that will work for you in your area just fine and can be had fairly inexpensively. In reality, I don't think GPS units get used too much so even a used one is basically a "new" unit.

            Okay... in conclusion...

            Get a collection of topo maps and apply the rest of the money on a dividing head or some other tool for your shop!
            Last edited by Mike Burdick; 12-22-2010, 12:10 PM.


            • #7
              A dead GPS is not any better than no GPS and may be more annoying!
              A dead GPS is worse if you have been relying on it to get you home and have not payed attention to where you have been.
              Tom - Spotsylvania, VA


              • #8
                When you buy a GPS it will have a basic map in it and it is marginal at best. Most if not all have a free one time update and it will make the GPS work much better.

                If you plan to keep it for a long time buy the life time update. For my Garmin a one time update is about $70 and a life time is about $120. I have updated mine twice and each time it does a better job. Mine is a reconditioned unit and I have had no issues with it since I bought it in Jan 2010.

                Getting one for hiking using AA batteries is a really good idea.
                It's only ink and paper


                • #9
                  I just bought a Garmin Zumo 550 and it is the worst piece of junk I've ever seen. I bought it on line after reading all the rave reviews and when I got it running it was obvious it was not at all what I want in a GPS. The maps look like cartoons. The perspective view is useless (it was bought for my motorcycle) and requires too much eye time away from the road. There is no cursor so scanning the digital map is out of the question. You need to keep a paper map handy.

                  There are static elements on the lo-res screen that consume about quarter of the realestate and they cannot be turned off, so your actual map viewing area is limited. "Browsing" the map requires leaving the current view and then swiping the screen to pan. It is all but useless, and impossible while riding.

                  I have a Garmin Map 12 that I bought new a very long time ago. It is a monochrome display, it has a 4-way cursor button for panning, and a usable mouse pointer. The maps are very readable and the zoom is excellent. For an early generation GPS it is a surprisingly detailed map. It has a number of datums available, leaves bread crumbs behind while on trips, lots of way points. It is also pocket portable, being very small and ruggedly built. It has over 50,000 miles riding on the handlebar of my Harley in all weather and has always worked great. It is the GPS I wish the Zumo was.

                  I'm torn between giving away the Zumo or throwing it away. It is such junk it really would be an insult to pass it on. Easily the worst $700 I've ever spent.


                  • #10
                    Don't ignore the used market. I picked up a used Garmin Etrex Vista Cx for $100 and it came with an upgraded memory card and extra datasets for North America and Europe included in the price. The memory cards are not too much extra but the datasets are expensive.
                    I have used the device for generating trail maps on my buddies forest lot, Geocaching and as a bicycle computer. It was a $100 well spent.


                    • #11
                      The Garmin eTrex series are very nice hardware-wise. Most of the newer ones have what they advertise as a 'high-sensitivity' receiver. Make sure you get one of those, as they are much better in heavy foliage or canyons. The eTrex Vista units are highly customizable and you can turn most of the screen elements on or off to suit.

                      That said, Garmin is overall an overpriced, arrogant outfit. They'd much rather be selling their aviation products than even looking at you and me. (my humble opinion, of course)


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by flathead4
                        A dead GPS is worse if you have been relying on it to get you home and have not payed attention to where you have been.

                        Excellent point!


                        • #13
                          Remember that the device has to be able to 'see' the satellites. I.m not a hiker but have played with a couple of GPS devices out in the mountainous areas of Idaho and Colorado. In all cases it sermed if I was buried in a forest of trees in the summer time or down in a deep narrow valley (no trees) it was useless because it couldn't see even 3 satellites.

                          I have a Garmin 755 for the car and it can also be used when 'walking' If left turned on (and not plugged into the car) the built in battery lasts a little over 3 hours and there is no way to put in you typical AA type batteries when it goes dead.

                          You need some kind of backup (hiking maps and good compass) in case the GPS craps out. If in a car you better have at least a fairly current road atlas if you are traveling out of your local area. Been there (with nothing at all) and its not fun. particularly if you are in areas like DC, Baltimore, NYC, etc.


                          • #14
                            Don't rely on the cell phone gps units. Many rely on the internet for their maps. Lose the cell signal and it may refuse to do anything.

                            I own the Garmin Nuvi 770 for the car, a Garmin cs60 gsx (?) For hiking and an android cell phone (EVO) with Google maps. The 60 works well, is very sturdy and uses easily replacable batteries. It will do street navigation too to get you to the trailhead.

                            I really like the EVO when geocache, since it will display aerial photos of the area. Paths are sometimes easier to find that way. So are fences and creeks that may block your path.

                            At the end of the project, there is a profound difference between spare parts and extra parts.

                            Location: SF East Bay.


                            • #15
                              Battery life will be an important consideration depending on how long you will be away from a power outlet. I guess there are 'low power consumption' hiking units available but I can tell you that our Navman GPS is only good for about an hour when it is out of the car.