What to look for in a GPS?

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What to look for in a GPS?

Postby Lava » Oct 18, 2005 7:47 pm

So I'm seriously considering getting the bottom of the line Garmin eTrex GPS:

http://www.walmart.com/catalog/product. ... id=3496513

The thing is, I don't really know what to look for in a GPS and fear that this model might leave me wanting. I really don't think I need all the bells and whistles of the best models, but I want to make sure that I won't be missing any absolutely essential features. Would love to get some advice from those with GPS experience.
Last edited by Lava on Oct 19, 2005 1:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby coferj » Oct 18, 2005 11:16 pm

My ol' lady just got me a Garmin E-Trex Legend C for my b-day, and it's awesome. I'm not sure how it stacks up against other gps's, b/c I've only had interaction with aviation grade GPS systems, but it's great. I did read quite frequently that if you're even a little bit familiar with a GPS, or any bit of a tech junkie, you may want to look at the color units...b/c the b/w probably won't really deliver what you want for very long...not sure how accurate that is, or if it even applies to you. In this situation I am a name wench...I like Garmin, always have. I've messed with Magellan a little, and they seem to be ok. The way I look at it, if it's good enough at 20,000 ft., it's good enough on the ground. :wink:
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Postby David_Campen » Oct 19, 2005 11:33 am

So I'm seriously considering getting the bottom of the line Garmin eTrex GPS:

The link doesn't work but - the basic yellow Etrex, this is what I have.

I am told that Magellans have a better antenna and are better at picking up the satellite signals. I haven't compared the 2 brands but I do know that my Etrex is near useless in trees. For example, on the hike up to the Marbles, even in a clearing, it is hard to get a location reading; the valley heading down to Corkscrew is open enough that I can use it there.

I think my next GPS might be a Magellan for the better antenna. I have heard it said that the downside to the Magellans is a more complicated User Interface.
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Postby NZcaver » Oct 19, 2005 3:47 pm

My 2 cents... :grin:

A caver I know bought a Garmin eTrex Vista a couple of years ago. He loved its small size and many functions, but was not impressed when the menu toggle button broke off. That's about all I know of the eTrex.

I currently have a Lowrance Globalmap 100 GPS that I use as a navigation aid in my vehicle, and occasionally on foot (like when walking to caves). Once in a while I like to download tracks and waypoints to my computer too, but unfortunately I can't with my newer laptop (no serial port).

My old GPS was an Eagle Expedition 2 (Eagle is now Lowrance), and it served me well for about 7 years. It has some good menu options, but is a little bulky by modern standards and has no built in map. It has a 12 parallel channel receiver in it, and uses the Rockwell chipset - so the acquisition time and receive sensitivity are both really good. It uses 4-AAs so the battery life is pretty good, even with me using NiMH rechargeables. The keypad finally gave out this year and I retired it.

I pondered for a while about what to replace it with. Eventually I chose to get a used Globalmap 100. This GPS has the same body and functions similar to my old Expedition, but also has a built in map. I sacrificed getting the latest, greatest, and smallest for a reliable one that I already knew how to work the menu on. It also cost me only $80 used on eBay, which included software, data and power cables, and other accessories. I'm happy with it.

The Globalmap 100 dates back to about 2000, and was about the first consumer GPS available with a built in map. I don't know too much about the current models, but I would imagine they are a similar high quality to my older ones with more menu options in a smaller package with a better screen. Might be worth a look. :wink:
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Postby Lava » Oct 20, 2005 11:53 am

David, based on your recommendations, I looked into the Magellan units, and this one appears to be a great bargain. None of the Garmins in this price range have a compass or altimeter like this one does. Anybody have experience with this unit?:

Magellan eXplorist 300

Thanks for all your comments everybody...
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Antennas

Postby David_Campen » Oct 20, 2005 12:18 pm

Hmm, it had been a while since I looked at what was available.

I see that Garmin does now have some inexpensive units with improved antennas. This unit is low cost and seems very nice:
http://www.rei.com/online/store/Product ... rn=4500600
It claims an improved antenna which was my only complaint about the basic Etrex.

An good altimeter would be nice but I don't care much about an electronic compass - I really like having a separate magnetic needle compass.
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Garmin GPSMap60

Postby icave » Oct 20, 2005 4:37 pm

I bought my wife a Garmin GPSMap60 for her birthday back in August. We've used it mostly for geocaching, but have found it generally to work very well. We can still get a reception in fairly thick tree coverage, but the accuracy tends to drop significantly. I'm not sure about other Garmin units, but the Map60 can show you how many satellites you are receiving signals from, the signal strength for each, and there location in the sky relative to you. This really helps if your in a weak signal spot and need to know which way to move to maximize your accuracy.

We've also found that the unit works great in both our cars without any extra antenna. It also has a very long battery life. I've had some people say it's to fancy, but for us it was performed well worth the extra cost.

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Re: Antennas

Postby Lava » Oct 20, 2005 8:14 pm

David_Campen wrote:Hmm, it had been a while since I looked at what was available.

I see that Garmin does now have some inexpensive units with improved antennas. This unit is low cost and seems very nice:
http://www.rei.com/online/store/Product ... rn=4500600
It claims an improved antenna which was my only complaint about the basic Etrex.

An good altimeter would be nice but I don't care much about an electronic compass - I really like having a separate magnetic needle compass.


The specs say it does not have an altimeter. Does that mean it can't provide an altitude reading from the satellite signal, or does it just mean that it doesn't have a dedicated altimeter?
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Postby Squirrel Girl » Oct 20, 2005 8:44 pm

I have an Etrex Legend and love it. I recommend the extra $$ for the maps. But a thread on my local mtb forum showed that a new Garmin model came out: the Geko. It seems to be a nice instrument. Check it out.
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GPS costs

Postby Ernie Coffman » Oct 20, 2005 9:13 pm

The price at REI can be beat by 30 bucks at several different GPS stores, like GPS City, etc. Garman and Magellan are building GPS's, like the car manufacturers are building cars. What a conglomeration of different models, these days. The Garman 60C is a very nice, hand-held model, as has been previously mentioned. The Garman 72C is a super expensive model, but with a lot of bells and whistles, also! A little larger, if that counts...for some hands are just not large enough to handle this model, which is something to check out before purchasing any GPS models.
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Postby VXcaver » Oct 21, 2005 9:27 am

I guess this is a good opportunity to make my first post here. I'm a GPS neophyte, but I just bought a Garmin MAP 76CS new off of Ebay and so far I love it. It's kind of expensive, but it has plenty of features like a TFT color screen, a barometric altimeter, compass and 115meg of memory for the storage of the vector graphic topo maps from MapSource US Topo. The memory seemed especially important because besides caving I do a lot of ridgewalking and I wanted to have plenty of map data available.

It was recommended that I get the National Geographic TOPO! for my state (AZ) and these are raster / bitmap type maps that can't be loaded onto the GPS but sure make nice maps once the waypoints are downloaded.
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Postby David_Campen » Oct 21, 2005 11:42 am

Even without an altimeter a GPS will still be able to give altitude readings derived from the satellites. The accuracy seems not very good though.

I have the National Geo Topo! for several states. I also have the Garmin MapSource that covers the US in 2 CDs. I end up using both. Even though the MapSource does not have all the detail of Topo! it does have a smoothly variable zoom function which makes finding things easy; Topo! only makes quantum jumps between the 5 USGS topomap scales. Mapsource does a nice job of smoothly zooming and decluttering.

Also, Mapsource does a better job of transferring track data from the GPS device to computer. When I use Topo! to do this the separate tracks are lost and all the waypoints are merged into a single list, with Mapsource the waypoints from each tracklog are preserved in separate lists.
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Postby David_Campen » Dec 16, 2005 12:45 pm

I see that Garmin is adding some new features to the existing product lines. The new products have an "x" added to their name. At the moment it seems that Bass Pro is the only store listing these.

Here is the Garmin eTrex Legend Cx:
http://www.basspro.com/servlet/catalog. ... rchResults

New features of these models are a Flash memory data card and a new chipset that is supposed to improve satellite acquisition sensitivity. Here is an article about the new models:
http://www.gps.no/anm/templates/?a=977&z=2
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Postby jmo » Dec 17, 2005 2:48 am

The new Garmin models look amazing! A great website to check out for GPS reviews and information that might help you choose the right model for your needs is http://www.gpsinformation.net
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Postby lookingaround » Dec 17, 2005 11:14 pm

NZcaver wrote:A caver I know bought a Garmin eTrex Vista a couple of years ago. He loved its small size and many functions, but was not impressed when the menu toggle button broke off. That's about all I know of the eTrex.


Did your friend call Garmin? If he called them, I bet that they took care of him... Here is my story:

I had my Garmin eTrex Venture for several months and really liked it. I was not gentle with it and started to have trouble with the display, but I liked it so much that I just went ahead and upgraded to the eTrex Legend. After a while I started thinking about how it had failed... I was on a flight and it was so hard to get my carry-on bag under the seat in front of me that I ended up using both legs to force the bag in its place. Too bad that my GPS was smashed in the outside pocket of the bag. :-(

After a while I figured that I might as wall call Garmin and see what it would cost to get the display fixed. I figured even if it cost me $50.00 or so, it would still be worth it to have another GPS.

I called them, explained my situation and asked them for the estimated repair charge. I also told them that it was out of warranty and that I lost my receipt. They asked for the serial number. After I gave them the number, they said that their records indicated that it had been shipped to their distributor about 14 (or 15 I can't remember) months ago and that was close enough for a warranty repair! :-) I just had to pay shipping to returh it! I shipped mine and had a replacement GPS a week or so later.

I am very happy with it. My next GPS will be a Garmin.
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