Handheld GPS

4:26 p.m. on February 18, 2011 (EST)
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Anybody have any suggestions on a good handheld gps that is inexpensive? Must have a digital compass, waypoints, altimeter, etc...I never owned one, but kind of interested. I normally use the old compass, maps and my ever fading memory on the trails.

5:40 p.m. on February 18, 2011 (EST)
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What is your "inexpensive" price range? Where are you going to use the GPSR?

Note that all current handheld GPSRs can store waypoints/landmarks (with the exception of wrist training GPSRs, though you can pre-store routes and waypoints in most of those). Also, note that certain GPSRs (Garmins in particular) will only display barometric altitude for those models having a barometric altimeter, which means you have to recalibrate frequently (barometric altimeters vary with the weather and the actual lapse rate, so in a 3000 foot ascent, it is not unusual to find a 300 foot altitude error at the summit - contrary to legend, the GPS-derived altitude is generally within 20 feet, which is less than the contour interval on USGS quads in mountainous regions). Note that the "digital compasses" in handheld GPSRs are flux-gate compasses and are big drains on battery power (some cut the battery life in half). Also, it is very easy to decalibrate them through static electricity charges (think of rubbing one across your synthetic parka).

Does your "etc" include maps? What type - street maps, topographic maps, sat photos, aerial photos? All GPSRs that have topo and street maps as their standard or optional maps use vectorized data. Thus the mapping at enlarged zoom levels is not very accurate. Scanned (rasterized) topo maps are available on Delorme and Garmin GPSRs at a large extra cost (depending on how extensive coverage you want). There is a GPSR available from NatGeo with scanned topos, but it lacks a lot of desirable features. Magellan had dropped their link with NatGeo Topo! maps in their current models.

Touch screens are all the rage right now. But I have found that the touch screens don't work with gloves on (bad for winter use or skiing), though there are 3 companies who have or are about to introduce liner gloves that work with touch screens - I have a prototype pair that works ok, but has problems for points at the screen edges, so it appears there is a way to go before these are really acceptable.

You do need to decide if you want a GPSR that is aimed at geocachers or for backcountry use (or finding your way around cities and towns). The current models tend to have a lot of extra features aimed to each type of user. And if you intend to geotag your pictures (that means storing the location in space and time of your digital photos in the image file), most cameras do not have a direct interface to do this (I have a Nikon P&S with a built-in GPSR, plus several DSLR bodies that allow connecting certain handheld GPSR modules or dedicated imaging DSLR accessories, but otherwise you have to resort to doing it by hand or doing it afterward at home with software that matches your saved waypoints with the time stamp on the image file).

So please provide some more details about what exactly you plan on doing.

12:40 p.m. on February 19, 2011 (EST)
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Wow, there is a lot to think about. I would need GPS for long day hikes in the forests and high elevations througout my area and going down to the French border. We live mostly in a temperate rain forest that spans high hills and smaller mountains. So, something that cans withstand lots of moisture and works well under 3,000 feet. I need waypoints and distance traveled/distance remaining (like a car GPS) to see if I can make it back to the car, or if I rent a room between villages. An altimeter is important (in a vain way I guess), because it is actually one of the questions that hikers on the trails ask me a lot. (I have looked at a number of handheld GPS in the stores here and none seem to offer altimeter information. They function more like a car GPS). I would need maps of natural surroundings and of the towns/cities to find a hotel, restaurant or help. I need European maps though! Compass I guess is not too important since I have one already. Touchscreen is reallly not for me because of glare and sensitivity or lack of sensitivity of the interface. I learned this from my phone. $250 at the most is ok with me. Thank you for helping this tech challenged hiker. I have a camera that has geotag, and it has been very useful for presentations.

12:44 p.m. on February 19, 2011 (EST)
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oh, i will have to order online because I cannot find what I need here. What is a good site that has deals on gps?

9:43 a.m. on February 21, 2011 (EST)
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I bumped this so BIll S could help him out..

10:27 a.m. on February 21, 2011 (EST)
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well, where to start, I guess just jump in.. GPS's are good to tell you where you have been, or maybe where you are at, but poor to tell you where to go, just give me a good USGS topo and a compass. However to document what you did they are great.

I have a Garmin Oregon 300,  touch screen, bought the add on topo map for my area. battery life is great, screen is hard to see when it is cold or bright outside. It's easy enough to use however and the back comes off fairly simply.. can work it with gloves. the connection is a standard mini "not micro" USB.  I use Google earth to document where have been and the Delorme will work with that as well. but read below on how i got the Delorme to work.

Just because the Delorme came with maps and seemed to have a big screen, i bought this for my wife, she is not a geek and the Delorme overpowers her at times. Battery life is horrible, the connector cable is not standard USB, the loop/screw back plate would be a pain in cold weather,  It comes with propreitary software which if given time i could figure it out but it frustrates my wife and that frustrates me trying to help her out with software.. I had to remove the SD card and put it in my computer to access her trip files.. (my laptop would not find her files when hooked to the USB port) which was easy enough and Google earth worked with her files as easy as it did the Garmin files.

Side by side on the map both seemed to be as accurate as the other, still both had a little side glitch trip showing, but i think that was because we were in the tree's and they lost the satallite.

I think we are going to take the Delorme back to Cabela's more because of the poor battery life and complicated menu/interface.. its not worth it to hassle with...

Delorme was cheaper, had the maps and the software harder to use and is a killer of batteries.

Garmin was more expensive, had to buy the topo for my area and will have to buy others if i go outside the geographic area. Battery life is great.


7:04 p.m. on February 21, 2011 (EST)
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D-Dog, I would look at what is available online, then look on eBay. I looked at the German eBay site and saw a few Garmins for sale.  I also looked at the Berlin and Munich Craigslist, but no luck there.

I got a used Garmin 76CSx here in the US very cheap. It is a marine version of the 60CSx, so it is waterproof, up to a point.

You could probably find one in the US and have the buyer send it to you.  I sold a pair of snowshoes to a buyer in Norway a few years ago and sent them to him with no through the US postal system with no problem.

3:41 p.m. on February 23, 2011 (EST)
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Bill, Jeff and Tom, thank you for your suggestions and help on the topic. I talked to a local hunting/outdoor family run business who can order me a Garmin with German basemaps. I would have to spend 100-200 dollars on maps if I bought an American Garmin. I do not have to pay german taxes, so the unit will cost me 300 euros. More than I wanted to spend, but what the heck. I just got to figure out how to justify to my wife:)

9:37 p.m. on February 27, 2011 (EST)
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I recently bought my first handheld gps.

Garmin 60csx

Has all of the features you listed, got mine for $200 on Amazon.

Downloaded all my maps from gpsfiledepot.com

I'm still learning how to use it, IT IS SMARTER THAN ME.

As said previously, great for seeing where you have been, and with the proper trail maps loaded, great way to be sure you are where you think you are.

I'm new to the backpacking thing, but don't think I'd ever venture out without a mapset no matter how well I learn the functions of my gps.

So far I'm happy with my purchase.

Good luck,


May 25, 2018
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