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WTB New Handheld GPS-Recommendations Please?
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Eric Falk
(zerolimit) - F
WTB New Handheld GPS-Recommendations Please? on 02/15/2008 18:22:33 MST Print View

Hi, thanks for you interest. I'm interested in buying a new handheld gps unit. Price not being a dominant factor I'm looking for recommendations or reviews. The unit will definitely be used to backpack and kayak camp different areas of Alaska this summer. I'm also planning on using it for general backpacking but am not overly concerned with a few ounces. Really looking for reliability with great satellite reception, weatherproof and ease of use. Thanks again for your help. Eric

Ross Novak
(Aurator) - F
GPS for Alaska on 02/15/2008 19:37:42 MST Print View

Garmin Gecko 201
Light, durable,down load routes/waypoints from your computer, water resistant and it takes off the shelf batteries so recharging it on an extended trip is not an issue. I live in Fairbanks and the reception has always been good.

Mike W
(skopeo) - F

Locale: British Columbia
GPS on 02/15/2008 20:07:01 MST Print View

I'd recommend the Vista HCx. It's small, weighs 5.2 ounces (which includes two Lithium batteries). Garmin added a new high-sensitivity receiver to the Vista this year (that's what the "H" indicates in the name of their new GPS products). It has a very bright color screen, supports mapping (additional cost) and has a media card slot.

The Vista HCx was reviewed by BPL a while back so check out their review. It's a great little GPS receiver.

I also have the GPSMap60Cx which also has a high-sensitivity receiver and is another great choice. I prefer the Vista because of the small size and weight and the brighter screen.

If you are concerned about signal lock then don't go with any of the GPS's that don't have the high-sensitivity receiver (like the Geko) they just don't cut it in dense forests and canyons.

Michael B
(mbenvenuto) - F

Locale: Vermont
vista on 02/15/2008 20:42:20 MST Print View

I have a geko 301 and like it a lot. But I agree with Mike that I don't think it makes any sense these days to buy a GPS with the old receiver and without USB. Get one of the "newer" models that come with the high sensitivity receiver and USB hookup for your computer.

The vista H or the legend H would be nice choices. If you want something really small like the geko, I would look at the running versions (the forerunner 205) or the biking version (the edge). They have a basic etrex H that is high sensitivity, but still seems to be serial (hard to believe that computers these days still have a serial port).

Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
Consider a phone (!) on 02/16/2008 12:07:51 MST Print View

Another avenue to consider is --- if you might be in the market for a new cell phone --- to get one with a built-in GPS receiver. Then you buy software for whatever platform your phone supports (for example, Windows Mobile) that uses the built-in GPS receiver to do various things.

On my cell phone I have normal "driving on the roads" type of GPS software, but also a couple of topographical applications. As long as you get a phone that has a true receiver built in (doesn't have to be in range of cell towers for the location functionality to work), and it has a SiRF Star III chipset (or whatever comes after), should be fine.

One possible downside is that on an extended trip cell phones all seem to have proprietary batteries, whereas your typical standalone GPS uses standard battery types. So if you go the phone route, I'd look for one that has a replaceable battery, so you can bring one or more extra batteries along on longer trips.

Another downside is that this approach might be ultimately more money (possibly a lot more, depending on your choices), plus some more complexity in finding the right topo app(s) that do what you want, getting them installed and learning to use them.

I nevertheless think this approach will get to be more common over time; I think it's Nokia in Europe that's in particular pushing GPS technology into all their phones, and true GPS receivers becomes sufficiently common in cell phones, it will seem silly to carry a GPS enabled cell phone into the woods and also carry a standalone GPS. Ditto cameras at some point, at least for a subset of of us in the "just point and shoot" camp.

Eric Falk
(zerolimit) - F
Thanks for your help on 02/18/2008 13:33:41 MST Print View

I think the garmin vista hcx will be perfect. I have another questions being that I'm gps illiterate. Will I have to purchase any additional programs or anything to cover alaska trails as opposed to alaska waterways. I'll be traveling along the shore but not sure exactly what I'm getting. I'll try and do some investigating as well but if anyone has one and can answer that question that will definitely help me. THanks again for your replies. I love this site. Eric

Mike W
(skopeo) - F

Locale: British Columbia
Mapping for the Vista Hcx... on 02/18/2008 22:24:43 MST Print View

Mapping will cost you a bit of cash but it's worth it (that's where Garmin makes the money).

For backpacking and hiking I like the Topo mapping but I also have the City mapping which supports auto-routing on the Vista. I've included a link to Garmin's site that lets you see the mapping before you buy. Important to read the details of all of the mapping products, there are quite a few options.

You can also load custom mapping on a Vista if you can find it or if you want to make your own. Try this site:

If you buy mapping, make sure you buy the CD version and not the media card version. You can’t load the media card version onto your PC and use it in Mapsource the way you can with the CD version.

Edited by skopeo on 02/18/2008 23:32:05 MST.

David Peterson
(thegeoguy) - F

Locale: Sonoma County, CA
GPS suggestions on 02/20/2008 12:46:17 MST Print View

I recently bought the Garmin Vista HCx, and it's a really nice unit, seems to locate pretty quickly and accurately. You can download and upload waypoints and routes from National Geographic TOPO! as well. However, if you want the capability of uploading TOPO! maps into your gps, you might also check out the new Triton line of Magellan gps units. For some people, this is a big plus, for others, not so critical (as a geologist, I now kind of wish I had purchased a Triton, so I could check my estimated field position against the gps).

I haven't closely compated the Vista and Triton units for features (barometer, compass, etc) or weight.

Mike Barney
(eaglemb) - F

Locale: AZ, the Great Southwest!
76/60 CSx on 02/20/2008 19:47:35 MST Print View

I have a Garmin 76CSx, it has excellent sensitivity, and a good map on it. It has enough memory to load a lot of topo's, and interfaces to your computer well.

If you want the display, you might also look at the new Garmin Colorado. A little pricey, but looks very nice.

Good luck,

Eric Falk
(zerolimit) - F
3d mapping on 02/22/2008 08:03:44 MST Print View

Just checked out the magellan triton and national geographic 3D mapping technology. Very cool to say the least. Don't know how much I'd actually use that function but nice to look at. Didn't realize how many different map series you have to buy in order to use either gps around the country. I think garmin's might be cheaper in the long run as alot of their program's are east,central,west. I definitely think the vista,triton,or colorado will suit my needs as I'm new to backpacking and not bushwacking. So, I may wait a few more months for some additional reviews, such as the colorado, and pick a unit up right before summer. Thank you for all your responses and help.