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Map software and GPS advice needed
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Gerry Volpe

Locale: Vermont
Map software and GPS advice needed on 06/07/2010 13:06:59 MDT Print View

Please bare with me as I have no experience with this stuff and my questions may make no sense. I teach at a wilderness therapy school and have some extra money from FY10 to spend on materials.

I would like to get some map software and gps units. We do hiking and canoeing trips throughout the North East and occasionally down to North Carolina for canoeing. I would like to do a couple of things with these. Basic navigation would be one as well as being able to add things like campsites. The other thing I am interested in is being able to plot trails and such on our property on maps I can then print. Again I have zero experience so don't know if I am asking the right questions. It would be nice if the gps could be very easy to use but featured enough to do what I want. Lightweight would be nice but I am more concerned with ease of use, durability, and perhaps things like good detailed screens so as to engage students. Thank you in advance for your help.

Edited by gvolpe on 06/07/2010 13:08:46 MDT.

Ike Mouser
(isaac.mouser) - F
check it out on 06/07/2010 13:14:13 MDT Print View

delorme pn-60 comes out soon, middle of june i believe.

thats what im getting for my first gps.

chris kersten
(xanadu) - F

Locale: here
delorme on 06/07/2010 13:42:07 MDT Print View

I've been using a pn-40 and I love it. It comes with tons of map software included. The small screen is the only drawback. Like he said above, check out the pn-60 when it comes out, but also the pn-40's should drop in price.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Map software and GPS advice needed on 06/07/2010 13:42:15 MDT Print View

First of all, it sounds like you want a GPS receiver mostly for personal use, and you are not going to try to teach anything on it. I say that because the screens on most GPS receivers are so small that you can't point to something and expect anybody to see it who is looking over your shoulder. Maybe one other person at a time can see a screen, but that can be tough. There are GPS receivers with large screens, but you can't afford them, or else they are too awkward for portability.

There are several brands on the consumer market. The market leader is Garmin. Their prices are not the cheapest in the world, but their features tend to be very good. Every different model has something different in terms of a map database. Some will have roads and streets only, and that is probably not what you want. Some have no map database at all. Some will have a topo map database, but there are varying degrees of resolution and accuracy. Some topo map databases are a complete joke (very poor). Some, you have to pay extra for. Some come loaded into the unit from the factory.

Then, it sounds like you want to mark some custom waypoints and then output that to an external printer. Think about that a little differently. Put your computer between the GPS receiver and the printer. Keep the "master map database" in the computer, and exchange waypoints between the GPS receiver and the computer. Then a good color printer can print out whatever you have going on the computer.

Like anything else, it just takes some practice to get used to it.

I taught GPS classes for about 14 years, and I have seen a huge change in the subject over that time. I use mostly the National Geographic software that associates with a topo map database of my state.


David Spaedt
(alwaysone) - F
Delorme PN-40 on 06/07/2010 15:00:02 MDT Print View

I have a Delorme PN-40 and had the PN-20 prior to that. Top notch GPS's. Comparable to the hand held industry leader Garmin. However, the maps on the Delorme are amazing. The map basic software is included with the purchase.

For the software you can download just about anything you need for any place you plan to be. Topo, satelite imagery, etc.

With the software you can create / edit all your own trails, add all your own notes, mark any point of interest and this will all transfer to the GPS as a route or trail.

By far the biggest draw back is that the Delorme software Topo 8 has a very steep learning curve and many times will leave you scratching your head. On the other hand, they have an excellent unofficial support forum that can literally get you any answer you might have on how to use the software.

Kendall Clement
(socalpacker) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
RE: "Map software and GPS advice needed" on 06/07/2010 16:06:27 MDT Print View

Hey guys,
I must've gotten a lemon. I had a PN-40 and it just quit on me on the 29th day of using it. I mean it just died and I couldn't revive it, so I returned it to REI. Everything you've mentioned about Topo 8.0 is true. I've been debating as to whether or not I want to take a chance on another Delorme or not. It really is the best value on the market. You definitely get the most for your money. I found that as you become better at learning the software, it's very user friendly. I'm curious to know if I just got the one bad one off the line.

I've been looking at the Garmin CSx recently. It looks pretty good to me. The only draw back, as far as I can tell, is that the maps are expensive.
You'll pay a little more than the Delorme, but it could be worth it. Just my 2 cents.

Edited by socalpacker on 06/07/2010 16:10:17 MDT.

Gerry Volpe

Locale: Vermont
Gps and map software advice on 06/08/2010 05:47:10 MDT Print View

Thanks everybody for the quick replys. As I said I have no GPS experience so everybody's help is appreciated. I will check out Garmins and Delormes. The steep learning curve of the Delorme Software is a definate downside but it sounds like the maps are better and my students usually figure out technology much quicker than I. As far how I will use them in experiential learning I really won't know for sure beyond trip navigation until I learn what they are all about. I work with small groups of students never more than 10 usually less and I have the resources availabel to perhaps buy two or more units depending on price. I really like the idea of being able to add things to the maps as we often do the same itinerary with different groups and it would be helpful to add campsites, water sources, swimming areas, etc. I also like the idea of developing maps of our property and permanent campsites so kids can make additions such as our trail network, cool natural features, sugar maple groves for sugaring season etc. I also assume that in addition to printing with the aid of a computer my students can utilize custom amended maps in powerpoint presentations please let me know if I am wrong. Of course I realize there will be a lot of learning but I find that sharing a learning experience with my students is very beneficial. Thanks again for all the help.

tim hower
(jeepcachr) - F

Locale: Great Lakes
Garmin on 06/08/2010 06:30:16 MDT Print View

Garmin is the leader in the handheld market with over 75% of the market share. Nearly all software will work with the Garmins because of this. There is a lot of free or inexpensive mapping software out there for them. Yes Garmin's maps are expensive but I've found better free maps at

I've owned about 10 GPS's and prefer the Garmins. I've been heavily involved in geocaching and have gotten the chance to see and use other brands and there isn't a one that I would prefer over a Garmin.

Don Selesky
(backslacker) - M
Re: RE: "Map software and GPS advice needed" on 06/08/2010 06:38:37 MDT Print View

"Hey guys,
I must've gotten a lemon. I had a PN-40 and it just quit on me on the 29th day of using it. I mean it just died and I couldn't revive it, so I returned it to REI."

I had to return a PN-40 to Delorme for repair. Apparently the battery cover or battery contacts (sorry, forget exactly) were faulty on a batch of units. Replaced without issue, and it works fine now.