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kevin smith
(divr6347) - M
good hiking gps under $150 on 02/28/2013 08:31:39 MST Print View

im in need of a new gps under $150 bucks

i need one to use for backpacking and maybe alittle geocaching but not a lot

i would prefer one with a descent compass on it and something easy to use

as i am not too computer/electronic gadget savvy

basically going to mark waypoints and track my progress as i hike

i was looking at the garmin dakota 10 and etrex 20 but don t know much about either

any suggestions on what to buy and where to get it would be great

thanks

kevin

Mike W
(skopeo) - F

Locale: British Columbia
good hiking gps under $150 on 02/28/2013 09:57:10 MST Print View

Both the Etrex 20 and Dakota 10 are good devices but here's a few things to consider:

Dakota 10:
Touch Screen can be a hassle if you are wearing gloves
Touch screens are less sensitive in below zero temps
The battery life is 20 hrs
built in memory is only 850 Mb.
Doesn't accept data card for extra map storage
Good sized screen

Etrex 20:
Not a touch screen
battery life 25 hrs
built in memory 1.7 Gb
accepts data card (SD) for extra map storage
very small screen

Either of these GPS's are pretty good. They both weigh about the same. Both support paperless Geocaching, but since you say you aren't very techy, this may not matter all that much... they will both work well for geocaching though.

I have the Etrex 20 and like it a lot. I'm not interested in a touch screen for the reasons mentioned above.

You might also want to look at the Garmin Foretrex 301 or 401 if you want a good (UL) backpacking GPS. Not a mapping GPS but they are very small and light and hold a signal very well and have a very simple interface. I have the Foretrex 301 and like it alot if I'm just putting down tracks and checking my actual location (coordinates) against my paper map.

Stuart R
(Scunnered) - F

Locale: Scotland
Re: good hiking gps under $150 on 02/28/2013 10:10:46 MST Print View

I have the Dakota 10 and like it a lot: it is compact and very easy to use.
It doesn't have an electronic compass, I think you will need the Dakota 20 if you want that.

Dena Kelley
(EagleRiverDee) - M

Locale: Eagle River, Alaska
Re "good hiking gps under $150" on 02/28/2013 10:16:13 MST Print View

I've used Garmin ETrex, Magellan and Delorme. The Garmin is by far the most intuitive. I currently use a Delorme PN-60 but that's due to the mapping software and other functionality (such as being able to link it to the InReach device). For your purposes, I would say Garmin would be the best. They're relatively inexpensive, easy to use, and have all the features you are looking for.

Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
smartphone? on 02/28/2013 10:49:11 MST Print View

Instead of $150 on a "just does one thing" device, consider a smartphone. I sold my GPS and then managed to lose my relatively cheap smartphone on a snowshoe trip this past weekend (sucker must have sunk deep and fast when it fell out of its pouch), so I just ordered a replacement that's a bit of an upgrade.

Newer (and sadly that means mostly more expensive) smartphones are starting to be able to use the Russian satellite system, GLONASS. What this means is that you have 20-some additional satellites beyond the U.S. system to make it faster to lock on and to give a more accurate fix. So personally, I wouldn't buy a standalone GPS either unless it also could pick up the GLONASS satellites.

Here's a list of smartphones that can use GLONASS:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Smartphones_using_GLONASS_Navigation

I'm not a frequent phone user and so didn't want something too expensive and high end. And I'm sort of "invested" in the Android ecosystem. So I picked a Samsung Galaxy Ace 2, cost me about $230 unlocked, then I just put it on a pre-paid daily plan (pretty cheap) and have a decent multi-purpose device that also works well as a GPS with the addition of inexpensive software (I personally use GaiaGPS).

I'm not suggesting that this is the only valid approach, but carry along a spare battery or two where appropriate and this is what makes sense to me. Heck, you can even geotag your photos if you want; my new phone is supposed to have a pretty decent 5 MP camera.

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: The Great Lakes Bay Region
Re: smartphone? on 02/28/2013 11:04:44 MST Print View

Thanks Brian for thst nugget of information.

Jeff McWilliams
(jjmcwill) - M

Locale: Midwest
GPS on Phone on 02/28/2013 11:17:46 MST Print View

Using a Phone for GPS is an idea I really struggle with.

First, I've seen plenty of cases where smartphones can't maintain satellite fix but my GPS can. Maybe this is limited to slightly older units I have tried. Maybe it's because the GPS antenna in the phone isn't nearly as good as the one built into my GPS. Either way, I don't find a smartphone to be a reliable GPS device, and GPS devices themselves aren't considered 100% reliable.

Second, my GPS is IPX7 waterproof rated, and it is in a ruggedized case with rubber corners to absorb shock. My phone would do poorly if I were to drop in into a mud puddle, creek, or onto a rock.

Third, cell batteries are much more expensive and difficult to find, and don't last as long as my GPS batteries. In a pinch, just about any corner gas station has AA batteries.

Finally, if my phone is my GPS, and while using it I break it or the batteries die, I've not only lost my supplemental navigation device, I've also lost my ability to call for help.

Maybe for casual hikes, it is okay, but otherwise, I am very reluctant to adopt the "multi-use" philosophy in this particular area.

J J
(jraiderguy) - M

Locale: Puget Sound
Re: GPS on Phone on 02/28/2013 11:31:05 MST Print View

I think your strongest point here is about quality of GPS service, antennae strength, etc. The durability concerns are easily addressed by an Otterbox or similar phone case, and extra batteries or solar chargers keep getting cheaper. If hiking alone, losing the only phone in the group might be a safety concern, but in a group usually somebody else has a phone tucked away in a ziplock for emergencies.

Michael Ray
(thaddeussmith) - F
iphone 5 on 02/28/2013 11:38:49 MST Print View

> the iphone 5 now uses GLONASS.
> Otterbox makes this: http://www.otterbox.com/iPhone-5-Armor-Series-Case/apl10-iphone-5,default,pd.html
> with some proper app management and removal of the SIM card, battery life can be greatly increased. there are also lightweight solar or backup battery charging solutions.

This doesn't negate all of your points, but it certainly makes newer phones less prone to be a trip killer or safety risk and closer towards the goal of a multi-use device, especially if you already have it.

Yes 1000
(mamamia) - F
Garmin Oregon on 02/28/2013 11:40:36 MST Print View

I picked up a refurb Garmin Oregon 450 from their eBay shop for $199. It is $50 more than your budget but Oregon 450 is a very nice device.

Gregory Stein
(tauneutrino) - F

Locale: Upper Galilee
UL GPS on 02/28/2013 12:48:15 MST Print View

If I were you, I think some of the UL GPS units would be nice. Those without map, compass etc... Just show your coordinates.
Smartphone? I don't use it in urban area (I like my Nokia 1280 for its simplicity and once a two week charge), so using them while hiking? Solar charger? Why compass and map are not enough? I think GPS is for emergency only. When you lost, can't do orienting, broke your compass - yes look at the coordinates and find you on the map.

Maciej Parvi
(MaciekP)
Etrex rulez on 02/28/2013 13:37:53 MST Print View

Garmin etrex 20/30.
Long battery life, very long on lithium l91.
Light, small and jostick working well with gloves.
Very good stuff

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: good hiking gps under $150 on 02/28/2013 13:41:59 MST Print View

"a descent compass" (sic)

What, no compass for ascent?

No matter how you intend to use a GPS receiver or GPS smartphone, it sure doesn't hurt to sharpen up your land nav skills with traditional methods like with map and compass, and I'm not sure if geocaching helps or hurts you. There are many miles of backpacking trails that have obvious terrain, and as long as you glance at a good topo map once in a while, you won't get lost. Now, where GPS gets more practical is when you have no visibility. This would be someplace like a dark forest on a cloudy day, or anyplace at night. When you can't shoot bearings off landmarks, then GPS becomes very handy.

If a GPS receiver has a built-in fluxgate compass, it tends to use more battery power, so you may or may not want that. Besides, most GPS receivers will tell you which direction you are moving even if they can't tell you which way that you are facing while standing still.

I would not put much faith in GLONASS unless you operate in some of the countries affiliated with Russia. GPS+GLONASS doesn't buy you much over GPS alone. I put even less faith in Galileo.

--B.G.--

Dena Kelley
(EagleRiverDee) - M

Locale: Eagle River, Alaska
RE "good hiking gps under $150" on 02/28/2013 13:47:01 MST Print View

"Why compass and map are not enough? I think GPS is for emergency only. When you lost, can't do orienting, broke your compass - yes look at the coordinates and find you on the map."

I prefer map/compass as well, with GPS backup, but I've been both socked in by weather and in areas with no natural terrain features or no visible terrain features (either flat land or in a heavily treed area with no hill to climb for a view) and map/compass is difficult to use under those circumstances. I bring map, compass AND GPS.

Adam Rothermich
(aroth87) - F

Locale: Missouri Ozarks
Re: good hiking gps under $150 on 02/28/2013 14:01:30 MST Print View

I've got an eTrex 20 that I like. I use it mostly for marking downed trees and other things for trail maintenance. I personally don't like touchscreens so I steered away from the Dakota series. I was debating between the GPSMAP 62 series and the eTrex and ended up with the eTrex because the price was better and I was just looking for pretty basic features (like you). So far the battery life has been great and has been easy to use.

When I hike I use it mostly for tracking/logging to look at later although it has been nice a few times when I've bushedwhacked down to my Adopt-A-Trail section and had a hard time locating the tread under the leaf cover.

A thing to note is that the compass only works if you're moving, not if you're standing still. I still prefer a real map and compass but it can be hard to navigate with them here, with all the trees it can be hard to find anything meaningful landmarks.

Adam

Dan Durston
(dandydan)

Locale: Cascadia
Geko on 02/28/2013 16:21:35 MST Print View

"If I were you, I think some of the UL GPS units would be nice. Those without map, compass etc... Just show your coordinates. "

+1. Grab a Garmin Geko (used on eBay, they stopped making them). $70, reliable and light. It's all you need.

EDIT $49 Buy It Now: http://www.ebay.com/itm/Garmin-Geko-201-Handheld-GPS-Receiver-/140922482426?pt=GPS_Devices&hash=item20cfa26efa

Edited by dandydan on 02/28/2013 16:24:50 MST.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Geko on 02/28/2013 16:41:09 MST Print View

I can top that one, Dan. I have the oldest Geko 101.

I also have a couple of newer Garmins, but they burn more battery power.

--B.G.--

Ken Thompson
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: Behind the Redwood Curtain
Re: Geko on 02/28/2013 17:59:54 MST Print View

I too have a Geko. 301 the last version. It has been good. Does all I need it to do. Though I don't take it out much these days.

William Segraves
(sbill9000) - F - M
Re: Re: Geko on 02/28/2013 18:04:10 MST Print View

I had a Gekko 101 but its signal acquisition was awful (compared to etrex h). Otherwise, would have been just what I wanted, but in practice, it was usually a lightweight brick.

Cheers,

Bill

Dan Durston
(dandydan)

Locale: Cascadia
Geko on 02/28/2013 18:13:08 MST Print View

I think the 201 gained better reception and then the 301 improved quite a bit on battery life. I'm using the latter.

HK Newman
(hknewman) - MLife

Locale: Western US
Re: good hiking gps under $150 on 02/28/2013 21:09:44 MST Print View

I use eTrex for my recreation GPS mostly for geocache and it's pretty good, as far recreational GPS goes.

Rick M
(rmjapan) - F

Locale: Tokyo, Japan
Re: Re: good hiking gps under $150 on 02/28/2013 21:27:15 MST Print View

If only GPS coordinates are needed, a camera like the Oly TG-1 works well. It updates GPS sat postion data every 2 weeks thru a PC so it can lock on to a signal really quickly too.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Re: good hiking gps under $150 on 02/28/2013 21:53:24 MST Print View

"It updates GPS sat postion data every 2 weeks thru a PC so it can lock on to a signal really quickly too."

That is really funny.

GPS satellites are not geostationary, so their position in space is constantly changing rapidly.

Most GPS receivers get ephemeris data in the downlink, so the fine data on the satellite orbits is updated frequently, like every 15 minutes. Plus, GPS receivers don't need a PC or a network connection.

--B.G.--

Rick M
(rmjapan) - F

Locale: Tokyo, Japan
Re: Re: Re: Re: good hiking gps under $150 on 02/28/2013 23:16:23 MST Print View

Frankly Bob, I could care less about the technical aspects of how it aquires a signal. It just works, usually within 30secs, and thats good enough for me.

From the Oly TG-1 FAQ,

"What is A-GPS data and how ofter do I need to updated it?

The camera uses supplementary orbital data for improved signal aquistion. This will increase the accuracy and performance of the GPS function. The A-GPS data should be update every 14 days, to insure the best performance."

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: good hiking gps under $150 on 03/01/2013 00:14:25 MST Print View

"Frankly Bob, I could care less about the technical aspects of how it aquires a signal."

Yes, I agree, you don't understand much about GPS.

All GPS receivers within the last 15 years or so use supplementary orbital data (the ephemeris data). It's just that they do it a lot easier, more automatically, faster, and better than the camera.

--B.G.--

Dan Durston
(dandydan)

Locale: Cascadia
Camera on 03/01/2013 05:56:55 MST Print View

My camera (Nikon AW100) has a built in GPS, but the darn thing won't tell me my co-ordinates. The GPS tags your pictures with the co-ordinates but you can't view them until you're back home.

Rick M
(rmjapan) - F

Locale: Tokyo, Japan
Re: Camera on 03/01/2013 06:47:20 MST Print View

This is the GPS display including coordinates, altitude, barometer, and e-compass.

TG1 GPS

Michael Driscoll
(Hillhikerz) - M

Locale: Monterey Bay
good hiking gps under $150 on 03/01/2013 09:32:47 MST Print View

My 2 cents... etrex20... old school the compass & bring a map...

In the last 2 years or less the big 3 of hiking GPS units G, M, D have gone online 24k downloadable for the country (I had a beef with G on that one) a $30. dollar service a year (download a map where ever you think you may be before it expires) I have used all 3 and G is OK... this will make the unit play nice for geochache use...

If entering a lot of waypoints manually I prefer a D but that is not common...

I have noticed REI has the G 100k micro SD card for the country going for $19 at the moment in some of there stores, not everyone's cup of tea, but a good cheap fit for the E20...

While a GPS can do a bunch of stuff I mostly just use them for tracking where I was & where a pre-selected camp site is or my car if I can not see...

Adam Rothermich
(aroth87) - F

Locale: Missouri Ozarks
Re: good hiking gps under $150 on 03/01/2013 10:10:54 MST Print View

I got all the maps for my eTrex 20 from GPSFileDepot. The topos and trails for Missouri and Kansas have been accurate for me and are very small.

Adam

kevin smith
(divr6347) - M
gps on 03/02/2013 07:14:37 MST Print View

thanks for all the info guys

very informative

im not really into the whole it has this or that or can do this or that aspect of gps technology i just need something super user friendly and easy to understand so even a dummy like me can use it

i dont really care how it does its thing as long as it works simplicity is key as

like i have stated earlier im just not very tech savvy

as long as the unit has a good compass and can mark waypoints and take me to them

thats all i will really need

so far the garmin dakota 10 and etrex 20 are looking pretty good

im sure there are others out there in my price range like the venture hc which i had
and sold because i couldn t figure out how to use it

hopefully ill find one that even i can use successfully

kevin

Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
smartphone issues on 03/02/2013 10:05:08 MST Print View

Jeff made some good points about issues with smartphones, that some have already addressed, but to toss in my 2 cents ...


"First, I've seen plenty of cases where smartphones can't maintain satellite fix but my GPS can. Maybe this is limited to slightly older units I have tried. Maybe it's because the GPS antenna in the phone isn't nearly as good as the one built into my GPS."

I agree that this is a valid concern. For me, what matters ultimately is the empirical rather than the theoretical; I've used the GPS built into multiple smartphones in the past and have had overall good results. It's not just the antenna, it's also the chipset built into the device, and these have been getting better. I think it's also a matter of expectations; I realize that a multi-function device typically doesn't do "best in class" at any of the functions.
And now adding GLONASS helps IMO to mitigate time to lock on and ability to lock on and accuracy. This web page gives a good sense, I think, of what GLONASS adds to the picture (and I would add that in "the real world" those times when I pick up more satellites my smartphone does so much better at locking in and giving me an accurate position fix): http://www.oxts.com/default.asp?pageRef=134


"Either way, I don't find a smartphone to be a reliable GPS device, and GPS devices themselves aren't considered 100% reliable."

I don't know how to respond to this one; a heart pacemaker isn't 100% reliable, but it's hopefully "reliable enough". I've never had an issue with a GPS or smartphone failing to work as designed, and I've used a number of alternatives over a number of years. I don't mean to debate the value of learning to use map and compass (!), but I don't see this as an argument to factor in.

I will agree that some GPS units are designed to be more tough and/or waterproof, and in fact most backcountry GPS units are indeed more so than most smartphones. It's another trade-off. In something like 9000 miles of backpacking I've always carried a GPS-enabled smartphone in a neoprene or similar case on a pack strap and have never had an issue as a result. Well, up to last week, which I think was somewhat of a special case, a couple of pieces of bad luck had to line up in that situation (lost my smartphone in deep snow while leading a snowshoe trip). And I could have lost a GPS in just the same way.

"Second, my GPS is IPX7 waterproof rated, and it is in a ruggedized case with rubber corners to absorb shock. My phone would do poorly if I were to drop in into a mud puddle, creek, or onto a rock."

Agreed, per above, but ... also question how significant a factor this is, per above. My smartphone in a snack-sized ziplock does just fine against rain. Sometimes a bit of a PITA using the touchscreen that way, but in the infrequent times when I need it, no problem.

"Third, cell batteries are much more expensive and difficult to find, and don't last as long as my GPS batteries. In a pinch, just about any corner gas station has AA batteries."

This is actually the prime reason that I carried a standalone GPS on the CDT --- one encounters a lot more situations where a GPS is a helpful on that trail, and being able to carry spare lightweight lithium batteries and use the GPS as much as I wanted without thereby compromising my ability to take photos or to journal, that made it worth carrying a separate GPS. But for most trips, including long distance trips, I find that a spare battery or two for my smartphone is plenty. Really, cell phone batteries can last quite a long time with some education on how to limit default-mode power drains.

"Finally, if my phone is my GPS, and while using it I break it or the batteries die, I've not only lost my supplemental navigation device, I've also lost my ability to call for help."

I think that you're saying that by keeping the smartphone handy (to use as a GPS), you expose it to more risk, whereas if you just had a dumb phone you might wrap it in something protective and store it deep in your pack --- something along that line?

Acknowledged. Since my phone is an all-in-one device for me, I always keep it handy anyway, so for me at least there's no incremental risk exposure. And I've got a pretty good track record at carrying the phone with no problem. Leading a snowshoe trip last week was a real exception for me; I think in part it had to do with the distractions of "playing leader". On solo trips I've just not had a problem with pulling the phone out to take pictures or infrequently make a voice recording or whatever while on the trail.

A related point is that carrying a separate phone, GPS, and camera (and maybe more devices) adds to weight carried, as well as complexity. And I really like that my photos end up on my internet-capable device, ready to be uploaded directly. And that if I end up hiking somewhere unanticipated, I can download maps on the fly for my GPS. For example, that happened in 2011 when early season creek crossings were so fierce my hiking companion and I had to bail out of the Bob Marshall wilderness and do one long-assed walk-around. Unanticipated walk-arounds are typical on the PCT and CDT, more commonly due to fires. But there are a lot of potential situations where a person can be taking a long walk and end up going somewhere they hadn't planned on from home.

"Maybe for casual hikes, it is okay, but otherwise, I am very reluctant to adopt the "multi-use" philosophy in this particular area."

Each to their own, of course, but I hope I've been clear in laying out the logic "on the other side" of this, for why the smartphone multi-use approach can be a good one for more than casual hikes.

Jeff McWilliams
(jjmcwill) - M

Locale: Midwest
Re: Smartphone Issues on 03/02/2013 12:18:22 MST Print View

Good points, Brian.

My experience has been mainly with two smart phones. An older HTC smartphone used by a friend, and my Samsung Galaxy "S". The Galaxy S was released in September, 2010, and has long since been replaced in Samsung's smartphone lineup by newer models, specifically the Galaxy Nexus and Galaxy Tab.

While hiking and geocaching in Michigan's Upper Peninsula in the winter of last year, my Lowrance Endura GPS had no issues maintaining a lock in the Tahquamenon Falls area, while my friend's HTC smartphone completely lost the ability to determine its GPS location.

In another recent incident, I tried using my Galaxy "S" with "MapMyRide" to record a mountain bike ride I did here in Southeast Michigan. On a 6 mile loop, the phone successfully logged about 1.5 miles of the route, and lost the rest. It was stored in the upper pocket of my day pack during the entire ride. On that same trail, I've never had a problem using a Garmin Forerunner 305 to record the entire route.

I also read articles like this one, of a hiker in New York's Adirondack High Peaks, who needed rescuing because he was trying to use his phone to navigate, and his batteries failed.
http://www.adirondackdailyenterprise.com/page/content.detail/id/533049.html

Granted - these are anecdotal. I agree that newer phones may have better GPS receiver chipsets with improved sensitivity. I also agree that a phone with GPS capability and downloaded maps is better than nothing. However, I still trust a GPS more, because of experiences like these and after reading articles like the one above.

I also never go out into unfamiliar territory without a printed map and a compass, because truthfully, I don't trust my GPS receiver 100% either. On the other hand, I've been in cases where I was socked in by fog, and I liked the peace of mind knowing I could pull up my location on my GPS if my map & compass nav skills had failed me.