Rechargeable GPS
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O D
(oyster_07) - MLife
Rechargeable GPS on 03/25/2013 00:50:07 MDT Print View

I am looking for a GPS that either has an internal rechargeable battery or can itself recharge suitable batteries. I do not need a mapping capability and something like a Garmin Foretrex 401 (that I currently have) would be ideal. Garmin used to make one (the Foretrex 201) but no longer do.

I'd be looking at carrying a solar charger for extended hikes and prefer this option over batteries (for weight, cost, and environmental reasons).

Any thoughts?

Hamish McHamish
(El_Canyon) - M

Locale: USA
- on 03/25/2013 07:59:29 MDT Print View

The new Garmin fenix is getting rave reviews for its functionality and GPS sensitivity. It has a built-in battery that is recharge-only. Can't beat the weight or form factor. Perfect if you don't need mapping/color.

It is expensive but for the features is reasonable compared to high end watches like the Suunto.

Ian B.
(IDBLOOM) - MLife

Locale: PNW
iPhone & Gaia GPS ap on 03/25/2013 08:30:31 MDT Print View

I'm not sure if you are looking for continuous use or just to plot an occasional coordinate.

I've only used the Gaia GPS ap on my iPhone for the past few months but so far it has been working with a high level of accuracy. I compared its accuracy this weekend against a Garmin GPSMAP 62 & a map; it was spot on. It works without cell phone reception.

I'm taking it out for a week to see how it holds up. My plan is to keep the phone in airplane mode until I need to plot a coordinate (which I'll do twice a day.)

As previously mentioned, the specs on the Fenix looks really promising. I have one of the forerunners which is great for training but not good for backpacking.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Locale: MaxTheCyclist.com
Solar? Don't know... on 03/25/2013 08:42:25 MDT Print View

I would really do your research on solar, if you haven't already. First off, finding a patch of sun in some areas of forest, like the northeast, can be a challenge. You're basically forced to spend a lot of time at shelters or summits for the sun hours, and even then, you can be in the shadow of a hill for 1/2 the day. So, ideally, you're going to spend the potentially best part of your hike sitting still.

Second, small solar chargers take an arduous amount of time to power an iPhone or a GPS. A larger, folding solar panel fixes this issue by providing enough power, but then, you're carrying a lot of weight- pounds of it.

We brought a Goal Zero Guide 10 charger on our bike tour. it didn't work at all while moving because of trees turning our iPhone on and off. Second, it was heavy- it weighed 13oz plus another few ounces for the charging cords and adapter. All told, that's a pound of extra weight for something we didn't use because of the inconvenience.

Solar makes some sense if you have a large storage battery that you can "top off" when you happen to be sitting still. That way, you can take one big day to charge up, and then use a panel to keep yourself there as long as possible when you're off the grid. This kind of system makes a lot of sense for bike tourists, who can internalize 2-3lbs of weight without trouble.

A solar panel alone, in the forest, is in my opinion optimistic at best and dead weight at worst.



Ultimately, as much as I am loathe to sacrifice a gadget, a map never loses it's battery.

Edited by mdilthey on 03/25/2013 08:43:06 MDT.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Solar? Don't know... on 03/25/2013 08:57:20 MDT Print View

I agree with everything Max said about solar use in a forest (or a canyon - my experience).

If you want to go cheap, use alkalines - Costco has a brick of 40 AAs at the lowest unit cost.

If you want to go light, use lithium batteries.

If you want to go solar, figure on having a base camp or hiking north in the desert or above tree line with the panel on the top back of your pack.

Ian B.
(IDBLOOM) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Recharging internal batteries on 03/25/2013 09:25:46 MDT Print View

I can't speak for the Solar as I've been skeptical for reasons mentioned by Max and Dave and haven't explored that option. I purchased a device from the airport to top off my iPhone/Pod when I'm traveling. It takes two AAs and will bring the phone from near empty to full. Can't remember the brand name but the weight can't be more than an oz or two before adding the batteries. It has adaptors for every Apple or USB configuration imaginable. I'm sure Best Buy carries something similar to it.

O D
(oyster_07) - MLife
Rechargeable GPS on 03/25/2013 09:36:57 MDT Print View

Fortunately, being in Australia (mostly), I am blessed with large portions of trips in the sun (did someone say 'skin cancer' awareness?), so the charge time is not a central concern.

I have looked at the PowerMonkey Explorer and Adventurer, but am yet to make a decision. As for the Garmin Fenex, it certainly is a sexy piece of kit.....

Pete Staehling
(staehpj1) - F
Re: Rechargeable GPS on 03/25/2013 09:43:58 MDT Print View

"internal rechargeable battery"

I would be careful with going that route. I am finding that all of my devices that use internal rechargeable batteries seem to have the batteries fail or at least have much reduced battery life after just a few years.

As a result I consider a replaceable battery a big plus. If you really want rechargeable, how about just using removable rechargeable batteries.

On the solar part... Unless used in an application where a big heavy panel is OK and the sun is pretty constant, solar chargers do not work out as well as I would like. At least that has been my experience.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Rechargeable GPS on 03/25/2013 09:59:37 MDT Print View

>"Fortunately, being in Australia (mostly)"

Ah, well then, go for the solar. But where I said "hike north", hike south with the sun at your back.

>"did someone say 'skin cancer' awareness?"

I had my sixth biopsied on Thursday and will have it carved off in 3 days. (I wasn't always in Alaska - I'm a Celt who grew up in a Mediterranean climate, but the arsenic in the Alaskan groundwater didn't help).

steven franchuk
(Surf) - M
Re: Rechargeable GPS on 03/25/2013 17:03:51 MDT Print View

Your Foretrex 401 uses AAA batteries. Buy 4 AAA rechargables. charge 2 and put 2 in the Foretrex. The other 2 go into a solar power charger. I did a quick google check and found 2 soar powered AAA / AA batttery rechargers. When the batteries in the Foretrex die swap them with the fully charged ones in the solar charger. No need to buy a new GPS.

I cannot advise you one which solar charger is best since I generally just carry spare lithium AAAs.

Edited by Surf on 03/25/2013 17:05:03 MDT.