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Garmin for the semi-luddite
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Mike Gervais
Garmin for the semi-luddite EDIT: ordered the etrex 20 on 11/19/2013 22:20:06 MST Print View

Hi All
My first post here after ponying up the $ for a membership yesterday. I am selling off gear from a previous pastime and using the $ to gear up for backpacking/snowshoeing etc. Many of my excursions will be alone so I'd like to buy a GPS though I will only carry it on longer treks in unfamiliar country.

Budget is $400, but I am able to purchase a single new Garmin gps unit of my choosing at 50% of retail. That should leave enough to purchase some maps if needed.

My main goal for this device will be to regain my bearings if I become lost. I am willing to upload appropriate maps etc but won't use it to upload my trips online for purposes of gauging performance, social media etc.

I just want something to 'unlose' myself in unfamiliar ground.

Having said that, I usually buy upper end of whatever I'm looking at because I love nice gear. I want to buy a model that won't be obsolete in 2 years. I'd like good battery life because I'm not going to use any of the trailside charger gizmos. Ideally I'll leave it off for the entire duration of my trek so maybe battery life isn't much of an issue.

If it had a compass and altimeter that wouldn't be a horrible thing. Maybe even a camera as I don't have a smartphone.

Thanks for reading!

Salt Lake City

Edited by MikeG on 11/29/2013 22:19:17 MST.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Garmin for the semi-luddite on 11/19/2013 22:47:08 MST Print View

Install Gaia on your smartphone for $20, download the trip du jour and turn it off. Save $380 :)

DOH! Missed that last line!

With my faux pas in mind, things that I would look for are
legibility, ease of scrolling and battery life. Sorry I missed that.

Edited by dwambaugh on 11/19/2013 22:58:33 MST.

Mike Gervais
No smart phone on 11/19/2013 22:53:17 MST Print View

Thanks but I use my employer-issued blackberry for now so no smart phone.

Ian B.

Locale: PNW
eTrex would be my vote on 11/19/2013 22:57:45 MST Print View

You can spend the money if you want but it's not necessary. I recently purchased the Garmin Geko (discontinued) off of Gear Swap for $35. It does everything I need it to do, it's super lightweight, and I appreciate that it uses AAA batteries which are compatible with my headlamp.

If you need maps then you'll want to look at something like the eTrex. Their current top of the line in the eTrex line is the 30. It has the barometric altimeter and other bells and whistles. Off of the top of my head, it has GLONASS and WAAS.

The level of accuracy I get with just GPS is fine for me so GLONASS isn't something I necessarily need but YMMV.

I think the improved accuracy you get with WAAS isn't worth the extra processing power and loss of battery life so even if I had it, I'd turn it off.

You can get the eTrex Vista for a song which doesn't have GLONASS but has WAAS. I like to give him crap but Max Dilthey is an OK dude and he had one for sale a while back. I almost jumped on it but decided that a second GPS was a little frivolous. You could PM him and see if it's still for sale. I believe his has mapping capabilities. If he has already sold it, you can find one online for a fair price.

Here's the link to his profile if you're interested.

I promise I don't work on Gear Swap commission!

I believe the Garmin has a GPS or two that have cameras but I don't have any experience with them.

Edited by IDBLOOM on 11/19/2013 23:36:54 MST.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Garmin for the semi-luddite on 11/19/2013 23:14:10 MST Print View

now-a-days you probably don't need to buy maps

I've used which are very good, but maybe they're just Northwest is another

there are new ones becoming available

hwc 1954
Garmin Montana on 11/19/2013 23:17:10 MST Print View

Garmin Montana has GPS, downloadable 24K topo maps, and a model (the 650) with a built-in camera. Compass and elevation built in. Can link to optional heart rate monitors and temperature sensors. Runs on a rechargeable lithium ion battery or AA batteries -- very long battery life. It can also be used for car or motorcycle on-road navigation.

For backcountry use, you can usually download a GPS track from popular hiking routes and then see your progress along that track. That will tell you quickly if you have lost the trail.

Downside is that it's fairly big and heavy. The Oregon is a somewhat smaller model.

Mike Gervais
remember I can get one each Garmin and/or Delorme at 50% discount on 11/19/2013 23:24:19 MST Print View

Thanks for the replies thus far. I can also get 50% off the Delorme SE unit. That would let my wife track me but doesn't appear it would fix the "want to become unlost" requirement.

Background, I'm 50 YO and just 10 months ago I was still proclaiming that the best camping was to be done in a hotel room.

A season of mad hiking to lose some weight has lead to a desire to become a backpacker.
But I'm no Jim Bridger. Having a device to become unlost sounds appealing. Maybe I should just take the $$ and pony up for a smart phone.

Jeremy and Angela
(requiem) - F

Locale: Northern California
Re: No smart phone on 11/19/2013 23:25:40 MST Print View

Is it a recent-model Blackberry? I understand that those are able to run Android apps (number of hoops required may vary).

My thoughts: The Garmin 62s and eTrex 30 models include compass and barometric altimeter, and have plenty of space for adding maps. The Etrex 30 weighs less (5oz vs. 9.2oz) and has slightly better battery life (25 vs 20 hours). I have heard the 62 series is an older line and may be due for a refresh. If I was purchasing one for my own use, it would likely be one of those two models.

For you, especially if you have a paper map, all you really need is anything that can give you coordinates that you can translate to the map. In terms of obsolescence I doubt there will be much in the way of groundbreaking feature changes.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: No smart phone on 11/19/2013 23:45:15 MST Print View

"For you, especially if you have a paper map, all you really need is anything that can give you coordinates that you can translate to the map."

Yes, as Ian B. reported, a Garmin Geko will do that on very little weight.

If you are a civilian in North America, then I doubt that you will get much good out of Glonass, and you won't get much good out of WAAS unless you are an airliner.


Mike W
(skopeo) - F

Locale: British Columbia
Garmin for the semi-luddite on 11/20/2013 01:14:56 MST Print View

I agree that Garmin is the way to go if you want mapping on your GPS.

Most important thing to look for in a Garmin is that the receiver is a "High Sensitivity Receiver" (that leaves out the Geko... it's old technology and won't take maps anyway).

I'd also recommend replaceable batteries and don't buy a touch screen (they drain batteries and are crappy in cold weather)

So if you go for a Garmin High Sensitivity receiver with mapping capabilities, changeable batteries and no touch screen, then you will want to buy either a GPS62 or an Etrex 30. The GPS62 has a smallish screen and is really heavy and the Etrex has a small screen and is light by comparison. The Etrex has the best battery life.

My suggestion would be to buy an inReach SE and learn how to transfer the coordinates to a hard copy map to find your location. You are better off with a hard copy map anyway (and should carry one even if you have a GPS... sermon over...). The inReach coordinates should be good enough to get you "unlost", and can also get you rescued if don't manage to find your way back, or at least help them locate your sorry carcass if you fall into a ravine. One thing I really like about the inReach is that I can ask my contacts for weather updates while on the go... nice to be able to short-cut out if the weather is going to turn sour... and also lets me arrange a new pickup spot if I do bail early.

Edited by skopeo on 11/20/2013 23:48:59 MST.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Garmin for the semi-luddite on 11/20/2013 01:35:46 MST Print View

"My suggestion would be to buy an inReach SE and learn how to transfer the coordinates to a hard copy map to find your location."

Mike, if he is using a printed map, then he doesn't need mapping capability in a GPS receiver. It is the color mapping database display that eats so much battery power.

If all he needs is to transfer map grid coordinates to a paper map, then all he needs is a simple GPS receiver.

Delorme Inreach SE does not display its own GPS coordinates. It will transmit them out, but it won't show the user. One of its sister products will transfer those to a smart phone display, but that's not what he wanted, either.


Rex Sanders
(Rex) - M

Locale: Central California Coast
DeLorme inReach SE can show your coordinates on 11/20/2013 08:56:40 MST Print View

Yes, the DeLorme inReach SE can show your coordinates, but it takes a couple of steps.

You look under "History", and select the most recent point. You will get your Latitude and Longitude to 6 decimal points - <strike>10 cm (4 in)</strike> about 1 meter (3 feet) precision or better :-)

If you have tracking turned on, the most recent point will be "old", though with 10-minute tracking (e.g. Recreation Plan with unlimited tracking), on average 5 minutes old, pretty close for hikers.

If you need closer, send a message and stay put, wait for the message to go through, select History, and select that point.

-- Rex

[Edit to correct YAOOME - yet another order of magnitude error]

Edited by Rex on 11/24/2013 09:36:59 MST.

Mike Gervais
Etrex30 on 11/20/2013 09:31:02 MST Print View

Thanks for the replies. Though the Oregon series is within reach $ wise, I want to avoid my usual tendency to be sucked into the allure of feature creep.

I think the Etrex 30 will do what I want and leave $$ left over for other much needed gear so at this point.
Anyone strongly disagree with this logic?

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: DeLorme inReach SE can show your coordinates on 11/20/2013 09:34:48 MST Print View

So, you have to send a tracking point in order to use it for GPS position? That sounds like the cash meter will be running.


James Couch

Locale: Cascade Mountains
Etrex 30 on 11/20/2013 09:38:25 MST Print View

The Etrex 30 does everything the Oregon does, is lighter, and has better battery life. All you really loose is the touch screen. If you don't mind a little heavier unit and want a unit with a better antenna REI (I work for REI) has the Garmin 62s on sale for 199.99 through the 24th.

Jim Couch

Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Re: Etrex30 on 11/20/2013 09:46:05 MST Print View

Another nice feacture of the 30 is that it's wireless so you don't have to worry about the cables.

I can't speak for the newer Garmins but Caltopo is compatible with my Geko. I haven't used basecamp but I personally didn't want to get sucked in to buying a subscription to their maps. Unfortunately NatGeo went that route as well.

For uploading/downloading waypoints and tracks, I use Caltopo which is free. I have no experience with your future etrex but I can only assume that it would work with Caltopo as well.

Edited by IDBLOOM on 11/20/2013 09:47:40 MST.

Billy Ray
(rosyfinch) - M

Locale: the mountains
Re: Etrex30 on 11/20/2013 09:58:42 MST Print View


I have the eTrex 30. I chose it because it is the lightest and has the longest battery life of the mapping Garmin GPS line. Really, my only complaint is that it takes so loooooooooong for the screen to re-draw when you pan to the next frame... I mean, maybe 10 seconds sometimes.

I also have the foreTrex 401. It straps onto your wrist, though you could remove the strap and put it in your pocket. Lighter and smaller than the eTrex 30. It does not have mapping, but in some ways I prefer the simplicity of just using coordinates to find my location on a paper map. Seeing where your are on the eTrex 30 map does not tell you a whole lot as the map on the screen is so small and by the time I have panned to see the surrounding area I have forgotten much of the general topography. There really is no substitute for the large view of a paper map when you need it.

On the other hand, there are times when traveling to new areas that paper maps are not available and the eTrex 30 map is much better than no map. And... I know it sounds strange, but in this scenario where you don't have a paper map and you're in a new area, there is some logic to taking both of my GPS units: If one fails and I don't have a map, it's nice to have the second... even if only to use it to retrace my steps.

I got my first GPS a bit reluctantly like you. But now that I've used them I think they're very useful... and very cool technology. I also thought I would just turn them on when I really needed it and mostly leave it off. However, I also found that if I didn't turn it on and use it a fair amount, I was not proficient at using it...especially the more complex features that come with the mapping eTrex 30 ... practice makes perfect, as they say.

Bill D.

Joe S
Garmin MAP62s on 11/20/2013 11:36:21 MST Print View

Is on sale at REI for $199 right now. Seemed like a good price, and I had some credit, so I picked it up.

Rex Sanders
(Rex) - M

Locale: Central California Coast
Re: Re: DeLorme inReach SE can show your coordinates on 11/20/2013 15:03:27 MST Print View

So, you have to send a tracking point in order to use it for GPS position? That sounds like the cash meter will be running.

Depends on your plan and usage. Cheapest plan includes 10 msgs per month, the other two have unlimited tracking:

If you have unlimited tracking, turn on 10-minute tracking. If you want your position, sit still for a few minutes.

-- Rex

Mike W
(skopeo) - F

Locale: British Columbia
DeLorme inReach SE can show your coordinates on 11/20/2013 18:01:41 MST Print View

I believe just turning tracking off and back on again will initiate a new track point at your current location.

Delorme Canada sent me a survey to ask my opinion about the inReach and they offered a follow-up phone call as well. I talked to them about the "show my current location" deficiency and they told me it was mentioned by many users and has been passed back to the head office. Hopefully we'll see an upgrade soon that includes an icon for displaying the coordinates of your current location.