Do you have/use a handheld GPS for hiking etc?

thatsright

Diamond Member
May 1, 2001
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I'll be going to 4 corners area of the US to do some photography in two weeks. I have never been out there. I'm thinking it may be good idea to get a handheld GPS device to carry on the trails. At my local REI they have a Garmin Oregon 450 for $190 clearance price from the original $330. A few questions:

1. I have only used driving GPS devices (Tomtom or GPS in my phone). So buying one of these hand held ones is 'the real deal.' Would it be 'hard' to learn how to properly use the device in the next 10 days so it actually is helpful? I need to start with the basics of coordinates and things like that.

2. Can you only use/buy Garmin maps on these devices? Are there free compatible ones? I was not expecting maps to cost so much. For my trip I'm looking for just Colorado, Utah and New Mexico maps. When I looked on Garmin's site those are almost $100! Anything cheaper?

3. And perhaps most importantly, I'm not sure if this is worth it? I'll only use it off road for about 4 or 5 days for a few hours at a time during the trip. I'll be doing some night time photograpy where I may need to find my way back in the dark. And I will be climbing in the Sand Dunes Natioanl Monument (possibly at night as well). After I get back to Boston, I might only use it again 5-10 times in the next year.
 

WelshBloke

Lifer
Jan 12, 2005
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I use my phone, alpinequest and a bunch of OS maps on my sdcard.

Oh and an external battery pack. :)

Not sure what I'd gain by going for a dedicated device, maybe they are more sturdy?
 

OCGuy

Lifer
Jul 12, 2000
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Seriously? If you can't figure it out by looking up for a bright star, watching the sun rise/set, studying moss dispersion patterns along stone and tree stumps, or magnetizing a sewing needle...then pull your balls out of your vagina and wrestle a grizzly bear, winner gets the map.
 

OCGuy

Lifer
Jul 12, 2000
27,227
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I use my phone, alpinequest and a bunch of OS maps on my sdcard.

Oh and an external battery pack. :)

Not sure what I'd gain by going for a dedicated device, maybe they are more sturdy?


Can you even get lost in the UK? I mean lost, lost...not "had too much room-temperature beer and boiled beets", roaming around at midnight, lost.
 

MagnusTheBrewer

IN MEMORIAM
Jun 19, 2004
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U.S. Forest Service topology maps are great and pretty cheap. A decent compass should be part of any hiking load out. GPS is fine but, relying on them is not. They've gotten better but are still prone to malfunction due to being dropped and exposure to elements. Trying to move around let alone travel any distance at night, unless it is an emergency, is a recipe for disaster.
 

WelshBloke

Lifer
Jan 12, 2005
30,423
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Can you even get lost in the UK? I mean lost, lost...not "had too much room-temperature beer and boiled beets", roaming around at midnight, lost.

I wouldnt recommend wandering around on the Brecon Beacons in winter without having a good idea of where you were going.

Also its nice to have back up when youve had too much good ale rather than that watered down piss that some countries call beer.:whiste:
 

OCGuy

Lifer
Jul 12, 2000
27,227
36
91
I
Also its nice to have back up when youve had too much good ale rather than that watered down piss that some countries call beer.:whiste:

I feel bad for you if the only thing you know about US beer is what you heard 15 years ago :/
 

WelshBloke

Lifer
Jan 12, 2005
30,423
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I feel bad for you if the only thing you know about US beer is what you heard 15 years ago :/

Did I mention US beer in my post? Obviously you see some link between the phrase "watered down piss" and US beer though. :p
 

IronWing

No Lifer
Jul 20, 2001
68,980
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Anyone have any other on topic advice for the GPS question?
I use a handheld GPS at least weekly (why someone would need one in the car is beyond me, the road is right there).

I haven't used the Oregon beyond playing with it as I don't care for touch screens. I use the Garmin Map76Csx as my primary unit.

Answers: 1) You can learn to use a handheld GPS in 10 days or less. If you have a Tomtom you at least have the basics of GPS down. One thing about handhelds is that they are really good at telling you why you are and where you've been. They are a bit weak on telling you where you are going (routing). Therefore, play around with the software and learn to use the unit with Google Earth to export polylines in Google Earth to the unit as tracklogs.

DNRGPS (formerly DNR Garmin) is god's special gift to using a Garmin handheld. Learn to use it and love it.

2) Without a lot of effort, you are locked into using Garmin's maps with Garmin GPS units. The Garmin maps are pretty good. There are third party websites that provide some maps for the Garmin. The process of loading them using Garmin's Map Install program is cumbersome and if you do it wrong you can hose your base map.

3) For getting back to where you started, handheld GPS units are great. Learn to use the tracklog function. Once you figure out how to use tracklogs other possibilities open to the photographer. For example, you can georeference your photos using the GPS unit and any digital camera by matching the timestamps on the track points to image exif info. If this is something that interests you then a gps is probably worth it.

Depending on how far you plan to hike into the dunes a GPS may be a worthwhile investment.
 

thatsright

Diamond Member
May 1, 2001
3,004
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81
What phone do you have?

Alpinequest is cheap and it comes with USGS Topo maps of the area youre going to.

I have the Galaxy S2 for Tmobile. While hiking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, it was always stuck in a 'Searching Satellites' loop. But if I take my phone anyway near off road, forget it.
 

Hayabusa Rider

Admin Emeritus & Elite Member
Jan 26, 2000
50,879
4,265
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U.S. Forest Service topology maps are great and pretty cheap. A decent compass should be part of any hiking load out. GPS is fine but, relying on them is not. They've gotten better but are still prone to malfunction due to being dropped and exposure to elements. Trying to move around let alone travel any distance at night, unless it is an emergency, is a recipe for disaster.

Most people have no idea how to properly use a topographic map and compass. Mention quads and you'll get a blank stare. I think our generation is the last that had a chance of finding our way out of a paper bag.
 

olds

Elite Member
Mar 3, 2000
50,051
709
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I taught map reading in the Army but when I go into the woods, I back up my topo and compass with a Garmin GPSMAP 76.
I can't read the stars but I can the sun and the lichen.
 

Hayabusa Rider

Admin Emeritus & Elite Member
Jan 26, 2000
50,879
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I taught map reading in the Army but when I go into the woods, I back up my topo and compass with a Garmin GPSMAP 76.
I can't read the stars but I can the sun and the lichen.


I have a nice Delorme which I use in the field so I'm not against technology, but if you had to find your way around by other means you could. If I were to go on a hike where getting lost was a very real danger I wouldn't dream of not having a map and compass.
 

olds

Elite Member
Mar 3, 2000
50,051
709
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I have a nice Delorme which I use in the field so I'm not against technology, but if you had to find your way around by other means you could. If I were to go on a hike where getting lost was a very real danger I wouldn't dream of not having a map and compass.

When I was stationed in Germany, we were in the woods for an escape and evasion course. We had to navigate to a point about 10 miles to the east of us.
I had a brand new Lieutenant and he was "large and in charge". We had to set out just before sunset and navigate to the end point by a predetermined time without getting captured by "hostile forces".

We set out with the butterbar leading us. He's walking straight into the setting sun. I am confused and my troops are confused but I assume he has a plan. After about 20 minutes we are looking at eachother like "WTF?". I slide up next to him and discreetly mention that he's walking into the sun. He agrees that he is. I point out that the suns sets in the west and we need to be going east. He assures me that he knows what he is doing and I fall back. He eventually starts a wide circle and we get headed in the right direction. We never got captured but we blew the time deadline.
 

IronWing

No Lifer
Jul 20, 2001
68,980
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I have a nice Delorme which I use in the field so I'm not against technology, but if you had to find your way around by other means you could. If I were to go on a hike where getting lost was a very real danger I wouldn't dream of not having a map and compass.
While hiking in the desert it is surprisingly easy to lose your car. Before GPS, we used to just bring a compass and sight on a few landmarks from where we parked, noting the bearings. Then we would just go wander about as the mood struck us. Using those initial bearing lines we would easily find our way back even after several miles of hiking.
 

IronWing

No Lifer
Jul 20, 2001
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IF you can get a topo map and have a compass, you don't need GPS...
For the OP's intended use, for Great Dunes in particular, at night, I recommend a GPS. Topo maps don't help when the topography was last mapped in 1967 and the dunes move.
 

MagnusTheBrewer

IN MEMORIAM
Jun 19, 2004
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For the OP's intended use, for Great Dunes in particular, at night, I recommend a GPS. Topo maps don't help when the topography was last mapped in 1967 and the dunes move.

While there are some dunes, most is scrub pine, arroyos and, high desert with cactus, scorpions and, rattlers. Going anywhere at night, on foot, in the desert is a fools errand exacerbated by an inexperienced hiker. Technology won't fix stupid.