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gps recommendations

PostPosted: Thu Aug 24, 2017 1:41 pm
by HalfTamed
Hello folks.

So I know that there are mixed views around here about using/not using GPS devices. I personally have never used one but I figure that when I do get to hiking the skyline trail, I should have one of these. I think I need two functions :

1) Ability to send a SOS message (a feature I hope not to have to use)
2) Load maps/trails and Spot check where I am

Any recommendations on a reliable device?

I have an android smartphone with a gps module so I think using that is also an option though I would err on the side of caution and get a dedicated gps handset.


Re: gps recommendations

PostPosted: Thu Aug 24, 2017 2:41 pm
by Ed
I carry a SPOT on Skyline, but you can make a cell phone call from most places. I suspect the upper end is an exception, but I've never tried to make a cell phone call above Flat Rock.

If you scout the trail up to the intersection of the Desert Museum and Ramon Road trails, you are unlikely to need a GPS. Unless there is a lot of snow on the upper trail, but no first-timer should hike the trail when there is. On weekends from late October to when the snow comes, there are plenty of other people on the trail. First-timers can be uncertain or confused in places, but it is not normally a big deal, simply a minor waste of time and energy, and I'm not sure a GPS would help that much. For example, the trail may temporarily diverge, but it doesn't matter much which way you go. If you see a barrier on one fork, Doreen does not want you to go that way. I'm not discouraging you from taking a GPS with a tracklog, but I don't view one as being essential for Skyline, I think they are more for cross-country and snow.

The main thing is being able to do 8,000' of elevation gain, plus an early start, sufficient water and suitable clothing for the weather.

Re: gps recommendations

PostPosted: Thu Aug 24, 2017 3:09 pm
by Wildhorse
I agree with Ed's assessment of Skyline.

For other uses, I have enjoyed using a basic garmin that shows coordinates but no maps as much as the much more expensive ones that have maps, even though the latter is what I have now. To me, the main reason to use gps is to help find places that are not on trails and to help find out I am when I am lost. The problem with gps is that it messes with my body's own navigational system and detracts from enjoyment if used too much instead of my body's own system.

I am glad I have a gps, but I have learned to keep it caged most of the time.

Re: gps recommendations

PostPosted: Fri Aug 25, 2017 11:06 am
by HalfTamed
Thanks guys. Since I do intend to scout the trail at least once, I think I will just rent a SPOT for this hike.

In the meantime, I am going to try out the phone based gps apps and get more familiar with them to make a better decision about what to buy later.

Re: gps recommendations

PostPosted: Sun Aug 27, 2017 3:00 pm
by GoPlayer
HalfTamed wrote:...In the meantime, I am going to try out the phone based gps apps and get more familiar with them to make a better decision about what to buy later.

I've been using Backcountry Navigator for a few years now. I mostly use it to record tracks only. It's not free, but I think it has a free limited version to try. It does work off-line, i.e. I always have my phone in airplane mode to limit power consumption.

Re: gps recommendations

PostPosted: Mon Aug 28, 2017 10:01 pm
by pdforeme
I found my GPS invaluable when hiking Skyline in the dark; that is having my GPS chirp when i was off track saved a ton of time and energy (especially down low exiting the Museum lot). I used a guy's track and input it.

While i used a dedicated Garmin, now the newer smartphones all have great GPS chips and far better displays than my Garmin (Just bring an extra battery). I prefer Pocket Earth (with its offline maps)

I assume most of skyline can get cell service....if so, you would not need a spot or plb. Others will know better if the voice coverage carries the whole way.

Re: gps recommendations

PostPosted: Tue Aug 29, 2017 8:58 am
by Ed
I agree, from the museum to the junction with the Ramon Road trail can be confusing in the dark. I hesitated to recommend a GPS tracklog, because I'm not sure a tracklog downloaded from the web would have every turn 'right'. You also can't rely on following other people's headlamps, as they can be first-timers who themselves wander off course.

Re: gps recommendations

PostPosted: Tue Aug 29, 2017 8:02 pm
by pdforeme
Someone uploaded on this site their GPS track (or GPX) least 5 years ago. I had to do some format work on it, but it was otherwise perfect. Sad to say i do not recall where i saved that file.

but if you know how to used "shared maps" on i think you can get equiv ones ... b&a=shared

(sorry failing on the hyperlink)

Re: gps recommendations

PostPosted: Wed Aug 30, 2017 8:33 am
by Ed
pdforeme wrote:...having my GPS chirp when i was off track...

That seems like a great feature. I would be more enthusiastic about GPS if I had it, since it allows you to navigate by normal methods and only look at your GPS when you need it. Is it a feature of Pocket Earth? It does not seem that common. There is some discussion on the web of some Garmin units having had it, but it seems to have disappeared from newer versions.

Re: gps recommendations

PostPosted: Wed Aug 30, 2017 10:44 pm
by pdforeme
My Garmin that chirps is an eTrex HCX; likely 10 years old. I love it for that feature......good anywhere there is a known route....but not obvious trail (so like desert, snowshoeing, etc)

I will have to look deep into my Pocket Earth (they have a lot of features buried). My hunch is "no"....I've never desired using it because any GPS on the phone really drains the battery, and adding the chirp and more constant signal checking surely reduces battery even more.
....but the offline map quality is outstanding....basically maps which espec outside of USA are the best available