GPS

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Postby Hikin_Jim » Tue Nov 19, 2013 11:27 am

climbant wrote:Jim, I sent you an email with some pics from my phone. I really like getting my maps from mytopo because I can choose to only have a UTM grid on it and selecting the area you need no matter what quad its in is awesome. I rechecked all my USGS quads (not mytopo prints) and they all indeed have UTM grids.
I just checked my email, and sure enough, you've got UTM grids. That's fascinating. Most of the local maps I use I download for free from http://store.usgs.gov. They're high resolution, but they don't have UTM grids.

I agree the mytopo maps are nice for exactly the reasons you cite: They can be selected across quad lines and they can hae the UTM grid (I think without the less useful section grids). They also can be ordered on a more durable, more water proof paper.

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Postby Hikin_Jim » Thu Nov 21, 2013 10:17 am

At this point, I think I'm leaning away from a smart phone+GPS app+spare batteries mainly because I don't want a touch screen.

Still thinking about the whole issue. Not something I want to rush into since I'll not replace the unit for at least 5 (or more) years.

I saw a (potentially) Helpful GPS Thread for those who may be interested in such things. The eTrex 30 had a pretty strong recommendation.

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Postby drndr » Thu Nov 21, 2013 5:10 pm

If looking to save money, why wouldn't one go for the e trex 20. The side to side comparisons aren't that different, especially if you'l have a map with you anyways. I've also been looking and have been enjoying your inquiries. And I too have REI gift cards! :D
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Postby OtherHand » Thu Nov 21, 2013 6:30 pm

drndr wrote:If looking to save money, why wouldn't one go for the e trex 20. The side to side comparisons aren't that different, especially if you'l have a map with you anyways. I've also been looking and have been enjoying your inquiries. And I too have REI gift cards! :D


In retrospect, I think I have to agree with this, especially considering the price difference between the two units. I didn't realize it was that much. If one's on a budget, then the 20 is probably the one to go for. The only two appreciable differences is that the 30 has a magnetic compass and a barometer.

The benefit of a magnetic compass is that you can look at your GPS while standing still and it will show you the direction you are currently facing. If you don't have a magnetic compass then you don't get the direction until you actually start moving. I have two older Etrex units, one with a magnetic compass and one without, and it's while nice to have the compass it's not that big a deal. But Amazon shows an $84 price difference between the 20 and 30 and I'm not sure the compass is worth that.

The barometer just improves the vertical accuracy of the unit. But you're not as interested in that usually as opposed to the horizontal position. Again, nice to have but maybe not for that price difference.

The only other difference that shows on a comparison at the Garmin web site is that Etrex 30 units can exchange info with other units wirelessly. It sounds sort of bluetoothish and pretty much a gimmick. Do not want.

All the other specs between the two units, screen, weight, battery life, etc, are the same. So the 20 is probably a pretty good value.
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Postby Hikin_Jim » Fri Nov 22, 2013 10:19 am

OtherHand wrote:The only other difference that shows on a comparison at the Garmin web site is that Etrex 30 units can exchange info with other units wirelessly. It sounds sort of bluetoothish and pretty much a gimmick. Do not want.
Maybe it would be useful to exchange notes or something in the field. Possibly useful for SAR guys? I don't see myself exchanging tracks while out in the backcountry.

Good analysis and a good tip. The 20 is a good deal cheaper.

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Postby zippetydude » Fri Nov 22, 2013 1:44 pm

What do you think of the Dakota 20 or possibly the Oregon 450? Both are about the same price as the etrex 20. I know you had mentioned an aversion to a touch screen - how come? Just hard to see?

BTW I came across some articles about Garmin Base Camp. Here's a snippet:

Garmin BaseCamp – a utility that allows users to plan and manage trips, routes, tracks, and waypoints and transfer them between the computer and applicable Garmin outdoor handheld device. BaseCamp brings a whole new set of features to hikers, hunters, geocachers, and anyone else who wants to maximize their experience with their Garmin GPS,” said Dan Bartel, Garmin’s vice president of worldwide sales. “This new utility lets users view, organize, and transfer their data more quickly and efficiently – allowing them to make the most of their time exploring the great outdoors.”

BaseCamp lets users view both 24K and 100K topo maps in 2D or 3D renderings. Users no longer are confined with a “north up” map – it can be rotated to any orientation. Another convenient window depicts the elevation profile currently displayed. And with Track Draw, users can trace a fluid track and get an immediate elevation profile to determine the difficulty of their hike. Because a picture is worth a thousand words, BaseCamp supports geotagging of user-generated photos, to know exactly what the scenery is like at any given location – simply click on a map icon to view an enlarged version of a photo. Users can even view their data in Google Earth.


That sounds like it could be both useful and fun. When I navigate xc using a map it's always very approximate because I am working off of large features of the topography. Seems like a cool tool to be able to draw out your route on your computer at home and then take it out in the field and see where that might lead, especially when trying to determine reasonably functional routes up to places like my Onion quest.

Incidentally, 2 questions for you techie people. Off hand, do you know if Base Camp is a separate program to be purchased or just a feature of certain models, and how on earth can I tell online if a given GPS has trackback? I've read the product descriptions and I don't see it listed even on fancy models.

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Postby OtherHand » Fri Nov 22, 2013 6:12 pm

The touch screen aversion is primarily due to clumsiness of operations with mittens, and cold weather operation in general. It's also another thing to go wrong and if you have a GPS you will occasionally drop it and scratching or smacking touch screens does not make them happy. And with the non-touchscreen versions you eventually get familiar enough with the buttons to work them without even having to look at the screen. But there are some (deranged) people who really love touch screens, so some of it may be personal preference.

Garmin Basecamp and Mapsource are both pieces of free software used to transfer maps, tracks, waypoints and other data between computers and Garmin GPS units. They both give the user rudimentary drawing, measurement and analysis tools. These two programs are primarily the interface between your PC and your GPS. They essentially both serve the same function with Basecamp being a newer iteration and intended to replace Mapsource. I've used both and can comment a bit on them.

Mapsource is Garmin's original interface software and it looks like something Microsoftish from the 1990s. It's always been my impression that Garmin was an excellent hardware company but pretty clueless when it comes to software, and Mapsource contributed greatly to that perception.

Basecamp is much newer and supposedly "better". But it is, after all, Garmin, so execution of many things is unexpected and wacky. It does look prettier than Mapsource. That said, after trying Basecamp I went back to Mapsource as my main Garmin software as it's much simpler and doesn't annoy me as much. It allows me to do what I need to with minimum of drama. If I want to do more sophisticated stuff, I can bring my GPS data into Google Earth or a very capable paid GPS program called GPS Expert.

As mentioned both Basecamp and Mapsource are free and can be found on the Internet for downloading. Basecamp also is included on DVDs when you buy Garmin topo maps (I don't think they still include Mapsource).

Since I'm spouting on GPS software, one other program of note is called GPSBabel. It's freeware/shareware and allows users to change GPS data into most any format imaginable. This allows you to do stuff in Google Earth, convert it to a Garmin format then load it on to your GPS. (Google Earth can open Garmin files directly).

Because Garmin has annoyed many people with their closed source, proprietary maps, there has been a lot of work done on open source maps for Garmins. A major repository for these efforts is GPSFileDepot. They do have free topo maps of California there as well as tutorials for putting them on your Garmin. It's a bit more work than using Garmin's maps, so me being lazy, I just go with Garmin's. But if you really wanted decent, budget (as in "free") maps, it's a great source. I do recall one tutorial on how to load Garmin's topo maps onto a Garmin Nuvi, (one of their automobile GPS units), which is great for 4WD use as Nuvis have very big screens.

Oh yeah, trackback. Unless there's a very low end model I don't know about, I think they all have some sort of trackback function. At its simplest, the GPS will leave a trace on the screen of your path up to that point so you can just turn around and follow it back. I've done that on a number of occasions when I know my path in has been on a trail and I'm looking to rejoin it on the way out.
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Postby zippetydude » Sat Nov 23, 2013 9:48 am

Wow! Thanks!

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Postby pdforeme » Sat Nov 23, 2013 6:04 pm

for what its worth; I bought a Garmin etrex HcX and its great. I have to echo prior post on how weak the software is...and at same time note how much I like the unit.

as example I loaded about 3,000 waypoints of Sklyine onto this and hking in dark it alerted me whenever I went off course.

I've used it on driving trips out of the US; it stinks for that.

But on hikes its wonderful. While the UI is a little odd...I like that its NOT touch sensitive (so I can use it with gloves on).

I find I use its altimeter more than anything in route finding (gsp with enough satelites visible). Other than that I use it more as a route recorder. But then recently I was on a trip i'd been on before, and found using my old route helped me navigate it properly (old track was without snow...and recently on snow I needed "help")
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Postby 63ChevyII » Sat Nov 23, 2013 6:58 pm

My principle uses for my GPS unit are tracking mileage and documenting my trips, for example:

Image

Image

I had previously used an android phone for this of thing. They forced us to switch to iPhones at work, so this was no longer an option. I picked up a refurbished Garmin Dakota 20 ($160). At first I was disappointed in it compared to my previous setup, but the longer I had the Garmin, the more I like it.
Over the last year, I've started using the Garmin simple route finding and have been increasingly happy with it. I'll use a previous hike's track or map something out (google maps/earth, GPS Babel, Garmin Basecamp, and/or Gmap4) print out a hardcopy and load the tracks into my GPS. It has been very helpful on my hikes up Skyline as well as a few other trips.

Garmin Basecamp is a useful/fun tool. I used it to create trail profiles in the image above and used it this summer when creating a route for our acclimation hike before Whitney.

PC Download: http://www8.garmin.com/support/download ... sp?id=4435

Mac Download: http://www8.garmin.com/support/download ... sp?id=4449
Last edited by 63ChevyII on Sat Nov 23, 2013 9:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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