GPS - Electronic Compass?

We are researching a new GPS unit and are mostly looking between the Magellan Meridian Gold and Platinum. We’ve had Magellan before and been pleased with how hardy they are as well as the MapSend products. And we are not looking at the Color - it doesn’t seem worth the extra cost and reduced battery life.

Question - the Platinum has two features above the Gold, a barometer and an electronic compass. I get the value of the barometer but am less clear about advantages of the electronic compass.

Could anyone advise on whether they have used a GPS unit with electronic compass and whether it seemed better? If so how?

Thanks, Celia

Do you like bells and whistles?
I think anybody here would say you should have a regular magnetic compass as a backup to your GPS, no matter what. If you do that, you’ve already got a good compass. A GPS with NO electronic compass still gives you “compass” readings as long as you are moving, or as long as you don’t turn once you have stopped moving. So I’d think you can get along without it, but then, when it comes to gear, I tend to gravitate toward the basic essentials. Other people really love the techo-wizardry of the best of the best. Therefore, it probably depends on what you like about such equipment, more than on what works “best”.

Check the specs on the compass
some need to be held close to level and still, not good for what I like to do.

Upside to barometer good watch on the weather, downside. perhaps cuts battery life by 30%.


Electronic compass
The electronic compass only works while the unit is turned on so it uses batteries and should not be relied on by itself. Meridians are good units. Between Gold, Platnium or color, the best deal may be what is on sale at the the time. I just got the Meridian Color traveler pack that includes direct route CD roms for the entire US. Came with an SD card, windshield mount and a couple of cables and paid $350 after a rebate from

Yes, it uses batteries if not plugged in the car, but I have NIMH’s that work well and recharge 1000 times. It is easier with color to pick out a river from a road if one is blue and the other black. Likewise, green is for park land and blue is water. Very intuitive and much better than shades of gray. Do not discount this unit, it is sweet.

I have
I have the Garmin GPSMap 76S. I keep the compass turned off when on the water. As noted above you need to keep it level, which is tricky in many conditions. When you can sit still and hold it level it gives decent readings. However, it really does eat up battery life, and I find a magnetic compass much more convenient. So, as I said, I usually just keep it off. You have to carry a magnetic compass as backup anyway, so might as well save your batteries.

Great place to buy it!

gpsonsale may carry what you want or get it for you. They frequently are 100 dollars or more less expensive and have been reliable for me. Here is the URL. By the way I am a fellow paddler in your waters I believe.

So far…
We have compasses mounted on our current expedition boats, and when paddling bigger water usually carry spare clip-ons from our older plastic boats. So we are usually well supplied in magnetic compasses.

I never noticed any inability to get a compass reading from our older SportTrac Pro, though it sounds like if I had been more alert I may have occassionally noticed some issues. I am guessing that in our use kayaking it is rare to hit either of the conditions where the magnetic one isn’t current. And we cross-check with charts anyway.

I appreciate the suggestions - will have to find out how fussy the electronic compass is about things like verticality (or not). One of the things that is nice about our current unit is that it’ll give you useful information while hanging off the deck rigging in a Seal Line bag without much regard to its angle.

On color - it seems to be like day hatches. Once there you don’t go back. Will consider the suggestion to reconsider it.

By the way, our (husband and) paddling venue is mixed. Live in upstate NY near the Hudson and Mohawk rivers and have a doable commute to Lake George and Lake Champlain for day trips. Then for three weeks (have pushed it out from two) we paddle in Muscongous Bay, mid-coastal Maine from a place we rent on the water. This last summer everything compass or navigation related got a lot of use. There weren’t more than a few days that we didn’t go out or come back home being chased by thick fog. But it’s Maine…


buy the gold…
…or better yet- one of the sport-track models. I think that the sport track, like the meridians, are waterproof and float.

The electronic compass doesnt work all that well, IMHO. I keep mine turned off, and use the satelite compas, which means that you have to be moving a bit, but it is much more accurate.

The barometer has often times shown clear when I’ve been in a driving rainstorm…

GPS map 76s huge map ability!
If you want huge ability to load maps for off Main, unit that floats and has the other goodies and a very fast processor, and long battery life check out the garmin gpsmap76s.

for about $100 extra you could get the map 76cs

yes I know you dont want color but once you get use to it you don’t want to return to the old black and white Tv.It is also waterproof and come

with 115mo memory card! So think about it!

Which is better in sun and foggy stuff
You have a good point. I hear they are easier to see in bright sunlight. What is your experience in both sun and foggy condtions?

check out gpsonsale, the prices right now are quite low and there is a 50 rebate going as well.

The non-“S” GPSMAP76
Is worth a look too. A good bit cheaper. No battery eating compass/barometer, everything else. Memory is less - but has been sufficient. Mine holds topos of most of Florida and many paddles worth of tracks with room to spare.