GPS Help


I have just retired from my job, and as one of my retirement gifts I was presented with a gift certificate to one of our local kayak stores. I am therefore considering buying a GPS but know very little about them.

My main use for a GPS would probably be to help determine positions on charts, etc. I may also use it for hiking. As yet I have not done a lot of hiking, but given my new lifestyle and the opportunities it presents, hiking may be something I take up.

I want something that is going to be functional and will last, and given my lack of knowledge about GPS, would also like it to be fairly simple to use. I suppose a colour screen would also be nice, but would not be a necessity. And obviously I would want it to be as waterproof as possible.

Don’t know if this is an issue, but I use a MacIntosh computer. Also don’t know what kind of batteries a GPS takes, but given I already have a charger for AA or AAA batteries for my camera, it would be a plus if it took either of those batteries.

I have done some reading on GPS, and from that I am assuming I will also need to purchase maps to load onto the GPS. Can anyone shed any more light on this? Note that I live in Vancouver, Canada.

And finally, the gift certificate was for $200. I can certainly add to that amount if necessary. I don’t want to break the bank, but as I said above, I do want a unit that is going to be reliable and easy to use.

I will go to my local kayak store and have a look, but thought it might be better to arrive armed with at least some basic knowledge.

Thanks for any help you might be able to offer.

I have a Garmin 60csx. It is waterproof and takes rechargeable AA batteries. It has a color screen. It has a rubberized grip that makes it easy to hold when your hands are wet out on the water. It does not float, however. I like this unit a lot.

With the Garmin handheld devices you have to purchase the maps separately and load them up via your computer, or sometimes you can buy the maps pre-loaded on a memory card (you will need a memory card for your unit either way). If you go to Garmin’s website you can search for the map package you need - there are several options for Canada. One tip, you can buy the maps cheaper elsewhere on the Internet (Amazon).

I do not know off the top of my head about Mac compatibility.

You can get the Magellan Triton 400
with a free Canada Topo region download right now for $200. An excellent unit that gives the Garmins a run for their money.

Go Garmin
I’ve been using Garmin GPS’s for a number of years and uses and find them highly reliable and functionally intuitive (I have an eTrex, GPS76, and GPSmap 76cs). I’ve used my Garmin GPS76 (color screen version) for sea kayak trips along the Baja coast, for a light plane trip, hand held in hot temps in the desert of Sonora locating previously marked bird survey locations, floating the Colorado in Utah, and simply in my car on road trips. It uses AA batteries as well. Good luck with your search and have a great time using what ever GPS you buy!

Check out these links:

GPS and Mac
I’d endorse the Garmin 60C or CS recommendation. It’s widely popular and has more features then you’ll probably ever use.

I use a Mac also and have found that Garmin is finally starting to write software for Macs: Download Road Trip for Mac from their website. You can load maps into this program and plan your trip.

If you want to acquaint yourself with GPS technology before using it on a trip, try geocaching: check out the Groundspeak website for caches near your home and try using your GPSr to locate them. The Groundspeak discussion boards are a wealth of information about GPS use, just as these boards are about paddling issues (and with same degree of non-unanimity on many questions!)

Finally, if you don’t want to break the bank, consider downloading the Ibycus topo map set (Mac and PC formats)from the Ibycus website for free. Way cheaper than buying the Garmin set of topos for Canada, and the coverage is just as good.

Garmin 76 series
Garmin user interface is the most intuitive. The 76 series has the easiest buttons (of the Garmins) - especially for gloved hands. The color screen is easier to read. The newest versions accept maps pre-loaded on memory cards. The older versions (76c) have plenty of memory without the card slot. They are waterproof and they float.

I’ve been using a 76c on almost a daily basis in the toughest conditions for a few years.

Garming legend etrex or vista HCx

– Last Updated: Jun-23-09 1:47 PM EST –

For $200 I believe your best value is the Garmin Legend etrex or vista HCx. This particular GPS has removable micro sd card where you can upload your maps with all the information (waypoints, symbols, etc). Color screw, water proof (this does not mean it floats) cost is $189 (@ newegg, US) right now and uses AA batteries. Keep in mind you will need to purchase additional maps such TOPO Canada maps or navigation maps (those are not given). If you can effort a bit more, the Garming 60C series is a step up and has a few additional features. If you have not use a GPS before the learning curve can be steep so be patient and keep on it.
I do extensive canoe trips on lakes and rivers; this is how I use my GPS. First, using Mapsource and my topo map package on my PC, I outline my trip (a yellow road to follow), add the locations of the camp sites, rapids, mileage and any other info that I judge nice to have. Next, I down load all the info and selected maps into my GPS unit and I am now good to go. My GPS is mounted on my thwart and is on all the time while I am traveling and tracks where I am going. When I get back home I download the info of trip on my PC and now have lots of data to look and analyses (average speed, length of portage, duration of the portage new camp site locations, etc). One last thing, I always have real maps with me just in case.

Beware the cost of data…
Delorme: 29.95 per year - unlimited data (charts, topo, color imagery/photo, older b/w imagery/photo, Topo8 data, Sat10 imagery.

However, the PN-40 unit is only tested to 167 degrees F. Could lock up in a dry bag on a hot, cloudless summer day on the water.

I am trying to get Bill Gates to make a solar powered A/C dry bag for GPS units.

My only problem with the other brands is the overpriced data. I can’t afford the data.

Bill G.

Mt. Pleasant, SC

Good points
I like to download the tracks back to my PC after my trip. Garmin’s MapSource app lets you open the track in Google Earth. From there you can save a KML file and upload it to Google Maps and share the link with your friends.

Also, the point about bringing (and knowing how to use) real maps & compass bears repeating. A GPS is not a substitute.

If the shop your gift certificate is from will price match, Bass Pro Shops has the Garmin E-Tres Venture HC on sale for $130 (untill the 29th). This unit is usually $180. It has a color screan and a built in base map, and you can purchase a TOPO map from Garmin, or find a fried who has a Garmin, and ask to barrow thier topo map CD, or see if they will go 50/50 on it with you.

value and maps

– Last Updated: Jun-24-09 11:04 AM EST –

The Lowrance iFinder color has been the best value for me.. the nautical charts for the entire North America were only $70 as opposed to unlock codes for each 100 mile area with Garmin Blue charts.

The Gamin is more intuitive interface and more compatable with computer tracking software.

I got my iFinder, topo maps, nautical chats, card reader, and car adapter for less than $200.

I have it set up to display trip distance, speed, average speed, etc.

I plan to stick with Lowrance.

Edit: Lowrance has a new handheld line called Endura out in July. Touch screen, waterproof, starting at $220.. out with the old in with the new..

Take a long look…
at Delorme. Software is included that many others charge extra for. Ariel photos may overlay topo maps.

Very good customer support from my experience.

I’m sure Garmin and Lowrance offer very good product, but you may find to enter all the info you want into it, you may pay much more.

I’d personally not buy another Magellan. Poor customer support when things go wrong.