I never get online at work, but one of my co-workers is looking for a GPS as a Christmas present. I;m more of a “Map & Compas” kinda guy who will probably never own a GPS. But thought i might help my friend out by finding out a few opinions on what brands, features, etc to look for or stay away from. Thanks! WW

Go Basic

– Last Updated: Dec-04-10 7:08 PM EST –

Garmin e-Trex H

Have two of these units (keep a completely programmed back-up unit in the dry bag) - no problems whatsoever. Get the newer, "high sensitivy" model.

You could spend alot more; and some of the maps I've seen on "advanced" GPS units suck (i.e. very inaccurate for fine detail).

I remain a "map and compass" guy also; and a basic GPS unit can be uselful at times.


Garmin units rock
Basic Garmin GPS 60 user for many, many years.

Simple unit gives you amazing battery life.

Massive power consumption for color touch screen mapping.

-Use with “garmin connect” to really analyze the workouts.

See exactly what happened when you made that turn into the wind and kept/lost cadence, slacked off, bonked, stopped repeatedly destroying your lap time, etc.

I highly recommend “garmin connect” to dig into what really happened when you played outdoors - and why !

A GPS can do a LOT more than just time/distance.

Map and compass
I have a garmin sitting in the bottom of my pack. Never use it except to mark possible archaeology sites. GPS might tell you what your location is, but I just don’t think it tells anyone where they are. Encourage him to get a nice compass.

re: Which one

– Last Updated: Dec-04-10 8:59 PM EST –

the GPSmap 60CX or 60CSx are 2 rock solid GPS units. basic units, but the 60CSx has a built in compass. both will accept memory cards to load additional maps, which can be had for free, legally if you go to the correct sites. the garmin maps are wicked expensive, but like i said, there are free legal maps out there.

i use my for camping, hiking and geocaching, so i went and bought the new GPSmap 62s. it's basically a cross between the 60csx and the oregon series.

the oregon units are also nice, but are touchscreen, so it depends on if you prefer touchscreen or the push button of the 60/62 series.

if it were me and i wanted to get a basic unit, i would go low end garmin, they have very slow refresh rates, no ability to add maps or at least not many (i've had one) and are b&w.

the 60cx and 60csx should be under $200new right now and the oregon 450 (higher end oregon) has been $250 at REI recently.

like canoes (which i'm learning), you should be able to find a 60cx 0r 60csx (with compass) used for well under retail, as a lot of these units (like mine) are used for Geocaching and a lot of people are dumping them in favour of the paperless geocaching units like the 62series, which would not matter to use.

delorme also makes some nice units, and their map subscription appears to be a good deal ($30/yr for unlimited maps i believe), although i've never used delorme, only garmin.

gps units are great for marking your tracks, shows where you've been, marking landmarks and interesting spots to remember for future and the ones with marine capability and maps will even show water depths, channels, islands etc.


– Last Updated: Dec-04-10 10:36 PM EST –

I've had good luck with the Garmin 76 CSX.
Some things to look for is a GPS that you can down load waypoints in advance from computer to the GPS.
So for an example, I live here in the states but my last trip was in Canada. It was a big help to get Topo Canada, put it on the computer at home where I could zoom in and out to my hearts content, locate places I hoped to camp and passage ways that I could navigate, then transfer them over to the GPS.

I'm all about map and compass as others are. Each evening we could spread out the maps plot our compass bearings and head on out.. As the day went along we could reference maps and info we had put on the GPS before the trip when we were at home hundreds of miles away.
Under conditions we wouldn't be trying to spread out maps and compass on the decks of our boats, we could reference our location with the GPS while rafted up and be on our way. Then in the evening spread our maps out plot our bearings for the next day etc. etc.
For us it was still all about maps and bearings, the GPS was a different method of map work so we used all things..not just one or the other.
to add charts (for the ocean) it can get pricey.
Whatever your friend gets he will want to double check what maps come preloaded and what he/she might need to buy after the fact.
Some of the Garmin basic maps are incredibly lacking in detail.

Garmin -Map 76
We don’t leave home without them.

Jack L

I Second That

– Last Updated: Dec-05-10 6:35 AM EST –

Waterproof good. Good morning, Jack. The roads are too icy for biking this morning. Looking at putting the boat on the local lake for a few hours.

I’ve got the Garmin 76Cx too-
and it works great. It floats, is waterproof (although you need to rinse and dry the battery compartment), includes tide tables which are accurate where I live, and as mentioned above, you can get free downloads of maps off the net (legally). I’ve downloaded topo maps of Florida which are extremely accurate. Paid $175 about 3-4 months ago at Radio Shack.

I guess that won’t be making it
into the “things I’ve left home without” thread, then, will it?

re: gpsmap 76
the 76 and new 78 models are more suited to water/marine use, the 60 and 62 series more for trails.

like others have said, lot’s for FREE LEGAL maps online, some can be found her:

i’ve used IBYCUS TOPO CANADA and they are very detailed and well done, not sure about his USA versions.

a used 76 should be very reasonable priced.

GPSmap 60 is a great all around GPS which I use in the boat, trail or car. I have had mine for 4 years and just upgraded to the Garmin 24k topo maps which show excellent detail for those wilderness foray’s.

With a GPS how can you not
know where you are? Mine all have marine charts (or I can change to land) on them and I know exactly where I am at all times.

I have an old garmin rhino. bought it for the built in walkie talkie - very handy when you and others are spread out walking in deep woods looking for archaeology stuff. Looks really cool sitting in the bottom of my pack, if it is still there.

My wife and I both own the Garmin
Oregon. They are pricey but I hate using the other models after using the touchscreen. However, I wouldn’t recommend spending the extra money for the touchscreen unless you plan to use the gps often enough to justify the extra cost – or you are a techie.

I can’t imagine using a map and compass for anything other than a backup and trip planning. Even for trip planning I’d rather use my Garmin 24k map and Google Earth. The newer models have lots of features besides the basic features we all know about. The newer units also allow you to overlay a satellite picture on your maps. I leave my gps on when on a trip and then upload the tracks to my computer and look at them in Google Earth. You do have to make an effort to learn how to use extra features though.

I can go anywhere in the NW and have a 1:24k map ready to use.

Warning Do Not Buy Garmin Colorado

– Last Updated: Dec-05-10 4:14 PM EST –

I bought a garmin colorado from REI. Everything about the unit is great but the display is very hard to read unless sunlight is shining on it, or its night and you have the backlight on. If you put it in a waterproof case, you will not be able to read it. (I looked at Oregon at REI when I was going to return the Colarado, but it has the same problem).

That being said a GPS is great for
1)Knowing your location with precision
2)Knowing your location with limited visibility
2)Figuring out what the tides and wind are doing to your boat
3)getting out of marshes with a network of canals more easily
4)Modulating effort.

The colorado came with blue charts which includes most of the information found on a chart. It also has a tide calculator. The compass is fairly useless as it needs to be frequently calibrated.

re: screen
touch screen oregon is the same problem.

the 60 and 62 series, do NOT suffer from sunlight readability. it’s a common complaint in the geocache community. that said, the oregon 450 is supposed to fix the problem, but only to a degree.

i like low end models
Have gone thru a Micrologics and Magellen, both can RIP…Presently own a Garmin GPS 60 (base model) and a Garmin E-Trek, as well as a ICOM base unit on my sailboat. All are simple, “make your own” map capable, and I use these in conjunction with charts or topo maps. The GPS 60 blows the E-trek away in antenna strength, and stays locked on in my backpack where the E-Trek loses the signal quite often.

location and knowing - the difference
I see knowing your location and knowing where you are as different things. knowing where you are, in my mind, is about full awareness of your surroundings…its a bigger idea than location alone.

If you really know where you are, you don’t need a gps and if you’re really good, you might not even need a compass, because, you’re not lost and if you stay aware to your surroundings as you travel, you never will be lost.

One day I was canoeing and heard two guys crashing about at the edge of the marsh. I paddled over to talk to them. They were geocachers aiming for a box that was a 200 yards across a swamp. It was weird, they cared nothing for anything around them, had no idea that they couldn’t get to the box on foot. They knew their location, but didn’t know where they were. People with this mind set get lost and hurt out here in the NW quite often, finding themselves in a valley of old growth timber where the gps units don’t work, or wandering into places that are well beyond their abilities to traverse. Not long ago, down in OR, a sheriff rescued three off trail hikers who had lost one gps unit and broke the other. No compass, no map, they were lost without the electronics.

check this out!
you all are on the right track to be as cool as these guys! :wink: