GPS Questions

I’ve been researching GPS units and have pretty well narrowed it down to a Garmin, which results in narrowing it down to only twenty or thirty models. Therein begins the trouble!

I cannot afford to be overly extravagant, but I would like the basic necessities! The problem is, if I buy “this” model, it will do “this and this”. But for only $40 more, “this” model will also do “this and that”. And for a mere $30 more, “this” model will do “this and that”, too!

Where is the “happy medium”? This is getting to be so overwhelming and confusing, I don’t know whether to scratch my watch, or wind my butt! Help!!

Basically, here’s what I need - - -

Naturally, I want to be able to get back to where I started from when I’m out in the yak!

I would like to be able to mark way points and to enter coordinates taken from a map. (For fishing purposes)

Knowing my present/top/average speed would be a nice thing to know, but not a necessity! At my age, (and physical shape) I’m not going to set any records!

It will seldom, if ever, be used on the roads. Do I need one with a map program?

Accuracy and proximity are very important! What features should I look for that provide the nearest proximity? I will just as often be using it to mark the location of tombstones. (For my genealogy research)

Are the color displays really that beneficial, or might they be considered a “novelty”?

I better shut up for now!


The one I have …
… appears to meet most, if not all, the requirements you’ve laid out. Mine is a Magellan eXplorist 200 - I don’t know what the equivalent Garmin model would be but you could look at the specs for the Magellan to see how comparable they are. My eXplorist is very bare bones. It doesn’t hook up to my computer so there’s no way to save any tracks (trips) except in the available memory of the unit itself and you can’t upload new maps/data. But, you can save hundreds of location points (POI or Point of Interest) and use the unit to find your way back to a specific point if that’s what you want (the unit’s compass “needle” will point towards the POI and tell you how far from it you are). You can also save hundreds of tracks and the unit will show the elapsed distance and time (I don’t recall if it actually does a speed calculation for you but it would be easy enough to do the math on your own). It has limited roads/cities/landmarks in its memory but for basic land navigation (driving or hiking) it’s adequate. It’s definitely not a fancy gadget but it doesn’t come with a fancy price either. I’m relatively new to kayaking and bought the unit a few years ago for hiking. I’m reasonably good at land navigating with a map and compass but want to get out on the Potomac and practice navigating on the water. I’ll use the GPS unit to store my starting point and use it only as insurance to find my may back in the event I get lost. So far, I’ve found it a little easier to get disoriented on the water than on the land. I mean, if I’m hiking on a series of trails in a National Park or National Forest and have a good map it’s pretty hard to get lost!

Deral, this a pretty good place for
GPS info also, maybe better than tkf’s saltwater board.


GPS Questions

Sounds like the Explorist 200 would certainly be worth checking it to. I will do that! Thanks for the information!


Small World
Hey, Greyloon!

Nice treat, bumping into you here!

These message boards are indeed an excellent place to gather data. I don’t know if this one is any better than the TKF board or not, but they are running neck and neck!

Once in a while I visit that crappie website. I think I’ll post my question there, too.


Weekend, so it may be slow, but lots
of GPS users here. Just need to stay firm about your price range and needs. Though you may learn of some features extremely useful.

Also consider GPS 72
Functionally very similar to the Etrex but has a larger screen and a very large font size that I find necessary for my old eyes. GPS 72 has less battery life than E-trex and does not float, but I thought the larger screen was worth the trade off. They are both available for less than $100 if you look around on the internet.


b/w screens are coming available for cheap because everything’s going color now. It’s not just a novelty. It’s a feature people like and want and I suspect that in not too much time, there won’t be a b/w screen GPS on the market.

I’ll tell you what…detailed base maps are really nice to have. Sure, you can use the GPS just to give your coordinates that you can then plot on your paper maps/charts, but oftentimes, loading detailed basemaps cuts down on that necessity. At minimum, it gives you at least a quick reference to plotting your location on your paper maps (that give you a larger view of your location than the small gps screen).

I use a gpsmap 76CSx. It does an awful lot and it’s great for paddling, too. Pretty much any gps is going to give you a trip computer feature, so don’t even think about that one.

The features to consider right now would be:

Do you want a color screen? (Don’t just make this decision by looking at screen shots. Compare them in a store that has windows and go on a sunny day. Situate yourself so that the glare from outside is reflecting on the screen. When you see the difference in sunlight readability, THEN make your decision.)

Do you want to use detailed basemaps? (Again, actually look at gps receivers at the store that don’t have map data loaded. See what’s REALLY available to you as a reference? Pretty much all you’ve got when you’re out in the boonies is a dot showing your current location, any waypoints you may have marked along your travels, and a tracklog (but only if you’ve left the receiver on the whole trip). Then pick up the software and take a look at the detail it provides. Water features, contours, roads, tiny towns, peaks, etc. Now you can use your gps to fairly quickly find an alternate take-out or put-in, check distances to that island you’ve been paddling towards for hours, and even check tide tables. If you decide you want detailed base maps, you absolutely want a removable memory chip to store them on.)

Do you want additional sensors? (Do you want to track altitude or advancing weather systems? If so, you’re going to want a barometric altimeter. Will you want to navigate with your GPS? This includes telling the GPS to navigate you to a particular waypoint (your parking spot, a takeout, an intermediate point in a long paddle, etc). Without an electronic compass, the GPS can only tell you which direction you’ve been traveling…not the direction you’re pointing. You would need a separate compass for that. Typically these two sensors are packaged together. Also, might you want to use the GPS for fitness or on a bicycle? Garmin makes several GPS receivers that can use a wheel speed/cadence sensor as well as a heart rate monitor chest strap. The newest of which (the Colorado) also has detailed mapping capability and PRELOADED detailed basemaps. These extra sensors are wireless and can be purchased separately only for some receivers.

What form factor (layout) do you prefer? (This is going to be the final consideration that separates the rest of the models from each other. Do you want a small receiver with very few buttons (etrex line)? Do you want a larger receiver with more buttons for quicker navigation (60/76 series)? Do you want one that floats (76 series)? Do you want a fitness receiver (forerunner series)? Do you want ALL the bells & whistles (colorado series)?

Garmin is phasing out its older receivers…those that lack color screens, removable memory chips, and high sensitivity receivers. They’re just outdated. You can get them for cheap if you want something really basic, but if you want something that will grow with your needs/wants (and something that will receive firmware updates periodically), you’ll want to consider one of the newer models.

Right now, I would rule out Magellan. Magellan has an abysmal customer service record. While they are often quick to introduce new features, they are extremely slow to issue bug fixes. Many of their receivers didn’t receive their first bug fix until years after initial release in spite of documented and reproducible bugs.

There are a few other companies that have promising products on the market, but they seem to be relative newcomers by and large and their service and support is largely untested.

Garmin’s largest fault is their software. Garmin’s mapsource programs right now are lagging behind everyone else’s. The new Delorme GPS uses TopoUSA which has been on the market for many years and has a solid track record. The new Magellan (Triton) is compatible with National Geographic Topo! basemaps. Garmin is still relying on their fairly low-quality in-house vector topos. They have some areas covered at 1:24k, but it’s very limited coverage. Some states receive zero coverage at this resolution. Granted, this is only an issue if you’re interested in topo maps and not inland lakes map detail or ocean charts. The only positive to this is that some clever folks have found a way to generate your OWN custom detailed basemaps for Garmin GPS receivers. This allows you to include whatever detail you choose to include. Some google searching should turn up a how-to guide.

legend c
I have the Garmin Legend C and find it has a lot of bang for the buck, the colour screen is good for water use (streams are blue roads are black)

It has about 25-30 hrs battery life,it will download maps and does all the usual stuff( waypoints, trackback, routing, etc)

you can also load your waypoints into your computer when you get home and see where you went- or went wrong :frowning:

had good luck w/ e-trex
long batt life ,seems the more features the less life. had mine for 6yrs and garmin has a $60 replacement prog. if it breaks. I also made some neat holders for the boat ,mbike & trail motobike will send pics if you like ED

Basic Etrex will do all of the above
I’ve used the basic Etrex for all of the above including getting GPS coordinates for headstones for my wife who does a lot graveyard visits when we visit UK and Denmark. I’ve actually used it to find Islands in foggy crossings and to mark beaches where it is safe to land by inputing coordinates. The ability to have maps is cool, but also limiting when you go to foreign countries.

Basic eTrex
If you’re interested in the basic Garmin eTrex, look for the eTrex H. It’s essentially the same unit, sold for about the same price, but with the new, high sensitivity receiver.

Overall though you’d be better off with a mapping unit like the Garmin Legend HCX or Venture HX, or Map 76CX. Even if you don’t use maps now, at least you have the capability should you choose to do so down the road.

With the Garmin eTrex units models, H=high sensitivity receiver, C=Color display and X=expandable map memory. So you can determine the chief features just by the model name. For instance the Venture CX has a color dispay and expandable memory, while the Venture HC has a color display and high sensitivity receiver. Legend HCX has all 3.

I agree with the poster who said stay away from Magellan. Their units are fine, but their customer support is beyond bad. If you never need it, great, but if you do you are likely in for a horror story.

Finally, Garmin is coming out with their Colorado line soon, so look for a big price drop in their current top of the line units like the Map 76CSX and Map 60CSX.

The bottom model is the easyest to use one handed and connects to your PC to up and down load tracks and waypoints. I have seen New (refirb) units for $50.00. Mine has been used for over 7 years and have never failed. It has the best battery life and the main thing is a very easy menue to use one handed. I use it for Geocaching, trail mapping on my 4/4 and trips on the water. If you need a auto GPS get one for that use.

Happy Trails

For what it’s worth, you might want to check out Lowrance GPS units, their specialty is marine/aviation electronics. All their handhelds are IPX7 waterproof rated, if I remember correctly.

My GPSMAP 100 from 1999 is still going strong and does most if not all of what you ask. Their customer service is superb as well.


Another eTrex H Recommendation
It sounds like you’ve thought about what features you need. Clearly the yellow Garmin eTrex H will do everything you need. Its relatively inexpensive, small, has a high sensitivity receiver - which means it will work in heavy vegi canopy, and it connects to a PC, which allows you to easily pre-load your GPS with key waypoints.

I’d highly recommend you buy a PC cable connector and take a look at for an easy to use FREE software that stores/maintains waypoints, routes, and tracks.

Almost all GPS’s are waterproof to the same standard, so that shouldn’t be your guide. Some float, and some don’t, but it you have it packed away that probably won’t be an issue. Just make sure you use a wrist or neck lanyard.