What are GPS got-to-have features?

Hey folks, I need you collective wisdoms and experience. I think I want a handheld GPS unit for kayaking, hiking and bicycling… and what ever other uses I can get out of it.

Don’ t know much about them, but have been researching them a bit. Things I like are:

large color display, SD card slot for downloading detailed maps, USB connectivity, compass, WAAS, altimeter, waterproof, speed and distance displays.

Some features I may never use but they seem pretty neat. What do you use? What do you reccomend? What should I ignore? What should I look for? I am thinking about the $300 and under range… thanks for helping me make a good choice.

I like
Having all the buttons on the front so I can keep it in a cell phone dry bag and still use it (don’t trust the submersible rating)

An antenna that works well under trees

Maps – especially the more detailed coastline with my Marine version (mainly because maps are cool).

Guess that’s why I’m happy with my Magellan in spite of some less important bone-headed things like a stupid set of icons for marking way-points.

Latitude and Longitude
Once I have that, I can find where I am on my paper map. I can fold it, roll it, encase it plastic and even set fire to it if I need to. And it doesn’t need batteries.


I Bought The Garmin Map76
I wanted waterproof and floating. Adding map detail is great also.

I second the Map-76
My wife has one, and it has everything that you need.

I have the Etrix, and my biggest complaint with it is the small readout.

Whatever you get, make sure the screen has a good readout.



I enjoy on my Magellan Map 330M include the capability to switch from a land-oriented map to a water-oriented map as well as the ability upload BlueNav navigational charts. Also the ease with which I can use the provided Map Send Streets to create maps for a defined area and upload it from the computer to the 330M. (Think the SporTrack is the newest version of what I have).



Basic GPS Navigation - A Practical Guide
To answer the question yourself, you might want to read the most comprehensive GPS navigation description I have read online (and it’s free). Visit:


Here, you’ll be able to read John Bell’s: Basic GPS Navigation-A practical guide to GPS navigation. Written by a pilot and paddler, John walks you through everything you need to know and more; and in the process, he’ll reveal the features you’ll want most in a GPS unit. After reading it myself, I came to the conclusion that there are a few features I’ll want to look for when I purchase my next GPS (I’m happy with the one I already have for now).

Happy reading.

Check out the Garmin eTrex “Legend”…
…Check out the Garmin eTrex “Legend”, but first read the review I just posted yesterday here on P-Net. I paid $169.99 for it, and Office Max has it on sale right now for $149.99. I posted this same question on P-Net a couple months ago, and most people reccomended this unit to me.

… This has everything you would need on land or water, unless you HAVE to have ALL the bells and wistles. I like those myself, and this has plenty for me.

… I take it with me on car trips, as it has all of the major cities and roads in the USA in it. It also has all of the larger lakes and rivers in it too. If you use it totally as a marine GPS, you can switch to the Marine maps that come installed in it. As it is a 12 channel receier, without activating WAAS, I have had it give me accuracy to 16 feet!

… I just can’t say enough good about this little GPS, and the batteries last a decent long time too.

… Check it out, you won’t be sorry!

Excellent Resource
Some of it is a little “dated” since the technology continues to evolve. However, I had forgotten that I had read this gem of an article about 2 or 3 years ago when I was brand new to GPS. I knew that I wanted to buy a handheld and this article was fantastic for being a practical guide to GPS.

I wound up buying the Garmin Etrex Legend. I am VERY happy with it and continue to use it extensively for both driving and paddling. My biggest regrets are that the screen is VERY tiny. Not a problem while paddling but at highway speeds it is a bit of a problem. It states that it is “waterproof” but I always keep it in a clear dry bag; why tempt fate?

On the water I basically keep it on the “map screen” and monitor mph and distance to my destination. I love how I can leave a bread crumb trail so that I can find my way back home. This has saved my a** more than once when paddling through marshy areas where “everything looks alike.”

The Legend is a very powerful, yet economical model. As a first GPS for me, I wasn’t sure if I was going to use it or not. You know how it goes, you buy a new toy thinking that you would use it and all it does it gather dust even though you may have paid a ton of money for something. If and when I have to buy a second GPS (when this one dies) I would get one that has a much larger display screen, better button layout that can be accessed directly through the dry bag and more interchangeable memory. The Legend has 8 meg of interchangeable memory but 24 meg or more would be much better. It is not hard at all to swap it out but …

Help, do any gps work with Mac computer
Do any of you know if garmin or ANY of these gps work with an

Apple computer, I have the latest PowerBook, portable. I would love to be able to down and upload information, including the nav charts, etc.

Thanks all

I have heard there is an expensive route of first getting an emulation software, like Mac PC now made by Microsoft and then being able to run the PC software. All help appreciatted

Watch out concerning Magellen…
… I know there are a lot of Magellen fans out there, but I will never again buy a Magellen product.

… I own an Aviation based Magellen GPS, and about 3-4 years ago Magellen totally quit supporting all Aviation based units. The FAA updates all USA airport information every 56 days. To keep the GPS up to date with airport information, the FAA would give this updated info to the GPS companies, and they would sell updates to the GPS owners. As airports chaged information in the areas I flew in, I would then get an update and install it in my GPS.

… When I contacted Magellen for an update, they nicely told me they are not supporting the thousands and thousands of Aviation GPS units in the USA any more! They wouldn’t even take it back to service it in any way! They just turned their back on thousands of customers! Incredible! Especially since Aviation GPS units are a lot more expensive than most land based.

… So now to use it, I have to create manual way points for the airports that have changed designations, and “hope” nothing else has changed.

…Magellen won’t “get me” again!

Off my soap box now,… Happy Paddling!

If you have a G4 running at 1ghz
or better the virtual pc emulator will certainly give you enough performance to run your gps software. To avoid problems do not use the pc for net access or run it while you are in an always on connection. You can download you executables and then run them while in pc mode.

I know of no other solution.

I run the emulator on a g3 at 500 mhz and get minimally acceptable performance.

Third - GPSMap76 is a good unit

Garmin GPSMap76 software & maps ?

– Last Updated: Nov-16-04 12:10 PM EST –


I too am thinking about a nice map-depicting GPSR, mainly for trips along the New England coast. Once I owned such an instrument, however, I know I will want to use it on some inland trips as well, as much as is possible.

It looks to me (from the Garmin web site and other reports) that for actually downloading maps onto a Garmin map unit like the 76CS, I am limited to the few Garmin-related software CDs, yes?


For ocean going, that means the BlueChart series, and it looks like that gets expensive quickly.


For the Maine to NYC coast, for instance, that's four products, each over $100. It's not clear how far inland (if at all) these cover. There is a Canadian one that covers Lake Champlain and the St. Lawrence.

For inland topos, all I really see going beyond 1:100,000 scale is the National Parks (East) 24K set.


This seems to cover areas like Baxter SP, Cape Cod NS, White Mountain NF, and some others. It does not seem to cover a lot of areas where I typically hike and/or paddle in New England. I am afraid I am spoiled by the National Geographic CDs (maps not downloadable to GPSR) with 24K maps of the entire Northeast.

Have I got this all about right? Has anyone found a better GPSR/map unit and software combination for the New England area?

Thanks in advance,

Resource Link
www.travelbygps.com is another good site for GPS research.

Look at the Basics
I don’t know what features you might just “gotta-have”, but I would first be sure the GPS receiver has some good basic features. Some of the handheld units have a patch antenna built inside the unit on the circuit board that works fairly well in open sky, but not so well in heavy overcast, under trees with wet leaves. I would recommend getting a unit that has some kind of external antenna, or at least capability of having one.

I came into this hobby from my other interest which is geocaching (see geocaching.com for more info) where we hike using a GPS. There the reception is critical to getting where you want to go and back. On open water I am sure most GPS receivers will perform fairly well, but they are not all alike and I would get a good one.

Also look at battery life, size and weight. Be sure some of the basic things are good before looking at the fancy features. Generally, you get what you pay for, or as I usually say, you don’t get what you don’t pay for.


On open water
simple GPS work great and have less to go wrong and fiddle with when you have one hand free. No external attenae required. Check out Garmin Etrex for Kayaking, hiking works fine and is inexpensive. I’ve used mine on the open ocean and hiking on peaks and deep forests in the US and UK.

GPS Maps – Razors & Blades
You basically have it right. You may well pay more for maps in the end than for the GPS unit itself. It’s a razor & blades business, not that the “razor” is particularly cheap.

I also wanted automobile navigation, so that’s another $100 or so for City Select, but at least there’s just one for the entire country.

And all this is on top of already owning other software for roads and marine charts. At least DeLorme Street Atlas on a laptop tracks to the Garmin 76CS, which makes a really nice combo.

Oh, did I also mention that the road navigation really requires a windshield antenna, and the Delorme hookup needs a serial connector, both extra $$$. For such accessories, look at http://www.gpsgeek.com/ which has good quality Garmin compatable stuff a lot cheaper than the Garmin brand.

Oh well, I really don’t need that new kayak this year…


I have their topo CD - and it’s enough for me. Has buoys and info off the beaches too - and is fine unless I were heading to the Bahamas or something.

For nearshore, ICW, rivers and side canals around here the detail is great.

yup, and
Durability. You will drop it.