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Re: GPS question

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GPS question
May 09, 2013 07:05AM
Looking for an all-around hand-held GPS unit for travelling, willing to spend as much as $250. I would like to also use it when we go hiking either here in LA or in Yosemite. We are going to Boston area in July, so I would need it find sights, restaurants, etc.

Note: I did do a search and found a thread, http://yosemitenews.info/forum/read.php?3,53653, from about a year ago; I'm not sure if GPS units change much in that time. The Garmin eTrex30 was a common mention. I wasn't sure if I should just bump that thread.
avatar Re: GPS question
May 09, 2013 10:35AM
I've never owned a GPS. A year ago I started shopping for one but decided it wouldn't be worth it for me.

-- There didn't seem to be any such thing as an all-around GPS. Everything I looked at was designed either for car travel or for everything else.

-- Even in $400-and-up models, the maps were less detailed than regular topo maps. In some locales, they were terrible. When I checked the maps for places like Point Reyes where I've spent a lot of time, they showed "roads" going through that had actually reverted to brush years ago and other roads apparently blocked that were actually in regular use.

-- I've been unofficially mapping the Four Mile Trail and I thought a GPS might help with that. Unfortunately that particular area seems to get marginal satellite reception due to cliffs and tree cover, so I wouldn't be able to count on much accuracy. I've found lots of GPS tracks from the Four Mile posted online, no two alike. Where a track shows both the "going" and the "coming" routes, the two often appear to be 200 or 300 feet apart. The best track I've seen so far was posted at a Trimble site -- made with a high-end GPS, I'd guess. It's quite good compared to the others but it, too, contains some obvious errors. According to the GPS track, someone walked from the Glacier Point parking lot to Glacier Point, jumped 500 feet down the cliff, jumped back up, then started down the Four Mile Trail. spinning smiley sticking its tongue out

-- On the trail (or in the backcountry) It sounds as if I'd have two choices: leave the GPS on, record a track, and run down the battery quickly; or leave the GPS off except when I actually wanted to know my location, and have to wait perhaps several minutes for it to boot up and acquire enough satellite data.

-- One manufacturer offers a "find the way home" GPS that does only one thing. You record the location of your campsite or car and go wandering in the woods. When you want to go home, the GPS shows you the direct route. OK, say I stay at Curry Village and record that as "home". I hike up to Glacier Point and ask the GPS for the way home. I assume it directs me to Curry Village by the line-of-sight route rather by the Four Mile Trail. grinning smiley



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/09/2013 10:35AM by gophersnake.
avatar Re: GPS question
May 09, 2013 10:55AM
snake,
I have to assume you didn't read all the links that were in the original msg.
w/r to 4 Mile... I'm assuming also you did not read this thread:
http://yosemitenews.info/forum/read.php?3,47695,47695#msg-47695

I'm certain I have a very good track of both the new and old 4 mile trail.
The eTrex30 is just really that good w/r to reception.
So good ... that I've been able to load in Snow's Trail which is ... you can think of
as the old JMT... and obtained incredible tracking and great tracks.
My opinion obviously.

w/r to battery life... just went on 3 day trip in CCC. Had it on the entire time hiking...
and 2 Eneloop batts did the entire trip.



Chick-on is looking at you!
avatar Re: GPS question
May 09, 2013 10:59AM
Also... for Yosemite... And entire Sierra... the maps available are incredible.
And ... if you don't like them... you can make your own.
(see the threads about GPS linked to above)



Chick-on is looking at you!
avatar Re: GPS question
May 09, 2013 10:56AM
Big Question I have for you is...

do you have a Smart Phone

Nowadays pretty much every smart phone has gps and with google maps and
such you can navigate with it.
It can be used in the backcountry too if desired.

(that's the extent of my knowledge there... just more for you to look at)



Chick-on is looking at you!
Re: GPS question
May 09, 2013 11:10AM
Quote
chick-on
Big Question I have for you is...

do you have a Smart Phone

Nowadays pretty much every smart phone has gps and with google maps and
such you can navigate with it.
It can be used in the backcountry too if desired.

(that's the extent of my knowledge there... just more for you to look at)

How good are the topo maps? Smart phone battery life might not be as good, though easy to carry a spare. Accuracy/reception: doubtful it's as good as 60csx.
Re: GPS question
May 09, 2013 11:50AM
Quote
chick-on
Nowadays pretty much every smart phone has gps and with google maps and such you can navigate with it.

Does that work with no data coverage?

Even if it does, I find the GPS in my Samsung Galaxy S2 to be grossly inferior to my Garmin units (nüvi 755T for car, 60Csx for hiking).

The Garmin National Parks West maps have the Yosemite trails with acceptable accuracy (and they are routable, so you can see how many trail miles you have to go to your destination).

A pair of Lithium AAs will run a 60Csx for several days' hiking. Two sets will last us about a week. For short trips, we use NiMh rechargeables. No way your smart phone will run a GPS app continuously for anything like that long without recharging.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/09/2013 11:51AM by Royalist.
avatar Re: GPS question
May 09, 2013 11:54AM
OK

I should have said this:

I do not have a Smart Phone. People who have a smart phone should respond and say how it works for them.
For hiking in the backcountry my recommendation is hands down the eTrex 20 or 30.

Maybe basil will respond since he carries a Nexus 7 which is smart phoney like.



Chick-on is looking at you!
Re: GPS question
May 09, 2013 01:03PM
Quote
chick-on
OK

I should have said this:

I do not have a Smart Phone. People who have a smart phone should respond and say how it works for them.
For hiking in the backcountry my recommendation is hands down the eTrex 20 or 30.

Maybe basil will respond since he carries a Nexus 7 which is smart phoney like.

Have you used both the 20 & 30? Are the features on the 30 worth the additional cost? I'm definitely leaning towards the 30 but would like some first hand knowledge from someone who has used both.
avatar Re: GPS question
May 09, 2013 01:29PM
Anyone that has used the 30 has used the 20. Only diff is the Barometric Altimeter and Electronic Compass.
With the Altimeter you can see plots of your hike in elevation... but I personally don't care so much
about that... I just care my current elevation and steepness and how much I have to climb or drop...
and all that can be seen from the topo map I have loaded into it.
The compass... well... I think I'ved used it once or twice.
What am I saying?
If price is a huge issue... you can't go wrong so much with getting the 20.



Chick-on is looking at you!
Re: GPS question
May 09, 2013 04:58PM
Quote
chick-on
Maybe basil will respond since he carries a Nexus 7 which is smart phoney like.

Based on my experience the Nexus 7 has a fairly sensitive GPS receiver--definitely more sensitive than my somewhat dated Garmins. If I have time maybe I can upload my track from last weekend and compare it to chick-on's eTrex route, at least for the portions that overlap.

The Nexus seems to take 10-15% of the battery life per day to do tracking, depending on one's definition of "day" :-) The price is also competitive with dedicated GPS units, but you get a much better screen and the ability to store eBooks (Sierra High Route, High Sierra Peaks and Passes, Muir's writings, all the good historical stuff on yosemite.ca.us), photos of route beta, rainy-day entertainment (music/video/books), etc.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/09/2013 04:58PM by basilbop.
avatar Re: GPS question
May 09, 2013 05:44PM
Quote
Royalist
Quote
chick-on
Nowadays pretty much every smart phone has gps and with google maps and such you can navigate with it.

Does that work with no data coverage?

Even if it does, I find the GPS in my Samsung Galaxy S2 to be grossly inferior to my Garmin units (nüvi 755T for car, 60Csx for hiking).

The Garmin National Parks West maps have the Yosemite trails with acceptable accuracy (and they are routable, so you can see how many trail miles you have to go to your destination).

A pair of Lithium AAs will run a 60Csx for several days' hiking. Two sets will last us about a week. For short trips, we use NiMh rechargeables. No way your smart phone will run a GPS app continuously for anything like that long without recharging.

Some mapping apps, like Google Maps, don't work well without data network coverage. One can do a kludge workaround with enough foresight by viewing the area via Google Maps where one might be hiking or backpacking while you're still in an area with data coverage and then hope that the map data will remain cached on the smartphone. This sometimes works, but sometimes the cache is flushed out and then your out of luck.

There are though some other apps (mostly non-free apps) where you can download beforehand the topo maps onto your smartphone so you don't won't need to have data network coverage to use them. The Topo Maps iPhone app recommended by Oakroscoe is an excellent one. At $7.99 for the iPhone version, it's a bargin in my estimation though it doesn't have the complete functionality of a dedicated GPS designed for hiking like the Garmin eTrex 30.

Nokia Window Phone 8 smartphones have an advantage over the Apple iPhone or Android smartphones in that they come installed with the excellent Nokia maps software where one can download detailed road and satellite maps for many parts of the world for free and hence use the maps and GPS functionality even where there's no network data connection. (But Nokia doesn't offer any topo maps, just road and satellite view maps.)

That said, if you are going to do a lot of hiking, especially cross-country hiking, I would strongly recommend that you get a dedicated GPS unit like the Garmin eTrex 30 that's designed from the ground up for backcountry use.

.
avatar Re: GPS question
May 09, 2013 03:28PM
Quote
chick-on
It can be used in the backcountry too if desired.

Not always. Some apps can't be used without data service. Others have a lot of trouble getting a lock if they can't get a clue by hearing a tower.
avatar Re: GPS question
May 09, 2013 12:19PM
I have an iPhone 4s and using the Topo Maps application it is just as accurate as my Garmin 76csx. Battery life is an issue. I don't leave either one on when I'm hiking, I usually fire either up to take a reading or see how far away I am from where I'm going.
Re: GPS question
May 09, 2013 12:42PM
I only have a flip-phone; It satisfies my phone needs.
Quote
oakroscoe
I have an iPhone 4s and using the Topo Maps application it is just as accurate as my Garmin 76csx.
However, my wife is going to upgrade to an iPhone 4s. How are the maps apps of the iPhone 4s for using in a city, or in outlying areas of a metro area such as Lexington and Concord, etc?



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/09/2013 12:42PM by snorkus.
avatar Re: GPS question
May 09, 2013 05:22PM
I use a combination of google maps and apple maps for around town and don't have any issues. That with the combination of other gps apps like (urban spoon, yelp, around me, etc) I'm quite happy with it. So much so that I don't have a need for another GPS for around town.
avatar Re: GPS question
May 09, 2013 06:28PM
As chick-on mentioned, the differences between the eTrek 30 and 20 are minor (I have the 30). I think calibrating a barometric altimeter is more accurate than relying on GPS altitude (which is less accurate than GPS horizontal position). The barometric altimeter may also be useful as a barometer (not in the Sierra in the summer, but other parts of the country have these things called "weather systems" ). If these aren't compelling to you, buy the 20.

I don't think mounting the eTrek 30 somewhere and using it in a car in Boston would be a satisfactory experience. I also have a Nuvi 3<something-something-something> for use driving. For a hike, it would be completely useless in my view.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/09/2013 06:28PM by ttilley.
avatar Re: GPS question
May 09, 2013 09:25PM
If you have a map loaded... then you just move the cursor a bit to a topo line... and
there's your current altitude. That's why I'm not sure I've even calibrated the baro altimeter.

Garmin and other sell a lot of other GPSs... for some incredible prices.
They're probably really nice... I wouldn't know... not dropping that much cash when have
something I already love.



Chick-on is looking at you!
Re: GPS question
May 10, 2013 11:29AM
Quote
chick-on
Garmin and other sell a lot of other GPSs... for some incredible prices.
They're probably really nice... I wouldn't know... not dropping that much cash when have
something I already love.

I've been using a Garmin eTrex Vista HCx for a few years and have mostly been very happy with it. The screen's a bit small and I don't think you can load custom maps (as an old-roads/old-trails junky, I'm thinking of upgrading to the 30 so I can load historical maps...chick-on's done some really fascinating tracking this way) but the sensitivity, signal acquisition time and signal retention capability are vastly superior to the Garmin etrex (forget the model) that I had for several years before the HCx. The batteries also last a lot longer. However, the 30's a little less money AND, in addition to having the custom-mapping capability, has a significantly larger (although still not huge) screen.

As for something you'd use in the car and hiking, these two applications are more disparate than you might think. In the car, you want
  • a big screen that you can just glance at without taking your eyes off the road
  • voice prompts (again, keep your eyes on the road)
  • traffic rerouting (if you're driving in an area that has reliable traffic broadcasts)
whereas the priorities (I'd say) for a hiking unit would be
  • ability to maintain a restricted signal (rarely an issue in the car)
  • drop-resistant
  • water-proof
  • good battery life
  • easy to carry
  • not get confused by the kind of bouncing around that'll endure with every step you take
  • access to trail maps

It's not like these are mutually exclusive (except maybe "easy to carry" and "big screen" ) but you're unlikely to find all those features in a single model...even a very expensive model (I love the nuvi I have in the car but it would garner low-to-failing grades on pretty much everything on the second list).

In theory, I could use my smart phone for everything: GPS, still camera, video camera, walkie-talkie (my wife and I hike at different speeds so we carry walkie talkies to make sure we're not getting too far apart) and voice recorder...but I wouldn't expect it to do more than a "just OK" job on any of those things. It's bulky to carry separate units for each of those functions but I've developed ways to clip the various things onto the straps of my pack in a way that I hardly notice they're there (although I may start doing my video clips on the still camera at some point soon...as compact as my video camera is, I don't need that much recording capacity, only rarely use the extreme zoom capability and that one CAN occasionally get annoying bouncing around on my pack-strap. Depending on one's taste for technology in the wild and your fussiness about the degree of functionality of that technology, my approach may be a bit extreme (and perhaps a bit expensive, although I've been surprised at some of the great deals I've managed to amass on this stuff over the years).
avatar Re: GPS question
May 12, 2013 01:28PM
avatar Re: GPS question
May 12, 2013 03:20PM
That picture is why I use a 2D system. It's far more accurate, never runs out of batteries, extremely light weight, and very cheap.
avatar Re: GPS question
May 13, 2013 06:37AM
The person who made that faux toe prolly has a bridge to sell too...

That house in the rear view mirror.... is that Dorothy's house?



Chick-on is looking at you!
Re: GPS question
May 13, 2013 01:25PM
Ours once led us to this ferry (Princeton, CA):





Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/13/2013 01:26PM by Royalist.
avatar Re: GPS question
May 13, 2013 02:26PM
I recently tried Viewranger on my Galaxy S, and Motorola Xoom on a hike in the Peak District here in the UK.
Fantastic software. I can use it with a variety of maps, and don't need a data connection when out in the hills. The PC/web based part of it is fantastic for planning routes.

I will be using it again in Wales in a couple of weeks, to fully test it before I head to Yosemite in July.

The accuracy of the GPS in both my devices has been great so far, but the land has been fairly flat to be fair.

I carry my smartphone with me anyway, with a Goal Zero solar charger, so don't feel the need to add the weight of another device, which does a very similar job. But I am not a heavy user of satellite navigation. I barely use it at all in the car, and only very occasionally on hikes to double check my position with my map.

I like how I can use one device as sat nav in the car, GPS when hiking, camera to take great shots, HD video camera, MP3 player, mobile bookshelf, and also as a video player when tucked up in the tent. Its also an alarm clock in the mornings, if the sun fails to raise me. I think that as far as hiking grammes go, one decent smartphone can be a very efficient device.

Steve
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