Any GPS suggestions?

Rockskipper

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I've owned a couple of handheld GPSs, and I never used them and ended up giving them away. Usually where I hike there's lots of good navigational markers, as it's typically desert.

But, after literally being off my feet for over a month this summer (pulled ligament), I would like to get back in really good shape. I was looking at GPS units on REI, and I noticed all these watches. It got me to thinking, why not get a watch that will tell me how far I hike for fitness purposes, as well as being able to do a trackback? I could see the allure of wearing a watch over a handheld, but I could go either way. It appears you can't download maps onto the watches, but I'm not sure I would use it all that much in that capacity anyway, given my past history. A built-in altimeter and barometer would be nice also.

Any thoughts on getting a good GPS? (I did a search here and didn't find anything on this.) In theory, it would be nice to have it all, map capability plus trackback plus distance - well, you get the idea, because then I could do maps if I decided I wanted to. And in spite of owning a couple, I really don't know much about how to use one, so ease of use would be a nice feature too. I thought about just getting a pedometer, but I actually would like to have the trackback feature, as I hike a lot off trail and hope to spend more time in the mountains in the future. I will add that I've been temporarily lost a couple times in forests (Uncompahgre Plateau and Cedar Mesa), so I think I would probably be advised to use one in places like that.

Your suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance. (And I have a PLB so a Spot isn't on the list. I don't have a smartphone nor plans to get one.)
 
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Dave

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You buried the lead. Almost everyone I know who hikes uses their smartphone as a GPS these days. An iPhone and Apple Watch do everything you describe. But... that’s not what you want.

Even if you have no plans to get a smartphone, you could pick up a used device on the cheap and just not activate the cellular. It will still work on wifi for loading maps and waypoints.
 

Rockskipper

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One reason I don't want a smartphone is the size. But maybe a GPS isn't that much smaller.
 

slc_dan

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You buried the lead. Almost everyone I know who hikes uses their smartphone as a GPS these days. An iPhone and Apple Watch do everything you describe. But... that’s not what you want.

Even if you have no plans to get a smartphone, you could pick up a used device on the cheap and just not activate the cellular. It will still work on wifi for loading maps and waypoints.

This is what I did/do. I load the maps via wifi use Gaia, it's smaller than any GPS I've seen.
 

Rockskipper

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Another reason I'm thinking GPS is the sat connections. I'm often in areas with no cell connection.
 

slc_dan

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Another reason I'm thinking GPS is the sat connections. I'm often in areas with no cell connection.
This is a common misconception. My "phone" isn't even connected to a service provider. When away from wifi, it's always in airplane mode. While in airplane mode, it still picks up gps signal. No need for cell service.
 

Rockskipper

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Good to know! Sounds like I could find a used smartphone on craigslist or something and make it work. No need for a provider.
 

Nick

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For some perspective, @Dan has no cell phone at all so I think it says something that he chooses to go the no service phone route for his GPS device.
 

Rockskipper

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I have an old flip-phone that I like cause it fits in my pocket, and it only costs $28/month. I hate to pay for service for a smartphone, as well as carry one. I'm wondering if I would ever use a GPS if I got one. History tends to repeat itself. Maybe I'll just donate the money to an animal shelter (It's my holiday $$). If I get lost, I'll just have to get found.
 

Wyatt Carson

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the older models still work fine even after the subscription fees run out...never does loose lock even in the deep canyons. LOL



Been all over canyon country with this one, I mean you can't walk in a straight line anyway for more than 10' in most of the places that are super interesting. Navigation in some of this country depends on more of a chess move attitude anyway...

But I get your intended usage so could there be some older models such as my girlfriend's Garmin Legend C, a unit that she still uses after 13 years. It is full of maps and does a bang up job. Perhaps someone on the Bay wants to get rid of what they consider ancient, you get it for pennies on the dollar? Just try to make sure the seller can get lock and the battery compartment is not corroded.
 

IntrepidXJ

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I'm a smartphone user...but not in the backcountry. I still prefer a dedicated GPS unit, even though I still always have my phone on me. I've been using the Garmin Oregon for about 10 years now. Yes, it's bigger than a smartphone.
 

Rockskipper

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I have a couple of compasses, but they're not a lot of good w/o maps. I hate carrying things, so if they don't fit in my pocket I tend to forget them.

I've heard good things about the Garmin Oregon from a friend. Too bad they're so big, that's one reason I was eyeing the watches.
 

Nick

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FWIW, my Garmin Oregon 450 took a dump after about 6 years of not much usage. It still kinda works sometimes. Free if you want it! :)
 

IntrepidXJ

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FWIW, my Garmin Oregon 450 took a dump after about 6 years of not much usage. It still kinda works sometimes. Free if you want it! :)

My original Oregon 450 is ten years old now and still works great...aside from the scratched up screen, which is why I replaced it a few years ago with a newer model.
 

Rockskipper

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Thanks for the offer, Nick, but I want Randy's. :)

But I may take you up on it, if I can figure out if I would carry it or not. It could probably be repaired. If not, I would only be lost half the time, right?
 
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Wyatt Carson

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I have a couple of compasses, but they're not a lot of good w/o maps.

Well, you can mark very accurately your vehicle or camp when it is set in an obscuring rolling desert or sea of juniper. A few years back a couple got lost in Big Bend NP. They were out lost for 6 days or more, almost bought it. They complained that their map showed the area of their hike, a postage stamp sized piece of the map. Doesn't matter. If they had just taken two vectors with a compass they would have been back at the vehicle before dinnertime.

I mark artifacts all the time with a compass. That will walk me right back on the tiny site in a sea of desert. You can mark entrances and exit points in terrain that is very hard to navigate. All of the above with no map, just a spooky magnetic needle. Take a little notebook and drawing/writing instrument though.

Girlfriend got the Legend C because it got about double the batter life of any other unit at the time, 36 hours. Even with WASS disabled it is spooky accurate. She likes to read me all the stats after every day.
 

Rockskipper

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OK, I like your idea, Wyatt. I think I could manage two vectors. Like they say, keep it simple (and it's cheaper, too). And like I said, I'm not much for carrying a lot of stuff.
 

Bob

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I use a Garmin 62s. Would never use the phone, dont even take it with me. I also pack a digital camera instead of the phone. Also lithium batteries will last a 2 week trip. Easy to transfer and convert data to you maps. Something to be said for a dedicated device rather than a combo like a phone.

BUT..... I only use the gps to record tracks, I use paper maps as primary on the ground...
 

SteveR

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Long time Garmin GPS user here, but I have always found the UI to be poor, and the less said about Garmin Basecamp- the better! A few months ago I subscribed to GAIA despite being a bit leery of the recent trend towards subscription based apps.
Thus far I am impressed with GAIA- easy to use, great maps on a larger screen that I would most likely be carrying anyway, and it seems just as accurate. I'll probably continue to use my full featured and supposedly more sealed and durable Garmin for some applications- such as sea kayaking to mark waypoints for channel crossings etc in case of fog, and for glacier travel where the above might apply, plus the barometric altimeter is also handy in poor vis. As I understand it- GAIA uses the satellites to determine elevation?
For run of the mill day to day use though- I think that the smartphone-GAIA combo wins easily.

Edit to add: For sea kayaking and glacier travel I always have compass, and chart/ map on hand as well. As far as the economics of having a smartphone- being self employed, it is a business necessity for me.
 
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