View Full Version : A different slant on GPS questions

08-17-2009, 02:15 PM
I know the "which GPS to buy" has been done but I am looking at a different angle. I am not yet decided on exactly which model but a bigger question is when to buy-let me explain.

I will not have a need for a GPS until next year-I certainly would like to have now but I am not going on any out of state trips until 2010. As quickly as electronics change, am I better served to wait for new models that inevitably appear or price drops on current models in few months or should I simply buy now and not be concerned with future models or better prices that may occur after Christmas.

I also am curious about one GPS to cover automobile usage and hiking/hunting needs or should I buy one for each endeavor?

I appreciate all feedback

08-17-2009, 02:22 PM
Wait. Unless you are concerned about the potential for inflation eating away at your dollar's value between now and then, you'll be able to buy this year's latest and greatest gee-whiz-gizzmo at a discount next year.

Don't know about the second question...my in dash GPS is fantastic and has proven itself to be useful at determining drive times and giving directions when visiting areas that I'm not at all familiar with. I would want a purpose built GPS for the backcountry.

08-17-2009, 03:20 PM
I will not have a need for a GPS until next year-I certainly would like to have now but I am not going on any out of state trips until 2010. As quickly as electronics change, am I better served to wait for new models that inevitably appear or price drops on current models in few months or should I simply buy now and not be concerned with future models or better prices that may occur after Christmas.

If you've not used a GPS receiver before, don't buy it immediately before your trip. There is a learning curve with all receivers, and you do need to practice before heading out into the backcountry and relying on it. I would suggest getting one a few months before your first big trip, then practice with it. One way to get good real-world practice is to do some backcountry geocaching.

As for when to buy, that's a personal choice. If you want the best price, buy before or even after Christmas. If you want the best technology, buy the latest and greatest whenever it comes out, but be prepared to pay a premium. The GPS receiver market is fairly mature, so it is not likely that a new model will instantly obsolete everything else these days.

I also am curious about one GPS to cover automobile usage and hiking/hunting needs or should I buy one for each endeavor?

If you can afford both, I highly recommend it. These days, the receivers are very specialized, and there really are no units that do both exceptionally well.


weekend warrior
08-17-2009, 04:15 PM
Wait a while. Prices do always drop and with the economy in the crapper I'm sure this Christmas will see some pretty serious deals. There is a caveat though. No matter how long you wait for electronics to fall in price they never really do. Most manufacturers just add some new bell or whistle and keep the price about the same. If you're waiting for the perfect deal you'll wait forever.

I've got a Garmin 60CSX. It's loaded with offroad features but I did upload the city navigator maps so it works on the highways too. It's not nearly as cool as the dedicated automotive units (beeps but no voice prompt, not a touch screen). It works but the interface for the road mapping, searching for addresses, etc is really cumbersome and not intuitive at all.

The prices have dropped so much since I got my unit that it's entirely possible to buy both and spend what I paid for the single unit. I think that garmin charges almost as much for the needed road maps as what you'll pay for a whole dedicated unit too.

Michael & Tanner
08-26-2009, 11:03 PM
You've already received some good responses.

Count me in on the "WAIT" crowd. If you don't NEED one now, prices will be lower as time goes on.

Keep in mind, as has already been pointed out, that you'll need time to work with the new unit, to be able to use it effectively.

As for one unit to do both in-car and on-trail usage, I haven't found one.

In-car units offer nice big screens, turn by turn directions, voice, bluetooth connections with your phone, and .mp3 capability. They tend not to have "go to" capability on a track, and typically aren't waterproof.

My current favorite field gps is the Garmin Oregon. Although I think the screen could be a little better, it has SO many other features that it redefines the standard for me. The BIG screen and a touch screen change everything. Add to that a 3.5 megapixel camera that associates the pictures with GPS coordinates...and that it WATERPROOF...and you've got one handy little device.

It *will* work in a car, but certainly doesn't do it as well as a dedicated unit.

Given my choice between the two, and given that you're on this board, I'd venture a guess that you'd prefer a field unit. We can all use maps in the car. You're much more likely to be able to find Main St. with a map than find that honey spot in the woods.

I used my GPS to mark mushrooming locations, tree stands, camp sites, trails to sweet fishing spots, property boundaries, etc. Invaluable.

My guess is that other companies will jump in on the touch screen GPS around Christmas. That should drive the prices down a bit.

Car GPS units have advanced a LOT. There seem to be many more of them out there than field units. If you're looking for a deal on one of them, check your local pawn shop. There are usually a half dozen at the nearest one to me.

Good Luck,


half bubble
08-27-2009, 02:20 AM
Get a cheap handheld NOW. There is a lot to learn about using GPS in backcountry. For example, every few weeks there are times of day when, for an hour or so, if you can get a position at all, it will be with a very large error -- hundred of meters. And if you are under canopy at that time, you get nothing. Wait a few minutes and everything is back to normal. (This has to do with satellite geometry, usually). If you haven't seen this happen a few times, and you are out for your vacation/ramble/big ticket hunt, you will be freaked.

There are other gotchas, like knowing about various map datums, and having a little bit of experience at knowing the differences when you see a disparity between your GPS and your map. There's a story on this board somewhere about Patrick and Sawtooth (?) rambling and crossing onto a different map, which had a different datum (NAD 27 vs. WGS84 or somesuch).

Buy a cheap handheld now, so you can learn from experience before it counts. It will also help you make a more educated choice when you want to buy a fancy one later. GPS is hi-tech, but it also takes learned skill to use effectively. As with so many areas of life, don't try to substitute "newest tech" for unlearned skills.

PS I got a great Garmin GPS V on Craigslist for $40. Upgraded the firmware and voila! Bonus, it came in original package with warranty card. Registered it online and Garmin sent me the 2009 Mapsource for free.

08-27-2009, 08:34 AM
I'm a fan of the Garmin Foretrex 101 for backcountry travel (like many others here). I bought mine 2-3 years ago for ~$100. I just checked, and the price is the same. Doesn't look like the featureset has changed either. So, if you're going to go with one of the non-base map models, I don't think you'll get a better price by waiting.


Lost Arra
08-27-2009, 08:39 AM
I'm holding out for a backcountry gps that has the features of my daughter's dashboard model:

"OK Pilgrim. Turn right in 500 feet to elk"
In Will Geer's voice (As Bear Claw in Jeremiah Johnson)

08-27-2009, 08:59 AM
I'm on my third backcountry GPS receiver, and my wife has a road-use receiver, so that's four that I've used. I started in the mid 1990s with a basic non-mapping Magellan unit. My newest receiver is a Delorme PN-40SE, and I love it! Prior to that, I had a Garmin 76CSx. I was holding out for a touch-screen (like the Oregon series) and aerial photo-capability, but both features are not available in one unit, and I got sick of Garmin's map prices. The Delorme, along with a $30 annual map subscription, can display aerial photos and USGS topo maps right on the screen. This ability is awesome for navigating unfamiliar territory - I can get very accurate topo info from the USGS maps, and from the aerials, I can see tree cover and water features beyond my line of site. It really is a useful!

If you've never used a GPS receiver before, it makes sense to buy an older unit - even a used one - to learn how to use it. Then, after you have some experience, you'll be able to make a more educated purchase of a higher-end unit, should you feel the need to do so.


08-27-2009, 10:14 AM
I think anything less than a 45/70 gps is too small for all but the smallest wilderness areas. Wait until you can get a more powerful one. Sorry I couldn't resist.

David in OR
08-27-2009, 10:21 AM
Another vote for getting a simple unit now and working out your system of combining map, compass, and GPS.

I've been wanting to upgrade my eTrex H to an Oregon, but I'm having a hard time justifying the expense relative to other wants. The basic model gets me there and back very efficiently.

08-30-2009, 09:25 AM
Here is where I am after reading and absorbing all the advice. I am thinking I will get a unit for my truck-Garmin 265WT. This model appears to be pretty basic and fairly inexpensive. I am thinking that I will learn this unit and in few months get a model for backcountry hiking/hunting. Does this seem like a logical conclusion?


Jim N
08-30-2009, 07:23 PM
Count me in the "NOW" group.

I know a lot of people with GPS's. I know far, far fewer who know how to use them, particularly in marginal conditions.

Huddled in a freezing drizzle with dusk fast approaching is the wrong time to be staring at the screen wondering where the hell you are and what all the little buttons do. You need to learn to use not only your GPS but also how to transfer coordinates to your maps. In order to do this accurately and without hesitation takes practice - lot's of it.

GPS's are now incredably cheap, reliable and contain all the gizmo's you will ever need.

08-30-2009, 07:55 PM
I agree with the contingent that says do it now. The off-season, and the easy trips, are when you debug the equipment, and learn how to use it. Opening the box the day before it counts is a recipe for disaster.

A GPS is not as simple as turning on your TV. It does take some practice to run it properly. And in a panic during a snowstorm is not the time to learn.

08-31-2009, 07:20 AM
get it now. there is a learning curve- not a steep one but it is there.

i think the car ones are easier to use but they are not for the backcountry.

David in OR
08-31-2009, 08:31 AM
You need to learn to use not only your GPS but also how to transfer coordinates to your maps.

+1 This is not rocket surgery, but it does require practice (and the appropriate kind of ruler). The Dick Blust articles on the Kifaru main site are great:


08-31-2009, 07:30 PM
I think its great to get a GPS and to master its use. They are a terrific tool. Very few people that I've run across in the woods really know how to use them effectively. Most seem to use them in a 'bread crumb mode' using it to track themselves as they go along which eats up battery power & is unneccessary for most situations. Get one and a good compass and map - - - and learn about navigation (map grid systems, UTM, lat/long, etc, etc, etc) You will have skills that can save your hide whether out of state or in state. Actually, I would guess that most people spend the majority of their outdoor time in their own state so having these skills now is better than waiting IMO.
There are a lot of inexpensive GPS units out there to start with. I wouldn't buy the 'latest and greatest' since that usually costs a lot of money and with technology there will be somthing 'better' (meaning more features - often ones not needed anyway). Actually you may build a better foundation of skills by using some of the more basic inexpensive units to start out with. Regards, - - -

David in OR
08-31-2009, 08:23 PM
Most seem to use them in a 'bread crumb mode' using it to track themselves as they go along which eats up battery power & is unneccessary for most situations.

Quite true. Unnecessary and, on foot, a serious waste of energy as you chase the arrow and stumble over branches and into holes.

In the car/truck, keying off your tracks on the unit is useful when exiting a rat's nest of logging roads. But that assumes you had the unit on and burning batteries on the way in.

09-04-2009, 10:26 PM
Send me your address and I'll help solve your problem for the short term. Buy the one for your truck (it sounds like that's what your heart is set on doing) and I will send you the Etrex Vista I'm not using so you can practice with it and learn the basics. When you decide which one you want and buy it, just send mine back to me.

09-04-2009, 10:51 PM
I got to thinking and I want to add a little slant to some of the advice you've been given. People have different opinions; but, all of the advice you've been given has been pretty sound. Personally, it seems like I buy a newer model or two every year. I'm strange that way as I know that I don't "need" the newer models with the better receivers etc. I have four hunters in my family so I just rotate in new ones every year. Having said that, you can get a pretty damn good GPS that is several years old for a fraction of what it cost at the time.

One of the best GPS devices I've every owned, on many fronts, was a Magellan Meridian Platinum. It was easy to use, easy to learn, had large buttons and a nice sized screen. I hunt some nasty country and it never failed me. 5 years ago it was a $400 GPS. Now, if you look around, you can find them for $50 to $100. Hell, I recently saw one represented as new on Craigslist for $100. It would probably suffice, and suffice well, for 98% of we hunters. I know the same could be said for many other models out there. The same can be said for all of the Garmin Etrex models. Hell, I still have two of the Etrex Vistas. I have a Garmin 60CSX and a couple of 530HCX models. Satellite acquisition times are minimally different. Hell, in the field 20 seconds compared to 40 seconds satellite acquisition means nothing to me. Accuracy is no different between the old and new than it is between a couple of new ones.

I know my behavior is contradictory to some of what I said; but, I'm strange that way. I'm a gear nut and I need help. I like all the bells and whistles. I like the newer top of the line stuff. However, in all honesty, you (I) don't need it. Most GPS devices manufactured in the past ten years will do everything we all need them to do. Think back five or ten years to your first GPS. If there had been no improvements since then and no new models we would still be amazed that the little device we hold in our hands can pinpoint us on the face of the earth with accuracy no worse than our average throwing distance of a baseball.

09-06-2009, 08:05 AM
..... Satellite acquisition times are minimally different........

Not wanting to start any arguments, just my observations. The differences between MY Vista series and MY 60 series with the Sirf Star chipset is night and day. My 60 will get a signal "fast" in a concrete pillbox, the Vista, will not even get a signal indoors. Canopy and canyon have a substantial negative impact on the Vista, almost nil on the 60. Lock time, on both warm and cold starts is markedly faster, and that, coupled with the power the chip is using to find its signal, means maybe one set of back up batteries for 4-5 days afield as opposed to 3 sets and that, my friends is at least an extra Snickers bar in the pack.

09-07-2009, 09:10 PM
No argument here. I don't doubt what you've said. Units differ device to device based on my experience also. My Etrex Vista, from day one, was able to quickly acquire satellites in my basement and has never had difficulty picking up satellites in even the thickest cover. I'm talking about the first generation Vista also. I also much prefer my 60CSX.

09-08-2009, 11:58 AM
Big Sky

Thank you for the gracious offer of sending me your GPS-I may take you up on that.

I have been feelying little puny for about 3 days so just getting to respond.

I was thinking of getting a truck unit first-can't say exactly why except I could used it immediately.

I do believe I need to get familiar with the hiking models before I spend much money-as has been pointed out-I may be able to get a used one for few dollars less.

Thank you


12-25-2009, 06:54 PM
Update to this thread--one down-one to go...

I purchased a unit for the truck-Garmin 265WT- and so far so good. I have a couple of gift cards and am ready to pounce on a handheld GPS for hunting/hiking. I looked in the search area for archived info again just to see if I missed anything. I see no mention of some of the newer units that are touch screen and have camera capability.
I am thinking that waiting for the latest and greatest is running in circles as technology changes at light speed-that said. My logic says buy good unit now and spend the next few months getting comfortable with unit before the fall of 2010.
I feel more comfortable with Garmin simply because I have had fish finder unit by Garmin and know couple of folks that have had these as well so unless something changes here the brand is decided.
The Colorado & Oregon lines seem pretty nice and within these lines there are several different price points.
Please give me some current suggestions on this purchase- again this will be a hunting/hiking model-probably never leave North America with the unit. I do not want to be "wowed" by the bells and whistles that are not needed, but a camera function (assuming it is a decent camera) could be handy - Must be waterproof (if there is such an animal) and I am thinking electronic compass, barometer and inclinometer functions would be nice as well-although I will NOT rely on the electronic compass.

All info and advice is appreciated.


Old Tree
12-26-2009, 01:42 PM

I just upgraded from an old yellow Garmin Etrex to the Garmin 60csx. I'm immediately impressed by the better signal "hold" and user friendly buttons and pages. Everything seems easier (naming waypoints, finding, zooming, etc.). It has the "e"compass and baro which may or may not be important to some but it can be turned off (extending batteries).

I'm a very basic level user. I use mine on hunt/camp trips and also on my dirt bike during extended trail rides. The advice by many on this forum to get something and practice and experiment has helped me. This unit is inspiring me to learn more and look into some more advanced mapping & topo stuff.


12-29-2009, 07:07 AM
Philos, good for you on your purchase. I agree with a lot of the others here. Get a basic (and inexpensive) hand-held GPS now so that you can become accustomed to using it. Remember, the GPS is just another navigating device that works along side your compass and map. You do know how to use a compass and map, right? I'm not trying to be condescending, but I've met many people out in the boonies with their brand new GPS units, who had no clue where they were. When their batteries die, or they loose their signal, there're screwed. No GPS, out there, has a screen big enough to not have a topo map with you. Make sure you know the basics before you get "lazy" with a GPS. As mentioned before, I highly recommend you go Geocaching to "learn" how to use your GPS. It's fun and the whole family can do it too.

On the question of "now or later". Get it now. There is always going to be a shinier, better unit coming out soon. You can't stay ahead of technology. As soon as you purchase an electronic device, it's already out dated.

Let us know what you decide upon.

Take care,

Tundra Monkey
12-30-2009, 01:58 PM
Hello Fellas,

Just wondering if any of you guys have used the Oregon 300? I live in Canada and the 400t was my first choice but it is pre-loaded with US Topo maps....not much good to me.

Right now I'm stuck between the 300 w/Topo Canada V4 and the 76CSx with the NWT loaded on it.

Does anyone have experience with the touch screens?

Any experience would be very much appreciatted.


01-08-2010, 03:46 AM
Tundra Monkey

I have the Garmin Oregon 400TC which has the enire map of Canada preinstalled on the unit leaving you with the capability to put in a microcard for expansion or to store pictures.
I got mine at "http://radioworld.ca/product_info.php?cPath=4_94&products_id=5444"

Good Luck


Tundra Monkey
01-11-2010, 10:33 AM
Thanx Plodder,

How do you like the touch screen in the cold? I was thinking I'd go with the 76 because I have friends that use it and like it.....We keep them in our jackets but I'm worried about the touchscreen at -40. The screens on the 76 take a second or 2 to "update" but the button functions seem to work OK.

The dude at GPS Central told me that the diff between the 300 and the 400 is exactly what you stated....that it is preloaded on the unit. I was thinking that it would be nice to have it on my computer in case something happened to it....then I could just load it back up again.

I'm Scottish so I'm about as cheap as they come.......you should have a look at the prices at:


They are about as best as I've found this side of the border.

Thank you very much for your reply......it is very much appreciated.


Kevin Dill
01-24-2010, 10:04 AM
Brought this topic up as I searched for GPS info...

I am currently using a 5 year old Garmin 60C. I am looking hard at the Oregon series...namely the 400T. My unit gets its primary usage in Alaska on remote interior hunts.

I'd love to hear thoughts about the Oregon series: their dependability, accuracy, acquisition times, screen function, and perhaps anything that compares them favorably (or not) to the 60-series units.

I have a feeling that I would LOVE the touchscreen and find it more intuitive to use than the conventional buttons.