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Author Topic: What to buy? Hiking GPS  (Read 8694 times)

rahzim

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What to buy? Hiking GPS
« on: May 16, 2012, 09:30:47 PM »
Hi everyone,
         I'm currently in the market for a new gps hiking unit as I've lost my 60csx. I was hoping some knowledgable users could steer me in the right direction with my next purchase.  Primarily, I hike alone on dayhikes in NM mountains and need reliable high sensitivity tracking/navigation. Here's what I'm looking for in order of personal priority...

- I like the shaded relief maps when zoomed out past 800ft or more, but prefer the more detailed contour lines in the gpsfiledepot maps when zoomed in close.  I guess this means I'll need a unit that either has removal media (microsd) or multiple map capable

- I prefer the convenience of replacable batteries over rechargable built in lithiums.

- I already have the delorme earthmate GPS messenger for Android devices.  However, I'm torn between returning it as I don't want to use my phone for gps (battery life/durability) along with both a gps unit and the earthmate.

- I prefer to keep the cost of the unit <$500.  This only cuts out the higher end garmin montana models, I think?

- The screen size of the 60csx is the bare minimum I would accept. I prefer something larger but it's not a deal breaker.

- I hike alone (hence the earthmate) and mostly stick to dayhikes. 

Sidenote:  It seems the 60csx was much more popular than the newer updates to the 60 line.  I didn't like how I couldn't load more than one map to the unit though.  Why is the newer models less popular?

Boyd

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Re: What to buy? Hiking GPS
« Reply #1 on: May 17, 2012, 03:46:22 AM »
The 60csx was actually the final model in the 60 series. However, two or three years ago Garmin quietly switched from SiRF to MTK chips on the 60csx. You can certainly load multiple maps to the 60csx, or any Garmin handheld. Not sure where you got the idea that you can't. The trick is that you must select all the portions of the different maps and send them in one bundle. What the 60csx doesn't support is multiple map FILES. That, plus the fact that all maps must be stored on the card can be a slight limitation (if you want to use a pre-loaded Garmin card).

Garmin is really all I'm familiar with these days. If you want a larger screen than the 60csx, then the Montana is the only choice IMO. And just last weekend you could have gotten a Montana 600 for $400 at EMS: http://forums.gpsfiledepot.com/index.php/topic,2889.0.html

I have a 60csx and also got an Oregon shortly after it was released. I now have a Montana 600 and it's the nicest Garmin product I've ever owned. It has many advanced features not available on any other models, and the screen is absolutely beautiful. I like it so much, I gave my Oregon to a friend and also use the Montana in the car while my Nuvi 3790 sits in a drawer. It is still under your budget at Amazon ($472). You can use the site camelcamelcamel.com to track Amazon prices and get an alert when they drop.

The Montana includes a LiON battery, which is all I use myself, but it will also take standard AA's. Now the Oregon series has been very popular and has a much higher resolution screen than the 60csx. The physical size of the screen is just slightly larger than the 60csx, but it is not as readable. But really, once you use a Montana you will be hooked. There are only two possible downsides. First, it is quite large. Personally I have grown fond of that. It has a nice, solid feeling. The other nitpick is that it doesn't have a nice built in clip or carabiner. I have rigged my own, attached to the lanyard loop and it works OK, but I really liked the carabiner clip on my Oregon. Another option would be to get some kind of pouch I suppose.

rahzim

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Re: What to buy? Hiking GPS
« Reply #2 on: May 17, 2012, 09:05:52 PM »
Boyd,
       First of all, thank you for the detailed, well thought out response.  It's interesting that you prefer the Montana over the Oregon so much.  Also, I didn't realize the Montana would take both rechargable lithium and standard batteris which is quite handy.
     
       It's funny I didn't mention it but I was looking yesterday for a price engine that could track prices on items I'm looking to buy.  You happened to mention camelcamelcamel.com and I'll definitely check that out. 

          As far as the built in clip goes, my only idea would be to possibly sew some velcro on my pack shoulder strap and secure it that way so it doesn't bounce around while hiking.

----- Only one other question I can think of for now. I mentioned how I don't like using filedepot maps zoomed out past 800ft because it's too cluttered and hard to read.  From what I've read it looks like using Garmins shaded relief maps in combination with filedepots is a workaround to that.  Is there a better way to solve this problem without spending all that money on Garmins maps?

Once again, thank you for your very helpful response!

- Tim

Boyd

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Re: What to buy? Hiking GPS
« Reply #3 on: May 18, 2012, 05:02:45 AM »
I don't know that you can generalize about "gpsfiledepot maps" because they are made by different people. Personally, when I hike I tend to use zoom settings in the 300 foot - 800 foot range. In the car with a topo map, I mostly use a setting of .2 or .3 miles.

Maps have a draw priority assigned by the author, so higher priority maps will hide lower priority maps. But shaded terrain (if present) will "bleed through" the lower map and show on the visible map. I have found that this happens when you use most maps along with a Garmin topo - the shaded terrain is applied to the third party topo if they are used together. But really, it could vary from map to map depending on their priority.

There is no way for us mapmakers here to put DEM (digital elevation model) data into a map. Garmin's format is proprietary and we must use third party tools that were reverse engineered. Nobody has reverse engineered Garmin's DEM format, so you must buy a Garmin map if you want that.

However, I have developed my own special technique for creating maps with shaded terrain. This gives the visual effect of shaded terrain, but is not really integrated into the system like Garmin does with its own maps. I am not aware of anyone else who is doing this and so far I've only posted one map, although I have another one covering Acadia National Park in Maine that will be posted soon. It's a lot of work to make these, so I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for more.  ;) http://www.gpsfiledepot.com/maps/view/276/

babj615

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Re: What to buy? Hiking GPS
« Reply #4 on: May 18, 2012, 06:23:54 AM »
I can't really add anything Boyd hasn't already said, but I do want to emphasize his opinion "the Montana is the ONLY choice". This also is my opinion. My Montana goes everywhere with me, and the more I use it, the more I love it.
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Boyd

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Re: What to buy? Hiking GPS
« Reply #5 on: May 18, 2012, 08:16:45 AM »
It's funny I didn't mention it but I was looking yesterday for a price engine that could track prices on items I'm looking to buy.  You happened to mention camelcamelcamel.com and I'll definitely check that out.

Of course, the old saying "garbage in, garbage out" still applies. For an interesting account of this, read the following thread where several people (including a GPSFileDepot regular) got a Montana 600 for $112 at Amazon after a camelcamelcamel alert. Well, anyway, they *thought* they were going to get a Montana 600 for $112.  ;) http://forums.gpsreview.net/viewtopic.php?t=25546

Seldom

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Re: What to buy? Hiking GPS
« Reply #6 on: May 18, 2012, 06:52:54 PM »
I can't really add anything Boyd hasn't already said, but I do want to emphasize his opinion "the Montana is the ONLY choice". This also is my opinion. My Montana goes everywhere with me, and the more I use it, the more I love it.
Well, maybe... I just saw one for the first time today at my local REI.  Nice big screen, but the rest of it's big too.  Looks to be about half again as large in all directions as the OR next to it.

Boyd

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Re: What to buy? Hiking GPS
« Reply #7 on: May 19, 2012, 03:45:57 AM »
Yeah, it's big but I like that. If you want something compact take a look at the eTrex 30, it is really tiny.

Seldom

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Re: What to buy? Hiking GPS
« Reply #8 on: May 19, 2012, 05:46:57 AM »
Yeah, it's big but I like that. If you want something compact take a look at the eTrex 30, it is really tiny.
Got one of those, much more my style :D.  FWIW Etrex30s are on sale at REI this week for 220USD.

babj615

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Re: What to buy? Hiking GPS
« Reply #9 on: May 19, 2012, 07:22:23 AM »
Ha Ha Ha Ha......

Remember using huge paper maps we had to unfold across our lap (could never refold them properly)?

We are still using the same map, just conveniently folded into our GPS in digital format.

Now, what you have to ask yourself is, how do I want to look at that map?

Through a large handheld magnifying glass (Montana)?

or

Through an eye loupe (Oregon)?

or perehaps

Through an electron microscope (eTrex)?

LOLz

Now, of course, this is all my opinion, so take it with a few grains of salt, but none of my GPS are as feature rich or easy to use as the Montana.

And believe me, you will get over its size very quickly. As a matter of fact, when I hold my Oregons now, I think to myself, "how did I ever use this little sucker?" and the eTrex is even smaller?

YMMV :)

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Boyd

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Re: What to buy? Hiking GPS
« Reply #10 on: May 19, 2012, 10:27:08 AM »
To help put things in context...


rahzim

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Re: What to buy? Hiking GPS
« Reply #11 on: May 25, 2012, 08:02:16 PM »
Thanks again for all the advice  ;)

My biggest problem with my 60csx was difficulty reading maps on gpsfiledepot.  Now I loved the maps, especially when up close.  The problem was when I zoomed out a little and wanted to see major points of interest like intersections in the trail and mountain peaks.  I couldn't find anything more than a few hundred feet out when zoomed out because there were so many topo lines on the map.  I wound up using a friends maps on his cell phone, which were more basic but were easier to locate POI further away then a few hundred yards.

   I don't think shaded relief is necessary to fix this, but I'm definitely not the expert on maps.  I was hoping I could load multiple maps, allowing me to use a less cluttered map when zoomed out and the higher detailed maps here on gps filedepot when zoomed in.  That's why I was looking at higher end units that could display multiple maps, not multiple maps overlaid on one another, but separate maps that I could easily switch back and forth without waiting several minutes to load a new sd card.  Is there a way to do this?
             

Seldom

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Re: What to buy? Hiking GPS
« Reply #12 on: May 25, 2012, 08:25:29 PM »
Thanks again for all the advice  ;)

My biggest problem with my 60csx was difficulty reading maps on gpsfiledepot.  Now I loved the maps, especially when up close.  The problem was when I zoomed out a little and wanted to see major points of interest like intersections in the trail and mountain peaks.  I couldn't find anything more than a few hundred feet out when zoomed out because there were so many topo lines on the map.  I wound up using a friends maps on his cell phone, which were more basic but were easier to locate POI further away then a few hundred yards.
If the maps work OK on your computer, but not on the GPSr you need to reduce the detail level or "declutter" the GPSr.

Quote
   I don't think shaded relief is necessary to fix this, but I'm definitely not the expert on maps.  I was hoping I could load multiple maps, allowing me to use a less cluttered map when zoomed out and the higher detailed maps here on gps filedepot when zoomed in.  That's why I was looking at higher end units that could display multiple maps, not multiple maps overlaid on one another, but separate maps that I could easily switch back and forth without waiting several minutes to load a new sd card.  Is there a way to do this?             
Newer Garmins (Oregon or later) permit sending multiple maps to the Garmin\ folder on the card or internal memory.  You send one set, re-name it, and send another set.  But I don't think switching between mapsets is going to solve your problem as much as getting your detail level settings correct.  You can also send multiple mapsets to the 60CSX, but they must be sent at the same time as a single gmapsupp.img.  http://www.gpsfiledepot.com/tutorials/how-to-load-maps-on-my-garmin-gps-unit/  will show you how to do this.

Boyd

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Re: What to buy? Hiking GPS
« Reply #13 on: May 26, 2012, 06:15:43 AM »
I couldn't find anything more than a few hundred feet out when zoomed out because there were so many topo lines on the map.

IMO, that is a problem with the default rendering of elevation contours on Garmin devices. For some reason, Garmin likes fat lines. This is also a pet peeve of mine, and on my own maps I use custom types to define elevation contours as being 1 pixel wide. I don't know of anyone else who does this with their maps, so I guess you and I are the only people that are bothered by this. ;)

But different Garmin models render the contours differently and some are better than others. Unfortunately, I don't have any specirfic recommendations there.
« Last Edit: May 26, 2012, 06:19:33 AM by Boyd »

sviking

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Re: What to buy? Hiking GPS
« Reply #14 on: June 11, 2012, 09:14:26 AM »
Of course, the old saying "garbage in, garbage out" still applies. For an interesting account of this, read the following thread where several people (including a GPSFileDepot regular) got a Montana 600 for $112 at Amazon after a camelcamelcamel alert. Well, anyway, they *thought* they were going to get a Montana 600 for $112. 

Hey, Boyd...  It was worth a shot at that price!  ;D

Now, I'm waiting for my $480 Montana 600 to arrive and decide whether I'll keep it or not after playing with it for a week or two.  8)

 

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