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Help selecting a GPS unit

Started by D.H., December 23, 2009, 09:03:18 AM

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Hi all,

I'm totally new to GPS and would like to ask for some help selecting a unit that will best serve my needs. If anyone can help out, it would be much appreciated.

A little background: I'm an avid hiker and backpacker as well as a rock climber. So far, I've done just fine using a map and compass, but there are two reasons I'm considering getting a GPS unit: (1) I'm doing more bushshacking and it would be great if I were able to waypoint things I find while I'm off trail (hermit's cave or potential campsites etc.) and (2) a recent climbing guidebook for the Adirondacks describes approaches (frequently off trail) with GPS coordinates, thus helping to make sure that I won't need to 'shwack around lost looking for the start of a climber's herd path while carrying all of my climbing gear. I'd like to use a GPS unit to waypoint these coordinates before I leave for a climbing trip.

So, I'm not certain, but I think I'd be satisfied with a relatively bare bones unit. I'll still always be carrying a map and compass, so I'm not sure why I'd need anything too fancy. Maybe I'm just being resistant to getting an "unnecessary" gadget...I don't know.  ;)

Other factors:

- I'm a mac user
- I probably won't use it much while driving
- I would like to be able to get elevation profiles after a hike
- I'd like long battery life. The longer the better.

Other than that, feel free to offer any opinions or advice you think might be useful for a total GPS noob.

A co-worker showed me his Garmin 60CSx recently. That seemed okay, but I don't have much context to use when judging it. I've been reading up on the DeLorme PN-40 and that seems okay too. The Garmin Oregon series might be overkill (and it's pretty expensive) and I'm not sure the touch screen would work with gloves while snowshoeing. Maybe all of these are overkill for me and somehting like the eTrex Legend HCx would do just fine.

Honestly, the options are kind of overwhleming...

Thanks in advance for any help you can offer.


First, realize that all of the maps on this site are for Garmin units. Map formats are proprietary to each manufacturer.

The 60csx is a classic, very rugged and dependable. I have one, and also an Oregon 400t. For me personally, the Oregon is much, much better.... but I am not using mine like you describe.

For one thing, the 60csx and eTrex series cannot use Garmin's new "custom maps" format and I think this is a great new feature. See some of the maps I've made here:

If you watch for sales, you can probably find a decent price on an Oregon or a Dakota. On Black Friday we saw the Oregon 200 going for $200. We also saw some very nice pricing on the Dakota 10.


The 60csx and 76csx are both going for ~280-290 on Amazon.

I got the 76csx because I am out on the water a fair amount 1/3 of my use.

I love how well the 76csx acquires even inside my house.  I have a rather old Garmin used for ever (GPS 12 XL).

But I am certainly no expert on GPS. I am also not that big of a fan of touch screens.


Thanks to both of you for your replies. And sorry for the slow sidetracked with the holidays.

Boyd, where can I get more info on the 'custom maps' feature that you mentioned? If I get a GPS without it, does that mean that I won't be able to use third party maps like the ones that you've made?

Also, how is battery life with your Oregon 400t?



Garmin's new 'custom map' feature is for raster images, like aerial photos or images of scanned paper maps.  The traditional maps for GPSr units are in vector form and the Garmin units which support maps will display these.


DH: Here are a few links related to the custom maps feature:

It is only available on the Oregon, Dakota and Colorado series. Older units like the 60csx, 76csx and eTrex series can't use this kind of map. So if you get one of those, no you could not use the Acadia National Park map that I posted (for example):

I have only used cheap alkaline batteries in my Oregon and they don't last all that long. But there are many reports from people using high quality rechargeables who say they get anywhere from 12 to 20 hours. If battery life is the most important thing to you, I suspect you will do better with an eTrex or 60csx (from what I've read).


I use the 60 CSX and love it!  It is rugged and stands up to a lot of hard use.  I use the 60 CSX for river rafting, long distance hiking and sea kayaking.
The batteries (2 double AA's) easily last me for an entire 6 day rafting trip or a 5 day hike in the Cascades.  Recently, while on the summit of a local mountain, I did a direct side-by-side comparison of the 60CSX with a new Oregon.  The display on the 60 CSX was superior to the Oregon's display in bright light.  Personally, I would love to have both GPS units, but I had to choose one.  I chose the 60 CSX and am pleased with my decision.