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Thread: GPS discussion

  1. #1
    Senior Member Paradox's Avatar
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    GPS discussion

    For 5 years, GPS has been part of my hiking gear. I very much enjoy the whole activity of GPS. I now have 4 handhelds, my most recent acquisition is a Garmin GPSmap 60CSx. It seems to do everything I want, that my previous units are lacking. Most importantly an antenna that allows the unit to pick up a steady strong signal while hanging from my belt, no matter where I am. My other units had to be held up at arms length to get a weak and intermittent signal. Apparently, the 60CSx has two properties that give it the enhanced reception, one being the “helical coil antenna”, another is some proprietary technology from a company called “SiRF” that Garmin uses. My Magellin Meridian Platinum unit has a helical coil antenna which is better than my Garmin eTrex units, which have “patch antennas”, but it is only marginally better at reception. The 60CSx is a giant leap ahead in reception quality.

    I never use the “route” functions in any of the GPS units. I will simply enter a few waypoints such as final destination, trail junctions and points of interest that I have interpolated off a map or more easily from some mapping software. I number or name them, and hike to those points. It is very nice to know how far away, or how much time to a waypoint, particularly when hiking with kids (Daaaaaaaad, when we gonna get theeeeeere?”.

    Does anyone out there use GPS differently? What unit do you have? How do you like your units? If anybody wants to borrow one of my older units to see how it all works, contact me. I live in Holderness, NH. Also, June 17th at “Pound the Presis” would work for me (bring AA batteries).
    Last edited by Paradox; 06-02-2006 at 07:41 AM. Reason: missspellig
    WNH4K:48/48, SLAT50:50/50, NEHH:100/100, NE115:115/115,
    TW72:60/72, WADK46: 18/46, 52WAV:16/52, Cat35:9/35(39)

  2. #2
    Senior Member spaddock's Avatar
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    I use it the same way you do. Enter my junction waypoints, and maybe a few other benchmarks and my destination. Keeps my motivated when solo to know how much further and how much more elevation.

    It has saved my butt in the fog once too.


    -Shayne

  3. #3
    Senior Member DougPaul's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paradox
    Apparently, the 60CSx has two properties that give it the enhanced reception, one being the “helical coil antenna”, another is some proprietary technology from a company called “SiRF” that Garmin uses.
    The evidence that a quadrifilar helix is better than a patch antenna is at best weak. (There seems to be a religious following, but careful experiments show neglilgible difference.) All consumer external antennas that I am aware of are patch. I have posted details in previous discussions on the topic--search for them.

    The SIRF-III GPS chipset has 200K correlators which allows aquisition for weaker signals than many other GPS chipsets. There are some bugs in the 60CSx (which were not there in the 60CS)--some are related to the use of WAAS (workaround: turn WAAS off) and it cannot use new lithium batteries.

    Doug

  4. #4
    Senior Member Paradox's Avatar
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    I have purchased two external antennas. The first I pruchased was a rebroadcasting antenna, but it did not give reliably better reception to any of my other units no matter where I placed it. I felt stupid with the thing taped to my hat anyway. I bought a Gilson external antenna with a connector that goes directly into the 60CSx. The signal does improve when viewing the satellite page, but as a practical matter it really doesn't make any difference when I am on the trail. I have yet to lose a signal and the accuracy has always been good enough for my purposes. (There is the geeky hat thing too.)

    The bugs you mention I have heard about, but they don't seem to impact my use. I have long thought these units have some individual variation. My 5 year old eTrex out performs the 1 year old eTrex Vista consistantly. It has signal strength that is just as good, but much slower on the initial acquisition than the Magellin (1.5 years old.) It also has the annoying habit of turning off at random times, usually immediately after hitting the page change button.

    I did look for old threads manually. Unfortunately, my "search" function does not seem to work.
    WNH4K:48/48, SLAT50:50/50, NEHH:100/100, NE115:115/115,
    TW72:60/72, WADK46: 18/46, 52WAV:16/52, Cat35:9/35(39)

  5. #5
    Senior Member adirobdack46r's Avatar
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    I'm on my third etrex. Trying to save money I bought the etrex summit, the cheepest of the etrex family that had an altimeter. Got bored with it because it did not have map capability. Upgraded to the Vista. Now I have the Vista C. I know there are so many out there and possibly much better but the etrex series are all I know, and now with the Vista C I'm quite content with it. I learned back with the first one about poor reception when not help up high. Solved that quickly, I sewed a special piece if web strapping on the top of my left sholder harness on all of my packs, that is where the etrex rides and I have very few if ever reception problems. I use the route function as well as just waypoints. The GPS is a fun toy and love using it but will still never hit the trail without a map and compass. One dark rainy night after a long day my wife and I were making our way back to the tent and made a wrong turn. Something inside me said this does not seem right, stopped and consulted the GPS and it set us straight. Only saved us 2 or 3 miles but at that point that may have been the difference between my wife strangling me and not.

  6. #6
    Senior Member sleeping bear's Avatar
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    Lightbulb Leaving digital blazes

    I have a GPS, but I'm not super big on it. I'll check some coordinates and stick it in my pack if bushwhacking, just in case. Sometimes I'll bring it along on canoe trips, it can be fun to see how fast you're going.

    Personally, I don't like to use it often, espcially hiking, and more especially on trails. That's just me, I'm a little resistant to electronics in the woods. However, on a recent bushwhack it occurred to me that while off-trail, marking waypoints in a GPS is the digital version of marking blazes on trees. If you're marking waypoints to follow on your way back out, it's the exact same thing. That little realization changed my perspective on GPS a little. I still won't use it much, but it's neat to think about that way.

  7. #7
    Senior Member onestep's Avatar
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    still haven't opened up the box

    I received a GPS last Christmas in a chinese auction... a magellin something-or-other... it's still unopened in the box.
    I've owned a yellow garmin etrax for a l-o-n-g time now but hardly use it any more. Bought it for geocaching. I took it along 2 weeks ago to 'whack-fest figuring I'd maybe waypoint the car or something. It sat at the bottom of my pack all weekend long. I don't know, I guess some technology just escapes my attention...

    Onestep

  8. #8
    Senior Member Jeff-B's Avatar
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    Garmin 60CS

    I have owned an Etrex the day those came out, mastered everything possible with it, then got the 60CS the day that came out and have used nearly every function as well.
    Both used together with Garmin PC software and National Geo TOPO.

    GPS is a funny thing when used with backpacking or hiking as some have described, it can be a distraction from trying to "get away from it all".

    Still, the "techie" in me is curious and I keep it handy on hikes and practice navigation of all sorts.

    One nice feature of the 60CS is the BEARING compass tool, where you can sight a peak as a projected waypoint and then begin navigation to it. While hiking along it tells you how far off the "rum line" (sailor talk) you are while in motion.

    Last weekend I had an excellent experience using a "state-of-the-art" Garmin Marine system for a sailing trip to Nantucket and back.
    The trip there was in ZERO visability and this is where GPS is actually required for use while monitoring your sailing tracks relative to your destination. You can plot ahead actual sailing angles and then know when to tack onto a "rum line" entered course! All the while, watching the chart display and channels/bouys while at the helm.

    Last year I planned an extended trip to the Sierras where most of the trip was "cross country" (no bushwhacking cuz its all ROCK!)
    GPS proved very valuable for altitude and navigation around rock spires and passes. Going again this year and planning the same!

    Jeff
    Last edited by Jeff-B; 06-02-2006 at 11:17 AM.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Neil's Avatar
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    I have used a gps extensively for the past 18 months. Prior to that, I never owned one. I decided to buy one when I began doing ADK herd trails in winter and proceded to learn it inside and out. I have done a fair bit of bushwhacking with it and this I consider to be the principle practicality for it. When I first started using the gps on bushwhacks I studied the map on the computer screen using Topo! and manually placed my waypoints as logically as possible and uploaded them into my non-mapping gps. I also printed the map with each waypoint and it's name printed on it. In the field I used the gps to tell me the compass bearing to the next WP and used the map and compass to guide me to it, checking the gps for distance and off-course data. My gps didn't have an elctronic compass and on bushwhacks one moves too slowly to be able to rely on the direction of travel indicator. I made use of a plastic grid overlay device to take my UTM coordinates off of the gps and pin-point my position on the map. Also, if in the field I improvised a new route I would manually enter WP's either accurately with the grid overlay, going from map to gps or simply enter the grid junctions (simpler numbers) and keep an eye on them on the gps screen as I moved.

    I like to climb slides in the ADK's but they are not always indicated on the topo maps. I turned to aerial photo sites and here the gps really shines. You click on the aerial photo which creates a WP that you upload into your unit. Hey Presto! But, if the photo predates the slide's formation then of course you are SOL!

    Then I got a mapping gps last Christmas as a gift which made everything a lot simpler but I was already missing working with only the map and compass which had always given me a lot of satisfaction. So on my last few trips I relied almost exclusively on the M&C which I found made for a more interesting and satisfying challenge. What is very interesting and makes for a very powerful learning tool is to record a tracklog for download and study once back at home.

    My new unit is a RINO 310 and it loses reception only very rarely. My previous one was a RINO 110. I rarely use the radio functions.

  10. #10
    Senior Member DougPaul's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paradox
    It also has the annoying habit of turning off at random times, usually immediately after hitting the page change
    button.
    Some of the turn off bugs only happen when WAAS is on. (WAAS isn't needed for hiking anyhow.)

    I did look for old threads manually. Unfortunately, my "search" function does not seem to work.
    The search system on this BBS discards all words of 3 chars or less. Thus, it will not find "GPS" for you... Use bigger words like "quad" and "helix" etc. Or use Google's advanced search on this website--sometimes much better.

    Doug

  11. #11
    Senior Member arghman's Avatar
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    I usually don't use it to find me, I use it to record the locations of things. Mostly rare or invasive plants, but sometimes locating property boundaries. Have also mapped a confusing network of trails (can't imagine the hoops people must have gone through before GPS).

    My favorite time using GPS was once when I was studying the aerial photos on terraserver on my computer, looking for what I thought were some small bogs on an upcoming hike I had planned, then I marked them, downloaded to my GPS, went on the hike, & went plant hunting.

    once or twice I've used it to assist in getting un-lost.
    --Jason
    moose plates help conserve New Hampshire's natural heritage
    New book from NHNHB: The Nature of New Hampshire

  12. #12
    Moderator Peakbagr's Avatar
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    I got a Garmin Map60CSx not too long ago. When speaking with the Garmin tech about another matter, she told me that it works fine with lithiums, so long as they are not the type advertised as "high drain". She also said that if you use the "high drain" lithiums, take some pictures with them, minimal use, and they work fine.
    She uses lithiums in the test model she has been loaned. I use new, "regular" lithiums in my 60CSx with no problems so far.

  13. #13
    Senior Member skidoc22's Avatar
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    Gpsmap76csx vs. 60CSX

    My Magellan Meridian Platinum has recently died after about four years of not so trouble free service. I am not currently inclined to pay upwards of $150 to have it repaired so I am in the market for an upgrade. I have been frustrated with the loss of signal while under cover on anything other than a clear day and have even had problems inthe open on overcast days.

    Have been looking into both the Garmin GPSMAP76CSX and the GPSMAP60CSX
    as contenders for the new purchase. Does anyone have experience with the 76 series as opposed to the 60 series? The specs seem virtually identical except for a larger micro sd card with the 76. There is a small price difference which is now reversed by a $100 rebate on the 76 version. I am concerned with the locatioon of the buttons being above the screen on the 76 which seems counterintuitive. I was also frustrated with the Magellan topo maps which were very inaccurate and wonder if the garmin maps are any better?

    I have toyed with the explorist series by Mag. but I don't like the rechargeable battery idea for extended use/multi day hikes. Any thoughts?
    Do what you love, love what you do

  14. #14
    Senior Member Paradox's Avatar
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    I very much like the size and layout of the buttons on the 60CSx. I can palm a basketball, but I could not use my Magellin Meridian Platinum nearly as comfortably as the 60CSx. The Garmin MapSource software is available and works seamlessly. However the contour lines on the maps have odd altitudes, such as 3706 ft. I guess they just convert from meters. Also the trails are not very accurate. You still need your AMC, Map Adventure, or USGS Quad maps on the trail. Also, a clear overlay for the USGS quads is commercially available. However, I had to make my own for the AMC, and Map adventure ones by laying it out on paper and taking it to a photocopy store and having them photocopy it on to clear acetate.
    WNH4K:48/48, SLAT50:50/50, NEHH:100/100, NE115:115/115,
    TW72:60/72, WADK46: 18/46, 52WAV:16/52, Cat35:9/35(39)

  15. #15
    Junior Member Snouter's Avatar
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    skidoc22, I just got my GPSmap 76CSx the other day and sent out the rebate form today. Hopefully within 2 months I will receive the check. The inverted button relative to the 60 is very comfortable for me. I can hold it in one hand and access all the buttons. I intend to use it on a kayak and sailboat so floatation is a nice feature. I have a version of City Navigator from my Garmin 2610 and because Garmin allows two devices to be used with their software, I downloaded some of that onto the stock microsd. But that fills up quick, so I already placed an order to Newegg for a 1 gig card. The SiRF GPS chip is pretty impressive in quickly locking in on the satellites.

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