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Author Topic: GPS  (Read 1945 times)

Jeremy Roussak

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GPS
« on: October 30, 2013, 03:07:11 pm »

Discussion on the Bisti Bandlands has mentioned handheld GPS. What experience do people have with these gadgets? Do you have any recommendations? It would be for navigating on foot in places like the Badlands or Coyote Buttes.

Jeremy

(I think this is the correct forum: it could be argued that it's a kind of "shooting gear")
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DeanChriss

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Re: GPS
« Reply #1 on: October 30, 2013, 04:01:27 pm »

The small and relatively inexpensive Garmin eTrex line is adequate to get you back to where you started from, or to waypoints you've entered previously. The eTrex 20 (middle of that line) is $200 and has a color LCD that's easier to see than the eTrex10.
« Last Edit: October 30, 2013, 04:03:17 pm by DeanChriss »
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sdwilsonsct

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Re: GPS
« Reply #2 on: October 30, 2013, 04:13:22 pm »

+1. And be aware that any built-in maps, just like paper maps, don't always reflect reality.

NancyP

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Re: GPS
« Reply #3 on: October 30, 2013, 05:04:11 pm »

I still use USGS 7.5 topo maps on paper, along with a compass. Good point - doesn't need battery. Bad point - has to be kept in water-free condition because the ink runs. I can see some good points to GPS - possibility to annotate easily in detail - possibility of good maps. Which GPS maps are of similar quality to the USGS 7.5 topos?
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DeanChriss

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Re: GPS
« Reply #4 on: October 30, 2013, 07:26:19 pm »

I still use USGS 7.5 topo maps on paper, along with a compass. Good point - doesn't need battery. Bad point - has to be kept in water-free condition because the ink runs. I can see some good points to GPS - possibility to annotate easily in detail - possibility of good maps. Which GPS maps are of similar quality to the USGS 7.5 topos?
I can't answer your map question, but a GPS can log your route on the way "in", and you can easily follow the same route on your way "out", or the next time you visit. Even if you only mark the location of your car and don't log your route, you'll always know exactly how far away it is and in what direction. In addition, depending on the model there are tools you can use along with maps on a computer to create routes that can then be loaded into the GPS before you go. Obviously, locations (simple latitude and longitude) can also be entered ahead of time based on Google Earth or other maps. Even without very accurate topographical maps it's quite easy to get to a destination that way, and practically impossible to get truly lost. 
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AFairley

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Re: GPS
« Reply #5 on: October 30, 2013, 08:13:20 pm »

I know you can get topo maps to load into the Garmin devices, but they are not the USGS quads, of course.  Garmin only has 1:25,000 scale coverage for the national parks, though.  That said, trying to read a topo map on a 2" handheld GPS screen is pretty much an exercise in futility.  IMO you're better off carrying the paper quads around if you want to be able to look at a map.  The strength of the GPS is that you can track yourself so you can backtrack easily, or, alternatively, create routes on the computer at larger resolution that you can follow in and out. 
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Misirlou

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Re: GPS
« Reply #6 on: October 31, 2013, 11:53:43 am »

I still use USGS 7.5 topo maps on paper, along with a compass. Good point - doesn't need battery. Bad point - has to be kept in water-free condition because the ink runs. I can see some good points to GPS - possibility to annotate easily in detail - possibility of good maps. Which GPS maps are of similar quality to the USGS 7.5 topos?

"Quality" is a tricky thing to judge when talking about maps and geospatial navigation. Paper maps are specifically designed to allow users to quickly orient themselves, plan routes, etc. But they were never intended to provide absolute positional accuracy. GPS can handle positional accuracy, far better than most folks will ever realize, but that doesn't necessarily help you figure out how to navigate.

Really unexpected things happen when you try to use GPS derived positions with paper maps, especially older maps built around spatial models from the early 1900's. Most USGS maps of unpopulated portions of the western US fell into that category until very recently. Meaning it's still not uncommon to see differences between coordinates derived from paper maps and those derived from GPS as high as 130 meters, or even more.

I wrote my Master's thesis about this topic, so it's something near and dear to my heart. I also own a bunch of Garmin stock, so it's near and dear to my wallet as well...
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NancyP

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Re: GPS
« Reply #7 on: October 31, 2013, 05:28:35 pm »

Other than the folding and refolding to get to the area of the map you need, the quad plus compass tracking method is very straightforward. The real safety feature in GPS is the ability to send SOS via satellite when out of phone range (Spot and deLorme).
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HSakols

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Re: GPS
« Reply #8 on: October 31, 2013, 06:20:37 pm »

I live on the western border of Yosemite. Throughout the summer and even winter, travelers who follow their GPS turn off the main highway and drive past my home where the road becomes very narrow, unpaved, steep, and rocky.  Last year we had a charter bus try to drive down the road where it got stuck.  Two years ago during the winter this poor guy tried to drive the road in the rain and got stuck.  Of course I helped him call a ranger to get his car towed.  Don't always trust your GPS when it comes to roads especially in rural areas.  In the back country they are great, but I still like to have a real map as well.  Since the advent of GPS devises in cars, we have become directionally challenged.
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DeanChriss

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Re: GPS
« Reply #9 on: October 31, 2013, 08:14:37 pm »

I live on the western border of Yosemite. Throughout the summer and even winter, travelers who follow their GPS turn off the main highway and drive past my home where the road becomes very narrow, unpaved, steep, and rocky.  Last year we had a charter bus try to drive down the road where it got stuck.  Two years ago during the winter this poor guy tried to drive the road in the rain and got stuck.  Of course I helped him call a ranger to get his car towed.  Don't always trust your GPS when it comes to roads especially in rural areas.  In the back country they are great, but I still like to have a real map as well.  Since the advent of GPS devises in cars, we have become directionally challenged.

I wasn't thinking of the car style GPS units but that is *excellent* advice! I hate to admit that a few years ago I took a very long GPS recommended route through the Santa Fe National Forest. If I wasn't driving a high clearance 4 wheel drive SUV with a full tank of gas I might still be there.
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Alan Klein

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Re: GPS
« Reply #10 on: November 01, 2013, 11:45:38 am »

Nancy: Some GPS's allow loading of 7.5 quad topo maps including both the field types as well as some car units from Garmin.   You can see where you are topographically when in the woods.  

Regarding printed topo maps in the field, I copy them (ink jet) onto Adventure paper from Nat Geo. The paper doesn't tear and the inks pretty much will not bleed off in rain.  You can write on them as well when it's wet. http://www.ems.com/product/index.jsp?productId=3656654&emssrcid=PPC%3AgooPLAs%3AbrandNat_Geo&utm_source=gooPLAs&utm_term=brandNat_Geo&utm_campaign=Product+Listing+Ads&device=c&network=g&matchtype=&gclid=CJ38zoD1w7oCFZGf4AodCi8AGw

Also, Nat Geo has a program with the 7.5 quads maps that yhou can pre-plan your hike.  You can create all the waypoints at your desk and then load them into your GPS before leaving.    The Nat Geo program will show you fly overs and will show the elevation changes so you can figure out how hard a walk it is or change how you intend to go before you leave.  When you get home, transfer the actual bread crumb trail from your GPS to the Nat Geo program so you can see the route you actually took.  There are also programs that will show you the track on satellite maps as well.
« Last Edit: November 01, 2013, 11:49:15 am by Alan Klein »
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