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#143121 - 08/07/08 02:29 AM Re: GPS vs Common Sense [Re: SwampDonkey]
BobS Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 02/08/08
Posts: 924
Loc: Toledo Ohio
I have a 5-year old Garman GPS unit, an Etrex Legend, itís a hand held unit as apposed to a car unit. Itís made more for off road then it is for road navigation. And thatís good because thatís where I mostly use it. It has at times not gotten a satellite lock while under some trees that was easily fixed by moving some and it then locked in. And again when I was hiking in a very steep canyon (almost a cave, in an area called ďOld Manís Cave state parkĒ (a very cool place to visit by the way, itís in central Ohio) the walls were 70 to 120 feet tall and it was only about 30 feet wide. Itís unrealistic to expect it to work in this environment.

Other then these few times it has been very reliable and told me just where I was at. It has a basic set of maps in it and when I cross a road or stream it shows that on the map. My brothers and dad have a newer GPS made for car traveling and while I donít like the map layout, they do work well. I recently drove my dad to Cleveland (from Toledo) and we typed in the address of The Cleveland Clinic and it took us right to the drive for the parking lot. Then again on the way home it took us right to my dadís home address.

I still like maps and always have a good idea where Iím at and what direction is north, but I donít seem to have the problems (with all 4 of the GPS units I use) some of you are saying you have with them.

I like them. I actually like my older hiking GPS unit more then the newer ones my brothers and dad have, but thatís just because of the features. My GPS will run 22-hours on a set of AA Batts. The car units are only good for 5-hours and then have to be plugged in for several hours. If my unit gets a dead battery, I just put in a new set of 2 AA batts and Iím good for another 22-hrs. Also itís waterproof and shirt pocket size.

Being able to pop new batteries in it and then have it running again in seconds for another 20 + hrs is a strong argument for it in a survival situation. Having one go dead in 5-hrs and no way to get it up and running without a time consuming charge (assuming you have a place and the power to charge it) sucks.

Also my dads GPS doesnít seem to allow for lots of tag points like my unit does; this is a very big reason to not want one like his. I think my unit has the ability for 500 of them.


You can run, but you'll only die tired.

#143126 - 08/07/08 03:12 AM Re: GPS vs Common Sense [Re: BobS]
big_al Offline

Registered: 01/04/06
Posts: 586
Loc: 20mi east of San Diego

I have used my Garman map 76 for years in my crew bus. by using breadcrumbs it is very easy to get back to where you started. I have traveled for hours on Forest Service roads to get to a fire, with breadcrumbs turned on, then I knew how to get out. The first order of owning a GPS is Read the book

Some people try to turn back their odometers.
Not me, I want people to know "why" I look this way
I've traveled a long way and some of the roads weren't paved

#143128 - 08/07/08 03:36 AM Re: GPS vs Common Sense [Re: thseng]
dougwalkabout Offline
Crazy Canuck
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 02/03/07
Posts: 2856
Loc: Alberta, Canada
Well, it's not 'directing' you anywhere. If you're driving on a real road and the GPS shows a blank screen, it's an indication that the GPS's map database is entirely inadequate to the situation.

This keeps my skepticism intact regarding the real value of GPS.

Time to break out the maps.

[Edit: whoops, several posts beat me to it. I can certainly see the value of waypoints and breadcrumbs, but if I have to carry map and compass anyway, I'm not quite clear how I'm ahead.]

Edited by dougwalkabout (08/07/08 03:40 AM)

#143138 - 08/07/08 05:03 AM Re: GPS vs Common Sense [Re: dougwalkabout]
Todd W Offline
Product Tester

Registered: 11/14/04
Posts: 1928
Loc: Mountains of CA
I stopped trusting GPS after they failed to work on 2 outdoor adventures. 2 Trips, 2 Different GPS units and 2 different types of failures.

1 could not get any signal through the trees, and then said we were off the screen yet we were on a very very very old and popular hwy.

1 could not get any signal through the clouds and snow. We were technically lost on our quads in a snow storm... just when we needed the GPS most it failed. We made our way back, stumbled upon a sheriff learned the trails looped and crossed over, etc. Either way we found our way back by using our brains and thinking.

So, I don't use a GPS anymore. I use trail maps, and google earth shots that I print off and use my BRAIN.

This reminds me I need to sell my other GPS UNIT.

FWIW Both were different model garmins, not $100 cheap either.
Self Sufficient Home - Our journey to self sufficiency.

#143146 - 08/07/08 12:02 PM Re: GPS vs Common Sense [Re: Todd W]
benjammin Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 02/06/04
Posts: 4020
Loc: Anchorage AK
I just call it the "Lemming" effect.
The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools.
-- Herbert Spencer, English Philosopher (1820-1903)

#143154 - 08/07/08 01:55 PM Re: GPS vs Common Sense [Re: Hikin_Jim]
7point82 Offline

Registered: 11/24/05
Posts: 478
Loc: Oklahoma
Originally Posted By: Hikin_Jim

Well, maybe, but I've sure seen a lot of GPS failures in mountainous terrain. Down in the bottom of gullies or deep canyons and under heavy tree cover seem to be places where failure to get a fix occurs.

Recently when I was on Marion Mtn (10,600+), the GPS pointed us to a false summit. GPS's are frequently but not always good. I can't say what percentage of the time under what conditions failures occur, but they're very common. I get GPS failures multiple times every hike I go on.

Roarmeister, anything to add?

Your experience sounds similar to mine. I carry a GPS on some backcountry trips because it's an easy, quick way to verify my position IF I can get a fix. In the areas I frequently go I wouldn't be surprised if coverage was <50%. It's not unusual for me to decide that there isn't going to be enough open ground on a given trip and leave the GPS at home. I haven't tried the GPS units with built in topo maps yet so my experience is is limited to the in car units and my basic hiking model(s). Either way, I can't imagine leaving the map, compass & altimeter at home.
"There is not a man of us who does not at times need a helping hand to be stretched out to him, and then shame upon him who will not stretch out the helping hand to his brother." -Theodore Roosevelt

#143168 - 08/07/08 04:30 PM Re: GPS vs Common Sense [Re: 7point82]
Russ Offline

Registered: 06/02/06
Posts: 5329
Yeah, the newer GPS SiRF receivers are much more sensitive -- the 60CSx being one of them. Still, map and compass work regardless of satellite coverage and the batteries won't run out. I take both with key points on the map marked as waypoints in the GPS.
Better is the Enemy of Good Enough.
Okay, whatís your point??

#143170 - 08/07/08 04:34 PM Re: GPS vs Common Sense [Re: 7point82]
BobS Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 02/08/08
Posts: 924
Loc: Toledo Ohio
GPS is no different then a Bic lighter. They both are great tools and have a lot of nice features. No one should forgo a map and compass or waterproof matches when venturing out. But most of us will get by fine with the GPS and the Bic. While never pulling the map, compass and the matches out of the pack.

You can run, but you'll only die tired.

#143173 - 08/07/08 06:11 PM Re: GPS vs Common Sense [Re: BobS]
comms Offline

Registered: 07/23/08
Posts: 1502
Loc: Mesa, AZ
I fire up my Garmin eTrex Vista to bookmark a position that I want to remember like a cave or fishing hole. Then later mark out in my travel journal or transfer to the map perfectly.

My main problem with GPS, and maybe newer models have adjusted for this, is the difference between Lat/Long and Military Grid Reference System (MGRS) which is very similar if not exact to UTM and what I prefer to use.

I suppose growing up in one system or the other has something to do with it. Sailors I am sure are better at L/L than a soldier, and vice versa with soldiers using MGRS.

GPS maybe has just become another toy, "door to door' and not so much the incredible resource it is to 'actually know where you are in relation to things."

Not sure if that all made sense....
Don't just survive. Thrive.

#143190 - 08/07/08 10:19 PM Re: GPS vs Common Sense [Re: comms]
sodak Offline

Registered: 03/20/05
Posts: 410
I have a Garmin eTrex also. It takes forever to get a fix, and loses it quickly in a forest. Once it actually gave me a wrong reading, standing next to a high cliff.

Other than that, it works great.

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