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#46574 - 08/15/05 06:26 PM Cheap, accurate, no-frills GPS?
amper Offline

Registered: 07/06/02
Posts: 187
Loc: US
I've been toying with the idea of adding a basic GPS unit to my kit, primarily to answer the question, "Where am I right now?". I don't see GPS overtaking my normal navigation skills, but I though it might be useful. I'm thinking of something along the lines of a Garmin Foretrex 101, as it's small and runs on AAA batteries and seems to provide what I'm looking for, but I don't want to waste money on a device that's not all its cracked up to be. Any advice/opinions?

Gemma Seymour @gcvrsa

#46575 - 08/15/05 07:44 PM Re: Cheap, accurate, no-frills GPS?
cedfire Offline

Registered: 07/10/03
Posts: 659
Loc: Orygun
The Foretrex 101 unit looks pretty neat, as well as the Gecko units.

I've got an eTrex Legend myself, and at about $170 it gives you the basics plus mapping capability, and runs on AA batteries.

If I was looking for something small & basic I'd probably choose the Geko 201. It takes AAA batteries, has WAAS, and can interface with a computer. (It looks like Garmin took the Geko idea, turned it horizontal, mounted it on a wristband, and called it a Foretrex.)

Then there's the plain yellow eTrex, which is about $100 everywhere and takes AA batteries. I think it does most of what the Geko and Foretrex do, but in a larger package.

Garmin is bundling the computer interface cables with certain units, and not with others. That's the one thing I'd have trouble doing without; it allows you to update the firmware for free, can be used with most computer mapping programs, allowing you to input waypoints a LOT faster than by hand.

#46576 - 08/15/05 07:53 PM Re: Cheap, accurate, no-frills GPS?
KenK Offline
"Be Prepared"

Registered: 06/26/04
Posts: 2023
Loc: NE Illinois
I'll second the ability to interface with a computer.

A basic GPS really doesn't have to have many features, nor does it have to have a large display, but one thing I myself hate is entering waypoint coordinates and routes manually via the GPS keyboard. It is much MUCH easier to enter them via a computer. I use both ExpertGPS (expertgps.com) to identify waypoints and routes on on-line maps and then transfer them to my GPS.

#46577 - 08/15/05 09:51 PM Re: Cheap, accurate, no-frills GPS?
amper Offline

Registered: 07/06/02
Posts: 187
Loc: US
The Foretrex 101 does interface, though you have to buy the cable. Some of the reasons I was considering the F101 rather than the Geko or eTrex series are the specs from Garmin's web site and other places. Specifically, the F101 is listed with specs similar to the Geko 201, but costs less and has better battery life (probably because it's a slightly newer design). The eTrex units, are twice the weight, although you do get AA batteries rather than AAA, but the base model eTrex, which is the only one that can compete with the F101 on price, doesn't have things like the Celestial Info Page, which might be useful as long as I'm getting a GPS.

So, I'm pretty well decided on the Foretrex, I just wonder how well the thing actually does its main job.
Gemma Seymour @gcvrsa

#46578 - 08/16/05 05:41 AM Re: Cheap, accurate, no-frills GPS?
amper Offline

Registered: 07/06/02
Posts: 187
Loc: US
Well, I picked up the Foretrex 101 at the new REI here. So far, I'm prety pleased with it. I got a fix within a few minutes of powering it up in my house, and set my first waypoint. Google Maps put the coordinates right on top of my house.

I have to say, it seems odd that you have to set a waypoint in order to find out where you are. There should be a page that shows you "You Are Here" without having to do that. Oh well, it only takes two seconds to hold the button to mark the spot.

Eventually, I'll get a more elaborate unit, but for right now, this is all I need, I think. My compass and map skills won't be replaced by an electronic gadget!
Gemma Seymour @gcvrsa

#46579 - 08/16/05 06:22 AM Re: Cheap, accurate, no-frills GPS?
paulr Offline

Registered: 02/18/04
Posts: 448
I got a Geko 101 for $49.95 on closeout at Fry's. Great deal in a bare bones GPS. No computer interface or anything like that, but it's very small. I wish there were more maps available with GPS grids printed on them (local street maps and so forth). I haven't felt a need for a computer interface so far.

#46580 - 08/16/05 11:16 AM Re: Cheap, accurate, no-frills GPS?
KyBooneFan Offline

Registered: 06/19/05
Posts: 233
Loc: West Kentucky
Amper, I have always been an Eagle/Lowrance fan when it comes to GPS units. Guess it's sorta like the old Ford/Chevy debate. Just a matter of which you prefer. I have two I would like to sell, namely an Eagle Explorer slightly used in the box with video instruction tape. The other is a high end Lowrance GlobalNav 212, like new in the box. I am forever upgrading and I now have a Lowrance iFinder Hunt. I will make you a great price on either if you want to PM me. I am listing two web sites for you to get the specs on the unit but understand I have no affiliation with the web sites. I am just using them for you to see what I have to offer. I will guarantee both and you are welcome to return either for a full refund if you are not completely satisfied. They are not doing me any good sitting around. Both units are powered by four AA batteries and come with the factory instruction manual. Take a look at:

www.nomatica.com/gps/explorer.htm for the Eagle and

www.nomatica.com/gps/Fnav212.htm for the Lowrance.

These web sites give you all the data on the units you might need. I have a 12V DC power cord I will send with which ever one you select and I have a computer interface cable that I picked up at a yard sale that I think fits these units also. I will throw it in also. It appears to be new and unused.

I will give you first choice of the units but anyone else is welcome to PM me for either if Amper is not interested. <img src="/images/graemlins/smile.gif" alt="" />

"The more I carry, the less I need."

#46581 - 08/16/05 12:39 PM Re: Cheap, accurate, no-frills GPS?
harrkev Offline

Registered: 09/05/01
Posts: 384
Loc: Colorado Springs, CO
You have a choice. If you get a "no frills" unit, all you get are coordinates. This is OK if you carry a map around too, but slightly cumbersome. They also offer basic mapping units for under $100 with simple base maps. For that money, you do not get all local roads, but you do get interstate highways and many (or all) state highways. You might also want to take a look at the lower-end eTrex (Garmin) and Xplorists (Magellan). Lowrance also makes some nice ones.

As a Magellan owner, I can say that if you want a full-featured unit, the Garmin mapping software is much better. But if you want something to throw in a BOB and forget about it, you can go for any manufacturer.

Just make sure that whatever unit you get takes AA batteries. Rechargable lithiums are not a good idea in a BOB.
Darwin was wrong -- I'm still alive

#46582 - 08/16/05 02:57 PM Re: Cheap, accurate, no-frills GPS?
cedfire Offline

Registered: 07/10/03
Posts: 659
Loc: Orygun
Hmm... on my eTrex there is a navigation page with a compass rose where you can view your current location's coordinates.

Is the Foretrex lacking something like this? I would imagine Garmin would provide a viewing of your lat/lon without having to set a waypoint first.

But maybe not.

#46583 - 08/16/05 03:58 PM Re: Cheap, accurate, no-frills GPS?
MartinFocazio Offline


Registered: 01/21/03
Posts: 2148
Loc: Bucks County PA
Disclaimer: I'm a sales guy for a GPS Retailler...

With that out of the way, I can tell you that at the very low-end of the market, in some cases, you are giving up LOTS in terms of features on a GPS. things like a Basemap (which would have at least city and town names, if not an actual road map) and the ability to connect your GPS to a computer. The Foretrex is a unit that does not do much well. I'd avoid it.

That said, your best values for a small GPS are:
The Garmin Geko 201 ($134.95) which at least connects to a PC and has an external power option - this is a good thing.

The Garmin eTrex is also a good buy, at $96.36 (which is after a $30 rebate), and the darn thing is nearly indestructable. It's waterproof. This one is - by far -the most popular with the troops in Iraq.

A small step up to the Lowrance iFinder ($145.95) brings you into the world of decent basemaps, including waterways. Unfortunately, unlike the Garmin products, the iFinder is "water resistant" (use in the rain) not "water proof" (drop it in the water). But the screen and map quality is so great that this is forgiveable.

Avoid the 100 and 200 of the Magellan Explorist line, they made to many compromises on features compared to other low-end devices. The advantage to Magellan is better antennas, but it's only a slight difference. the Exploris 300 (at $199) is a nice package, but compared to an eTrex, you're not getting much more for your money.

The Magellan SportTrack and Meridian lines, however, are truly great, but a bit more expensive. The SportTrack, at $189, it s solid performer, with features that you'll actually need and use, while the Meridian Color (my current favorite and the one I use most) has a screen that is wonderous and locks on in deep woods. The Meridian Color is expensive ($344.00)

No matter what you choose, use LITHIUM BATTERIES in your GPS. This is especially important for storage, not to mention that backlights on GPS devices - all brands - cut battery life a great deal.

So, to round it up, I'd propose that you look at the Garmin eTrex line as your best bet for the under $100 unit.

have a look at the site of the company I sell for:

Please drop me a line, I can beat ANY price you can find online for any Garmin (or Magellan, or Lowrance) product - and if you put the word "focazio" in the "coupon code" area, I'll get an itsy-bitsy commision on the sale too!


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