View Full Version : GPS for backcountry work

Colin Graham
17-Mar-2007, 13:59
Anybody using one? Any links to or tips on reliable ($200 or so) units needed. Thanks!

17-Mar-2007, 14:22
I'm GPS. I'm absolutely necessary to all my cameras to take pictures. And don't even try with your $200... What a bad joke!

eric black
17-Mar-2007, 14:51
I have a 3 year old $99 Garmin basic model from REI Inc. I havent been lost since- I have also used it to save locations of shooting possibilities. The higher dollar one give a few extra bells and whistles like having the ability to download maps and compasses that dont require you to be moving to be accurate- but to me its just fluff- a basic model does everything I could ever want and more-

Ralph Barker
17-Mar-2007, 14:54
I use a Garmin GPSmap76CS. Once you select a model with enough memory to download maps and such, and then buy the map data, I suspect you'll be looking at substantially more than $200, though.

Michael Kadillak
17-Mar-2007, 14:59
Garmin makes the best units IMO as I have checked them all out. I just got a Garmin GPSmap60CSx and I love it. Bigger screen and very functional. They make smaller and less expensive models. Nice to have around and to mark spots to come back and re-shoot.


Brian C. Miller
17-Mar-2007, 16:11
Depends on how many bells and whistles you want. Some people want a GPS that doubles as a survey instrument. Me, I use the Garmin Geko 201. Its small, light, and plugs into my computer.

Eric Rose
17-Mar-2007, 16:25
I use a Garmin eMap. Great unit and you can probably pick it up on eBay for cheap.

Eric Brody
17-Mar-2007, 16:35
I have a brand new high end Garmin GPSmap60Csx, and would love to sell my older GPS 12, it works fine, I have the manual, it's just not as fancy. It would be well within your price range. Send me a pm if you're interested. I believe it's still on Garmin's web site though it is an older model.

For me, it is a fancy toy. I do not use GPS to mark photo locations but rather for hiking and measuring how far and how high I've gone. Since I almost always hike on trails, I would be in big trouble if I ever really NEEDED it.


Keith Pitman
17-Mar-2007, 17:51
I have a Garmin Etrex Vista that I've had for a few years. It works great, although it will lose the signal in dense woods and canyons. The models Michael and Eric mentioned are supposed to be better in woods and canyons. If I was buying today, that's what I would look at. They are more expensive, larger and heavier than models like the Vista, but I think they would be worth it.

Colin Graham
17-Mar-2007, 18:48
I'm relieved everyone uses Garmin- turns out my wife has already ordered a GPS 72! It'll serve dual purposes, she has been clearing and plotting backcountry horse trails and I'll use it for all the reasons mentioned ( + a few I hadn't even thought of yet) I guess my wife finally out-gearheaded me. :o Thanks a bunch!

18-Mar-2007, 03:14
I have a IPaq attached to my LF Zone VI camera on a swing out bracket...it has a GPS CF card in it and I've written an app that I can catalog shots on. It records temperature (based on a small thermistor serial module I built), GPS position, elevation, digital compass reading, and I add the aperture, shutter speed, lens, film, etc info. This goes into a Oracle database when I return home. All negs are lo-res scanned for the catalog as well, and filed with a barcode into my neg file.

When I fold the camera, the unit folds down under the camera (kinda like the Sinar digital shutter controller).

Great for remembering or reproducing shots years down the road!

John Kasaian
18-Mar-2007, 08:29
I'll be the goat here. I prefer a map & compass.
First, I don't want to have to rely on batteries.
Second, it is prudent to have a map and compass for a back up since batteries can die on you.
Third, the only way to get really good with a map and compass is to use them.

GPS. I agree, is a very useful tool for the purposes that others here have mentioned, but for navigational purposes (unless you want to park a JDAM down someone's ventilation shaft) it is too easy use the device as a substitue for acquiring and maintaining neccesary skills. My 2-cents :)

Colin Graham
18-Mar-2007, 08:41
I dont think anyone here would completely rely on anything with delicate electronics or batteries for their survival out in the wilderness. But your point is a very good one about being proficient with map and compass before starting out on any backcountry trip.

John Berry
18-Mar-2007, 12:18
I agree with John K. I have a Magellen color GPS. I don't need it. I use to teach compass and map reading when I was In special forces. I never document where I shoot. I mainly got it to mark a location I can get back to in the dark when hunting. If you have ever had to find an animal down in the dark I bet you own one. I can also download marine maps for when I go fishing on the mouth of the Columbia river. Some of the best salmon fishing in the world. It is also some of the most dangerous if you don't know what you are doing. When my son was in Ranger battalion he went to Jorden. I ask him what he would do when the GPS failed. His reply was "what are you going to do with a map that only has one contour line". Colin With a group this large I would bet my beret that there is someone here that will.

Robert Coenen
19-Mar-2007, 11:53
I use a Magellan Sportrak Pro. This unit cost me $150 and came with Topo software. It is nothing too fancy. But I have had it for about 4 years ago and still keeps me from getting lost.

Brian K
19-Mar-2007, 16:04
I use a Garmin 60c, an Earthmate for use with Delorme Topo on a laptop, GPS built into my car and an old Magellan GPS. I find GPS to be extremely valuable. That said I also carry maps and a compass.

Leonard Metcalf
20-Mar-2007, 02:04
I have been thinking of getting a Gecko 301. Light, easy to use, doesn't have a map, but does have a barometer function. In total white out they are amazing, you can ski right back to your hut, car instead of digging in for the night. As previously mentioned they aren't a substitute for navigation skills. We don't teach our students to use one till they are in second year of Advanced Navigation.

20-Mar-2007, 11:57
I have a Gecko 301. It's an excellent device and very light even including batteries. I still wouldn't trade it for map and compass. It's nice to have, but half the times I'm in the wilderness, they don't work. When you're 600 ft down in a 50 foot wide (or less) canyon, GPS just don't work (not enough visual on the satellites). Having a topo and compass are more reliable tools, imho. That being said, for less constrictive terrain, it is nice to have a good read on where you are and I have used GPS to find places I didn't find without one.

12-Apr-2007, 12:31
Don't forget about geocaching (.com) as well, now that you have a GPS to geocache with. I've found many a great location to photograph while out geocaching. I guarantee you'll find some greaat locations within a 20 minute drive that you had no idea EXISTED.

Alan Davenport
12-Apr-2007, 21:50
I have to agree with John K. A map and compass is a lot more reliable, and the compass works just as well under the trees as it does in the open. No bad satellite constellations to make the compass get wonky, either.

That said, I also use a GPS. I've got a Magellan SporTrak that works fine. In fact, they all work pretty much the same; I've never seen 2 GPS units that disagreed by more than a few yards. Get one that uses cheap batteries, because it'll go through a lot of them, then buy NiMH batteries and a charger, and carry a couple spare sets of batteries. Or your compass...

12-Apr-2007, 22:47
Some GPS's have built-in compasses (real ones).
You still need map-reading skills to use a GPS efficiently.
I've used them in my work for years, and rarely run out of signals for any length of time- but I don't go down in canyons and caves either. Usually it's the tree canopy that blocks the signal in my case, but you can usually find an open patch if you need one.

Per Madsen
13-Apr-2007, 05:29
I use maps, but Denmark is hardly either wilderness or mountainous.

If you go 3 km (2 miles) in a straigth line you run into a road or a house in 99 %
of the cases.