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  1. #1
    Save Jesus
    Reputation: beanbag's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2005

    Plz suggest a GPS solution for hiking / biking

    This is what I have:
    Usually a map of the area. Either one of those official maps with the topo lines and lat /long coordinates, or more often, a simple trail map this is missing this info.
    Possibly a slightly older smart phone without a data plan that my brother upgraded away from.
    A willingness to throw 100-150$ at this problem if necessary
    A compass (although I have never needed to use it)

    The main reason for me to use a gps is if I come up to a trail junction, and I can't tell which junction it is on the map. Or I happen to see a dirt road cutting across a trail and am not sure which one counts as the trail and which is the road. Previously, my brother would whip out his cell phone, and after some cussing at the gps lock, eventually he will come up with a coordinate. Either I will locate it on my paper map, or his phone will have a cached topo map and show that we are slightly south of this lump here, and west of that other lump. Sometimes he will also have a cached satellite image that shows which are the narrow trails, and which are the wide forest service roads.

    Some features that I am pretty sure that the smartphone could do would be

    1) upload the trail map and overlay it with an actual map with coordinates and topo features
    2) somehow download a strava or garmin connect loop and let us follow that.

    I think that's all I really want it to do for now, unless I discover some cool features. I don't think I care that much about recording and upload my own tracks. I already have a cycling computer, but don't care that much about speed or distance anyway.

    So I was thinking of a couple possibilities:
    1) The cell phone is good enough to work. I won't have to buy anything (yay).
    2) The phone's gps is too crappy, and I should just buy a super basic GPS unit that just gives me the coordinates, and I and the off line cell phone will do the rest.
    3) Get a gps with a screen that lets you upload and overlay maps like the Garmin Dakota 10 or Etrex 20. Ditch the cell phone. (I still carry a dumb phone, btw)
    4) Pay a bit more and get the Dakota 20 / Etrex 30 that has a built in compass, so at least the screen knows how to point forwards. (I don't see what good the altimeter really does)

    Any suggestions or advice? Thanks

  2. #2
    since 4/10/2009
    Reputation: Harold's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    if you have the old phone, try it out. see if it will work for your needs. how good it is will depend on how old it is and what phone it is. there's a discussion in here about bluetooth GPS pucks you can pair with the phone to make the GPS accuracy better.

    I will warn you that determining what trail is what is a tough proposition unless you have highly detailed recent trail maps. loading something from Strava or Garmin Connect or another data sharing website doesn't quite get you there. from there, all you can load are the individual rides people have done. If the trail you're on is a simple out and back or a loop with no intersections, then that's fine. But what do you need a map for in those cases, anyway? If your trail is a more complicated network arrangement with many intersections, a single file from those websites won't cut it. if you have a handheld GPS with mapping capability, you can load specific layers that might have more accurate and complicated systems of trails on them as basemaps. And then load a .gpx from another site with a particular route you wish to follow. Then, you can see what you wish to ride and you will be able to see what those intersections are and where they go, so if you wish to change up the route for any reason, you can have an idea of where you're headed.

    I find the electronic compass less useful for biking use. It's important if you're trying to find a specific point. If you just want the compass to point where you're going, without the electronic compass, you just have to be moving. Not a big deal. The altimeter is more important because if you're on a big climb or in mountainous terrain, you can use it as a sole means of locating yourself if necessary. in flat or rolling terrain where many nearby points will have the same elevation, all it's going to do is give you a better elevation profile readout when you load your ride later.

    there are threads here that go into more detail about different parts of my reply. it's just too much to put into one post.

  3. #3
    DIY all the way
    Reputation: Mr.Magura's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    I got the Dakota 20 a while ago, and have been quite happy with it.

    It is relatively cheap and simple, but does the job.

    The main feature it has, compared to most other options, is the standard AA cells, instead of the usual built in battery. This allows for extended use, without the need to recharge.
    It also does like 15-20 hrs. on a set of AA's, which is quite fine compared to most other GPS units I've seen so far. Many claims to be able to run as long, but none seems to actually do so.


  4. #4
    Save Jesus
    Reputation: beanbag's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    If Mr Magura likes it, that settles it.

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